Wednesday 4 May 2011

Ireland Exhibited to England, 1823 - Lisburn and Hillsborough. (part 1)



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 Exhibited to England in a Political and Moral Survey of her Population.


This work is in two volumes. It devotes some thirty pages to Lisburn and district. Six pages are occupied with a record of the Battle of Lisburn, 1641.


This town is situated in the Barony of Massarene, on the River Lagan (which separates it from the county of Down), and is probably the handsomest inland town in Ulster. It exceeds Antrim, the shire-town of this county, in its trade; it contains an immensely larger population, a people more wealthy, and, in the beauty of its aspect, there is no competition between them. Lisburn returns one member to Parliament, since the legislative union. It is a market, fair, and post-town; is very considerable in the fine lawn and linen trade, and has been long distinguished as the seal of one of the most eminent diaper and damask manufactories in the world. Goods are here finished for several of the crowned heads and most eminent men of Europe, with all those devices drawn in the loom, which are emblematic of their rank and achievements. This is a new kind of type for the celebration of events; and the manufacturers, being also printers and publishers of these works, give additional celebrity to their name. Indeed, as printers and publishers in damask folio, the Messrs. Coulson rank among the first artists in the world, but, to their customers, we presume, must be attributed the merit of the composition of those histories, which they publish in such neat editions.

But Lisburn is not dependent, for its celebrity, upon mere works of art: it is distinguished as having been for some time the theatre of a genius -- Miss Owenson, Lady Morgan -- that has since raised its beam in all the refulgence of wild Irish talent upon the republic of letters. Conformable to the usual intelligence of country towns, and that sickening pride by which their paltry distinctions are maintained, this star of the emerald isle is said to have been unnoticed and unknown at Lisburn (from whence we infer, that our brother drapers of that town, in their devotion to the loom, have forgotten the science of astrology). To use the expression of a facetious inhabitant of Lisburn (who spoke without a figure, concerning the visit of this fair genius to Ulster, and her opinion of its inhabitants), "She came a stranger amongst us," said the wit, "and we thought to have parted with her as such, but she would not let us." It seems not, since she used the privilege of an old acquaintance, to tell you her opinion of your character. "The people of the North" said this talented lady (as the story proceeded), "by the country of their residence are Irish; by their religion, and the country of their forefathers, they are Scotch; but, by their character and actions, they are neither one nor the other. They are destitute of the generous hospitality of the native Irish, and appear to be wholly swallowed up in the vortex of their trade. They are destitute of the literary taste having that kind of information only which can be rendered useful in the pursuit of gain." Such, we have heard, was the opinion of this lady, whose tour in the north of Ireland, was not attended with all that eclat, with which Fortune, in a fit of Justice, has since thought proper to crown her talents -- talents (in defiance of the English reviews) that are now acknowledged to confer a distinguished honour upon the country which produced them. A tour in humble life would, however, so far as country towns are concerned, have been attended with similar marks of distinction in any other nation, (for mankind have not yet learned to place naked merit in its true niche). Could the lady in question have exchanged her talents for a title and suite in livery, her personal attendants in a more, fortunate tour through the republic of letters, it is probable her reception (even in enlightened Lisburn) would have been more flattering; but, as the world is now constituted, those days of patriarchal simplicity, when man was regarded for his own sake; or those of Roman or Spartan virtue, when talent and the love of country were the only passports to distinction, are not likely soon to return -- no, not even in this brave and generous land!

We understand that much attention has been paid, by the ladies of this town, to the interests of education, but chiefly by those of the Hancock family, whose unremitting attention to this important instrument of civilisation, and we have no doubt, to other public charities, is deserving the imitation of their country. We wish the Irish ladies, generally, would take up a peasantry improvement society, embracing within its circle all the wants of their parish. We fear, without them, it will never become fashionable; and we are sure that, separate from them, its duties will never be faithfully and universally performed.

Being desirous to render this work an accurate portrait of the country, and consequently, in our history of each district, to preserve a record of its public men, it becomes our duty to notice the name of John Hancock, a native of this town, who has long distinguished himself as one of its active and useful citizens, and who, some years since, addressed himself to the Irish public, in a course of essays, explanatory or his views of religious and moral truth.

