Flax growing and linen spinning have been taking place in Moygashel since the early 17th century.
Indeed home spinning and weaving of course cambric or linen was practised by whole families from the area for many generations. Merchants would supply flax to local households and take away the finished cloth to the market at Dungannon.
In the early 1800s some 120 linen merchants, who were considered the aristocrats of the textile industry, came to the market each Thursday. These traders spent around £4,000 every week buying up to 1100 webs of flax yarn and 700 webs of tow yarn.
The famous Moygashel Linen Mills were established in the 1780s. Thomas Boardman, a Quaker, erected a bleach green in 1781 and in 1785 a ‘bark’ mill with bleach green and primitive dye works had been established. The mill crushed the shrubby North American Sumar tree to produce dye for local weavers. Thomas Boardman died in 1836 and leased the Moygashel site to his daughters Sarah and Ellen. Their brother occupied the bleach green but the family fell on hard times and by 1840 the Boardman sisters leased the bleach green to another Quaker, Benjamin Kerr. In 1845 Kerr subleases to Henry Sinnamon, a linen merchant and finisher of brown and black hollands trading under the name ‘Kerr & Sinnamon’.
Within a decade, William Orr & Sons, Bleachers and Linen Manufacturers had replaced Kerr and Sinnamon and in 1860 Jacob Orr converted the site to a flax mill. In 1868 Orr’s flax mill burned down which bankrupted him and the Provincial Bank of Ireland took possession of the property. They assigned the mill to Thomas and Joseph Wylie.
In 1876 Robert Stevenson rebuilt the mill at Moygashel. adding a weaving and beetling sheds which were powered by a 40 horsepower engine and the local water supply.
Stevenson built 15 houses for his employees beside the mill and by 1901 a village of 28 dwellings had developed, housing a community of linen beetlers, bobbin winders and carters from the factory.
Stevenson’s became a limited company in 1907 and quickly introduced new technology to their business including a Lancashire boiler which was fitted with a 300 horse power horizontal engine.
A White Finishing House was completed in 1926.
Click on the video below to watch local Moygashel people recount their true experiences of working at Moygashel Mills & see footage of the mill in action.
Stevensons were a Scottish Plantation family who moved to Co. Tyrone in the 1600s. Robert Stevenson, bought the Linen Mill at Moygashel and turned it into one of the most technologically advanced mills of its time which included 15 houses for employees.