The White House
Some senior citizens in the village recall a time when 45 Main Street was known as the White House. It was a pub with some accommodation but that seems to be about all that’s known. It’s a bit different, when the pub evolved into the Olde Mill with the Candlelight room to the rear – everyone seems to remember the ‘old’ Olde Mill.
The Olde Mill
In the 1960’s John Cochrane, returning home from Canada, took over the pub, re- named the Olde Mill. The bar was at the front and to the rear he built the Candlelight Room. At a time when eating out was really confined to hotel restaurants John built up the Candlelight Room to become easily the busiest restaurant on the North Coast. Particularly when there was live music the restaurant was packed to overflowing.
Later the Olde Mill had mixed fortunes, changing from the Olde Mill to the New Mill with some accommodation and a function room, back to the Olde Mill before changing to the Black Bush Bar & Bistro. The property was closed for 2 years before being purchased in 2012 for conversion to the French Rooms Café & Shop.
The French Rooms
Crucial to the development of the French Rooms was the need to extend the width as a right of way by No 47 over No 45 prevented development. Fortunately when The Bushmills Trust, a community owned registered charity, built an 80 bed Youth Hostel at No 47 the right of way was no longer required and when the French Rooms enquired the Bushmills Trust was happy to concede its right of way.
A side garden was created and a Garden Room built on what used to be the rear garden of the neighbour on the other side – The Blue House at No 43. A small meeting room, the Huguenot Room, and toilets were built on the first floor with access by two new staircases and a lift. Curiously, Building Control insisted that the disabled toilet should be alongside the Toilets on the 1st floor rather than alongside the Shop & Restaurant on the ground floor as originally planned.
With Architects Turkington Magowan of Belfast and local contractor T&M Construction, No 45 was transformed into the French Rooms in 9 months, opening on Good Friday 2013.
The French Connection
French links with Bushmills date back to the 17th century when French Huguenots in search of religious freedom settled in many parts of the world. Here they were involved in the development of the linen industry and Irish linen soon earned a world-wide reputation for quality. Flax to make linen was grown locally and two of the six water powered mills in Bushmills processed flax. One of these flax mills remains and today forms part of the Bushmills Salmon Research Station – internationally accepted as a world leader in its field.
The Huguenot influence spread throughout Ulster and a first generation descendant, The Rev Henry Reynette, was rector of Billy Church, Bushmills.
The Huguenots settled in other parts of the world including the western cape of South Africa where they started growing vines and making wine. In Franschhoek (the name is derived from the Dutch for French corner) French influence is still very evident today and the Huguenot contribution is commemorated with an impressive monument and museum in the town.
Franschhoek is regarded as the culinary capital of South Africa and owners of the French Rooms, Roy & Stella Bolton, fell in love with the Franschhoek valley on their first visit some 15 years ago. They return regularly and much of the inspiration for the French Rooms, Bushmills comes from Franschhoek so the French connection also has a very relevant South African dimension.
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