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Ireland Gazeteer

Downpatrick in 1837

DOWNPATRICK, the assize town of the county of Down, in Ireland, distant from Dublin 73 Irish or 93 English miles; situated in the barony of Lecale, one mile to the south of the Quoil river, which opens into the south-western angle of Strangford Loch about four miles to the east. Downpatrick is the seat of a bishopric, and returns a member to the imperial parliament. Constituency, 525.

The boundaries of the borough embrace an extent of 1,486 statute acres, containing 897 houses, of which 237 are thatched and 660 are slated: of the latter 285 are estimated to be worth £10 per annum.

Downpatrick takes its name from St. Patrick, who is stated in many ancient records to have been buried here. Before his time the place was called Rath Keltair and Dun-da-leth-glass, from an earthen fortification, the ruins of which still cover a considerable space, and present an imposing appearance on the north-west of the town.

On the conquest of Ulster by the English in 1177, De Courcy made Downpatrick his head-quarters, and it continued in the hands of the English until about the time of the rebellion of Shane O'Neill, in 1567, when it fell into the hands of the Irish, but was retaken by Sir Richard Morrison soon after.

The town is pleasantly situated in a rich, undulating country, surrounded by hills. There is a good court-house, a ruined cathedral, one church, two Roman Catholic churches, a Presbyterian meeting-house, a Methodist meeting-house, and a good market-house and gaol.

An hospital was founded here about 1740, by Mr. Southwell, for the reception of decayed tenants. The provisions of the Paving and Lighting Act were put in force here in 1829, since which time the town has been lighted with oil: expense, about £360 per annum.

There are branches of the northern banking company and of the provincial bank of Ireland at Downpatrick.

There are ten schools with small endowments within the deanery; a diocesan school, to which the bishop and clergy subscribe £90 per annum; and a gaol school supported by the county; besides a male and female school, supported by Lady Harriet Forde, and twenty-four other schools: total number of young persons under instruction, 897 males and 462 females.

Population in 1821, 4,123; in 1831, 4,784.