Statistical Survey Of The
COUNTY OF ARMAGH,
With Observations On The Means Of Improvement;
Drawn Up In The Years 1802, And 1803, For The Consideration, And Under The Direction Of
THE DUBLIN SOCIETY.
SIR CHARLES COOTE, BART.
Printed By Graisberry And Campbell, 10 Back-Lane.
Sect. 4. Baronies of East and West O’Neiland.
The extent of this district includes almost the entire of the northern part of the county, and approaches to within a very small distance of the city of Armagh. The more distant part has little or no limestone, but the nearer has a fine soil of this quality. There can scarcely be said to be any indifferent land in the whole district, and the greater part is a fine country, which cannot be excelled in Ireland for the purpose either of pasturage or tillage.
The soil of the northern division is rich, deep, and loamy; though not limestone, yet it is not wholly without this fossil, as on the manor of Brownlow-Derry, the estate of William Brownlow, Esq. there is a limestone quarry, which however no advantage is derived from, on account of its situation in low ground, which is generally overflowed, and has a great bearing of bank to be removed on the surface, before the quarry can be touched. The surface here is more inclined to be flat than hilly, and is rather, in this instance, a complete contrast to all other parts of Ulster, which I have seen; it is watered by several streams, which fall into Lough-Neagh. A review of the manor of Brownlow-Derry will give a pretty clear idea of their management in this division.
This manor, which is the estate of William Brownlow, Esq., is all leased in so small divisions, as to average less than five acres, and a great number so low as three; all the farms are leased for three lives; expecting in the town of Lurgan, there is not perpetuity on the whole. The fields are well proportioned in size to the small plot of each farmer, and are neatly inclosed with quickset white-thorn fences.
Lime is the principal manure, and this process is well performed, though expensive, as the carriage is distant and tedious; grass land is always broken up with a potatoe crop, and generally the surface is limed two years before ploughing; flax and oats in succession; barley is taken after a potatoe fallow, with a light sprinkling of manure; the land is then left in pasture, in the furrows left by the plough. The soil is throughout this division favourable to wheat, and the culture of this grain is very much encouraged, but they never fallow for wheat here, though within a mile or two of the district, in the counties of Down and Antrim, I have seen wheat fallows, but I understand it is rarely done so; great crops of this grain are raised through all this country mostly after potatoes, and the seed is trenched in. The proportion of tillage to pasture is full as four to five; little else but bottom meadow; they prepare the soil for wheat crops with great attention, and pickle their seed with lime, salt and chamber-lie; they generally expect to reap one cwt. of wheat, for every fourteen lbs. which they sow; a liberal manuring of lime revigorates this soil in so much, that they reap six or seven corn crops without any intermission; indeed it only requires to be seen, to convince any farmer that it can be depended on for any purpose in husbandry. I have been well informed, that it is not unusual for an English acre to yield 350 cwt. of potatoes or 30 of oats, after being well limed. No oxen are employed here in draught. Horses plough with collars, and for the purposes of husbandry there are not more than five horses to every sixty or seventy acres; the stock rather sought here are milch cows; no farmer is without one, and several have two or three since the culture of clover has been more in use.
The young cattle are sent to mountain farms to be reared, and are sold afterwards, principally of late years, to jobbers who purchase for Scotch markets; this trade is carried on to a great degree, and is certainly no small encouragement for the rearing of stock, as it has assuredly been the principal cause of the immense rise on black cattle; so great have been the profits of the jobbers in this trade, that they now export sheep, young horses, pigs, and even poultry.
The soil being so favourable to dairy husbandry, and the farmers fond of appropriating all the land they can spare to this pursuit, there is, of course, a considerable quantity of butter produced, which there is a good demand for in Lurgan, and a great quantity is purchased for Belfast market and sent there by Lough Neagh. The houses in this district are comfortable and neat, the walls are kept white-washed, and the gardens adjoining prettily dressed; the barn and cow-house are in general annexed to each dwelling, and an orchard affords shelter and ornament to the whole. The fuel here is turf, which is more abundant than in most other parts of the county; yet it is not cheap, but yields large sums to the occupying proprietors. I have already noticed one tenant on Mr. Brownlow’s estate, who realizes above 100l. per annum on turf bog only. The parts of bog, which are cut out, lie extremely well for draining, and could easily be converted to fine meadow land; on the whole, the lands are in good heart, the population is immense, the houses neat and comfortable, fuel convenient, markets excellent, corn-mills well supplied with water, and the roads in general here, and in Armagh barony, the best in the county.
The town of Lurgan, which has also been called Little England, though I could not learn the reason, or discover the analogy, except its being remarkable for cleanliness, is composed of one principal very long and wide street, which is in one place, near the church, greatly disfigured with a number of very old miserable houses, which are strangely built in its centre, and quite spoil the effect it would otherwise have. Here is an excellent house, which if any, is the only building that should be suffered in the centre of a street; the entrances to this building have been ornamented with iron gates, and in the apartment overhead the sessions have hitherto been held, but a very neat court-house and bridewell have been newly built, and are now nearly finished.
