Gunpowder Mills

Here is a YouTube video made by An Scannanlann (cork City and County Film Archives) highlighting the restoration of the Gunpowder Mills area in the 1990s. Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills Restoration.

Here is a YouTube video made by An Scannanlann (cork City and County Film Archives) showing the now permanently closed Visitors’ Centre at the historic Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills.


Below, is Cork Film Arcive special report, featuring the Gunpowder Mills, Ballincollig, Co. Cork.

‘A Forgotten Historic Site, ripe for renewal again’

Here is a link to an image of the report by Jerry Aherne, editor of the Cork Film Archive newsletter. The report featured in ther December 2008 newsletter. See the Report on the Gunpowder Mills, Ballincollig, here. [added February 2009]

A plaque dedicated to the memory of the late George D. Kelleher, was unveiled on Saturday 25th October at the west end of the Regional Park. It was through the dedication and persistence of the late George Kelleher that the importance of the Gunpowder Mills and the uniqueness of the Regional Park began to be appreciated. The Muskerry Local History Society organised the plaque and the Cork City Lord Mayor did the honours.

Plaque to George Kelleher

Plaque to George Kelleher

Charles Henry Leslie, founder of Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills in 1794.

Plaque erected on East Gate in 2008:

Plaque on East Gate

Plaque on East Gate

“Walton Abbey” in the text above should read “Waltham Abbey”!

Walking Map

Gunpowder Mills Walk Below is a link to a map of the Gunpowder Mills paths. It is an excellent walking guide and can be printed off and taken along with you.

Gunpowder Mills_map

History of Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills

The Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills was set up in 1794 by Charles Henry Leslie (of the Cork banking family), and later became one of Ireland’s most successful industries, producing gunpowder for the military, most notably during the Napoleonic Wars, as well as for mining, quarrying and civil engineering purposes.

The British Board of Ordnance bought the mills in 1805 and extended the mills. The board laid out the main canal and increased the productive capacity of the mills. The military barracks was built to protect the gunpowder.

After Napoleon was defeated in 1815, the demand for gunpowder went down and the mills closed down. The cnals and millrace became overgrown and the buildings were allowed to run down.

In 1834, the Gunpowder Mills was sold to Thomas Tobin (a Liverpool merchant). In 1837, the mills employed about 200 workers and produced about 16,000 barrels of gunpowder.

By the mid 1850s, the mills had become one of the largest industrial establishments in the Cork area. About 500 men and boys were employed in the mills.

Here is a link to a newspaper article about an Explosion at Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills in 1859.

By the last quarter of the 19th century, the demand for gunpowder shrank as new types of explosives were discovered. In the 1880s the Briscoes bought the mills and in 1898 the mills came under the control of Curtis and Harvey.

The mills closed permanently in 1903. In 1926, I.C.I. (Imperial Chemical Industries) became the owners of the mills and associated lands.

In 1974 Cork County Council bought the mills and developed the area into the Regional Park.

In 1993, the Cork County Council opened the Visitors Centre and in 2002, they closed it but the western end of the Regional Park continued to be developed for use as a walking area for the public.

Many ruined buildings still remain to be seen in the park, particularly in the eastern end, and the area is contained in what is called the Regional Park. See photos Photos of Gunpowder Mills on Flickr.


The principal constituents of gunpowder are: saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate), charcoal and sulphur. Saltpetre was imported from India, sulphur from the mines on the island of Sicily and the charcoal was produced from the local trees.

Update 2008

In March 2008, it was announced by Mr Batt O Keeffe T.D., that €100,000 was be contributed towards the excavation and other works under Cork County Councils Implementation Plan for the Gunpowder Mills, Ballincollig.


18 Responses to Gunpowder Mills

  1. Tony O'Regan says:

    Only the county council could market The ONLY working gunpowder mills in the world and make an arse of it, not surprising judging by the image and marketing. What are your thoughts? Currently in CIT doing a web site project on the mills actually, might even put it up if there’s any real interest, and if it turns out ok, which it might

  2. Philippe DUCONGE says:

    Dear Madam, dear Sir,

    I am Philippe Ducongé, in charge of a French scout group from Nice.
    I am setting up a trip in Ireland from 07/10 to 07/26 this 2007 summer, for
    90 persons: around 70 children, ages 6 to 15, and 20 supervisors.

