Wednesday 20 April 2011

Extracts from A Tour in Ireland 1776-79 and 1813-1814.



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Made in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, and brought down to the end of 1779.


The edition published in 1892 is in two volumes, and contains an introduction by A. W. Hutton and a list of Young's works. He was a voluminous writer on Agriculture and kindred subjects.

The "Tour in Ireland was first issued in 1780.

Referring to Dromore, he described it as a "miserable nest of dirty mud cabins." Hillsborough is lightly touched upon. In regard to Lisburn, he confines himself to some particulars and statistics relating to the linen industry.


Reached Lisburne, and waited on the Bishop of Downe, who was so obliging as to send for an intelligent draper, to give me such particulars as I wanted of the manufacture in that neighbourhood.

About this place chiefly fine cloth, from 14 to 21 hundred. The spinners are generally hired by the quarter, from 10s to 12s lodging and board, and engaged to spin 5 hanks of 8 hank yarn in a week.

To the 14 hund. linen 46 hanks -- 18 ditto 58 hanks -- 21 ditto 66 hanks.

In weaving it is common for one man to have several looms, at which journeymen weavers work, who are paid their lodging and board, and one-third of what they earn, which may come to 2s a week on an average.

The drapers advance the yarn, and pay for the weaving by the yard. For a 13 hund. 4d. -- 18 ditto 9d. -- 21 ditto 1s 1½d. for 18 hund. linen, a woman spins 6 hanks a week, which 6 hanks weigh about a pound, at the price of 8d. a hank. The manufacture carried on in the country very much by little farmers, who have from 5 to 10 acres; and universally it is found, that going to the plough or spade for a day or two spoils them for their weaving as many more. Think that flax that has stood till seed is ripe, will not do for more than a 1600 web. Rent for sowing flax on potato land 4d. a perch long of 21 feet and 10 broad. The crop at a medium 10 stone from a bushel of seed. The stone 16lb. A stone of good flax, rough, will produce 8lb. after heckling and spin into it as many hanks per lb. as the sort is; that is 6 hanks of 6 hank-yarn, 7 of 7. The weavers, spinners, etc., live in general on potatoes and milk, and oat-bread, and some of them meat once a week. Will work only for support; meal and cloth never cheap together, for when meal is cheap they will not work. Rent of land from 10s to 22s.

Leaving Lisburn, took the road to Belfast, repeating my enquiries; in a few miles I found the average rent 16s per Cunningham acre. Much flax sown, three bushels and a half of seed generally sown to an acre. Eight stone of flax, from half a bushel of seed, is reckoned a very good crop. If they have not land of their own for sowing, they pay 12s rent for what half a bushel requires: this is £4 4s per acre, but it includes ploughing, harrowing, and getting ready for the seed.

Rent, etc. £4 4 0
Weeding 0 5 0
Pulling, 12 women at 8d a day 0 8 0
Watering, damming, and stones, 6 men a day at 9d. 0 4 6
Taking and grassing, 6 women a day 0 4 0
Taking, lifting, and drying, generally in the sun, 6 women 1 day 0 4 0
None rippled Scuthing at mills, 1s 4d a stone 56 stone 3 14 8

£9 4 2


56 stone at 9s 4d     £26 2 8
Expenses 9 4 2
Profit £16 18 6

Heckling is 1s 2d a stone, and half the weight is lost; the produce will be 4lb. flax and 4lb. tow, which the Scotch generally buy at 3d a lb. To a stone heckled there are 96 hanks; and to the web of cloth there are 28 hanks, for the weft, and 30 for the warp. A weaver is three weeks in doing it, and is paid 17s. From Lisburn to Belfast, on the River Lagan, there are 12 or 18 bleach greens. The counties of Downe and Antrim are computed to make to the amount of £800,000 a year, and near one-third of it in this vale.

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in 1813 and 1814,


There is a reference to the author of this book in the "Irish Book Lover," vol. II. A correspondent writes: --

On the title-page of my copy of "A Tour in Ireland," 1813-1814, under the words "by an Englishman" is written in pencil "John Gough, a Quaker of Dublin."

