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Dromore, Down

Historical Description

DROMORE, a market and post-town, a parish, and the seat of a diocese, in the barony of LOWER IVEAGH, county of DOWN, and province of ULSTER, 16 miles (W. N. W.) from Downpatrick, and 66½ (N.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Belfast, from which it is 14 miles distant; containing 14,912 inhabitants, of which number, 1942 are in the town. Its name, anciently written Druim-mor, signifies "the Great Ridge," Druim being the term applied to a long ridge-shaped hill, such as that above Dromore. Its origin may be traced from St. Colman, who founded here an abbey for Canons Regular, which afterwards became the head of a see, of which he was made the first bishop. This abbey had acquired extensive possessions early in the 10th century, and was frequently plundered by the Danes; it also suffered materially from the continued feuds of the powerful septs of the O'Nials, Magennises, and Macartans. In the 14th century, Sir J. Holt and Sir R. Belknap, being convicted of treason against Rich. II., were condemned to death, but on the intercession of the clergy, were banished for life to the ville of Dromore, in Ireland. At the Reformation the cathedral was in ruins, and the town had greatly participated in the devastations of the preceding periods; in this situation it remained till 1610, when Jas. I. refounded the see by letters patent, rebuilt the cathedral, and gave to the bishop extensive landed possessions in this and several adjoining parishes, which he erected into a manor called "Bailonagalga," corrupted into Ballymaganles, a denomination or townland on which the town stands, with a court leet, twice in the year, a court baron every three weeks for pleas under £5, a free market every Saturday, and two fairs. An episcopal palace was commenced by Bishop Buckworth, but previously to its completion, the war of 1641 broke out, and the cathedral, the unfinished palace, and the town were entirely destroyed by the parliamentarian forces. From this time the town remained in ruins till the Restoration, when Chas. II. gave the see in commendam to the celebrated Jeremy Taylor, with Down and Connor, by whom the present church, which is also parochial, was built on the site of the ruined cathedral. In 1688, a skirmish took place near the town between a party of Protestants and some of the Irish adherents of Jas. II.

The town consists of a square and five principal streets, and contained, in 1831, 396 houses. There are two bridges over the Lagan; one, called the Regent's bridge, was built in 1811, and has a tablet inscribed to the late Bishop Percy, recording some of the leading traits of his character. Several bleach-greens were formerly in full work in the vicinity, and among others, that occupied by the late Mr. Stott, whose poetical effusions under the signature of Hafiz, in the provincial newspapers, attracted much attention; but all are now unemployed except one, in the occupation of Thos. McMurray and Co., connected with which is a manufacture of cambrics, and also a linen manufacture, established in 1832; another linen-factory was established at Ashfield, in 1828. The market is on Saturday, and is well supplied with all sorts of provisions, farming stock, and linen; and fairs are held on the first Saturday in March, May 12th, Aug. 6th, Oct. 10th, and Dec. 14th. A constabulary police force is stationed here; courts leet and baron are held for the manor and petty sessions occasionally. In the bishop is vested, among other privileges, the power of appointing a coroner, escheator, and clerk of the market, and a bailiff.

The BISHOPRICK of DROMORE is supposed to have been included in that of Armagh till the 13th century, as the only bishops whose names are recorded prior to 1221 are St. Colman, the founder; Malbrigid Mac Cathesaige, and Rigan. About 1451, the Archbishop of Armagh, in a letter to Hen, VII., states that the revenues of this see did not exceed £40 per annum Irish, which was less by a third than sterling money, so that none would remain upon the bishoprick. Under the Church Temporalities Act, on this bishoprick or that of Down and Connor becoming vacant, they are to be united, and the remaining bishop is to be Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore; the temporalities of the see will then be vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It is one of the ten dioceses that form the ecclesiastical province of Armagh, and is 35½ English miles in length by 21½ in breadth, including an estimated area of 155,800 acres, of which 1500 are in Antrim, 10,600 in Armagh, and the remainder in Down. The Earl of Kilmorey claims exemption from the bishop's jurisdiction for his lordship of Newry, as having been extra-episcopal before the Reformation; it belonged to the monastery at Newry, which was granted by Edw. VI. to Sir Nicholas Bagnal, one of this nobleman's ancestors; yet in the Regal Visitation book of 1615, Nova Ripa alias Nieu Rie is among the parishes under the jurisdiction of the see of Dromore. In the ecclesiastical court at Newry, marriage licences, probates of wills, &c., are granted by Lord Kilmorey's authority under the ancient monastic seal. The bishop's lands comprise 18,424 statute acres; and the annual revenue of the bishoprick, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1833, was £4219. 12. The ancient chapter consisted of a dean, archdeacon, and prebendaries, but was remodelled by Jas. I., and made to consist of a dean, archdeacon, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, and the prebendary of Dromaragh, to which offices several rectories and vicarages were annexed. The consistorial court, held at Dromore, consists of a vicar-general, two surrogates, a registrar, apparitor, and two proctors. The diocesan school, which was united with that of Down in 1823, is described in the article on Downpatrick, where it is situated. The total number of parishes in the diocese is 26, exclusively of Newry, and of benefices 25, including 2 perpetual cures, of which the deanery is in the patronage of the Crown; the vicarage of Donaghmore is in the gift of the Lord-Primate, and the vicarage of Aghalee in that of the Marquess of Hertford; the remainder are in the patronage of the Bishop. There is a church in each benefice, and two in Dromaragh and Clonallon; and five other places have been licensed for public worship by the bishop: the number of glebe-houses is 23. In the R. C. divisions the diocese is a separate bishoprick and one of the nine suffragan to Armagh. It comprises 17 parochial benefices, containing 34 chapels, which are served by 27 clergymen, 17 of whom, including the bishop, are parish priests, and 10 are coadjutors or curates. The bishop's parish is Newry, where he resides, and in which is a handsome cathedral.

