CASTLE-DAWSON, or DAWSON'S-BRIDGE, a market and post-town

CASTLE-DAWSON, or DAWSON'S-BRIDGE, a market and post-town, partly in the parish of BALLYSCULLION, but chiefly in that of MAGHERAFELT, barony of LOUGHINSHOLIN, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 28 miles (N. W.) from Belfast, and 97 (N.) from Dublin; containing 674 inhabitants. This place derives its name from its proprietors, the Dawson family. On the plantation of Ulster, the eight townlands of Mayola were granted by James I. to Sir Thomas Philips, whose sons sold them, in 1633, to Thomas Dawson, Esq., from whom they have descended to the Right Hon. G. R. Dawson. The town appears to have assumed its present form and name in the year 1710, during the proprietorship of Joshua Dawson, Esq., chief secretary for Ireland, and for many years member of parliament for the borough of Wicklow.

It is delightfully situated on the two sides of the Mayola, over which is a handsome stone arch, erected by the Dawson family, and from this circumstance the town derived its former name of Dawson's Bridge: it consists of two principal and some smaller streets, containing, in 1831, 129 houses, many of which are large and well built. Here are extensive cotton twist mills, built in 1803, and furnishing employment to about 100 persons in the buildings and about 800 in the adjoining parishes. Near the town are large flour and oatmeal-mills; and in several places in the neighbourhood are manufactories of coarse earthenware, bricks, &c, and a bleach-green in which 800 pieces of linen are annually prepared for the London market.

The market is on Saturday, and is well supplied with every kind of provisions; and in the season great quantities of grain, pork, and butter are purchased here, principally for the Belfast merchants: the market-house and grain stores are extensive and well built. Fairs are held on the last Saturday in each month, for the sale of linen cloth, yarn, cattle, pigs, sheep, and pedlery. The eight townlands of Mayola were, by letters patent, in 1712, erected into the manor of Castle-Dawson, with extensive privileges; and a manorial court is held monthly by the seneschal, in which debts to the amount of £20 are recoverable. Petty sessions are held every alternate week; and there is a constabulary police station.

The soil in every part of the neighbourhood is fertile, and under an excellent system of cultivation. Coal is found, but no attempt has been made to work it, the seams being too thin to pay the expense, while turf is abundant. Nearly adjoining the town is The House, the residence of the Right Hon. G. R. Dawson, situated in a beautiful demesne, in which is an ancient avenue three miles in length, opening to a magnificent view of Lough Neagh, to which it extends. On an eminence close adjoining the town stands a beautiful and lofty obelisk, erected by the Earl of Bristol, to commemorate the virtues and benevolence of the Dawson family.

There are several other handsome houses in the town and neighbourhood, the principal of which are Fairview, the seat of R. Henry, Esq.; Rowens Gift, of Capt. Crofton; Millbrook, of A. Spotswood, Esq.; Mount Aeriel, of S. J. Cassidy, Esq.; with those of Capt. Bouverie, W. Graves, Esq., and others. The church is small, but very neat; it stands on the western side of the Mayola, in the parish of Ballyscullion. The former edifice was built in 1710, by Joshua Dawson, Esq., and having fallen into ruin some years since, the present structure was erected by the Right Hon. G. R. Dawson, by whom it has been beautifully ornamented; on a brass tablet in an ancient carved oak frame is inscribed the genealogy of the Dawson family; it has also a beautiful window of stained glass. There is a large meeting-house for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the second class.

A school for boys and girls is supported by subscriptions; and at Hill Head is a school supported by the London Hibernian Society. Of the castle built by Thomas Dawson, Esq., who was deputy-commissary in the reign of Charles I., and which stood in the demesne near the church, little now remains, but the foundations of the walls and terraces are still traceable. The castle built by Joshua Dawson, Esq., in the year 1713, is now in ruins; and The House, built in 1768 by Arthur Dawson, Esq., who was member of parliament for the county of Londonderry, and chief baron of the exchequer, is now the family mansion. The present proprietor has made some extensive plantations around it and on other parts of his estate which flourish luxuriantly, and greatly embellish the surrounding scenery: Shillgray wood is very ancient, and contains some remarkably fine oak and beech trees.

Ancient urns, ornaments of gold, spears, celts, and other relics have been found here. In the neighbourhood are some bogs, 30 feet deep, in which four separate layers of timber are imbedded: the lowest is principally oak, in a very sound and perfect state; the next chiefly yew, the third fir, and the uppermost birch, hazel, hawthorn, &c. Nuts, acorns, and the cones of fir are frequently found in these bogs, in very perfect condition.—See BALLYSCULLION and MAGHERAFELT.

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