News Local

Plans afoot for historic Castleton mill

By Mandy Martin, For Northumberland Today

CRAMAHE TOWNSHIP - 

There are big plans for the historic Purdy Mill building in Castleton.

After an unplanned five-year hiatus, owners Candace and Mitchell Cox of Castleton are spearheading their dream of establishing an arts and heritage centre as a catalyst for the music, fine and theatre arts.

A ceili (musical evening of music, dance and song) featuring The Hannigans was held Friday, Jan. 6 at the Castleton Town Hall, the first of what’s planned to be many fundraising events.

The Ceili and Kitchen Party event was sold out: 100 tickets and a waiting list of 15. So, a second ceili is planned for Friday, Feb. 10.

In 2011, the Cox family relocated from Edmonton after scouring the Ontario landscape for a property that lent itself to housing an arts centre. They purchased the good-sized chunk of Castleton property because it included the historic grist mill that fronts on County Road 21 south of the General Store.

Formerly known as the Purdy Mill, the building is being renamed the Piper Creek Mill after the waterway that runs across the property, Long unused, the wooden structure seems to stand with precarious dignity, entry forbidden, but the foundations were firm and the couple was prepared to spend their savings to restore and repurpose the mill for public performances.

That’s when the dream almost derailed. Between their time of purchase and moving in, the Cramahe Township council approved selling an unopened road allowance to a neighbour — and that left the north side of the old mill building just inches from the new lot line which, in turn, barred equipment access to restore the mill.

Over the ensuing five years, Candace Cox immersed herself in the history, the property surveys and topography of their property. She discovered a surveyor’s error, had it redressed legally and, finally, this past fall (2016), the error was rectified. The effort significantly drained the Cox coffers.

Undeterred, in November 2016, following a public meeting to outline plans for the mill, a core group of people emerged to incorporate the new not-for-profit Piper Creek Mill Arts and Heritage Centre Board: Samantha Cameron, Candace and Mitchell Cox, Roger Doidge, Steafan Hannigan, Ian Hartford, Cindy Matthews, Graham Norcutt and Deborah Smith.

“This was the first event in what we hope will be hundreds more over the next few years,” Candace Cox said as people danced at the Castleton ceili. “As we fundraise, we want to be sharing the kind of programming we intend to offer at the Mill.”

The couple has strong ties with the arts. Mitchell Cox is a professional pianist, and shares with Candace Cox impressive theatrical experience and contacts.

The next event is the Sweetheart Ceili,, Feb. 10, at the Castleton Town Hall. March 17 will be a Maria Dunn Concert and St. Patrick’s Day Celebration also at Castleton Town Hall. A black-tie fundraiser is tentatively scheduled for Apr. 29 at Victoria Hall, Cobourg.

“All our events are listed on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/themillatpipercreek/) and website (http://themillatpipercreek.ca/arts-and-heritage-centre/),” says Candance. “Tickets will be available on-line or through Picker’s Paradise in Colborne. Of course, if any one has any further questions, they can reach Mitchell or myself at 905-344-7199, or through the website.”