    I would like to have some information about your prices and discounts for the group, and I also would like to know how to book for the 90 persons. There would be 37 children under 12 years old, 33 older and 20 adults. The visit would take place on July, 18.

    Could you also tell me about the visiting hours, how long it takes to visit the site, and whether it is possible or not to have a guide to comment (and if yes, how much more will it cost).

    I look forward to reading from you soon.

  3. Thea Trical says:

    It is difficult to believe that Cork County Council will leave this valuable site to become a calling centre; could the community not have recleimed it as an arts/youth/community centre? Don’t let apathy and despair take over and fight to get the area back for the community… if there is one!

  4. Sue Tibbits says:

    Im trying to find out if my great great grandfather worked at the mill.He was called Bartholomew Buckley.Any ideas where Imight find this information?
    I amresident inEngland.

  5. Some records for employees at Board of Ordnance establishments in Ireland such as the Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills do exist. These Irish Ordnance Reports are housed at the Kew Gardens PRO, London ( as far as I know.

    The Irish Genealogist magazine (Vol. 6, No. 6, Nov. 1985) states that records exist for the years 1811 -1847. The 1815 list of employees in the Irish Genealogist has a Bartholomew Buckley (Spike Island) who was born in 1777.

  6. Sue Tibbits says:

    Hello Margaret.
    I amvery pleased to have had your reply. I will certainly follow up your advice but feel the Buckley you cite as being too early tobemy relative.Perhaps though he is the grandfather of my great great grandfather!Ishall have tokeep searching!
    I really appreciate your response.

  7. mjordan says:

    Hi Sue,

    I found a Bartholomew Buckley listed as living on Chapel Lane West in Ballincollig in “Griffith’s Valuation” which was compiled circa 1852. Could this be your great great grandfather?


  8. Ralph Sweet says:

    I live in tghe former horse barn of the Hazard Powder Co, Enfield, CT, USA. Yours is NOT the only example of an operating incorporating mill in the world! The Hagley Museum, owned by the DuPont Co. near Wilmington, Delaware, in the US, has one which they start up and run several times each day for the visitors. It looks much like the one in your picture, perhaps bigger, though. They use a mixture of sawdust and charcoal, for safety reasons.

  9. ballincollig says:

    Hi Ralph,

    Thanks for the correction. It is great news to know that there is another functioning incorporating mill still around.I have put a link to the Hagley Museum website:
    in the list of links on this blog.

    I notice that there is a link on the Hagley Museum website to a video which show the mill working.


  10. Andy Molamphy says:

    As a regular visitor to the Regional Park, I was very taken by the plaque recently unveiled there. Could anyone let me know who designed and made the plaque and how one could source something similar.


  11. ballincollig says:

    Hi Andy,

    The artist who designed the plaque is Liam Lavery. I found his name on the following Cork website:

    It is the site for “The National Sculpture Factory”, Albert Road. Perhaps they could put you in touch with him.

    Margaret Jordan

  12. conmac says:

    follow this link to the clip on the “Visitor Centre” Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills (Youtube)

  13. Frank O'Reilly says:

    I Lived on Magazine Road when I was a baby..and then moved to Hartlands Avenue..not far away.
    Someone asked me recently why is itn called “Magazine Road”.. I said because munitions were carried along it from Ballincollig to Rock Island near Haulbowline…Is that right.??

  14. Jenny Webb says:

    I had always thought that it was called Magazine Road because of the connection with Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills but it seems that this is not the case. There was indeed a magazine in Wellington Square but as I understand it, it belonged to Cork City and was not related to the powdermills. Apparently the city magazine had been in the centre of town whch wasn’t acceptable to many citizens hence a new one was built on a green field site. I believe there is a publication relating to this written by the local residents’ association from Wellington Square.

    • ballincollig says:

      Thanks for that information. It is always good to get the true story. It would be interesting to see the publication and the references as well.


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