RATHFRILAND, a market and post-town, partly in the parish of DRUMBALLYRONEY, but chiefly in that of DRUMGATH, barony of UPPER IVEAGH, county of DOWN, and province of ULSTER, 16½ miles (W.) from Downpatrick, and 57¼ (N.) from Dublin, on the mail road from Newry to Downpatrick; containing 200. inhabitants. This town was founded, soon after the Restoration, by Alderman Hawkins, of London, to whom, in acknowledgment of his very important services during the parliamentary war, Chas. II. granted the whole of the extensive manor, which is now the property of his lineal descendant, Gen. Meade. The benevolent alderman, at his own cost, provided food, clothing, and lodging for 5000 Protestant royalists, who, during the calamitous progress of the war, had fled to London for protection; collected in England £30,000 for the purchase of corn, wearing apparel, and other necessaries for the support of such as had not been able to effect their escape; and, with the assistance of a few of his friends, raised the sum of £45,000 for the public service and the use of the king. The town is situated on an eminence, previously the site of an ancient fortress, about three miles to the north of the Mourne mountains; and consists of a spacious square, and five principal and several smaller streets, containing together 447 houses, which are in general well built and of handsome appearance, surrounding the crown of the hill. The principal streets communicate with five great roads from different parts of the county, but, from the acclivity of the site, form steep entrances into the town, from which in every direction are extensive and interesting views of the surrounding country. A considerable traffic is carried on with the adjacent district, and the town itself is the residence of numerous respectable families. The market is on Wednesday and is amply supplied; and fairs are held on the second Wednesday in April (O. S.), the Wednesday after Trinity, the second. Wednesday in September (O. S.), and the second Wednesday in December. The market-house is a handsome building in the centre of the square; the lower part is appropriated to the use of the market, and the upper part contains accommodation for holding courts. A constabulary police force is stationed in the town, and petty sessions are held on alternate Fridays. The manorial court, with which has recently been incorporated that for the manor of Gilford, is held on the first Tuesday in every month before the seneschal; its jurisdiction extends to pleas of debt to the amount of £100, which may be recovered by civil bill process. The parish church of Drumgath, a small neat edifice with a tower on the north side, is situated on the south side of the square: it was originally founded by Alderman Hawkins, and rebuilt in 1818. There are also in the town a spacious R. C. chapel, and places of worship for the Society of Friends, Presbyterians, Covenanters, and Wesleyan Methodists, and a dispensary. On the very summit of the hill round which the town is built are some slight remains of the ancient castle of the powerful sept of the Magennises, Lords of Iveagh, commanding the entire country for ten miles round; a modern house was erected on the site in 1812, when, in digging the foundation, many small cells were discovered, in some of which were found human bones, pieces of armour, coins, and other relics.
Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840 by Samuel Lewis