Thursday 27 June 2013

History of Lisburn (pt2)


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 Edited by JAMES CARSON.
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Sir Fulke Conway and his successors brought over many natives of England and Wales to tenant his estates, and some of their descendants still occupy the lands.

The tenantry being descended from English, Scotch, and Welshmen in general and following the customs, manners, industry, and religion of their forefathers, have always been a loyal and spirited people, much attached to their King and constitution.

During the insurrection of the Irish against the English in the year 1642, Lisburn was besieged by the insurgents on the 28th November, an account of which is given in the vestry records of the Cathedral which was at that time a Chapel of Ease for the English troops, the Parish Church being then situated in Blaris.

"Sir Phelim O'Neill and Sir Conn Magenis, the insurgent Generals then in Ulster, and Major General Plunkett having enlisted and drawn together out of the Counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Antrim, and Down, eight or ten thousand men, which were formed into eight regiments, and a troop of horse and two field pieces did rendezvous on the 27th November, 1641, at a house of Sir George Rawdon, at Brookhill, three miles from Lisburn, in which town they knew there was a garrison of five companies and Lord Conway's troop of horse. They made their attack in three divisions, at the end of Castle Street, Bow Street, and Bridge Street. More than two hundred of the insurgents were slain in Bridge Street, and three hundred in Castle Street, and in the meadows behind the houses, whereby they were so much discouraged that for almost two hours their officers could not get any more parties to adventure a second assault upon us, but in the main space they entertained us with continued fire from their body and their field pieces till about one o'clock, when fresh parties were issued out, and beaten back as before, which they supplied with others till dark, when they fired the town, which was in a few hours turned into ashes. The slain of the enemy were found to be more than thrice the number of those who fought against them. Their two Generals quit their station; their two field pieces were thrown into the river or in some moss pit and could never be found; and in their retreat or rather flight, they fired Brookhill House, and the Lord Conway library in it, and other goods to the value of five thousand pounds. All our horse, which did most execution, were not above 120 -- viz., "Lord Conway's troop, and a squadron of Lord Grandison's troop. We got about fifty of their colour and drums. They were so enraged at this defeat that they murdered many hundreds of Protestants whom they had kept prisoners in the counties of Armagh, Tyrone, etc."

It was at this time Piper Hill received its name, from the head of a piper of one of the regiments being blown off and rolling down it.

During the reign of Charles the First, and onward till the death of Cromwell in 1658. Ireland was torn asunder by the bloody hand of war; the Royalist, the Parliamentarian, and they native Irish, each in their own interest, tried to grasp the reins of power, till at last the iron hand of Cromwell overcame all opposition and conquered Ireland as it had never been conquered before.

During these stormy scenes, Lisnagarvey being in the direct route from Carrickfergus to Dublin, bore the brunt of siege and battle several times.

In 1646, after the battle of Benburb, when the Parliamentarians were defeated by O'Neill, General Monroe fled precipitately and reached Lisburn without hat, sword or cloak. Lord Conway, after having two horses' shot under him, escaped with difficulty to Newry, accompanied by Captain Burke, and about 40 horsemen.

On the 6th of December, 1648, General Monroe, with the Scottish forces under his command, was signally defeated on the plains of Lisburn, near Lisnastrain, in which they lost nearly half their army and all their arms and baggage, by Colonel Venables and Sir Charles Coote.

Hitherto we have had little to record of Lisburn, save an account of confiscation and warfare, but soon after this period at which we have now arrived, she became honourably identified with the peaceful pursuits of literature.

Jeremy Taylor.

Lisburn has the signal and enduring honour of being, for a considerable period, the residence of one of the greatest writers of which our noble literature can boast. The fact that in Lisburn were spent the closing years of the great Bishop-Author, Jeremy Taylor, gives our town an interest to the book-lover comparable to that which Shakespeare has conferred upon Stratford-on-Aron. This great man was born at Cambridge in 1613, where he received his elementary and university education. He duly took orders and was appointed by the famous Archbishop Laud one of his chaplains, and was thus inevitably thrown on the Royalist side. In the great Civil War this intimacy with Charles the First was so close as to merit the name of friendship, and on the ruin of the King's cause the Royal Martyr presented Taylor with his watch. During the evil days which intervened between the close of the Civil War and the Restoration, Taylor resided in Wales, under the patronage of Lord Carberry, where he produced most of his works. We find him, however, in London again in 1657-8, when he had the undesirable distinction of being imprisoned in the Tower. After his release he, in 1658, accompanied Lord Conway to Lisburn, and fixed his residence at Portmore, holding a lectureship at the former place. He ventured to London in 1660 to publish his book entitled "Ductor Dubitantium," and had the satisfaction of witnessing the triumphal entry of Charles the Second into the city on the 29th May of that year. His fortunes now revived, and he was soon appointed, through Lord Conway's influence with Charles the Second, Bishop of Down and Connor, to which was soon added the administration of the See of Dromore.

