Now, 400 years on, the town’s summer skirmishes are created by armadas of visiting trippers.
But, because it is a backwater, up Oystercreek, Brownsmills still has the feel of a place less visited, with development to date very limited and successfully blended in.
There’s a new apartment block, with 10 units all stone faced and looking like a converted mill building, plus a converted mill as well with five apartments, and the thriving Oystercreek bar and restaurant, run by ex-wine seller Dubliner Niall Byrne and his Kinsale-born wife Debbie.
The creek, which snakes down towards Oysterhaven bay under the old bridge on the main Cork road, is a tidal estuary, and jet-skis rather than war boat parties are now among the occasional creek callers.
Up for sale guiding €750,000 on the edge of Brownsmills is a house Millstream that made waves when it was first built back in the mid-1990s, a fully stone-faced large 2,500 sq ft family home, just a bit ahead of its time when first conceived.
The stone-faced finish has gathered pace in the south west and elsewhere in the past decade - as has another feature of this distinctive home, underfloor heating in the main living areas and part timber frame construction.
Millstream’s designer is also its vendor, architect Richard Rainey, born in South Africa, but now acclimatised to life on the Irish coastline, and he also gets design credit for the nearby apartment mill buildings on his domestic doorstep.
Maybe it is because he came from such a bright spot in the southern hemisphere that he attempted to draw in extra light to the house’s core - hence the large open plan living area with double height ceiling stretching right up into the pitched and pine-clad roof space, with Velux windows brightening it all up.
Rainey stayed with Irish vernacular design in terms of keeping windows sizes modest, and uses square shapes with simple opes in Rational frames, while a sun room off a gable has glazing on three sides and an overhead balcony terrace as well.
Finishes are simple and natural, monochrome Bantry stone and natural slate on the outside, cast iron gutters and chutes, and tile and wood floors inside.
The centre of the house is very much its heart and hearth, with a dramatic tall and angular chimney breast sheltering a wood-burning stove: floor to ceiling height is 30’, with red deal beams and black steel ties an architectural feature.
There are four simple bedrooms, two at each level, and two bathrooms, each simply decorated and with cast iron baths.
The kitchen has very plain Shaker-style units in maple, with a central white marble topped island and the rest of worktops are tiled, as are the splashbacks and floors, and there’s a dining area off the cooking space.
The main living area has a bay window with door to the patio, and there’s another living area up on the gallery used as a home office and TV room, opening to the wood decked balcony.
Millstream is on a sloping site of one acre, well-landscaped and surrounded with cobble-lock drive, paths and parking area.
Joint selling agent are Andrew Carlos Clarke of Keane Mahony Smith and Victoria Murphy, both based in Kinsale.