1902 Encyclopedia > Down


DOWN, a maritime county of Ireland, in the province of Ulster, occupying the most easterly part of the island, is bounded N. by the county Antrim and Belfast Lough, E. and S. by the Irish Sea, and W. by the county Armagh. Its area, including Ballymacarret, a suburb of Belfast (1670 acres), covers 967 square miles, or 612,409 acres. The coast-line is very irregular, and is indented by several loughs and bays. The largest of these is Strangford Lough, a fine sheet of water studded with 260 islets, 54 of which have names, and all of which are finely wooded or rich in pasturage. The lough runs for ten miles north-wards, and the ancient castles and ruined abbeys on the islets render the scene one of singular interest and beauty. Further south Dundrum Bay forms a wider expanse of water. In the south-west Carlingford Lough separates the county from Louth. On its north-east shore lies the village of Bosstrevor, now the resort of invalids from all parts of the United Kingdom.

Mountains.—Between Strangford and Carlingford loughs the county is occupied by a range of hills known in its south-western portion as the Mourne Mountains, which give rise to the four principal rivers—the Bann, the Lagan, the Annacloy, and the Newry. The highest peak in the Mourne range is named Slieve Donard. It is 2796 feet above the level of the sea, and is exceeded only by one peak, Lugduff, in the Wicklow range, and the higher reeks in Killarney.

Springs.—Down is celebrated for its holy wells and mineral springs. The chalybeate are more numerous than the sulphurous, but both abound. There are springs at Ardmillan, Granshaw, Dundonnell, Magheralin, Dromore, Newry, Banbridge, and Tierkelly. The Struel springs, a mile south-east of the town of Downpatrick, are celebrated for their healing properties. Fifty years ago they were regarded as possessing not only chemical wealth in rare abundance, but miraculous powers; and the decline of public credulity in the latter was coincident with the failure of the former. To this day, however, the wells, which are four in number, are visited, and certain religious observances maintained, sometimes for a week. Circuits on the knees are made round the wells : and amongst the ignorant the reputation of the sacred waters remains unimpaired.

The scenery of the county is pleasantly diversified, the people are intelligent and comparatively well educated, the landed proprietors are resident, and there is a thriving independence which may be looked for in vain outside the province of Ulster.
Minerals.—There are several quarries of fine sandstone. The best is that on Scrabb Hill, near Newtownards, where a very close-grained, clear-coloured, and hard and durable stone is raised. Limestone is not very general. Near Comber, on the shores of Strangford Lough, is a very hard and sparkling kind of reddish granular limestone. But the greatest magazine of this rock is in the vicinity of Moira, where the stone lies very near the surface. Granite occurs in many places in detached masses, but the great body of it is confined to the southern and western regions, chiefly in the Mourne Mountains. Crystals of topaz and beryl are found in the granite of Slieve Donard. Indica-tions of lead have been discovered near Castlewellan, Killough, Newtownards, and Warrenpoint; and traces of copper in the Mourne Mountains near Bosstrevor.

Soil.—The predominating soil is a loam of little depth, in most places intermixed with considerable quantities of stones of various sizes, but differing materially in character according to the nature of the subsoil. Clay is mostly confined to the eastern coast, and to the northern parts of Castlereagh. Of sandy soil the quantity is small; it occurs chiefly near Dundrum. Moor grounds are mostly confined to the skirts of the mountains. Bogs, though frequent, are scarcely sufficient to furnish a supply of fuel to the population.

According to Owners of Land Return (1876), there were, in 1875, 3605 separate proprietors, owning a total area of 608,214 acres, valued at £6776,518. The number of owners of less than 1 acre numbered 1460, or 40 \ per cent., that of all Ulster being 48 per cent. The average size of the properties was 168^ acres, and the average value per acre was ¿61, 5s. 6^d., as against 239^ acres and 15s. 8|d. respectively for Ulster. As in the neighbouring counties of Antrim and Armagh, the value of the land in Down is considerably higher than that of the rest of the province. Eighteen proprietors owned upwards of 6000 acres each, and among them an aggregate extent equal to 48| per cent, of the total area,—the prin-ciple holders being:—Marquis of Downshire (Hillsborough), 64,356 acres; the Kilmerley Trustees, 37,454 ; Earl of Annesley (Castlewellan), 23,567 ; Marquis of Londonderry (Newtownards), 23,554 j Colonel W. B. Forde (Seaforde), 19,882 ; Earl Dufferin (Clandeboy), 18,238; Hon. R. Meade's trustees (Dromore), 13,492 ; R. N. Batt (Belfast), 12,010 ; and Lord A. E, Hill-Trevor, 10,940.

Agriculture.—Of the total area of the county, which is 610,740 acres (exclusive of Ballymacarret), there are 339,541 acres under tillage, 187,604 in pasture, and 12,027 under wood. Although comparisons as to yields of crops between different periods is now fallacious, inasmuch as the increased and increasing importation of wheat into Ireland has altered the system of agriculture, it may be mentioned that, while in five years the cultivation of wheat has fallen from 244,451 acres to 119,597 in Ireland, during the same period in Down the decrease was from 32,734 acres to 21,272. There are many landed proprietors who hold large tracts in their own hands. The great bulk of the labouring population is orderly and industrious. Their dwellings are better constructed and furnished than those for a similar class in other parts of Ireland. The processes of agriculture, owing in a great degree to the ex-ample set by the resident gentry, are skilfully carried on. The land is well cultivated. The farms are in some dis-tricts small, but the effect of emigration has been to consolidate the holdings.

The breed of horses is an object of much attention, and some of the best racers in Ireland have been bred in this county. The native breed of sheep, a small hardy race, is confined to the mountains. The various other kinds of sheep have been much improved by judicious crosses from the best breeds. Hogs are reared in great numbers, chiefly for the Belfast market, where the large exportation occa-sions a constant demand for them, hams of very superior quality being prepared in that town.

