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The end of the 17th century and the early decades of the 18th century saw a number of changes taking place in Newry which shaped the development of the town and influenced its building industry. These include the arrival of new landlords, developments in estate management, economic improvements and the relaxation of the Penal Laws. 

No. 1 Trevor Hill built by Andrew Thompson, a merchant, between 1770 and 1775. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
No. 1 Trevor Hill built by Andrew Thompson, a merchant, between 1770 and 1775. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The destruction of Newry in 1689 by the Williamite forces did not preclude investors from realising opportunities afforded by the town. In the 1690s Michael Hill, whose family had been building up a substantial landed estate in county Down in the 17th century, purchased the townland of Carneyhough, which lay on the north and west sides of the site of the 16th and 17th century settlement. Part of this was known as the ‘Low Ground’ and the Hill family were to develop this area quite markedly during the course of the 18th century. Leases given to tenants often included terms for the building of houses. For example, in 1770, Andrew Thompson, merchant in the town, was to build ‘one good new house’ within five years of the date of his lease for property on Trevor Hill. 

Drawing of Newry Customs House, built in 1750 – 1752, which appears on the lease from Francis, Viscount Kilmorey to the Trustees of the Grand Jury of County Down in 1820 allowing the building to the used as a Bridewell. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Drawing of Newry Customs House, built in 1750 – 1752, which appears on the lease from Francis, Viscount Kilmorey to the Trustees of the Grand Jury of County Down in 1820 allowing the building to the used as a Bridewell. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The other new landlord to arrive in Newry during this period was Robert Nedham, who inherited Newry and the old Bagenal estates in south Down, from his cousin Nicholas Bagenal who died in 1712. Nedham began to develop his new urban property by granting long leases which encouraged wealthy merchants to settle in the town. Many of these merchants were responsible for building the imposing houses which were a feature of the streetscape of Newry up until the 1960s. Examples include the so-called ‘Dutch houses’ which dated from the early 18th century. Demolished in 1958, these houses were located in Boat Street, where Robert Nedham leased building land to Edward Corry in 1730. Houses of more modest proportions were also built on High Street and Castle Street.

18th century warehouses on Canal Quay in Newry in the 1960s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
18th century warehouses on Canal Quay in Newry in the 1960s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

During these years a port was also being developed in Newry which became the principal port in the region when the customs office was moved from Carlingford to Newry in 1726. This maritime success was strengthened with the building of Newry Canal which was started in 1732 and completed in 1742. The Canal had a major impact on the topography of the town and warehouses and stores began to be built along the quays in the later 18th and early 19th centuries, many of which still survive today. 

The 18th and early 19th centuries also saw various public and commercial buildings being erected. In May 1750, Robert Nedham made an agreement for the building of a new Custom House. After the opening of new Customs House on Merchant’s Quay in 1806, this building became Newry Bridewell. The Bank of Ireland, on Trevor Hill, was built in 1826, possibly to a design by the famous Armagh architect, Francis Johnston. 

Next week’s article will explore the impact of the relaxation of the Penal Laws ecclesiastical architecture in 18th and early 19th century Newry.

The ‘Dutch Houses’ which were built in the early 18th century and stood on Boat Street until 1958. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
The ‘Dutch Houses’ which were built in the early 18th century and stood on Boat Street until 1958. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

A lecture titled ‘The Built Heritage of South Down’ by Philip Smith from the Department of Communities, Historic Environment Division, will be held at Newry and Mourne Museum on Thursday 5th March at 2.00 pm. Admission is free but booking is essential. To book please contact Declan Carroll, Museum Education Officer, at 0330 137 4422 or email museum@nmandd.org

Examples of probable 18th century houses which were possibly located on High Street in Newry.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Examples of probable 18th century houses which were possibly located on High Street in Newry. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The Museum is open to the public seven days a week with admission free of charge. For opening hours, information on events and exhibitions, other services and bookings please phone 0330 137 4422 or visit www.bagenalscastle.com.

 by Ken Abraham

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