In addition to the residence at Portmore, Lord Conway had fitted up for the Bishop, at Magheraleave, an exceedingly charming residence. That cottage is still to he seen there, and the study in which the prelate composed some of his later works; but how few, even of the people of our town, have visited that sacred locality. Here in the immediate neighbourhood of Lisburn there exists the rural dwelling he delighted in, and where he spent the early part of the last summer of his life. Let us hope, therefore, that some attention will be directed towards the preservation of all that renders the Bishop's study at Magheraleave one of the most interesting of local antiquities, for indeed it is a high distinction to our town that its streets were daily trodden by the author of "The Liberty of Prophesying," "Holy Living." "Holy Dying," and "The Great Exemplar."

His literary activity was now checked by unfortunate disputes on the subject of conformity, but a number of his notable sermons were first preached in Lisburn.

He died a victim of his disinterestedness in the pursuit of his noble calling, having contracted a fever while visiting a stricken parishioner; to which he succumbed on the 13th August, 1667. He was interred in the chancel of Dromore Cathedral, and an elegant marble slab with a suitable inscription has been erected in his remembrance by Bishop Mant, in Lisburn Cathedral.

The family of Sir Fulke Conway enjoyed the territories of Killultagh until the year 1683, when Edward, the last Earl Conway, dying without issue, bequeathed them, after the decease of his Countess Ursula, to Francis Seymour, son of Sir Edward Seymour.

This Francis Seymour was then a colonel to commanding the British troops in Antrim, and was a direct descendant of the younger branch of the house of Somerset.

He was to have married the only daughter of Earl Conway, who had no sons. The marriage had been arranged to take place at an early date, the settlements were signed, and all the preliminaries arranged, when the lady was suddenly stricken down by disease, and died after a few days' illness on the day fixed for the celebration of the ceremony.

When this melancholy event was announced, Earl Conway sent for Colonel Seymour to his bedchamber, and, after deploring the afflicting incident, told him that since it was the will of God to prevent the alliance, which he had so much at heart to see accomplished, he must still consider him his son-in-law, and heir to his estates and fortune.

Colonel Seymour continued to reside at the Castle, and when Lord Conway died in 1683 he inherited his extensive territories. Almost immediately afterwards he took the name of Seymour-Conway, and in 1703 Queen Anne ennobled him by the title of Baron Conway of Ragley and Killultagh. He was three times married, and his heir was created Earl of Hertford by George the Second.

From him the property descended in regular succession until the death of the fourth Marquis in 1870.

From the restoration of Charles the Second in 1660 till the death of William the Third in 1702 political events happened which have had an important bearing not only throughout the world in general, but on the town and neighbourhood of Lisnagarvey in particular, and which are still bearing fruit in the civil,  religious, and industrial life of the people in the present day. During the Cromwellian dynasty the inhabitants of Lisburn refused willing obedience to the Protector, of the Commonwealth, and immediately after the Restoration Charles the Second, in order to mark their loyalty to his father and himself, granted a Charter to the town enabling the people to elect two representatives to the Irish Parliament. The right of election was vested in the inhabitants generally, but not being a body corporate, and consequently haying no municipal officer, the seneschal of the manor of Killultagh was appointed returning officer for the borough. His Majesty also raised the parish church to the dignity of Cathedral of Down and Connor.

The Huguenots.

By the tyranny of Louis the Fourteenth of France and the revocation of the Act of Toleration, called the Edict of Nantes, on the 22nd of October, 1685, upwards of three-quarters of a million of his Protestant subjects, called Huguenots, were forced to flee from the shores of France, and became scattered abroad over most of the other nations of Europe. About six thousand fled to Ireland, many of whom settled in the town and neighbourhood of Lisnagarvey. Many of them in their native homes had been either employed in the manufacture of silk or the finer fabrics of linen, and by following these industries in their adopted country, and by bringing with them improved machinery, added greatly to the social and industrial well-being of the community.

