A Brief history of the village of Bushmills

Early map of BushmillsBushmills in its current form is found on the north coast of Country Antrim in N. Ireland. It is famous for its whiskey and for its proximity to the Giants Causeway . However a settlement has been located on the side of the river Bush for considerably longer.

The first record of the village is that in the will of William Boyd of Dunluce dated December 9th 1624  giving leave to John Logan as “off the Bosthmilnes” to erect a mill. This mill was erected in 1608. The village is then mentioned a number of times over the years:

  • A map of the Dunkin estate dated 1775 which shows plots extending to the north of the town with a main street running north -south.
  • There were at least five distilleries in the village in 1782 but with a small population.

The Macnaghten Family

The Macnaghten family of Dundarave were responsible for the building of a market, A hotel, a courthouse,a grain store and numerous houses about 1828. Their estate house was built by Sir Charles Lanyon and was originally called Bushmills house but its name was changed in 1847 to Dundarave.
Further additions were made to Bushmills town by the Macnaghtens- a town square which was added to the market and a new bridge was built (which must have been quite an undertaking with just horse and cart and pick and shovel) in 1840. These improvements resulted in an increase in the population and by 1891 the population had risen to just over 1000 persons ( still about that number in 2012).

The Mills

These improvements were not the only reason for the increase in population . The numerous mills which were erected along the River Bush and the Bushmills Distillery (given a licence by King James in 1608 to distil ) also helped. There appears to have been 10 in total including flax mills, corn mills, paper  mills,  a spade mill and a sawmill.

The paper mill changed to a generating station on the arrival of the Portrush-Giant’s Causeway Tramway in 1883 and continued until 1948 when the company was wound up and the assets sold.

The Distillery

Bushmills Distillery 2013The other important industry was the distillation of spirits and this was in the hands of The Old Bushmills Distillery Company which has been in production since prior to 1608.

There were at one time five distilleries which disappeared one by one until there was just one. Later,  another distillery started and is mentioned in Griffiths valuation of 1865. This was situated behind the Market Square but this then disappeared to leave one, which is as it is today.

The increase in the people visiting the Giant’s Causeway  caused the provision of  resting places for these weary souls and two of these still survive Antrim Arms (now Bushmills Inn) and Commercial Hotel (now Finn McCool’s) The owner of the Antrim Arms also had a hotel at the Causeway and after a visit from the Prince of Wales was allowed to change the name to The Royal Hotel.


A gallery of the past

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