NEWTOWN-STEWART

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

NEWTOWN-STEWART, a market and post-town, in the parish of ARDSTRAW, barony of STRABANE, county of TYRONE, and province of ULSTER, 7 ¼ miles (N. W.) from Omagh, and 99 ¼ (N. N. W.) from Dublin, on the road to Londonderry; containing 1737 inhabitants. This town, which is beautifully situated on the western bank of the river Mourne, about halfway between Omagh and Strabane, and surrounded by the lofty mountains of Munterloney, was anciently called Lislas, and appears to have been a place of early importance, commanding the only pass through this extensive and mountainous district. The adjacent lands were granted by James I., on the settlement of Ulster, to Sir J. Clapham, who not having complied with the conditions of the grant, the property became forfeited to the Crown, and was granted by Charles I. to Sir W. Stewart, from whom the present town takes its name. Sir Phelim O'Nial, having obtained possession of the castle in 1641, cut off all communication with this part of Tyrone, and compelled the King's forces to retreat from every post they occupied in this part of the country. In the war of the Revolution, James II. lodged for one night in the castle on his way to Londonderry, and also on his return from Lifford, and on leaving it the following morning, ordered it to be dismantled and the town to be burned, which orders were carried into effect, and the town continued in ruins till it was restored by one of the Stewart family in 1722.

After its restoration it soon became a place of considerable trade, from its situation in the centre of the great linen district; and in 1727, Dr. John Hall, rector of Ardstraw, built a handsome church here at his own expense, which has ever since continued to be the parish church. The town, which is the property of C. J. Gardiner, Esq., at present consists of three principal and three smaller streets, and contains 346 houses, which are neat and well built; the principal streets are well paved, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from a spring at the southwestern end of the town, conveyed by pipes to the more respectable houses, and into public reservoirs in several parts of the town for the supply of the poorer inhabitants; in the main street are two good hotels. A considerable trade is derived from its situation on a great public thoroughfare, and many of the inhabitants are employed in the numerous limestone and freestone quarries in the neighbourhood, which are extensively worked, the limestone found on the lands of Baronscourt is of remarkably fine quality for building.

The market, on Monday, is amply supplied with every kind of agricultural produce, and with unbleached linen. Fairs, which are numerously attended, are held on the last Monday in every month, and are chiefly for cattle, sheep, and pigs. A small constabulary police force is stationed in the town, and petty sessions are held monthly. The church is a large and handsome structure on a gentle eminence, and has a lofty and well-proportioned octagonal spire, which was added to it in 1803, in the time of the Rev. G. Hall, then rector, and afterwards Bishop of Dromore. There are also a R. C. chapel, two places of worship for Presbyterians and two for Wesleyan Methodists, and a dispensary.

In the town are the remains of the castle, which, with the exception of the roof, is nearly entire, forming a noble and highly interesting ruin. In the vicinity is Baronscourt, the seat of the Marquess of Abercorn, a stately mansion, situated in a widely extended demesne, combining much romantic and beautiful scenery, embellished with three spacious lakes, and enriched with fine timber. Moyle House, the residence of the Rev. R. H. Nash, D.D.; Newtown-Stewart Castle, of Major Crawford; and Cross House, of A. W. Colhoun, Esq., are also in the neighbourhood. Adjoining one end of the bridge is an ancient fort thrown up to defend the ford of the river; there is a similar one at Ardstraw bridge, and also at Moyle, to guard the ford of the river Glenally. There are also numerous other forts in the neighbourhood, and various cairns, which are more particularly noticed in the article on ARDSTRAW.

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