St Patrick’s Windmill Tower, Dublin, Ireland

In my opinion St Patrick’s Windmill Tower is one of the most iconic features on the Dublin city skyline, passing it twice a day on my way to and from work has certainly brought it to the forefront of of my mind. St Patrick’s Windmill Tower was built in 1805 by Roes’ Distillery for the purpose of grinding corn as part of the distillation process. Roe’s distillery was originally founded in 1757 and became a colossal  whiskey producer over the next hundred years. When the windmill was built it was the largest of its kind in Europe and was in use until 1860 when the distillery converted to steam power. By 1887 the distillery was the largest in Europe, producing two million gallons of whiskey each year. Due to their wealth the Roe’s were able to finance the restoration of nearby Christchurch Cathedral in the 1880’s by providing £250,000 in funding, the equivalent of roughly 20million euro today.

One would assume that as the distillery was situated across the road from the Guinness brewery there would have been a mutual professional admiration however this was not the case, Guinness’ looked at their drink as ‘the nurse of the nation’ and viewed whiskey as ‘the curse of the nation’!

Much like the inter-dependent world economy of today international decisions at the time affected the distillery badly, prohibition in the United States in the early part of the 20th century wiped out a large section of the Roe’s market and around the same time Scottish distilleries began to become more competitive and reached out to grab their share of the worldwide market. Both of these challenges were compounded by a period of economic and social upheaval in Ireland. By 1926 Roe & Co Distillers had ceased production of whiskey, and sold off their remaining stock before finally being dissolved in the mid 1940s, in 1949 Guinness’ took over the site.

The name St Patrick’s Windmill Tower’ derives from a weather-vane that caps its green dome cut out in the shape of St Patrick. Though the site is closed to the general public I was kindly granted permission to access the inside of the tower by staff at The Digital Hub. The Digital Hub has operated on the site since 2002 and provides units and support to meet the demands of the digital industry. The base of the tower is used for storage and the first floor is empty, its when one reaches the second floor and gazes upwards that the sheer enormity of the tower becomes visible. There are a couple of machines that would have been used in the grinding process still standing and they help serve as a reminder of the Tower’s once magnificent life as a center of industry.

My thanks again to the Digital Hub for allowing me to finally find out what lies behind the walls of this beautiful structure. Also thanks to Alan Cousins for getting in contact to send me on a photo of his father Tony completing the refitting of the dome in 1958, Tony recalls that when they were refitting the dome the names of the original coppersmith’s from 1805 are written above the trap door ( sealed and covered now), he remembers 3 of the names Mitchell, Murray and Quinn, and they recorded their names and date beside them.

GPS: 53.34408, -6.28406

12 thoughts on “St Patrick’s Windmill Tower, Dublin, Ireland

  1. Fantastic piece,well done,l was in it many years ago,as a young teen, was lots of bits lieing around,bottles+boxs, etc,but l had’nt got the interest [or a camera] to realise what a treasure it was,in recent years l found out its history,lm assuming its listed,and wouldnt it be beautiful if the ‘sails’ could be put back,what an eyecatcher it would be then for the tours heading into the GuinnessHopStores,keep up the good work,l enjoy your photos…xx

  2. When I saw the pictures, before I scrolled down and saw the title, I bet myself it was a shot tower, as it’s shaped very much like the one in Baltimore.
    Oh and by the way, they say drinking is the curse of the Irish, but when I lived abroad we had a joke among the teachers: Canadians will match you drink for drink. Americans will get you drunk enough to text your ex. Irish are relative amateurs next to Scotch, and the English drink like they want to die. Go for happy hour with a Brit at your own peril. 🙂

  3. I have photo of my father Tony cousins and his uncle Patrick Dorrington from 1958 fitting saint Patrick on top of the tower after refitting the roof always look up at the figure and think of him up there at the age of 15 working with not even a harness on.It was published in the Guinness harp magazine in may/june 1958

    How can I share the photo with this article

  4. Wonderful writeup. I would love to see a historical picture of the tower with its original sails; if you ever come across such an image, please post it.

    Lorian Bartle

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.