MAGHERAFELT

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

MAGHERAFELT, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of LOUGHINSHOLIN, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 30 miles (N. W. by W.) from Londonderry, and 96 (N. N. W.) from Dublin, on the road from Armagh to Coleraine; containing, with part of the post-town of Castle-Dawson (which is separately described), 7275 inhabitants, of which number, 1436 are in the town of Magherafelt. This place suffered materially in the war of 1641; the town was plundered by the insurgents, who destroyed the church, put many of the inhabitants to death, and carried off several of the more wealthy, with a view to obtain money for their ransom. In 1688 the town was again plundered, but on the approach of the assailants, the inhabitants took refuge in the Carntogher mountains, and subsequently found an asylum in Derry; on this occasion the church, having been appropriated by the enemy as a barrack, was preserved.

The town, which is large and well built, consists of a spacious square, from which four principal streets diverge at the angles, and from these branch off several smaller streets in various directions; the total number of houses is 276, most of which are of stone and roofed with slate. The linen manufacture is carried on very extensively by the Messrs. Walker, who employ more than 1000 persons in weaving at their own houses; and nearly 100 on the premises in preparing the yarn and warps; the manufacture is rapidly increasing. There is also a very large ale and beer brewery near the town.

The principal market is on Thursday, and is abundantly supplied with all kinds of provisions; great quantities of pork, butter, and flax are exposed for sale. There are also very extensive markets on alternate Thursdays for linen and yarn, which are sold to the amount of £33,000 annually; and a market on Monday for barley and oats, and on Wednesday for wheat. Fairs, which are among the largest in the county, are held on the last Thursday in every month, for cattle, sheep, and pigs.

The market-house is a handsome building of hewn basalt, situated in the centre of the square; in the upper part are rooms for transacting public business. The quarter sessions for the county are held here in June and December, and petty sessions on alternate Wednesdays; a manorial court is also held monthly by the seneschal of the Salters' Company, for the recovery of debts under £2; and there is a constabulary police station. The court-house is a commodious edifice, and there is a small bridewell for the confinement of prisoners charged with minor offences.

The parish, which is situated on the river Moyola, comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 8290 ¼ statute acres, of which the greater portion is very good land, and the system of agriculture is improved. The principal substratum is basalt, which, in the townland of Polepatrick, has a columnar tendency; limestone of good quality is abundant, and coal is found in some parts.

The principal seats are Millbrook, the residence of A. Spotswood, Esq.; Farm Hill, of Captain Blathwayt; Glenbrook, of S. J. Cassidy, Esq.; Prospect, of the Rev. T. Wilson; and the glebe-house, of the Rev. T. A. Vesey. Considerable improvements are contemplated, tending greatly to promote the prosperity of the surrounding district. The lands immediately around it belong to the Salters' Company, and are at present leased for a limited term of years to the Marquess of Londonderry and Sir R. Bateson, Bart.; other lands, in the manor of Maghera, belong to the see of Derry; some, in the manor of Moneymore, to the Drapers' Company; some, in the manor of Bellaghy, to the Vintners' Company; and the manor of Castle-Dawson to the Rt. Hon. G. R. Dawson.

The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Lord-Primate: the tithes amount to £450. The glebe-house was built in 1787, at an expense of £574. 18., of which £92. 6. 1 ¾. was a gift, and the remainder a loan, from the late Board of First Fruits; the glebe comprises 403a. 2r. 17p. statute measure, valued at £270 per annum. The church, situated in the town, is a handsome edifice built in 1664, enlarged by the addition of a north aisle in 1718, and ornamented with a tower and spire in 1790; it has been recently repaired by a grant of £121. 0. 9. from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also parts of the parishes of Woods-chapel, Desertlyn, and Ballyscullion; the chapel is at Aghagaskin, about a mile from the town. There are places of worship for Presbyterians, in connection with the Synod of Ulster, and Wesleyan Methodists.

A free school was founded here by Hugh Rainey, Esq., who, in 1710, erected a school-house, and bequeathed money to purchase an estate for its endowment; the estate was afterwards sold under an act of parliament, subject to an annual payment of £175 Irish currency, with which the school is endowed; it is under the patronage and direction of the Lord Primate and John Ash Reiny, Esq., who resides at the school; 14 boys are clothed, boarded, and educated for three years, and afterwards placed out as apprentices with a premium. About 400 children are also taught in four other public schools, of which the parochial schools are supported by the rector, the Marquess of Londonderry, and Sir Robert Bateson, Bart.; and a female work school by the Marchioness of Londonderry and Lady Bateson, by whom the school-house was built: there are also four private schools, in which are about 130 children.

A dispensary and a Ladies' Clothing Society have been established in the town. There are several forts in the parish, but none entitled to particular notice.

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