NEWTOWN-HAMILTON

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

NEWTOWN-HAMILTON, a post-town and parish, in the barony of UPPER FEWS, county of ARMAGH, and province of ULSTER, 9 miles (S. E.) from Armagh, and 52 ¼ (N. by W.) from Dublin; containing 7253 inhabitants, of which number, 1020 are in the town. This place, which is situated on the roads leading respectively from Dundalk to Armagh, and from Newry to Castle-Blayney and Monaghan, in the midst of the Fews mountains, owes its origin and importance to the late Mr. Hamilton, who laid the foundation of the present town about the year 1770, previously to which time, the whole district was a dreary, wild, and uninhabited waste. About the beginning of the last century, an attempt was made to establish a town at Blackbank, and a castle was erected for the protection of the new settlers; but the undertaking failed, and soon after an attempt was made for the same purpose at Johnston Fews, which resulted only in the erection of a few mud cabins. After the failure of both enterprises, Government erected barracks at those places, and troops were regularly stationed there till the establishment of the present town, when they were removed to this place; the ruins of the castle and barracks of Blackbank, and also of those of Johnston, within a few miles of this town, are still remaining.

The whole face of this extensive district was completely changed after the establishment of the town; the lands were rapidly brought into cultivation, several roads were opened, and great numbers of persons were induced to settle here under the advantageous leases granted by Mr. Hamilton; the town gradually increased in extent and importance, and the surrounding district was erected into a parish by Primate Robinson, who severed it from the parish of Creggan, built a church, and endowed the living. The present town contains about 60 houses, many of which are large and well built of hewn stone and roofed with slate found in the parish; it has a sub-post-office to Castle-Blayney and Newry.

There is a large market every Saturday for provisions; and fairs are held on the last Saturday in every month for cattle, horses, pigs, and butter, and are numerously attended. A constabulary police force is stationed here; also a body of the revenue police, since the establishment of which, the depot for two companies of the regiments stationed at Armagh, which were quartered in this town, has been broken up and the military withdrawn. Petty sessions are held on alternate Fridays; there is an excellent court-house, in which the quarter sessions for the county were held till 1826, since which time they have been removed. Near the town were formerly mills for smelting lead ore, which continued in operation so long as wood lasted for fuel.

The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 12,404 ½ statute acres, of which 10,397 are applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £6320 per annum. The land in some parts is very good, but better adapted for oats than for wheat;. the soil is light and friable, and the system of agriculture improving. There is abundance of bog for fuel; stone of good quality for building is extensively quarried; there are some quarries of excellent slate, not now worked; and in the mountain district is lead ore of rich quality, which might be worked with advantage. There are many good houses in the parish, of which the principal is Harrymount, the residence of Henry Barker, Esq.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Lord-Prirnate: the tithes amount to £537. 18. 7. The glebe-house, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits contributed a gift of £100, is a handsome residence; it was built under the old acts in, 1806, at the cost of £592 British, defrayed by the above grant and by £500 supplied out of the private funds of the then incumbent: in 1830 the sum of £316 was expended on improvements. The glebe comprises 31 acres of arable land, valued at £38. 15. per annum. The church, for the repair of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £106, is a plain edifice, erected by Primate Robinson, in 1775, out of funds provided by the late Board of First Fruits.

In the R. C. divisions the parish forms part of the union of Lower Creggan: the chapel, in the town, is a spacious and handsome edifice. There is a place of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the first class; and there are two for those in connection with the Seceding Synod, both also of the first class. A school in the town is supported from the funds of Erasmus Smith, under the patronage of the Lord-Primate; a parochial school is supported by the rector; and a school, built on his own estate, is supported by W. McGeough Bond, Esq. There are also five private schools, in which are about 180 children.

There are some remains of an extensive encampment at Clogh-a-mether, said to have been the chief residence of O'Nial of Ulster, between whom and Baldragh, Prince of Louth, a battle is said to have taken place near the town. In this fort, which is nearly two miles in circuit, the army of Cromwell encamped in the winter of 1645, and was severely harassed by the Irish forces, who hemmed them in on every side, and cutting off their supplies, reduced them to such distress that many perished through hunger.

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