County Down Linen

The staple manufacture is that of linens, which has prevailed since the time of William. III., when legislative measures were enacted to substitute it for the woollen manufacture. Its establishment here is owing greatly to the settlement of a colony of French refugees, whom the revocation of the edict of Nantes had driven from their native country, and more especially to the exertions of one of them, named Crommelin, who, after having travelled through a considerable part of Ireland, to ascertain the fitness of the country for the manufacture, settled in Lisburn, where he established the damask manufacture, which has thriven there ever since. The branches now carried on are fine linen, cambrics, sheetings, drills, damasks, and every other description of household linen. Much of the wrought article, particularly the finer fabrics, is sent to Belfast and Lurgan. for sale; the principal markets within the county are Dromore (for finer linens), and Rathfriland, Kilkeel, Downpatrick, Castlewellan, Ballinahinch, Banbridge, Newry, Dromore, and Kirkcubbin, for those of inferior quality.

The cotton manufacture has latterly made great progress here; but as the linen weavers can work at a cotton loom, and as the cotton weavers are unqualified to work at linen, the change has not been in any great degree prejudicial to the general mass of workmen, who can apply themselves to one kind when the demand for the other decreases. The woollen manufacture is confined to a coarse cloth made entirely for domestic consumption, with the exception of blanketing, which was carried on with much spirit and to a great extent, particularly near Lisburn. The weaving of stockings is pretty generally diffused, but not for exportation. Tanning of leather is carried on to a large extent: at Newry there is a considerable establishment for making spades, scythes, and other agricultural implements and tools; and there are extensive glass-works at Newry and Ballimacarett. Kelp is made in considerable quantities along the coast and on Strangford lough, but its estimation in the foreign market has been much lowered by its adulteration during the process.

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