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Ireland Gazeteer

Lisburn in 1839

LISBURN, a parliamentary borough town, not corporate, situated partly in the barony of Upper Massereene and county of Antrim, and partly in the barony of Upper Castlereagh and county of Down, in Ireland. The parish, called likewise Blaris, extends also into the barony of Lower Iveagh, in the county of Down. The town is 73 Irish or 93 statute miles from Dublin, and 7 Irish or 9 statute miles from Belfast. The boundaries of the borough, as settled by 2 and 3 William IV, c.89, comprise 1,325 statute acres.

This town took its origin from the erection of a fortified mansion, about 1610, by Lord Fulk Conway, to whom a large part of the territory of Kilultagh had been granted by James I. These grants were enlarged and confirmed to Viscount Conway in the succeeding reign, during which the number of English and Welsh settlers in the town and neighbourhood greatly increased.

The town was at this time called Lisnegarvey, and soon became a considerable place, as appears by the gallant and successful defence which it made against the Irish under O'Neill on the 28th November, 1641.

The town and castle continued in the hands of the Royalists until 1650, when Sir Charles Coote took possession of the place for the parliament. On the Restoration, King Charles II, in consideration of the loyalty and services of the inhabitants, granted them a patent, dated 27th October 1662, by which the church of Lisburn was erected into a cathedral for the united diocese of Down and Connor, and the inhabitants of the borough were empowered to return two members to the Irish parliament.

On the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Lisburn became the residence of a number of French refugees, who introduced the linen and damask manufacture, from which much of the succeeding prosperity of the place has arisen.

A fire which occurred in 1707 burned down the castle and the chief part of the town. The castle gardens were then turned into a public promenade, and the town rebuilt in a more substantial and handsome manner.

During the prosperous period which intervened between the time of the Irish volunteers and the rebellion of 1798 Lisburn increased rapidly. Since that time the town has rather declined, owing probably to the superior facilities for carrying on the linen and cotton-spinning trades possessed by the neighbouring seaport of Belfast.

The seneschal of the manor of Kilultagh is the returning-officer in elections for the borough, which, since the Union, is represented in the imperial parliament by one member. The number of electors in March, 1836, was 134. The right of election by act 2 and 3 William IV, c.88, is vested in the £5 householders.

The appearance of Lisburn is very pleasing. It is situated on a gently rising ground, on the north-western or Antrim side of the Lagan.

The market-house occupies open space in the centre of the town, where the three principal streets meet. It is a handsome building, with a cupola.

Near the market-house is the church, an elegant edifice with a lofty spire, on each side of which the two streets leading towards Belfast and the old bridge over the Lagan diverge.

The castle gardens are included between the former of these and the river, over which the walks and terrace command a fine prospect.

The houses in the main street are chiefly built of English brick, and have a very elegant appearance. Those in the opposite or western end of the town are of an inferior description, and the suburb towards Moira is mean.

Of 992 houses within the borough, 675 are roofed with slate, which is an unusually large proportion of that class of houses in an Irish inland town.

The manor court-house, formerly a chapel for the French Huguenots, and the linen hall, are substantial and commodious buildings. There are also three Presbyterian meeting-houses, one Methodist ditto, and one Roman Catholic chapel.

Lisburn is well paved, and is amply supplied with water by conduits to the houses. The provisions of the Lighting Act have not been applied. The constabulary force quartered in the town discharge the duties of municipal police.

On an island in the Lagan, in the eastern suburbs, are extensive vitriol-works. Some of the largest bleach-greens for linen in Ireland are in the vicinity; and in the town are print-works for muslins, and a diaper and damask factory, much celebrated for the beauty of its fabrics.

A navigation extends from the town by the river Lagan to the sea at Belfast, and by the river and a canal to Loch Neagh. A railroad is now nearly completed between Belfast and Lisburn, which is intended as the commencement of a line through Armagh to Dublin. This is the second work of the kind hitherto undertaken in Ireland.

In 1812 the number of houses in the borough was about 800, and the estimated number of inhabitants 4,812. In 1831 the number of houses was 992, and of inhabitants 5,745.

In 1824 there were in the parish of Lisburn seven day-schools, educating 756 males and 548 females. Of these schools two were supported by the Association for Discountenancing Vice, and two others were partly supported by subscribers.

The county infirmary is at Lisburn, and there are almshouses for fourteen females, supported by bequests, amounting in all to £2,750.