MIDDLETOWN

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

MIDDLETOWN, a market-town and district parish, in the barony of TURANEY, county of ARMAGH, and province of ULSTER, 2 miles (S. S. W.) from Tynan, to which it has a penny-post, and on the high road from Armagh to Monaghan; containing 5145 inhabitants, of which number, 735 are in the town. This place owes its present prosperity to Dr. Sterne, a former bishop of Clogher, who in the latter part of the last century bequeathed the then village of Middletown, eight townlands in this parish, and five in the adjoining parish of Donagh, in the county of Monaghan, to trustees (incorporated by an act of the Irish parliament passed in 1772), who have expended considerable sums for the benefit of the tenantry in general, and in the erection of a market-house, school-house, dispensary, and fever hospital at Middletown.

The town consists of two streets crossing each other at right angles, and contained, in 1831, 160 houses, which number has been since increased to 187: several of the houses are large and well built. An extensive distillery, with machinery on an improved principle, was established here in 1831, by Mr. Matthew Johnston: it produces annually about 80,000 gallons of whiskey, and consumes on an average 1500 barrels of malt, and 12,000 barrels of raw grain. The distillery has caused the establishment of markets for grain on Wednesday and Saturday, and there is a market on Thursday for provisions. Fairs are held on the first Thursday in each month, for horses, cattle, and pigs. Here is a station of the constabulary police, and petty sessions are held on alternate Wednesdays.

The district parish, which was formed in 1792, by disuniting 33 townlands from the parish of Tynan, comprises 7339 statute acres; it contains a considerable portion of bog, that supplies abundance of fuel; coal is supposed to exist, and there is a quarry of good stone, the produce of which is applied to building purposes. The land on one side of the town is low, flat, and marshy, and on the other hilly and tolerably good; and there are several lakes, which discharge their waters into that of Glaslough, in the county of Monaghan. The Ulster canal, now in progress from Lough Erne to Lough Neagh, will pass through the parish.

The principal seats are Ashfort, the residence of H. Harris, Esq., and Chantilly, of the Rev. James Mauleverer.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Rector of Tynan, who allows a stipend of £50 to the curate, together with the glebe, comprising 54 statute acres, and valued at £56. 5. 3. per annum. The glebe-house, a neat mansion called Chantilly, was built by aid of a gift of £450, and a loan of £50 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1812. The church, a plain but commodious building, was erected in 1793.

In the R. C. divisions the parish forms a separate district under the name of Upper Tynan: the chapel, a plain building, is at Ashfort, about a quarter of a mile from the town. There are two places of worship for Presbyterians of the Seceding Synod, one of the third class in the town, and one of the second class at Drumhillery. The school at Middle-town was founded in 1820, by the trustees of Bishop Sterne's charity, who have endowed it with about £70 per ann.; and the school at Drumhillery was built and is chiefly supported by the Earl of Caledon: in these, and in the parochial school at Crossdall, about 250 children are educated. There are also six private schools, containing about 160 children; and six Sunday schools. Bishop Sterne's trustees are now establishing schools at Feduff and Tullybrick; also an infants' school in the town.

The fever hospital is a neat edifice, built in 1834, containing 4 wards with accommodation for 16 patients; and the dispensary, with a residence for the physician, is a handsome building in the Elizabethan style: both are entirely supported by the bishop's trustees. Midway between Middletown and Keady are the ruins of the ancient castle of Crifcairn, of which the western portion only remains: the walls are 9 feet thick and about 66 feet high, and there are the remains of some arches that appear to have been turned on wattle or basket work. Several traditions respecting this castle prevail among the peasantry. Ardgonnell castle, the ruins of which also exist, was built by the O'Nials, and its last occupant was Sir Phelim O'Nial, the first commander of the Irish at the breaking out of the war of 1641.

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