- 1843-1994 (Creation)
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The firm of Robert Perry & Co. originally began life in Clara, King’s County. Henry Robert Perry took a lease of the Street Mill in Clara and formed the company Robert Perry & Co., Clara Mills in the 1840s or 1850s. The company was named after his father, Robert Perry, who founded Rathdowney Brewery in 1831 which brewed Perry’s Ale. In 1859, Henry Robert purchased Belmont Mills from Captain John Collins for the sum of £3275. The mill complex was located beside the site an earlier 18th century mill complex situated south of Belmont Village on the right bank of the River Brosna. The company now traded as Robert Perry & Co., Clara and Belmont Mills but by 1865, Marcus Goodbody controlled all the mills at Clara so that Robert Perry & Co. became exclusively attached to Belmont and thereafter known locally as Belmont Mills or Perry’s Mills. Henry Robert’s brother, Thomas Perry ran the mill at Belmont during the 1860s and acquired full ownership of it in 1878. He converted the adjoining derelict corn and rape mills to an oat mill and a granary. Business was brisk, much of this owing to its advantageous location. Distribution was aided greatly by both the Grand Canal, which connected Dublin with Limerick via the Shannon, and also by the Clara-Banagher railway, which had opened in 1884. There were three major fires at Belmont Mills, the first of which occurred in 1879, the year after Thomas acquired outright ownership of the mill.
Rebuilding commenced immediately and innovative machinery was installed during this time such as ‘roller mills’ as well as the traditional millstones. In 1893 the company was restructured as Robert Perry & Co. Ltd. and upgrading continued. Ernest Perry took over in 1900 on the death of Thomas Perry. A new maize mill was added between 1906-09 for the production of animal feed and a turbine was installed in 1908 to provide electricity to the mill and the village of Belmont. The mill then passed to Wilfred Perry on the death of his brother, Ernest, in 1924. Another disastrous fire in 1925 destroyed the flour and maize mills. Insurance was paid out but after a couple of years, it was rebuilt and re-opened in 1928 under the name Robert Perry & Co. (1927) Ltd. producing flaked maize, wheatmeal, oatmeal, and flaked oatmeal. The mill subsequently passed to Wilfred’s son Philip, who continued to produce oats and animal feed until his death in 1967. His wife continued the business for many years and the oatmeal mill was used to produce ‘Groato’ flaked oatmeal until c.1974. On her death in 1980, their son, David Perry took over the business. In 1982, the mill was devastated by fire for the third time. This time it was not rebuilt, but demolished, except for the granary, which had not been damaged. David Perry began work on the installation of a hydro-power station at the site to generate electricity for the national grid. Animal feed production continued in the maize mill granary and did not cease until 1997 when the entire operation was sold to a new owner, Tom Dolan.
The archives of Robert Perry & Co. were salvaged from old mill buildings in the Belmont Mills complex which was being renovated by new owners. Fred Hamond, an industrial archaeologist, completed a survey of the mills of Offaly for Offaly County Council’s Heritage Office in 2003 and alerted the Heritage Officer to the records which he felt were of historical significance. The archive was donated to Offaly County Library in 2004.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Sections A-C contain many thousands of invoices, receipts, cash books, quotations and estimates, contracts, journals, wages records, production records and order books, and any other type of record relating to the daily administration of the business (1843- 1994).
Section D is comprised of thousands of incoming letters and a much lesser volume of copy outgoing letters, arranged in sub-series exactly as created: in bundles of alphabetically filed letters, bundles of letters filed by month and year, letterbooks of copy outgoing letters, correspondence arranged by owner, legal correspondence and some smaller files or correspondence with government departments and millers’ associations (1873-1964).
Section E is an artifically created series containing correspondence, statements of account and advice notes relating to the distribution of grain into and out of Belmont Mills (1874-1947).
Section F is an artificially created series of correspondence, receipts, policies and schedules relating to the extensive insurances taken out on the mills and on the lives of the owners (1874-1936).
Section G is an artificially created series containing investment policies, banking receipts and debtors’ bankruptcy papers (1873-1954).
Section H contains posters, labels, signs, and packaging relating to the marketing of Belmont Mills products (c.1900-1950).
Section J contains income tax receipts, personal correspondence, and account books relating to the Church of Ireland, personal household expenses, and Lisderg Farm (1858-1975).
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The arrangement is complex due firstly to the volume and type of records and secondly due to the company structures. Broadly speaking, the main business records were divided into the respective instances of the company’s existance, i.e., Section A concerns Robert Perry & Co., Section B concerns Robert Perry & Co. Ltd., and Section C concerns Robert Perry & Co (1927) Ltd. Section D comprises correspondence which spans the entire existance of the company. Sections E, F, G and H comprise smaller artificially created series relating to distribution, insurance, finance and marketing. Section J is another artificially created series relating to personal or non-corporate material.
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Catalogue available as downloadable pdf. Click on digital object above.
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
National University of Ireland, Maynooth , MU/PP17 Belmont Mill Archive
National Archives of Ireland, BRS OFF/9 Business Records Survey, Perry’s Mills
Offaly County Library, P48 Papers of Harriet Perry
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Hamond, F., Belmont Mills, Belmont, Co.Offaly: Industrial Heritage Survey, Offaly County Council Heritage Office (2003)
Goodbody, M., The Goodbodys: Millers, merchants and manufacturers-The story of an Irish Quaker family, 1630-1950. Ashgate (2012)
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