Vol. 6 No. 1 - 1989
In the early years of the 18th century the Cockhill in Drumanphy Townland became a place of considerable importance. The main road from Portadown to Dungannon went over this steep hill, where a road branched off to the Bann Foot; tradition says that there was an Inn here known as "The Cock", hence the origin of the name "Cockhill".
Being the most elevated site in the district, 51.2 metres (168 feet) above sea level, Mr Edward Hoope, who had purchased this portion of the Manor of Richmond about the year 1706, proceeded to erect a Windmill, and in his Will of 10th September 1723 makes reference to "all my goods and debts at Drumanfy alias Cockhill in the Manor of Richmond under the care of James Averdice Junior and James Adair. and the produce of Mills there and also my household goods and utensils of every sort that are there".
This Windmill, one of the few in North County Armagh, was in close proximity to the road and its "stump" still stands out as a conspicuous landmark against the horizon, the circular tower being 9.3 metres (30ft 9in) high and 6.1 metres (20ft) in external diameter at the base with slightly battered waits. Mr Hope proceeded to erect other ancillary buildings including a dwelling house, miller's house, malt kiln, horse mill and stable, the gradient of the Cockhill being so steep as to necessitate the use of trace-horses to assist laden carts to the summit. It is implied in the will of Mr Hoope that he had a residence here prior to the erection of a house at Crowhill. This was undoubtedly the old two-storey stone building to the north-west of the road Junction, and which has stood derelict for many years although a "Listed Building".
In the course of his travels through Ireland the Rev John Wesley visited Cockhill on a number of occasions as recorded in his Journal. We find the first reference under Saturday 11th April 1767, when he preached at six o'clock near Cockhill. Two years later, on Sunday 16th April, he writes, "At nine I preached in a meadow near Cockhill to a listening multitude. I suppose we should have had twice the number in the evening, but the rain prevented. The grass being wet, I stood in the highway, while many stood in the neighbouring houses. The Word of God was as the rain upon the tender herb". On Tuesday 25th July 1771 he returned and preached "in a delightful evening, under some shady trees", and he paid another visit on Monday 7th June 1773. When he came again on Tuesday 13th June 1775 he recorded, "I was not very well in the morning, but supposed it would soon go off. In the afternoon, the weather being extremely hot, I lay down on the grass, in Mr Lark's orchard at Cockhill! (Mr Locke's field). This I had been accustomed to do for forty years, and never remember to have been hurt by it only I never before lay on my face; in which position I fell asleep. I waked a little and but a little, out of order, and preached with ease to a multitude of people. Afterwards I was a good deal worse. This sickness lasted for a fortnight, most of which time he spent with friends at Derriaghy.
Wesley's final visit to Cockhill came on the 19th June 1778, when he preached "at the bottom of the garden"; the table was placed under a tree, and most of the people sat on the grass before it. He felt that everything seemed to concur with the exhortation, "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace".
By an Indenture of the 6th May 1749, Mr Thomas Hoope leased 37 acres 2 roods on the Cockhill together with the Mills and housing to Mr George Hutchinson. However, by a subsequent Lease of the 14th September 1793, the Rev William Hutchinson of Annahue made it over to Joseph Atkinson, who two years previously had married Sarah daughter of the late Thomas Hoope. Shortly after this, on the 16th November 1793, Joseph leased the land to Mr Alex McKitterick of Derrycrew, together with the "the Wind Mills, Horse Mill, Malt Kiln. Dwelling House, Miller's House... with the Grist Toal.or Multure that ariseth out of the Town lands of Dressiga, Magarada (Megarity), Crow Hill. Brohash, Clonakill, Drumanfy, Tegy, Clonmakash ... the said Alex McKittrick taking no more than the sixteenth grain for well and sufficiently grinding the same, and as the Wind Mill is uncertain and that the Tenants may not want Bread because the said Mill cannot grind for want of wind, then and in that case the said Alex McKittrick shall not detain the people's grain longer than three days but permit them to take it to any other Mill they chose".