Vitriol Island, Lisburn.

This is a small patch of ground, comprehending nearly three acres, in the immediate vicinity of the town, on which an extensive vitriol manufactory has been erected by Messrs. Conyngham and Gregg, and which was the property of Dr Crawford, when we visited that place in 1817. It furnishes employment to about twenty hands; and notwithstanding the depression under which most branches of trade then laboured, this establishment was advancing in the quantity of its manufacture a pretty conclusive argument of the satisfaction derived by the bleachers of this district from the quality of its acid.

Lisburn stands on a position considerably elevated above the Dublin Road, from which you ascend to it by a most steep and fatiguing hill. The country around it- is highly improved; but, in the direction of Belfast, it is one continued chain of plantation beauty. We think it is scarcely possible to bring any country to a state of higher perfection than this district of Antrim.

A minute description of all the works of art and nature, which combine to produce this perfection, would be incompatible with the limits of a sheet; but, when the reader presents to his imagination a magnificent landscape, bounded in front by the Belfast mountains, watered by the River Lagan, besprinkled with beautiful villas, bleach-yards upon the mountain side, glistening in the dancing ray; cottages, white as snow, with cropped hedges, inclosing gardens bending under the weight of their productions; vallies teeming with the gifts of Ceres, and all in full view of the traveller, over a charming road, which passes through demesnes and villas of incomparable beauty; forming one continued chain of rich plantation from Lisburn to Belfast, he will have formed some idea of the country, to whose natural and artificial history we are now introducing him.

The road we have just noticed is the last and most beautiful section of the grand coast road, to which we alluded in our survey of Downshire. as opening a communication between the ports of Dublin and Belfast, and on which Lisburn stands, 73 miles north of Dublin, and seven south of Belfast.

This town, which for size and population is now the second town in the county of Antrim, was. in the reign of Elisabeth, only a small village, and, at that time, called Lisnegarvey. The original proprietor of the territory of Kilultagh, in which it stands, was an O'Neil of the Tyrone family. In the reign of James I. Sir Fulk Conway obtained a grant of it. He induced a number of English and Welsh families to settle there. From a plan of the town taken, it is thought, some time in that reign, and preserved in the Marquis of Hertford's office, it appears, that there were then 53 tenements in the place, besides the Castle. From this plan it is evident, that the centre of the town (all, that was then in existence) has undergone but little alteration in shape, except what has been occasioned by the buildings near the market-house; nor, for many years after, does it seem to have made any great progress; for, in 1635, it is thus described by an English traveller:-- "Linsley Garvin, about seven miles from Belfast, is well seated, but neither the town, nor country thereabouts, were planted (inhabited), being almost all woods and moorish, until you come to Dromore. The town belongs to Lord Conway, who hath a good handsome house there."

Lisburn is remarkable for a victory gained over the Irish rebels, commanded by Sir Phelim O'Neil, Sir Con Magenis, and General Plunket, on the 28th of November, 1641, a little more than a month after the breaking out of the rebellion; Sir George Rawdon, who commanded the King's forces, having arrived at Lisburn on the evening before the battle.

In 1662, the inhabitants of the town of Lisburn, on account of their loyalty to Charles the First and Second, were, (by the same patent which erected the church of Lisburn into a cathedral for the united dioceses of Down and Connor, dated. October 27th of that year,) empowered to return two burgesses to parliament for ever; the sheriff of the county of Antrim, upon all summonses to elect a parliament, was obliged to send his precept, to the seneschal of the manor of Kilultagh, who was made the returning officer, notwithstanding the inhabitants were not a corporate body.

In 1707, this town was burned to the ground. The castle, a fine building, shared the same fate as the other houses, and was never, rebuilt. Part of the garden walls are still remaining, and the great terrace affords a most agreeable promenade, being well sheltered from the north by young plantations, and kept in the best order.

