The windmill was originally used as a flour mill, powered by the wind that was caught by its sails. It was a crucial part of the local economy, providing flour to the surrounding area and to ships in Tralee Bay.
The Windmill was built around 1800 by Sir Rowland Blennerhassett (1740-1821), the First Baron of Blennerville, who founded the village and developed the port. Unfortunately, tragedy struck shortly after its opening when Sir Rowland’s wife – Lady Millicent Yielding – was killed instantly in 1801 when she ventured onto the first-floor stage or platform and was hit by one of the massive windmill sails. Public access to the stage is now prohibited!
The windmill continued in use until the late 1820s but ceased production after the Napoleonic Wars when the government bounties for corn production ended. The building was used as a store until the 1880s when its millstones were powered by a steam engine installed by Tralee corn merchants, McCowans, and again as a store between 1889-1891 during the construction of the Tralee & Dingle Light Railway.
Thereafter, the building was in disuse and began to deteriorate. Within a century all that remained was a ruined shell, without roof or floors. The derelict building was purchased by Tralee Urban District Council in 1981 and a volunteer group – the Blennerville Windmill Restoration Committee – began the painstaking restoration with FÁS assistance over the period 1984-89. These works were supervised Dr. Fred Hamond, an industrial archaeologist from Belfast, with the funding support of Tralee UDC, Kerry County Council and local businesses. The Windmill Visitor Centre was opened in 1992 and Kerry Model Railway Exhibition in 2012.
Here is a timeline of the history of Blennerville Windmill:
Sir Rowland Blennerhassett builds Blennerville Windmill to serve as a flour mill, using the power of the wind to turn the sails and grind grain into flour.
Windmill ceases production after ending of Napoleonic Wars and grain subsidies. in 1840s witnesses lines of emigrants lining the quayside to flee the famine to North
Windmill rehabilitated and steam engine fitted by McCowans of Tralee
Windmill is severely damaged in Storm Ulysses and begins to deteriorate thereafter
Windmill and adjoining site is purchased by Tralee UDC and restoration work commences in 1984.
Restored Windmill is officially opened. Visitor Centre follows in 1992.
The replica of the Jeanie Johnston was launched from Blennerville, flited out in Fenit, and set sail to North America in 2003.
Blennerville Windmill continues to operate as a museum and popular tourist attraction, with exhibits on the windmill’s history, milling, and the role of the windmill in Irish emigration history. It remains an important part of Tralee’s cultural and industrial heritage, serving as a reminder of Ireland’s past and its connection to the natural world.