Many of the houses in this town are covered with shingles, and it is surprising to see this mode adopted, even in some handsome modern houses.
The church is very spacious and well built, and ornamented with a very elegant spire, and an excellent organ. A poor school is supported by an annual charity sermon and liberal subscription, in which seldom less than 200 children are educated.
The town is situate in the parish of Shankhill; the Rev. Mr. Waring, the rector, resides on his estate in the adjoining county of Down; this gentleman receives his tithes by a modus of 10d. per acre, for which he agreed with his parishioners; the tax is cheerfully paid, and so it should, being extremely moderate.
The trade of Lurgan consists wholly in articles of the linen and muslin manufacture, principally cambricks, lawns, diapers, and diaper damasks, in which it will average from 2,500l. to 3000l. weekly sales. Spinners for these fine articles draw their yarn to twenty or thirty dozen, of which lawns and cambricks are made, and these webs sell brown at from to twelve to fourteen shillings per yard; fine diapers for table linen are also manufactured in this vicinity; but in this kind, the yarn is always the property of the merchant, who gives it out to the weaver on task work; this man will earn nearly double wages with any other description of weaver.
There is some decrease of the linen trade to be attributed to the weavers having lately become fonder of working cottons in the muslin branch, as they have better wages, but perhaps the truer cause of the decline from any other period is the flimsiness of the materials, which are by no means equal to their former quality. The merchants have ineffectually strove to counteract this falling off, through a want of unanimity, and they must now be content, if the warp alone is of good yarn, which is not always the case; we may also justly attribute, in some degree, this decline to the bad character, which our manufacture acquired by the many packages, which were returned from America, in consequence of the late distructive alteration in the bleaching process; and it must also be remarked, that the extraordinary rise on labour, since the years of scarcity, have tended in no small degree to depreciate the trade, and must have the like effect probably for a great while to come.
I have chosen this section for the remarks on, and causes of, the decline of the manufacture, because it is in this part of the county that the injury has been most material, and that fine goods compose the principal stock; in places, which are more engaged in the coarse manufacture, the effects have been less severe, and the stagnation but temporary.
Mr. Brownlow is endeavouring to establish a wheat market in Lurgan, which bids fair for success, from his encouragement of allowing it toll-free, and the great quantities of this grain which are raised in the vicinity; it must require buyers to establish a market.
Throughout the environs of Lurgan labour is high, even in the winter season; in summer they pay sixteen pence per day, and sometimes so high as two shillings and two pence; but, on the average of the year, nearly double profits accrue from the loom, on which account almost every labourer has a knowledge of weaving; very few labourers are employed by the year in the field, except in Mr. Brownlow’s demesne, where those, who have constant employment, receive ten pence in winter, and thirteen pence in summer.
In this division there is no timber for sale; excepting for implements of husbandry, foreign timber is more generally used, and is brought down the lake from Belfast; this navigation is of the first importance of this town.
Bannfoot-ferry is just at the mouth of the river Blackwater, where it is discharged into the lake; the country in this direction is low, flat, and marshy; the distance between the mouths of the Ban and Blackwater rivers is but trifling, they are both comprised in one view from the lake.
Mr. Brownlow’s demesne, which consists of 300 acres, adjoins the town of Lurgan, and is very well improved, and inclosed with a capital stone wall; the mansion is a very antique castle, and has received many additions since the original walls were built, as mentioned in the Appendix. The demesne, though very beautiful, yet corresponds with the antiquity of the castle, in the many inclosures into which it is divided, and is highly ornamented with a fine sheet of water, which is covered with swans, cape-geese, wild ducks, and a beautiful variety of water-fowl; around this lake is a pleasant and neat gravel walk, decorated with elegant plantations, and always open for the recreation of the townsfolk. The parks are well stocked with deer, and numerous hares sport through every part of the demesne. Mr. Brownlow has set a very laudable example, in introducing the improved system of husbandry. I have not seen a finer field of turnips than has been sown here in drills, and they were extremely well hoed. Mr. Brownlow is also provided with a Scotch plough, drill barrows, harrows, and several approved implements; his imported breed of Berkshire pigs are uncommonly fine, and will be a real service to the county; a Leicestershire ram and some elegant ewes have been lately added to his stock, and also a bull and some heifers from Scotland, at a great expense.
I must here acknowledge this gentlemen’s very polite acquiescence in contributing to furnish the Dublin Society’s museum with a valuable assortment of the natural curiosities of Lough Neagh, which he has collected.
The neighbourhood of Lurgan is well supplied with corn mills, and near Aghalee church, which is at four miles distance, a flour mill has been erected.
… perhaps no county in Ireland is better supplied with market towns than Armagh, and yet in every neighbourhood are those depots of the small luxuries of the people; a sure proof of the superior wealth, and, let me add, of the civilization of the inhabitants.