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Thomas Street

The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.

Thomas Street Distillery, Dublin.

This Distillery is situated on the south side of the River Liffey, and nearly opposite the main buildings of Messrs. Guinness & Co.’s Brewery. The entrance to the establishment is most striking, and unlike any other Distilleries we have seen, reminding us of some of the chateaux in France, with their ivy-covered walls and flower beds. The locality in which it is situated is sacred to the memory of several Irish patriots, it having been the scene of many a battle and much strife, from the early time of the Danish occupation down to the rebellion of ’98. It was in that year, and close to the Distillery, that Lord Edward Fitzgerald was arrested on a charge of high treason, shortly after an engagement with the red-coats, at which he was wounded, and soon afterwards died in prison.

Dublin is remarkable in that it contains two cathedrals - St. Patrick’s and Christ Church, or the Blessed Trinity. Christ Church Cathedral was built A.D. 1038, by Sitricus, the son of Amlave, King of the Ostmen, of Dublin and Dunan, the first Ostman bishop, who was buried in the choir of the Cathedral at the right hand side of the altar, A.D. 1074. Christ Church, which stands in the centre of the city, was originally built on a range of arches, erected by the deans as stores for merchandise, and in those vaults St. Patrick first appealed to the inhabitants on behalf of the Christian religion. It was then called the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, and was erected for secular canons; but in the year of our Lord 1163, those canons were changed for others from Flanders, by Lawrence O’Toole, archbishop of Dublin. Lawrence was the son of Maurice O’Toole, Prince of Imaly, and was consecrated in the Cathedral of Christ Church. The choir, steeple, and two chapels were all built at the joint expense of archbishop Lawrence, Richard Strongbow, and others. In 1283 the steeple, chapter house, and cloisters were destroyed by fire, together with one side of the street called Skinner’s Row; but the citizens, with commendable piety, subscribed for the restoration of the Cathedral before their own houses were repaired. For centuries the Cathedral was the scene of many famous events. In 1395 four Irish Kings received the honour of knighthood at the hands of Richard II. of England, and in 1450 a Parliament was held in the church by King Henry VI. Thirty-seven years after Lambert Simmell, the imposter, was crowned by the title of Edward VI., with a crown borrowed from a statue of the Blessed Virgin. In the year of our Lord 1559, Thomas, Earl of Sussex, Governor of Ireland, held his Parliament in a room of the cathedral.

Before its restoration, it was so disfigured by buttresses built up against the side walls, and altogether was in such a ruinous condition, that only sufficient remained to indicate its former stateliness.

The old Mill, which rises from the centre of the Distillery, which has been left standing as a distinguishing feature and a relic of the past, is a land-mark for many miles round. It is of solid construction, some 70 feet wide at its base, and rises to the great height of 150 feet. Crowning its summit is a vast cupola, surmounted by a brazen figure of Ireland’s patron saint, mitre and crozier in hand. In olden times this Wind-mill used to supply the entire motive power for the Distillery. The racket courts of the old Marshalsea used to adjoin, and now form part of, the Distillery, and the rollicking debtors - say old roysterers - like boys at school, used frequently to send their tennis balls flying into the Distillery premises, with the object of arousing the sympathies of their neighbours, but we fear with little effect.

The Thomas Street Distillery was purchased by the late Mr. Peter Roe in the year 1757. At that time it was quite a small concern, but every few years, as his trade increased, the proprietor kept building and making additions, while within the last twenty years alone his successors have expended upwards of £70,000 on the works. Mr, Henry Roe, the late proprietor of the Distillery, in which, although he has given up the active management, he still holds a large interest, is a man of princely liberality, and Dublin may well be proud of the man who, at a cost of £220,000, restored Christ Church Cathedral, and has thus left behind him an enduring monument, which, as long as the fabric lasts, will bear witness to his noble deed. The Distillery is now in the hands of a limited Company, under the personal management of one of the Directors, who has a practical knowledge of the business, and devotes his entire time to its conduct.