The volume runs to 320 pages and contains a large amount of varied information regarding the Ireland of one hundred years ago.


After a continuance of about five weeks in and about Belfast, I proceeded to Lisburn, seven miles, through a most beautiful country, whether we consider it in its natural state, or in its present high degree of cultivation, which exceeds anything that I have seen, except in the immediate neighbourhood of large cities. Fine houses, plantations, church spires, mountains, bleach greens every where diversify the scene, together with a great number of neat white washed cabins at the road side; so that the whole seven miles appear like one large and beautifully scattered village?

Lisburn is the handsomest country inland town I have seen in Ireland, and hardly to be equalled in England. It is situated on the southern confines of the County of Antrim, seventy-three miles N. of Dublin, and seven miles S.W. of Belfast. It consists of three principal streets, at the junction of which is the market place. These streets are handsomely built of brick the houses in general three storeys high, and mostly in the modern style, they are also well paved, and kept clean; in particular that called Castle Street, the neatness of which is unequalled in any country inland town in which I have over been.

There are likewise some smaller streets, and several lanes in the town, which, with a few exceptions, consist of thatched cabins. The whole number of the houses in the town and suburbs are about seven hundred and the inhabitants are supposed to exceed four thousand. In this year (1841) the return made under the population act, was, houses in the two Constable-wicks 832 inhabitants 4875; but as these two Constable-wicks extend a short way into the country, on three sides of the town, I think the calculation above may be pretty correct.

The late possessor of this town (the first Marquis of Hertford) did little to encourage improvements therein; very seldom visiting the estate here, which is one of the best in Ireland, and indeed I cannot find that he was ever in Ireland since his vice-royalty in 1765, and he lived more than thirty years after it. But his successor, the present marquis, upon coming to the estate, immediately paid it a visit, and left marks here of his princely munificence. At a very considerable expense, he erected a tall spire on the steeple of the parish church, as also a steeple and cupola to the market, house, which are great ornaments to the town. I was informed by some of the inhabitants, that he contributed but seven hundred and fifty pounds to these purposes, viz., five hundred pounds for the church, and two hundred and fifty for the market house, and that the remainder of the expense, which must have been great, was raised by a tax on the inhabitants. Now to this insinuation, I cannot possibly give credit; nor that a nobleman possessed of such a princely fortune, as the marquis, in ready money, and from the many offices which he holds at court, as well as from the annual receipt of forty thousand pounds from this estate in Ireland, would admit any partner in the expense of these ornaments, nor subject his tenants to a tax, for what could not possibly be of the smallest benefit to them. If this were really the case (which I think very improbable), the inhabitants of Lisburn must ardently wish, that their noble landlord should hereafter pay them as little attention as his father did.

The Public Buildings in Lisburn are

1st. The parish church, near the centre of the town, a large building, erected in 1708, neat and commodious, with a very good steeple about ninety feet high, on which, as before-mentioned, has been built a very tall and most elegant spire, which, in proportion to its base, has the greatest altitude of any I have seen. The height of the whole from the ground may be about one hundred and ninety feet. As the members of the Established Church are very numerous in this town, they have thought in building an addition to the church; but, as it is already a large building, I think it would be more eligible to erect a chapel of ease, on the rising ground near the S.W. end of the town, about a quarter of a mile from the present church, which, if adorned with a spire, would add much to the beauty of the view.

2nd. The Presbyterian meeting-house, a large modern building, very neatly finished with a surrounding gallery and good pews.

3rd. The Methodist meeting-house, on the very same plan, but a smaller scale than the foregoing.

4th. A second Methodist meeting-house belonging to the new itinerancy, has been lately erected.

5th. The Quakers' meeting-house, rebuilt in 1794, a neat modern structure.

6th. The Romish Chapel, a new building erected about the year 1780, by a general subscription among the inhabitants of the town. These six places of worship are generally well filled on Sundays.

7th. The linen-hall is a large square court, partly surrounded by a piazza of brick. Here is held a weekly market of unbleached linen, to the average amount of at least three thousand pounds.