The Cockhill must have been a hive of activity as the various tenants on the Crowhill Estate brought their laden carts of grain to be milled, and exchanged the latest news as they waited. Normally access to the Mill was by a doorway facing the road, but there was a second entrance at the other side of the building which would have been used when the wind blew from the East and the four great sails or vanes were passing the main doorway. A vertical shaft in the centre of the Mill transmitted the power, driving a hoist which raised the heavy sacks of grain vertically through the two trap- doors to the top or second floor. Here the grain was emptied into hoppers which fed the millstones on the floor below, and which were also driven by the main shaft, the stones being in pairs with the upper or "runner" revolving on the lower or "bed stone which remained stationary.
By the year 1837 the Windmill had deteriorated somewhat, and Mr Thomas Atkinson leased it together with the Miller's House and garden to Mr Thomas McClelland. then living in Megarity, a Smyth and Carpenter to trade, on condition that he would repair it and "put it in good and sufficient order to grind the grain that may grow on the estate of Crowhill and have it finished against the first day of September 1838".
The annual rent agreed was £9 to be reduced to £5 if he maintained the Mill in good repair. However, Thomas McClelland would appear to have been slow in effecting the repairs, and the condition of the Windmill deteriorated further in the "Big Wind" on the night of the 6th January 1839. A note on the back of the Lease states, "The Wind Mill was not put in order until long after 1838 therefore his rent is now £9". In fact this tenancy proved unsatisfactory, and on the 5th April 1847 a summons was served on Mr McClelland as he was then two years in arrears with his rent, and his Lease would appear to have been terminated, as on a Crowhill Estate Map dated 1850, the Mill and Circle are shown as being "in hand" to the Landlord, and the Mill House in the possession of Mr John Strain.
It would appear that this was really the end of the operational life of the Windmill as in Griffith's Valuation, drawn up about 1860, the Miller's house is shown as being occupied by Mr John Kelly. and The Mill, now designated as an "old tower", was tenanted by Mr John Redmond.
Perhaps this was but one of the signs of the changing times, for by the middle of the 19th century Windmills were generally in decline, being supplanted by the new steam-driven Mills which were located more centrally, such as the Corn Mill of James Clow & Co Castle Street, Portadown. Access to these Mills was now comparatively easy thanks to the newly constructed roads and the advent of the Railway.
About the beginning of the present century the mechanism was removed from the Cockhill Windmill, two new wooden floors were put in and a flat roof added, above which the circular wall was castellated, thus giving the building the appearance of a fortification. Subsequently it was inhabited intermittently, the last person to occupy it being Mr Bill Totten, about the year 1930.
Prior to 1847 the traveller going from Portadown to Dungannon would have left Portadown via Castle Street and Brankin's Hill, proceeding by Ballyfodrin, Cock- hill and Charlemont to Dungannon.
In 1847 (during the Famine) a new section of road was constructed commencing about half a mile west of Scotch Street as far as the main entrance to Crowhill House. This was known as "The New Line" of which "The Long Level" formed a part. The late Mr Thomas Dunlop of Megarity told how his grandfather, Mr John Dunlop of Drumannon who acted as Clerk of Works to the scheme, received a gold watch in recognition of his efforts. The stone for the new road was supplied by Mr John Walker Redmond of Grange House.
During the early years of the present century a cutting was made at the top of the Cockhill thereby reducing the road level at the summit by some six feet, the soil removed being utilised to raise the level of the road in the hollow on either side of the hill.
Today's traveller traversing the Cockhill by car would scarcely think that it was once an important place in the life of the local community. The Inn has long since ceased to exist; McMurray's Bakery which flourished during the Second World War, sending most of its produce to the city of Belfast, has been demolished. Thick ivy shrouds the old Hoope home on the comer; but the Windmill Stump, now used as a store by its owner, Mr Roy Sandford, still stands towering over the scene as a silent witness to those halcyon days on the hill.