The following is a brief description of this undertaking: - The factors contract to deliver the corn direct into the Grain Lofts, which communicate with the Kilns, and are capable of holding upwards of 100,000 barrels of grain. After the grain is dried, it is dropped through slides into the Dry Grain Deposit Room, and from thence is conveyed by belts into the Grain Store. These belts are the invention of Sir Wm. Armstrong, whose name is associated with warlike implements rather than such peaceful apparatus and appliances. When the grain is cooled it is once more started on its journey, and passes by elevators to the Mill, which contains eight pairs of stones, capable of grinding 1,500 barrels daily. The meal then passes by continuous screws to the Grist Loft, where it is weighed into bags ready for mashing, and dropped into the three Mash Tuns below, the largest of which being 36 feet in diameter and 7½ feet deep. From here the liquor is drained into Coolers, and sent through the Morton’s Refrigerators, of which there are five, into the Fermenting Vats, of which there are sixteen, each with a capacity of 40,000 gallons. From these Washbacks the wash is pumped up into a Wash Charger, a large wooden vessel, holding 40,000 gallons; from here it goes by gravitation into the Wash Stills, each having a capacity of 20,000 gallons, and, after undergoing three distillations, the spirit is pumped into the Vats in the Racking Stores, which holds 11,784 and 11,901 gallons respectively. Here the spirit is reduced to 25 over proof, and racked into puncheons or casks, weighed, branded, and sent to the Warehouse.

The Still Houses contain eight Pot Stills - there are no patent stills on the premises - holding from 12,000 to 20,000 gallons respectively. There are five powerful engines averaging from 16 to 30 nominal horse power; one of them is a Siddely and Mackay Dee Engine for reducing water some twenty degrees for worting purposes in summer, the only one in use in Dublin; all the engines are models of brightness and cleanliness. There are seven boilers 30 feet long by 8 feet in diameter, and four sets of three-throw pumps; also a powerful brass pump in the Still House.

The Storage Warehouses, one of which is over 360 feet long, are capable of holding 23,000 casks, representing upwards of 1,250,000 gallons; but this is only a part of the storage capacity connected with this Distillery, for the Company own large Warehouses and vaults at Mount Brown and elsewhere capable of containing 6,000 casks. The Company also have at Mount Brown large maltings, capable of making 16,000 barrels of malt per autumn. The Kilns and Maltings at this place are most complete in their arrangements, and cover nearly as much ground as the Distillery at Thomas Street.

The works at Thomas Street cover in all seventeen acres, and extend to the Quay, crossing two streets in their progress, and it is possible to enter the building on the left-hand entrance in Thomas Street, and by means of bridges and gangways to keep almost under cover till you find yourself again at Thomas Street, having completed the circuit of this fine work. There is upwards of a mile of belting enclosed in a two-feet square case, in addition to an almost equal length of continuous screws for conveying the grain into the various departments. The principal Chimney Stack is a fine structure, 120 feet high; it was finished in the year 1860, having been built entirely by the workmen employed on the premises, who completed the work in less than two years. Besides this fine structure, there are three other Chimney Stacks in different parts of the works.

The Cask Loft, for storage of empty casks, is the largest in Ireland, covering an area of 200 square feet, and would contain 6,000 casks. There are steam lifts to raise the casks to the Store, and from thence is an ingeniously planned inclined bridge across the road, some 50 feet long, down which the casks roll in the Racking Store. The Cooperage is a work of itself, covering nearly an acre of ground; here are to be seen casks in every stage of their existence, fifteen to eighteen men being continually employed in their manufacture, repairing, purifying, &c. The Stable and Cart Houses adjoin the Cooperage, and cover an equal area; here also are Smiths’, Engineers’, Fitters’, and Carpenters’ Shops. Two hundred hands are employed at the Distillery.

The water used comes from the Vartry and the Grand Canal.

The Whisky is Dublin Pot Still of the finest quality. The annual output has reached in some seasons the enormous quantity of nearly 2,000,000 gallons. Like that of the other Dublin Distilleries, however, it has been reduced considerably during the past few seasons. The Whisky is shipped to all parts of the world, the foreign exports being more particularly to Canada, the United States, and Australia, and is well known and appreciated everywhere.

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