The following figures give the acreage of the principal crops and the numbers of live stock raised in the years 1873 and 1876 respectively :—

== TABLE ==

Along with Tyrone, the county grows the largest extent of flax in Ireland, and the largest extent of the other cereals of any county in Ulster. In live stock Down possesses a greater number of horses than any other Irish county with the exception of Cork.

Fisheries.—These are not developed as they might be. The Kilkeel herring fishery realized £4203 in 1871, £6200 in 1872, £13,349 in 1873, £6000 in 1874, and £1360 in 1875. There are fishing stations at Donaghadee, Strang-ford, Newcastle, and Carlingford ; the total number of vessels in 1875 was 678, and of men and boys 2537. In 1850 there were 1468 vessels and 4640 hands.

Administration.—The county is divided into 14 baronies, 70 parishes, and 1258 town-lands. It forms part of the united dioceses of Down, Connor, and Dromore; and it belongs to the military district 'of Belfast. The assizes are held at Downpatrick ; quarter sessions at Banbridge, Downpatrick, Hillsborough, Newry, and Newtownards ; and there are 26 petty sessions districts. The poor-law unions of Downpatrick, Kilkeel, and Newtownards are wholly within the county, and those of Banbridge and Newry partly in Down and partly in Armagh. The total sum expended in poor-law administration in 1875 was £21,076, and the average daily number of paupers 1280. The county prison and infirmary are in Downpatrick, but the county lunatic asylum is in Belfast. Down returns 4 members to Parliament—2 for the county at large, 1 for Downpatrick, and 1 for Newry. Portions of the boroughs of Belfast and Lisburn are in Down county, but they are regarded more properly as parts of Antrim and Armagh respectively. Previous to the Act of Union Down returned 14 members to the Irish Parliament—2 for the county at large, and 2 each for the boroughs of Bangor, Downpatrick, Hillsborough, Newry, Newtownards, and Killyleagh.

Population.—The general decrease of population in the province of Ulster between the census of 1851 and that of 1871 indicates a percentage of Sf, while that of this county amounts to 13 J. This decrease maybe ascribed in some part to the migration of the people to Belfast and the neighbouring manufacturing towns, as well as to the emigration to foreign countries. In 1851, the inhabitants of Down (exclusive of the part of Belfast) numbered 320,817; in 1861, 299,302 ; and in 1871, 277,294, of whom 130,457 were males and 146,837 females.

At the last census it appeared that 31f per cent, belonged to the Roman Catholic persuasion, the numbers being—Catholics, 88,003 ; Episcopalians, 60,868 ; Presby-terians, 116,017 ; and others, 12,406. There were at the same time 140,886 persons of five years and upwards who could read and write, 57,140 who could read but could not write, and 45,792 who were illiterate. There were 20 superior schools in the county, and 527 primary schools.

The following are the principal towns :—Newtownards, population 9562 ; Banbridge, 5600 ; Downpatrick, 4155; Holywood, 3573 ; Gilford. 2720 ; Bangor, 2560 ; Dromore, 2408 ; Donaghadee, 2226 ; Comber, 2006 ; Portaferry 1938 ; Bathfriland, 1827 ; Warrenpoint, 1806 ; Killy-leagh, 1772 ; Kilkeel, 1338 ; and Ballynahinch, 1225. Newry, partly in Down and partly in Armagh county, has a population of 14,213.

History and Antiquities.—From the period of the English settlement to the Irish revolt in 1333, Down formed two counties, Newtownards in the north and Down in the south. The English settlers at that time were driven into the maritime baronies of Ards, Lecale, and Mourne, of which they in part retained possession. The remainder of the district fell into the hands of Irish families, the O'Neals of Clandeboy, the MacArtans, MacRorys, and MacGinnises, whose possessions, however, reverted to the crown on the attainder of Shane O'Neal, in the latter half of the 16th century ; but having afterwards submitted to the Govern-ment, they received back their former estates. In 1602 the O'Neal estates were again forfeited, and granted to Sir Hugh Montgomery and Mr Hamilton, who planted Scottish colonies on the land. The estates of the remaining old Irish and Anglo-Norman families were mostly forfeited in the rebellion of 1641, or subsequently at the Revolution.
The county is not wanting in interesting remains. At Slidderyford, near Dundrum, there is a group of ten or twelve pillar stones in a circle, about 10 ten feet in height. A very curious cairn on the summit of Slieve Croob is 80 yards in circumference at the base and 50 at the top, where is a platform on which cairns of various heights are found standing. The village of Anadorn is famed for a cairn covering a cave which contains ashes and human bones. Cromlechs, or altars, are numerous, the most remarkable being the Giant's Bing, which stands on the summit of a hill near the borders of Antrim. This altar is formed of an unwrought stone 7 feet long by 6| broad, resting in an inclined position on rude pillars about 3 feet high. This solitary landmark is in the centre of an inclosure about a third of a mile in circumference, formed of a rampart about 20 feet high, and broad enough atop to permit two persons to ride abreast. Near Downpatrick is a rath, or mound of earth, three-quarters of a mile in circumference, its exterior consisting of three artificial ramparts, the largest of which is 30 feet broad. In its vicinity are the ruins of Saul Abbey, said to have been founded by St Patrick, and Inch Abbey, founded by Sir John de Courcy in 1180. The number of monastic ruins is also considerable. The most ancient and celebrated is the abbey or cathedral of Down- patrick, supposed to have been founded by St Patrick soon after his arrival here in 432, and said to contain his remains, together with those of St Columba and St Bridget. It was restored in 1790, when the adjoining round tower was taken down. (E. T. L.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries