Fire rips through historic mill

Fire swept through the historic Hilden Mill last weekend as fire crews battled to save the Lisburn landmark.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:00 pm

The Mill has been empty since Barbour Threads closed its doors in 2006 and plans for extensive redevelopment have so far failed to come to fruition.

Since becoming vacant and lying dormant, the Mill has attracted anti-social behaviour and this is not the first time it has been set ablaze, with reports of a deliberate fire at the site in 2015.

This latest incident is also suspected to have been deliberate and there are serious concerns about young people entering the buildings.

At the height of the incident there were six fire appliances and 40 firefighters tackling the blaze.

A spokesperson for the FIre and Rescue Service said: “Firefighters worked in challenging conditions throughout the night to extinguish the fire using an aerial appliance and a jet. The incident was dealt with by 9.14am the following morning, and the cause of the fire is believed to be deliberate ignition.”

On their Facebook page, Lisburn and Castelereagh PSNI urged parents to speak to their children about the dangers of the derelict site. In the post, the post from the Lisburn City Neighbourhood Team said: “We have already stopped a few young males aged 12 and have contacted their parents and will be following up with our youth diversion officer. If you have children in this area can you please speak with them and explain to them the dangers of this site and know where they are. We now have officers back down at the site checking for more. This is wasting valuable police resources and putting officers at danger trying to locate the youths.”

Speaking after the fire, Chief Inspector Jonathan Wilson, who is responsible for Community Engagement, said there had been issues of anti-social behaviour at the mill over recent years. “We have had reports over the last few years of issues emerging at the old mill,” he said. “For us the concern is that young people are unintentionally putting themselves at risk without understanding the dangers.

“In this incidence, when a building is vacant over an extended period it becomes dangerous and the danger is that in causing further damage to it, in this case with fire, there is a risk that if it were to get out of control it could have serious consequences for those involved but also those who live around it as it impacts their feeling of safety as well.”

Chief Inspector Wilson said that the police had been working hard to address the issues of anti social behaviour and stressed that he was not trying to criminalise young people but wanted to say to them “We want you to be safe.”

Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney said the fire in the old Hilden Mill is “a devastating loss of heritage.”

He commented: “The old Hilden Mill is a landmark piece of history and heritage in our community. Efforts have been ongoing for some time to bring it back into active use and reimagine the site. The blaze over the weekend is a devastating setback for these plans and it’s the local community that will lose out.

“I want to thank fire fighters who have been battling the blaze overnight and would encourage local people to follow the directions of police until the site is made safe.”