Friday, 23 April 2021



AGHADOWEY, a parish in the half-barony of Coleraine, County Londonderry, six miles from Coleraine, on the road from that place to Dungannon.

This parish, which is bounded on the north-east by the river Bann and, with the extra-parochial grange or liberty of Agivey, which is locally within its limits, and has since the Reformation been attached to it, comprises 18,115¾ statute acres.

Its westerly extremity is mountainous and barren, but eastward toward the river the soil is fertile; the lands are generally in a high state of cultivation, particularly in the neighbourhood of Keely, Ballybritain, Rushbrook, Flowerfield, and Mullaghmore; in the valley where the Agivey and Aghadowey waters meet, the soil is very rich.

Previously to 1828 no wheat was grown in this parish; but since that period the system of agriculture has been greatly improved, and, in 1832, James Hemphill introduced the cultivation of mangelwurzel and turnips, which has been attended with complete success.

There are considerable tracts of bog, but they will soon be exhausted by the large quantities annually consumed in the bleach-greens; and in the western or mountainous parts are large tracts of land which, from the depth of the soil, might easily be brought into cultivation.

Ironstone is found in several parts, but is more particularly plentiful in the townland of Bovagh.

The greater part of the parish formed part of the lands granted in 1609, by JAMES I, to the Irish Society, and is now held under the Ironmongers' Company, of London, by who, on the expiration of the present leases, the land will be let, as far as may be practicable, on the English principle.

The Mercers' Company, the Bishop of Derry, and the Rev T Richardson are also proprietors.

There are numerous gentlemen's seats, of which the principal are Rushbrook, the residence of J Knox; Landmore, of George Dunbar; Flowerfield, of J Hunter; Flowerfield, of Mrs Hemphill; Keely, of Andrew Orr; Ballydevitt, of T Bennett; Mullaghmore, of A Barklie; Moneycarrie, of J McCleery; Meath Park, of J Wilson; BOVAGH, of R Hezlet; and Killeague, of Mrs Wilson.

PREVIOUSLY to 1730 the parish was for the greater part unenclosed and uncultivated; but three streams of water which intersect it attracted the attention of some spirited individuals engaged in the linen trade, which at that time was coming into notice, and had obtained the sanction of some legislative enactments for its encouragement and support.

Of these, the first that settled here with a view to the introduction of that trade were Mr J Orr, of Ballybritain, and Mr J Blair, of Ballydevitt, whom in 1744, established some bleach-greens; since that time the number has greatly increased, and there are at present not less than eleven in the parish, of which ten are in full operation.

The quantity of linen bleached and finished here, in 1833, amounted to 126,000 pieces, almost exclusively for the English market; they are chiefly purchased in the brown state in the markets of Coleraine, Ballymoney, Strabane, and Londonderry, and are generally known in England as "Coleraines," by which name linens of a similar kind, wherever made, are now called, from the early celebrity which that town acquired for linens of a certain width and quality.

In addition to the bleaching and finishing, Messrs A and G Barklie have recently introduced the manufacture of linens, and have already 800 looms employed.

THE living is a rectory, in the diocese of Derry, constituting the corps of the prebend of Aghadowey in the cathedral church of that see, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £500.

The church, situated in a fertile vale near the centre of the parish, and rebuilt in 1797, is a small neat edifice with a handsome tower, formerly surmounted by a lofty octagonal spire erected at the expense of the Earl of Bristol (when Bishop of Derry), but which was destroyed by lightning in 1826; the tower, being but slightly injured, was afterward embattled and crowned with pinnacles.

The Board of First Fruits granted £100 towards the erection of a glebe house in 1789 [almost £16,000 in 2020]; and in 1794 the present house, called Blackheath, was built by Sir Hervey Bruce Bt as a glebe house for the parish.

It is a handsome residence; over the mantelpiece in the drawing-room is an elegant sculpture, representing Socrates discovering his pupil Alcibiades in the haunts of dissipation, which was brought from Italy by Lord Bristol, and presented to Sir Hervey Bruce.

The glebe lands comprise 403 statute acres, exclusively of a glebe of 121 acres in Agivey; and the gross value of the prebend is £880 per annum [equivalent to about £109,000 in 2020].

A religious establishment was founded here, in the 7th century, by St Guaire, as a cell to the priory or abbey founded by him at Agivey, the latter of which became a grange to the abbey of St Mary-de-la-Fouta, or Macosquin, in 1172.

A very splendid lachrymatory or double patera of pure gold, of exquisite workmanship and in good preservation, was found at Mullaghinch in 1832, and is now in the possession of Alexander Barklie.

In the townland of Crevolea is a large druidical altar, called by the country people "the grey stone;" and on the mountains above Rushbrook is a copious chalybeate spring, powerfully impregnated with iron and sulphur held in solution carbonic acid gas. 

1 comment :

Ken Belshaw said...

I have ben living at Blackheath House for the last 14 years. My daughter Babs has just opened a pottery and coffee shop in the former stables and courtyard. It is opened from Wednesday to Sunday AND ALL ARE WELCOME.
The statue of Aclibiades in the haunts of dissipation is no longer ( can anyone trace? I would love a photo) However for 20 years the basement was a restaurant known as MacDuffs. Anyone remember eating here? Famous for its late hours and fine-dining it became Aghadowey`s more recent "Haunt of Dissipation"
Keep up the good work your Lordship.
Ken Belshaw
PS look up Blackheath Pottery on Google Maps