NEWTOWN-LIMAVADY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

NEWTOWN-LIMAVADY, a corporate, market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish of DRUMACHOSE, barony of KENAUGHT, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 12 ¾ miles (E. N. E.) from the city of Londonderry, and 131 (N. by W.) from Dublin, on the road from Londonderry to Coleraine; containing 2428 inhabitants. The district in which the town stands was anciently the territory of the O'Cahans or O'Canes, the head of a powerful and warlike sept, whose castle on the brow of a romantic glen was called Lima-vaddy, or "the Dog's Leap." The estimation in which these chieftains were formerly held appears from the fact that Dermod O'Cahan was summoned by Edward II. to attend him with his forces on his disastrous expedition against Scotland. He went, but instead of joining the army of the invader, was found in the ranks of the Scottish king at the battle of Bannockburn. After the general forfeiture of Ulster, in 1608, arising out of the attainder of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, Sir Thomas Philips, surveyor of the forfeited estates, obtained a grant of 1000 acres in this district, on which he erected a castle and a bawn on the eastern bank of the Roe, on a spot near the site on which a town, named Ballyclose, now a suburb of Newtown-Limavady, previously existed. The town took its name from the circumstance of its modern erection; and to distinguish it from several others, it acquired the adjunct of Limavady from its contiguity to O'Cahan's castle. It increased rapidly under the fostering care of its founder, who, in 1610, brought hither 25 English families.

In 1613 the town obtained a charter, which is stated to have been granted on the petition of the inhabitants and for the better plantation of Ulster. By this charter the inhabitants were incorporated under the name of "the provost, 12 burgesses and commonalty," and a court of record was created, of which the provost was to be judge, and also to be clerk of the market and collector of the tolls and customs, which he retained for his own use: it also conferred a licence for holding a market on Monday, and a fair on July 1st (to which three others were added a few years afterwards), granted 300 acres of land for a common, and 375 for the maintenance of a free school, to be erected at Limavady, and the right of sending two members to parliament; a discretionary power of electing freemen was given to the provost and burgesses by the same charter. In the war of 1641, the castle was besieged by the Irish army under Colonel O'Nial, but the garrison under Captain Philips, the governor, supported by many of the townspeople, among whom were some women, held out during the entire winter, until relieved by the approach of the parliamentary forces under Colonel Mervyn, who routed the besieging army with much slaughter: the castle, however, was subsequently taken by the Irish and burnt, together with the church and the entire town.

A new town sprang up from the ruins, which suffered a similar fate in the war of 1688, being burned by the army of James II. on its retreat from Derry. It was again rebuilt after the Revolution, and some of the houses then erected are still standing. The borough was disfranchised at the Union, from which period the corporation has declined; the only official proof of its existence being the collection of the tolls and customs, which was relinquished in consequence of the resistance given to the payment of them: on the death of the provost some years since, no successor was appointed, and the corporation may now be considered extinct. The land granted for commonage seems to have merged in the general estate on its sale by the Philips' family, in the reign of Charles II. The school was never founded, nor can any particulars be procured relative to the lands set apart for its endowment. The borough and manor courts are discontinued, and the place is now, like all the rest of the county, governed by the magistrates and the police.

In point of size the town is the third in the county and the first in the barony. It comprises four principal and several smaller streets; three of the streets are large and well built. There is a handsome sessions-house, where the general sessions for the county are held in June and December, and petty sessions on alternate Tuesdays; adjoining it is a small bridewell. It is a constabulary police station, which is provided with a good barrack in one of the main streets. The market-house is a large, old, inconvenient building, over an arch which connects two of the principal streets. Large and commodious grain stores and shambles were erected in 1820, by Edward Boyle, Esq., who also established grain markets on Tuesday and Friday, which are well attended and productive of much advantage to the town and neighbourhood: connected with these buildings is a news-room, well supplied with journals and periodicals. The Monday market is the mart for cattle, butter, and flax: the potato market is held in an adjoining street. The fairs are held on the second Monday in February, March 28th, June 13th, July 12th, and Oct. 29th: they are all well attended and largely supplied with cattle of every description: that of February is a great horse fair. Distillation is carried on extensively in the neighbourhood. A dispensary in the town is maintained in the usual manner.

The church, which is the parochial church of Drumachose, is a large and handsome edifice, built in 1750 on the site of a former one, and enlarged in 1825 by the addition of an aisle, by a loan of £200 from the late Board of First Fruits: it now consists of a nave and a north aisle, in the Grecian style. In the suburb of Ballyclose are meetinghouses for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, and with the Remonstrant and Associate Synods: near the church is a meeting-house of the Wesleyan Methodists.

Of the castle built by Sir Thomas Philips nothing now remains: the site is pointed out as being in the grounds and gardens of the Lodge, at the northwestern extremity of the main street. The environs of the town are extremely beautiful: to the north-west is the rich vale of Myroe, extending to the shores of Lough Foyle; to the east and north-east the lofty range of Benyevenagh, and to the south the summits of Donald's Hill and Benbradagh, beneath which is spread out the vale of the Roe, with its numerous plantations, villas, mills, and bleach-greens, the rich foliage of the oak woods and the plantations of Roe Park, the beautiful residence of Edm. Charles McNaghten, Esq., and the other seats interspersed throughout the district, which are noticed in the article on the parish, as are also the schools.

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