Description of Historic Place
Barrington Woolen Mill is located on the east side of River Road and the main highway in Barrington, Nova Scotia. Located directly beside the Barrington River, this red shingled industrial building, flume and dam are included in the municipal designation, passed July 4, 1984.
The Barrington Woolen Mill is valued for its association with the industrial and community history of Barrington and surrounding communities; as one of only a few water-powered woolen mills left in eastern Canada; as the only horizontal water wheel powered mill on the east coast; and for its current role as a museum.
In the early 1880s the Barrington Wool Manufacturing Company was formed. Shares were sold throughout Barrington and nearby Cape Sable Island to raise money for the construction of a mill to process local fleece. The many small islands in the area provided an excellent environment to raise sheep and sheep farming had been popular in the area since the earliest settlers. In 1882 a large building was constructed directly on the eastern branch of the Barrington River and by 1884 the mill was operational. At this time the mill could produce red, blue and undyed yarn, and goods such as twills and flannels. In 1894 the mill was leased to Robert Doane, who later purchased the mill and renamed it first the Atlantic Woolen Mills and then the permanent name, Barrington Woolen Mill. Doane expanded the mill’s product line and added the dye-house to the mill building.
The impact of the mill, and production of woolen goods, was significant to the community. Shearing day was a holiday for many children to allow them to assist with the shearing process and shearing day picnics became a local tradition. Fleece was then transported to the mill, often by boat. Not only was the mill an employer, many of its products catered to the local market. Items for fishermen and lumbermen were among the popular products at the turn of the century, sold mainly along the South Shore of Nova Scotia.
During World War I the mill supplied large quantities of yarn to the Red Cross and other buyers. After the war the mill specialized more in double knit cloth, blankets and pant cloth. In 1929 Robert Doane died and the management and ownership of the mill passed to his son Arthur. Throughotut the 1920s, demand slowly declined. By the 1930s the demand for synthetic fabrics was steadily on the rise. World War II lead to a resurgence in demand for woolen products, however the slump in demand following the war affected the mill. It continued to operate until 1962 when Arthur Doane’s health forced its closing.
In 1966 the mill became part of the provincial Nova Scotia Museum system. Most of the original machinery remains in the building and all is in operational condition with the exception of the skeiner. The machinery is no longer connected to the driveshaft; however the water wheel remains in working order. The Mill is open seasonally to the public.
Source: Old Court House file, Municipality of the District of Barrington heritage files.
Character-defining elements of the Barrington Woolen Mill relate to its original function as a woolen mill and include:
- simple, unadorned exterior;
- original two-and-one-half storey massing;
- wood shingled gable roof;
- red painted, wood shingled exterior;
- sluiceway directing water to horizontal water wheel;
- original water powered carding machines;
- Knowles and Crompton water powered loom;
- original lanolin soaked floorboards and beams;
- six-over-six wooden windows;
- one-and-one-half storey dye house at rear;
- horizontal water powered water wheel;
- dam and flume;
- location directly next to Barrington River.