For a long period previous to the settlement of the French Colonies in Lisburn, few improvements had been introduced into the cultivation of flax, and the manufacture of linen was carried on with little regard to progress, although Lisburn and its neighbourhood had been largely colonised by men of different lands and of diversity of language. William Edmundson and his family, the first of the followers of the far-famed George Fox that had ever settled in Ulster, resided here from 1676, and had made considerable way as linen manufacturers many years before the French exiles arrived. Those also formed expert assistants in carrying cut the ideas of the new settlers, whose skill and industry were liberally encouraged by the Government, which granted large sums of money for the erection of suitable buildings for carrying on the different processes of manufacture. This soon raised the quality produced to a degree of excellence not previously known.

From the admixture of so many different races sprung a people remarkable alike for their perseverance and industry. Thus in Lisnagarvey was the impulsive Celt located side by side with the quiet Quaker. In one house resided the coll-blooded[sic] Hollander, next door lived the light-hearted Frenchman, across the street were sturdy Germans, hardy Norwegians, Welsh peasants, and Warwickshire farmers, and as if to give full play to the commingling of new blood, there were also rough-looking Scottish Highlanders, flanked in by divers families originally raised in the shires of Ayr and Lanark.

Lord Conway granted the French colonists in Lisburn a site for the erection of a place of worship, which was known by the distinctive term, "French Church," and stood on the ground lately occupied by the Courthouse, in Castle Street.

The Government grant of £60 per annum was first paid to the Rev. Charles De La Vade, who died in May, 1755, and was succeeded by the Rev. Saumaurez Du Bour Dieu, who held it for forty-five years, when he was given the perpetual curacy of Lambeg. He was afterwards vicar of Glenavy, and died in 1812.

The members of the French Church gradually merged into union with the congregation of Lisburn Cathedral, in the churchyard of which there are several monuments to the Huguenots.

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The View from the Railway Bridge.

Look from Glenavy to the west where Innis Garten1 lies,
A pretty spot to look upon, beneath the azure skies;
The old Round Tower of Other Days, the pretty little hill,
Make legends and traditions old to circle you still.

At sunset-time Ram's Island is glorious to behold,
The sun's reflection in Lough Neagh is like a sea of gold;
And there is Lurgan Parish Church, towering o'er the plain --
The plain now sweetly smiling with all its golden grain.

Over at Ballinderry was the Castle of Portmore,2
Nestling in old, majestic oaks,4 upon the pretty shore;
This Castle of Portmore was built three hundred years or so,
Where once had stood another3 of the days of long ago.

Lord Conway built this castle for his Irish country seat
On a scale of great magnificence -- for kings, they say, 'twas meet;
It only stood a hundred years, or somewhere thereabout,
And then it was dismantled -- "Not wanted," without doubt.

The "Middle Church" is near at hand -- a "Restoration" pile,
With many lovely relics of the Jacobean style;
Jeremy Taylor5 built it, when he was at Portmore,
With its old "three-decker" pulpit and its solid oaken door.

Turning your gaze now to the east, you see Miss Durham's Mound
Supposed to be the Rath Meave -- near there the Urns6 were found;
And there, down in the hollow, is Lorimer's Corn Mill,
And ten miles further over are Divis and Cave Hill.

Was ever fairer country in dear old Ireland seen?
Were ever farms so prosp'rous? Were ever fields so green?
Or people kinder hearted than round Glenavy fair,
For if so, I may tell you, I can't find them anywhere.

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  1. "Innis Garten," or "Enis Garden," now known as Ram's Island.
  2. The Castle of Portmore was built by Lord Conway (3rd Viscount) in 1664, and pulled down in 1761. It stood on the site of
  3. A former stronghold of the O'Neills.
  4. Portmore, Lower Ballinderry, used to be famous for its gigantic oaks, particularly the Great Oaks, which was blown down in the year 1760. It was 14 yards in circumference and from the ground to the first branch measured 25 feet. The stem sold for £97, and a single branch sold for £9.
  5. Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, was brought to Portmore by Lord Conway. He died in 1667.
  6. Ancient burials urns were found in 1854 and 1898 in the district between this Rath and Glenavy village.


Belfast, 17th June, 1919.

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 27 June 1919 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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