MAGHERA

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

MAGHERA, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of LOUGHINSHOLIN, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 16 miles (S.) from Coleraine, and 102 (N.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Coleraine; containing 14,091 inhabitants, of which number, 1154 are in the town. This place is evidently of great antiquity, and though there is no precise account of the original foundation of an abbey for Canons Regular, said to have been established here at a very early period, yet it is certain that the ancient see of Ardstra or Ardsrath was removed, in 597, to this town, which continued to be the seat of the diocese till 1158, when it was united to the see of Derry, and the cathedral church established in that city.

The town appears to have declined rapidly in importance after that period, and few events of historical interest occur, except occasional depredations during the insurrections of the O'Nials, to whom the surrounding territory belonged, and in the war of 1641, during which it was burned by the insurgents under Macdonnell.

In 1688, the town, which had scarcely recovered from its former devastation, was assaulted by the Irish adherents of James II., and the inhabitants were compelled to abandon their houses and seek refuge in the city of Derry.

During the disturbances of 1798 it enjoyed comparative tranquillity, and has since been gradually increasing in extent and importance.

It consists of one long and spacious street, from which several smaller streets branch off, and contains 210 houses, most of which are modern buildings of stone roofed with slate and of handsome appearance; it is a great thoroughfare, and is amply supplied with excellent water. The inhabitants are principally employed in agriculture and in the linen manufacture, which is extensively carried on in the parish; and at Upperlands is a bleach-green, in which about 8000 pieces are annually finished for the English and American markets; there are also numerous corn and flax-mills on the different streams, of which the Moyola forms part of the southern boundary of the parish.

The market, on Tuesday, is amply supplied with all kinds of provisions; a market is also held on Friday, chiefly for grain; and there are fairs on the last Tuesday in every month for cattle, sheep, pigs, and pedlery. The market-house, the property of A. Clarke, Esq., of Upperland, is a large neat building, erected in 1833 on a rising ground in the centre of the town; and over it is a spacious room in which the petty sessions are held on alternate Saturdays, and a manorial court monthly, in which debts under 40s. are recoverable. Here is also a chief constabulary police station.

The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 24,791 ¼ statute acres, of which 22,056 are applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £10,650 per annum. The greater portion is good arable and pasture land; there is also some of inferior quality and a very large tract of waste land and bog. The mountain district of the parish is very extensive and abounds with grouse and every other kind of game. The system of agriculture is improved, and the highlands afford excellent pasturage for cattle.

The vale of the Moyola and the vicinity of the town are extremely productive; and in the bogs are several fertile spots, called by the country people "islands," which are in a good state of cultivation. Limestone, found on the estate of the Mercers' Company, is extensively quarried, and is productive of great benefit to the neighbourhood. On the plantation of Ulster, the lands of the ancient see of Maghera were confirmed to the Bishop of Derry, and other parts of the parish were also assigned by James I. to the Mercers', Vintners', Salters', and Drapers' Companies of London, who still retain possession of their manors.

The principal seats are Maghera House, the residence of A. Clarke, Esq.; Fairview, of J. Henry, Esq.; Rowens Gift, of Captain Crofton; Upperland, of A. Clarke, Esq.; Clover Hill, of R. Forrester, Esq.; and the glebe-house, of the Rev. J. Spencer Knox.

The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Derry, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the tithes amount to £1015. 7. 7 ½. The glebe-house was built in 1825, at an expense of £3077. 6., of which £1278. 2. 2. was a grant from the late Board of First Fruits, and the remainder was defrayed by the incumbent. The glebe comprises 907 ¾ acres, valued at £651. 10. per ann. The church, a neat edifice of stone with a square embattled tower crowned with pinnacles, towards which the same Board granted a loan of £1363. 6. 2 ½., was erected in 1819; the east window is embellished with stained glass, presented by the lady of the late Bishop Knox.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Killelagh and part of that of Termoneeny; the chapel at Lamny is a plain modern edifice, and there is also a chapel at Fallagloon, a handsome building with a campanile turret and bell. There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the first and second classes, and for those in connection with the Seceding Synod, of the second class. About 1000 children are taught in 16 public schools, of which the parochial schools, held in a large building near the church, erected in 1821 at an expense of £400, of which £100 was a parliamentary grant and £125 was given by the Mercers' Company, are supported by the rector; a national school at Curran is aided by Lord Strafford; two at Swattragh by the Mercers' Company; and one at Craigadick by the rector and Mr. Clarke. There are also 15 private schools, in which are about 550 children, and three Sunday schools. A voluntary poor fund and a dispensary have been established.

The ruins of the old church are highly interesting, and some portions bear marks of very remote antiquity; over the west entrance is a representation of the Crucifixion, rudely sculptured in high relief, with ten of the apostles; and in the churchyard are the tomb and pillar of Leuri, the patron saint, whose grave was opened some years since, when a silver crucifix was found in it, which was carefully replaced. About three miles from the town is Doon Glady, a very large and perfect rath, which gives name to one of the townlands; it is encompassed with treble walls and a trench.

There are also several other raths and forts in the parish. Numerous celts, swords, spear heads, and ornaments of bronze and brass, have been found in the parish and vicinity, and are in the possession of the Rev. Spencer Knox, the rector. There are some remains of ancient iron-works, established at Drumconready in the reign of Charles I., and destroyed in 1641; they consist of the foundations of the buildings and heaps of half-smelted ore and charcoal.

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