8th. The market-house is a good building, over which is a ball-room fifty feet by twenty-five in the clear, and other smaller apartments. Some time ago this markethouse had a handsome steeple to it, with a clock and bell; but being decayed by length of time, it was taken down about the year 1772, and re-built as high as the roof of the house, in which state it remained about thirty years, during the life of the late marquis, but, as before observed, the present marquis, on his accession to the estate, caused it to be finished in a style far more elegant than its former condition. It now has a steeple of white freestone, ornamented with columns, and crowned with a beautiful cupola; in the whole about ninety feet high. In this steeple is a good clock with four dials, and a chiming bell. Adjoining this market house are about half a dozen mean houses, between it and the principal street. Had the landlord added to his munificence, the expense of purchasing the private right in those houses, thrown them down, and in their room erected a handsome front to the market-house, then brought the steeple some yards more distant from the church, it would have added much to the beauty of the whole. At present those two elegant steeples are so near together, as to take much from the effect of either.


I understand that some time ago there was a poor school established in the old French Church in this town, a building for many years disused; but being in Castle Street, and in the neighbourhood of the quality, who could not bear to have the children of the canaille so near them, interest was made with the agent of the estate to have the school discontinued there, and the subscribers have not since been able to get so eligible a place for it. However it is still continued in a temporary and inconvenient room, by two young men who first established it. There are also two free schools for girls, one of which usually contains upwards of fifty children.

There is also in this town a philanthropic society, which, weekly distributes from six to twelve pounds to the poor, raised by public contributions, by which aid, though mendacity be not altogether prevented, it is considerably lessened. The infirmary of the County of Antrim is in this town, though on the very edge of the county; about thirty years ago I was very curious to know why it was-not in a more central part, and was informed, that its being erected in Lisburn, was on account of the number of quality in the town, to help to support it; but all I could find the quality did for it, was their establishing a dancing assembly, to be held every fortnight in the market-house, the profits accruing from which were to go to its support; but as the subscription for each individual was but one guinea per year, and none but quality properly introduced, were admitted as subscribers, there could not be much left for the infirmary, after paying for the music and tea for twenty-six assemblies. Added to this, on the bishops annual visitation of the clergy of the dioceses of Down and Connor, which is always held in Lisburn, there was a ball held for their entertainment, admission to which cost each person the sum of half a crown; to this were admitted all that could pay; of course the quality seldom graced it with their presence. The profits of this ball were frequently ten pounds or more, a sum much larger than the whole year's produce of the assembly; and these were the advantages of having the county infirmary twenty miles distant from its centre. By additional subscriptions from some of the inhabitants of the town, who were born since the time I have just spoken of, it is also made a dispensary for the immediate vicinity.

These people who call themselves the quality in Lisburn consist of a few families of small estates, on which they live without following business, and look down with sovereign contempt on such as do; except a few linen drapers who are admitted to associate with them, and both together despise such as keep shops; though many shopkeepers not only in Dublin, but in Belfast might in turn treat them with contempt.

I remember the first time that I was in Lisburn, I had an introductory letter to one of those high and mighty linen drapers who in consequence invited me to go with him to the club, where I was introduced to some of the principal inhabitants, spent a pleasant evening, and supped on most excellent oysters, at my own expense.

Linen Trade.

The trade of Lisburn consists mostly in the manufacture of fine linens and muslins, which employs a great number of hands. The linen manufacture in Ireland was first established here, by Lewis Cromeline, a French Refugee, in the reign of King William the Third; his descendants now form one of the most respectable families in the neighbourhood.

In Lisburn, in 1766, the late William Coulson, established the manufacture of damask on an extensive scale, and in a degree of perfection hitherto unequalled where this beautiful branch of the linen business is now carried on by his sons John and Wm. Coulson, who, by their attention, have brought it to vie with any thing of the kind in Europe. Foreign courts as well as that of St. James's, have been supplied with table linen from their manufactory.

