PORTADOWN

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

PORTADOWN, a market and post-town, and district parish, in the barony of ONEILLAND WEST, county of ARMAGH, and. province of ULSTER, 9 miles (N. E.) from Armagh, and 69 (N. by W.) from Dublin, on the road from Armagh to Belfast; containing 4906 inhabitants, of which number, 1591 are in the town. This place, anciently called Port-ne-doon, or "the port of the fortified eminence," derived that name from an ancient castle of the McCanns or McCanes, who were tributaries of the O'Nials and occupied this very important station, commanding the pass of the river Bann. The adjoining lands were, under the name of the manor of Ballyoran, granted by James I. to William Powell, Esq., and afterwards by Charles I., in the 7th of his reign, to Prudence Obyns and John Obyns, Esq., who erected a large mansion in the Elizabethan style for their own residence, and built 14 houses, in which they settled fourteen English families. Of the ancient mansion there is scarcely a vestige, except the gardens, and the avenue, which is still tolerably perfect. The town, which has been greatly extended, and the manor, are now the property of Viscount Mandeville. The former is very advantageously situated on the river Bann, over which is a stone bridge of seven arches, connecting it with the small suburb of Edenderry, in the parish of Seagoe.

It consists of one spacious and handsome street, with several smaller streets branching from it in various directions; and contains 315 houses, of which those in the principal street are large and well built.The town has been greatly improved within the last 40 years, previously to which it was comparatively of little importance; it is paved and cleansed by a committee appointed under the act of the 9th of George IV., which raises money for that purpose by an assessment on the inhabitants. The river, which falls into Lough Neagh about seven miles below the town to the north, and communicates with the Newry canal about one mile above it to the south, is navigable for vessels of 80 tons' burden; but from a bar at its mouth, and from want of depth in the canal, the vessels generally navigating it seldom exceed 60 tons. The bridge, which is the only one across the river between Knock and Toome, a distance of full 30 miles, was built in 1764, but has suffered so much from the winter floods, that it has become necessary to rebuild it, and the expense is estimated at £8000.

The chief trade is in corn, pork, cattle, and agricultural produce, and is greatly promoted by the situation of the place in the centre of an extensive and fertile district. The corn trade is particularly brisk during the winter; on an average, from £10,000 to £15,000 is laid out weekly in the purchase of grain, which is shipped to Newry and Belfast for exportation to England, the vessels returning with cargoes of timber, coal, slates, iron, and articles for inland consumption. The manufacture of linen, lawn, cambric and sheeting is extensively carried on, chiefly for the bleachers and factors of Banbridge; and the weaving of cotton goods for the merchants of Belfast also affords employment to a great number of persons. A very large distillery has been established, consuming annually more than 3000 tons of malt, bere, and oats; there is also a very extensive porter brewery; and since the Tyrone collieries were opened, brick-making has been extensively carried on. The market is on Saturday, and is abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, and with linen yarn, which is sold in great quantities.

Fairs are held on the third Saturday in every month, and also on Easter-Monday and Whit-Monday, for cattle, pigs, and pedlery, and during the winter great quantities of pork are sold. A large and commodious market-place, with shambles and every requisite, has been recently erected by subscription, and is under the regulation of a committee. A chief constabulary police force is stationed in the town; petty sessions are held every Saturday; and courts for the manors of Ballyoran and Richmount, at which debts to the amount of 40s. are recoverable, every third Monday, before a seneschal appointed by Viscount Mande-ville.

The district parish comprises 3836 statute acres, mostly in a profitable state of cultivation; the demesne attached to the ancient mansion of the Obyns family, with the exception of a tract of woodland, has been parcelled out into farms.

The principal seats are Ballyworkan, the residence of G. Pepper, Esq.; Carrick, of Lieu. Colonel Blacker, a fine old mansion, embellished with some stately timber, Clowna, of J. Woolsey, Esq.; Eden Villa, of W. Atkinson, Esq.; and Fair View, of T. Carleton, Esq.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Rector of Drumcree, who pays the curate a stipend of £150. The church, a handsome edifice in the early English style, with a tower at the east end, and for the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits contributed a gift of £831, and a loan of £461, was built in 1826; and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have lately granted £173 for its repair.

In the R. C. divisions the parish gives name to a union or district, including also the parish of Drumcree, where is the chapel. There are two places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. About 550 children are taught in seven public schools, of which two are supported by the rector, four by Lord and Lady Mandeville, and one partly by Mrs. Henry; there are also five private schools, in which are about, 100 children, and two Sunday schools. A dispensary for the tenants of the Portadown estate is wholly supported by Lord Mandeville, by whom also a lending-library and a loan fund have been established.

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