Wednesday 12 June 2024



RANDALSTOWN, a market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish of Drummaul, barony of Upper Toome, County Antrim.

Timothy Ferres, 2024

This place, which is situated on the River Maine, was from that circumstance called Mainwater, and also Ironworks, from the forges and furnaces formerly in extensive operation.

In the war of the Revolution the town was the headquarters of the Earl of Antrim's forces, who marched hence for the siege of Derry; and in the disturbances of 1793, a body of the insurgent forces attacked it, burned the market-house, and continued their devastations till the approach of Colonels Clavering and Durham, on the evening of the same day, when they retreated to Toome bridge.

In 1683, CHARLES II, in consideration of a fine of £200, granted to Rose, Marchioness of Antrim, the Manor of Edenduffcarrick [Shane's Castle], with all its rights and privileges, and constituted the town of Ironworks a free borough, with power to return two members to Parliament, to be chosen by the majority of the inhabitants, on precept to the seneschal of the manor issued by the sheriffs of Antrim.

The borough continued to return two members till the Union, when the franchise was abolished.

The town is pleasantly situated on the western bank of the River Maine, over which is a handsome bridge of nine arches.

Former barracks (Timothy Ferres, 2024)
The barracks for the staff of the county militia, whose headquarters and depot are here, are well built. This row of terraced houses was built in 1816 by the Earl O'Neill, Colonel, to serve as the barracks, which at that time comprised four officers and 93 soldiers; and it cost £2,000 (about £162,000 in 2024). Part of the parade ground remains in front of the houses, though originally it extended for about 120 yards beyond the viaduct. The barracks were sub-divided into separate dwellings in the 1860s, when the front porches were added.
Former hotel (Timothy Ferres, 2024)
The former inn was reputedly built in 1750 by Charles O'Neill, father of 1st Viscount O'Neill, as the O'Neill Arms Hotel and Posting House. Between 1824-35 it was leased to John Cooper, Quartermaster-Sergeant of the Antrim militia, and became Cooper's Hotel. In the early 20th century the erstwhile hotel became a private residence; while the curved section fronting onto Main Street became a police barracks from 1897-1936.
THE chief trade is the spinning of cotton and the weaving of calico, for which there are extensive mills; and there is a large bleach-green.

Market House, Randalstown (Timothy Ferres, 2024)

The market is on Wednesday and is abundantly supplied with wheat, flour, meal, and pork being sent to Belfast; there is also a market for linen and linen-yarn.

The market-house, in which are an assembly-room and rooms for holding the various courts, is a neat and well-arranged building.

There is a constabulary police station in the town.

(Timothy Ferres, 2024)

A manorial court, which is the property of the [first and last] Earl O'Neill, is held before the seneschal every month, at which debts not exceeding £20 are recoverable; and a court leet annually, at which a weigh-master, a market jury, and constables are appointed.

Memorial in parish church to 1st Earl O'Neill (Timothy Ferres, 2024)

The parish church, a handsome structure built in the early English style, 1832, with an octagonal freestone spire, is situated in the town, and stands on the site of a church erected in 1709.

Memorial to 3rd Viscount O'Neill (Timothy Ferres, 2024)

It cost £1800 [about £168,000 in 2024], of which the Earl O'Neill subscribed £300, besides giving a fine-toned organ.

O'Neill vault in graveyard of Drummaul parish church (Timothy Ferres, 2024)

Lord O'Neill has also built a beautiful mausoleum for his family close to the church, the family burial-place having been at Edenduffcarrick [Shane's Castle] since 1722.
The mausoleum was built ca 1838 at a cost of £500. It  is made of sandstone in classical style standing on a stepped base in a flagged enclosure bounded by a low plinth wall surmounted by iron railings. Fluted brackets and pediments adorn each face of the tomb; railings are ornamented with Palmette motifs alternating with spear-like finials. Inside the gateway are two large stone blocks set with iron rings for lifting and revealing access to the vault below. The tomb has a raised shield-like stone plaque on each short face; there are, however, no inscriptions. There are niches for eighteen coffins.
O'Neill vault (Timothy Ferres, 2024)

There are also a spacious and well-built RC chapel, two Presbyterian places of worship, and a dispensary.

Randalstown ca 1830 (Image: historic OS map). Click to enlarge.

THE land in the parish of DRUMMAUL, with the exception of a few farms, is in a very indifferent state of cultivation; there are bogs containing about 2,800 acres.

The Earl O'Neill's gorgeously wooded demesne of Shane's Castle, and for many years the seat of his family, occupies most of the vale southward to Lough Neagh, and the grounds and plantations extend far on both sides of the River Maine.

The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1816, and is now in ruins; the park, which is well stocked with deer, is ornamented with fine timber.

Millmount, the seat of agents to Lord O'Neill, Hollybrook, and Sharvogues are also in the parish.

The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Connor, and in the gift of the Marquess of Donegall, in whom the rectory is impropriate.

My friend Heather visited Randalstown recently:-
"Yesterday I  discovered Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council's wonderful work in maintaining the top of the Randalstown viaduct as a charming walk with lovely views over the village and the river, and with planting and seating (essential for those of us beginning to crumble!) along its length." 
"The 73ft (22m)-high Victorian viaduct was designed by Charles Lanyon and built by William Dargan in 1855-6, its eight arches carrying steam trains over the River Maine on the routes from Belfast to Cookstown and Ballymena."
"Randalstown railway station closed in 1950, and the final train passed over the viaduct in 1959. A regeneration programme in the late 1990s saw the creation of a walkway, and in 2022 the Elevation Community Garden was opened." 
"Today Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council maintain the walkway and planting to the same high standards as those seen in the Antrim Castle Gardens."

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