The machinery of the looms, on which this cloth is wrought (some of which are furnished with five thousand sets of pullies); is of so complicated a nature as to preclude the possibility of giving such a description, as could convey an adequately clear idea to a person that had never seen it, and of the method made use of to shew a pattern or picture on a ground, where ground and pattern are both equally colourless; yet, though the weft and the warp are both white, the pattern when worked into cloth, assumes quite a different degree of shade from that of the rest of the web. -- "Survey of Antrim."

There are several good shops here, and a large market of linen and other goods weekly. A neat and handsome flesh market, has been lately erected in a retired situation, but the quantity of the meat exposed to sale, appeared to me very small in proportion to the size and consequence of the town.

The neat street in Lisburn called Castle Street, is in some measure disfigured by a wall at part of one side, and a short walk with trees at the edge; but a gate in the centre opens to a most beautiful terrace, free to the public; below this for a considerable extent are hanging gardens, to the depth of at least fifty or sixty feet, from the level of the street to the river. From the upper terrace is a most delightful prospect, of a country highly improved, and extending thirty miles, with the beautiful meanders of the river Lagan. This place goes by the name of the Castle Gardens, from an old castle that formerly stood there, inhabited by the Conway family, ancestors of the Marquis of Hertford; but being transplanted into the warmer soil of London, their descendants suffered the venerable old mansion to go to decay, not a vestige of which now remains; but I understand the present marquis intends to expend one year's income of his Irish estate in erecting a modern edifice there, with one front towards the declivity, and another to the street, and demolishing the old wall, to replace it with iron palisades, which will add much to the splendour of this pretty town; and should he and his family reside three months annually in this new house (as I hear is his intent) it may prove of infinite service to his tenantry. But while most of the palaces of bishops and other noblemen are daily converting into barracks, stables or brewhouses, we can hardly hope that this benevolent design should be put into practice; and that any new houses should be erected by the nobility or gentry of Ireland in their native country, must appear an idea totally visionary.

Notwithstanding that the appearance of Lisburn has much improved of late years, by the rebuilding of many of its old houses, yet, in size and consequence, it appears quite stationary; and I cannot find that there has been one house erected on a new foundation in the town, within the last forty years. The inhabitants in general have leases in perpetuity, of the ground on which their houses stand; but all the lands in the neighbourhood remain in the disposal of the marquis, who lets them as town parks, to the inhabitants, as tenants at will, at very moderate rents; but, were they so inclined, they could not obtain building leases. Perhaps one reason of this discouragement of improvement, may be, that this is a potwallowping borough, wherein the inhabitants have each a legal right to vote for the member returned to parliament, and the more such a borough rises in consequence, the more difficult it becomes for the landlord to dispose of the people's constitutional rights. The people of Lisburn have sometimes exerted those rights, and there have been very disagreeable contests at elections among them; but wherever there is freedom of debate there will be difference of opinion.

The river Lagan, on the northern bank of which Lisburn stands, has been made navigable from Belfast, and since that a canal opened to Lough Neagh; but I cannot find that they have been of much service to either town, owing to some mismanagement.

Lisburn was formerly called Lisnagarvey, but being consumed by fire in 1707, it has from that time borne the name of Lisburn. Though such an accident must at the time be very calamitous, yet the town has received many benefits therefrom being rebuilt in a more substantial manner than before, and to prevent such a dreadful accident in future, one fire engine is kept in the town, I suppose in constant readiness, though I recollect some years ago, by the neglect of the landlord's agent, it was useless. To supply this engine, as well as for the use of the inhabitants, the town is supplied with pipe water from a reservoir in the neighbourhood, after the manner of the metropolis.

The Marquis of Hertford has a very fine estate here extending twelve or thirteen Irish miles in length, nearly as much in breadth, and containing about seventy thousand English acres, well inhabited not only by industrious people, but many of opulence. The whole of this great dominion is compact together, without any other person's land in any part intervening. On it are seven handsome parish churches, four or five Presbyterian meeting-houses, two for quakers, three or four Romish chapels, and as many for Methodists.

(To be continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 20 April 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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