The UAHS has drawn attention on numerous occasions over recent years towards the small County Tyrone village of Sion Mills, which retains a tremendous legacy of historic buildings associated with the textile history in what was a planned 19th century mill settlement. Its significance was such that the village contains one of the earliest conservation areas to be designated in Northern Ireland in 1977, whilst many of the surviving buildings have also been listed as being of special architectural and historic interest.
With the decline of the textile industry, the closure of the old Herdmans’ mill in the late-1980s (and the new buildings more recently), and the dreadful neglect of the prominent stable block to Zion House, the village had taken on a rather unfortunate air of decline. That has all changed for the better, however, thanks to the tireless efforts and dedication of local people in the Sion Mills Buildings Preservation Trust. Not only has the aforementioned stable block been subject of the first compulsory acquisition of a listed building in Northern Ireland in the summer of 2008 – hopefully leading to full restoration – but workspace units have also been completed within the old maintenance, carpentry and paint shop block at the mill, together with necessary work to restore the tall mill chimney. Both structures were referred to for very different reasons in the latest Built Heritage at Risk Northern Ireland Catalogue, Volume 8.
If these weren’t reasons enough to begin celebrations marking the ongoing revival of the architectural heritage of the village, so too is the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s famous one-day victory over the West Indies on the cricket field to the side of the mill. A clip showing this remarkable encounter is available on YouTube.
The Sion Mills BPT has also produced a short film about the village. A longer version is available on DVD to purchase directly from the Trust; one of a number of initiatives linked to longer term efforts to bring sustainable cultural tourism to the area.