But that which more particularly contributed to the rise of the town of Lisburn was the settlement of many French refugees there (after the repeal of the edict of Nantz) who had been bred to the linen manufacture. Mr. Lewis Cromelin obtained a patent in 1699, which was afterwards renewed in the reign of Queen Anne, for establishing a manufacture of linen; and also, among other grants, one for £60 per annum for a French minister. In consequence of this he settled in Lisburn, and many of his countrymen also. The virtuous conduct and civilized manners of these good people, were of great advantage to this place; and their skill and industry set an example to those who were concerned in the same business, which soon had the effect of raising the quality of their manufacture to a degree of excellence unknown till then; and the linens and cambrics made in this neighbourhood, and sold in Lisburn market, have, until this day kept up their superior character.

Between 30 and 40 years ago, many new houses were built, in Lisburn, and some have been built since, but at present it seems stationery in that particular; and though its vicinity to Belfast, and its circumstances as an inland town, render it unsuitable for a great foreign trade, yet there is a vast deal of business done in it in various ways. On market days it is much frequented, from the quantity of linen and other things brought to it, and it is well known as the first place to meet with oats of the best quality for seed; there is also a cattle market every Tuesday, besides its two fairs. A few years ago a fine spire of cut stone was added to the church; and lately, a steeple and cupola to the market-house, the rooms of which the Marquis of Hertford fitted up anew, with some additions, as the place of assembly for the town. The houses of worship are, a spacious church, a Presbyterian meeting-house, a Quaker meeting-house, a handsome Catholic chapel, and a Methodist chapel. To the north of the town, there is a school for children of the Society of Friends or Quakers, built, we believe, and endowed with certain lands, by the late John Hancock; and about the year 1810, a fine school was established on the Lancasterian plan, of which two young gentlemen of the town, Messrs. Cupples and Crossely, undertook the management; and the latter (who died of consumption in a few years after) is said to have fallen a victim to close confinement, and to an intense application of his faculties to the improvement of this infant establishment.

Another very laudable institution is, the Humane Society, for the restoration of suspended animation, in persons who have either been immersed in water (as frequent accidents in this way occur from the nearness of the river and canal), or from any other cause.

The county infirmary contains twenty beds, and gives relief to a number of externs. It is situated in an airy part of the town, where the duties of the surgeon were skilfully and conscientiously discharged, some years since, by Dr. Stewart.

Each governor can recommend 40 externs per year, and as many for advice as they think fit. They also recommend for interns whenever there is a vacancy.

Lisburn contains about 800 houses, and perhaps, at a moderate computation, population of 6,000 souls.

Eminent Men.

Among the eminent men of which this section of the county makes its boast, we must not omit to mention the name of Dr. Jeremiah Taylor, who by his religious writings and attachment to the cause of loyalty, has transmitted to posterity a name of high eminence on the page of history. He was chaplain to Charles I; and in 1660, in recompence of his attachment to the house of Stuart, or to the cause of monarchy, we know not which, he was promoted to the sees of Down and Connor, to which was annexed the administration of the bishopric of Dromore. Previous to this he had been honoured with a seat in the privy-council of Ireland, and the university of Dublin conferred on him the office of their vice-chancellor. This good bishop did not long enjoy his elevation: he died in August, 1667, at Lisnegarvey (now Lisburn).

This prelate is said to have written some of his deepest works in a sort of summerhouse, in a small island, in Lough-beg (the property, we presume, of Lord Conway). A situation like this, in the centre of a fine land and water scene, secured almost from the possibility of interruption and where nature herself was pregnant with tranquility, was very much in unison with the meditations of this good bishop; when composing those spiritual works, which have given celebrity to his name on the page of history.

In the parish of Ballinderry, where this island is situated, it is said that his name is held in veneration to this day.

The principal work which he finished at Portmore was the "Ductor Dubitantium," of Rule of Conscience, as it is dated from thence.