The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 20,488¼ statute acres, of which 18,212 are applotted under the tithe act. The lands are generally of good quality, and almost all are either under tillage or in pasture, and in a tolerable state of cultivation, or enclosed within demesnes: there is not more bog than is requisite to furnish a supply of fuel. Not far from the town is the episcopal palace, the residence of the Lord Bishop, the grounds of which were richly planted by Bishop Percy, who also clothed the surrounding hills with the flourishing woods that now ornament them: Shenstone's celebrated seat at Leasowes was the model on which he designed his improvements: St. Colman's well is in the demesne. Near the town also is Gill Hall Castle, the mansion and demesne of the Earl of Clanwilliam. This extensive property was originally granted by Chas. II. to Alderman Hawkins, who, during the civil war, procured food, raiment, and lodging, in London, for 5000 Irish Protestants who had been driven from their country, and by his exertions £30,000, raised by subscription in England, was expended in clothing and provisions, which were sent over to Ireland for such as could not effect their escape. With the aid of four other gentlemen, he also raised a sum of £45,000 for the help of the distressed Irish both at home and in England; he afterwards resided for some time in Ireland, where he became possessed of the town of Rathfriland, forfeited with other property by the Magennisses, Lords of Iveagh, in the war of 1641. The other seats are Islanderry House, the residence of J. G. Waddell, Esq.; Altafort, of W. C. Heron, Esq.; Clanmurry, of W. McClelland, Esq.; the Villa, of J. Vaughan, Esq.; Quilly House, of R. Vaughan, Esq.; and Islanderry, of S. Fivey, Esq. The living is a rectory and vicarage, forming the corps of the treasurership in the cathedral church of Christ the Redeemer, Dromore, in the patronage of the Bishop. The tithes amount to £910; there is neither glebe-house nor glebe. The church, situated on the north bank of the Lagan, close to the town, is a plain neat edifice, and was constituted the cathedral church by act of the 21st of Geo. II.; it was thoroughly repaired, enlarged, and modernised in 1808, when the tower was taken down, and the original oaken roof replaced with one of slate, chiefly at the expense of Bishop Percy: the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have lately granted £145 for its repair. Beneath the communion table is a vault, in which Dr. Taylor and two of his successors are interred, but the only inscription is on a small mural tablet to Bishop Percy, author of the key to the New Testament, translator of the Northern Antiquities, and editor of the "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry," who presided over the see from 1782 to 1811: his remains are deposited in a vault in the transept added to the cathedral, where also are interred those of Mrs. Percy, the "Nancy," to whom his beautiful ballad is addressed. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Garvaghy, in each of which is a chapel. There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster and the Remonstrant Synod, both of the first class, and for Wesleyan Methodists. Nearly 1500 children are educated in the public schools of the parish, of which one is chiefly supported by Mrs. Saurin, and one by Mr. Douglass; and there are also eight private schools, in which are about 430 children, and twelve Sunday schools. Near the church are two good houses for clergymen's widows, erected in 1729, and endowed by the bishop and clergy of the diocese. The Countess of Clanwilliam, who died in 1817, bequeathed to the poor a sum now producing £10. 3., and a further sum to the dispensary, producing £3. 7. per annum. Near the town are the remains of an ancient castle, built by William Worsley, son-in-law to Bishop Tod, for the bishop's protection, being one of the conditions on which a considerable extent of the see lands was alienated to Worsley, and which led to the act for restraining bishops from leasing lands beyond a term of 21 years. At the eastern extremity of the town is a remarkable earthwork, called the "Great Fort" (or "folkmote," as such works are called by Spenser,): it has a treble fosse on the north or land side, and a strong out-post to the south, continued in a regular glacis to the water's edge; and near Gill Hall is a fort of different character, and smaller, evidently erected to defend the pass of the river. In 1817 a cavern was discovered near the castle, hewn out of the solid rock, of rectangular form, and about 4½ feet high, 24 feet long, and 2½ feet wide; on the floor were several broken urns of coarse brown clay, charcoal, and calcined human bones. At Islanderry was found a canoe cut out of a solid oak, and near it a pair of oars. Celts, spear and arrow-heads of flint, with other ancient weapons of stone, brass, and bronze, have been found at Skeogh, among which were stone hatchets; many were in the museum of Bishop Percy, and many are now in the possession of Mr. Welsh, of Dromore. During the prelacy of Bishop Percy, a large and very perfect skeleton of an elk was found in one of the adjacent bogs; the distance between the tips of the horns was 10 feet 3 inches; it was placed in the bishop's palace, where it was carefully preserved. The valuable library belonging to Bishop Percy was purchased, after his death, by the Earl of Caledon, for £1000. Dromore formerly gave the title of Viscount to the Farnshaw family.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840 by Samuel Lewis

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