His "Holy Living and Dying" was, written during his retirement in Caermarthenshire, in the time of the Protectorate. He left that situation, where he had experienced great domestic misfortunes (a circumstance well calculated to improve his own character, and to give his virtuous mind a deeper relish for the spiritual subjects on which he wrote), and went to reside in London, where he officiated to a congregation of loyalists. At this time he formed an acquaintance with Edward, Lord Conway, who appears to have been so much pleased with his manners and conversation, that he solicited him to accompany him to his seat at Portmore, in the county of Antrim, where he continued until the Restoration.

We have been anxious to collect the names of other inhabitants of this county, who have distinguished themselves in the state, or in the world of letters, and have so far succeeded, as to be able to present the public with the names of a few of the greatest men of this and the last age; nor have we been inattentive to the services which some individuals in private life have rendered to their country, by the exercise of superior virtue.


Among the numerous fine features by which the Hertford property is distinguished, that of Springfield, the seat of Major Haughton, particularly attracted our attention, as a model of English neatness and beauty. The vermilion roof of Springfield Lodge, being happily combined with the snowy whiteness of its walls, and with the verdure of its lawns and plantations; to the traveller near Hillsborough, this unusual combination of colours renders it very distinguishable from the other seats of the Hertford property.

It comprehends 80 English acres of soil, in good heart, including a very handsome and spacious lawn in front of the house, which, with the lodge and plantations that inclose it, are the most attractive features of this seat.

Springfield is situated on a plain, and consequently does not command a very extensive prospect of the neighbouring country; but, the limited tract which it does command, being richly improved, and the Mourne mountains presenting a grand outline to the southern view, in some measure renumerate the eye and imagination for the absence of that fine tract of country, on which they had previously feasted at Brookhill, a seat beautifully elevated above Springfield, which shall be next noticed in these memoirs.

Springfield stands on a road which opens a communication between Lisburn and Lough Neagh, 74 miles north of Dublin, and three and a half north-west of Lisburn, which is the post town to it.


This finely elevated position, for the enjoyment of a rich and extensive scene, may be considered as the pride of the Hertford villas. It comprehends a neat white-washed lodge, and about 300 English acres of an highly improved farm, of which that part in the immediate vicinity of the house, has been richly wooded, by the grandfather of the present proprietor, to the English style), is indebted for its best improvements. But the woods, however valuable and graceful to this property, have not presumed to place themselves in competition with the beauties of the distant prospect. Over their waving foliage, is distinctly seen, the wide landscape, spreading its dew-bespangled carpet up to the very summit of the Mourne mountains. Not a gem nor a dew-drop -- no, nor even the slightest tint of verdure in Natures's pencil escapes the eye. Satiated with the enjoyment of a scene so widely extended and teeming with the rich simplicity of nature, the wandering instrument of vision rests its powers on the modest wood beneath, in silent admiration of that conscious dignity, that proudly turned on its own axis, and needed not, by an envious interposition of its shade, to rob the lowly violet in the valley of its legitimate claim to praise, in the grand festive scene that nature has here provided for the eye, that pants for the enjoyment of her simple treasures.

Besides the Mourne mountain scene, which we have just noticed, as tinged with the deepest verdure of nature, and as eminently pregnant with the gems and dewdrops of her art, this grandly elevated seat also presents you with an incomparable view, in the opposite direction, over the crystal bosom of Lough Neagh to the Derry and Tyrone mountains, which form the magnificent boundaries of a plain sparkling with beautiful villas, and with farm-houses and cottages, that evidence the advancement of civilisation, and the existence of a happy and prosperous population.

Brookhill (and several other parts of Lord Hertford's estate) is reported to be a sound lime-stone soil; a class always constituting a good sheep-walk and corn-soil; and, in this property equal in the quantity as well as the quality of its produce to most soils in Ulster. The lands, however of this province, are usually light; and in the production of beef, wheat and potatoes, those great articles of the human stamina, cannot be placed in competition with the marrowy feeding soils of Limerick Tipperary, and Meath.

Brookhill stands on the road adverted to in our description of Springfield, as opening a communication between Lisburn and Lough Neagh, 74 miles north of Dublin and four miles from Lisburn, which is the post-town to it.

To be continued.

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 4 May 1917 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week through 1917. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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