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Ireland Gazeteer

County Down in 1837

Rivers, Canals, Roads & Railroads

With the exception of the Upper Bann, all the rivers of Down discharge their water into the Irish channel. The navigable river Lagan, which, throughout near half of its course, has a direction nearly parallel to the Bann, turns eastward at Magheralin, four miles north-east of which it becomes the county boundary, and passing by Lisburn, falls into the bay of Belfast, after a course of about thirty miles.

The Ballynahinch or Annacloy river brings down the waters of several small lakes south-east of Hillsborough, and widens into the Quoile river, which is navigable for vessels of 200 tons a mile below Downpatrick, where it forms an extensive arm of Strangford Loch.

The Quoile is covered with numerous islands, and its windings present much beautiful scenery.

The Newry river rises near Rathfriland, and flowing westward by the northern declivities of the Mourne range, turns south a little above Newry, and after a short course falls into the head of Carlingford Loch.

Numerous streams descend from the district of Mourne immediately to the sea, and there is no part of the county deficient in a good supply of running water.

The Lagan navigation, connecting Loch Neagh with Belfast Loch, gives a line of water communication to the entire northern boundary of the county: and the Newry Canal, connecting the navigable river Bann with the bay of Carlingford, affords a like facility to the western district, so that, with the exception of about ten miles between the Bann and the termination of the Lagan navigation, the entire county boundary is formed either by the coast line or by lines of water carriage.

The Lagan navigation was commenced in 1755, and cost upwards of £100,000, but owing to mismanagement and the difficulties of keeping a rapid river navigation in repair, it has not proved a profitable speculation. The summit level, towards Loch Neagh, is 112 feet above the level of the sea.

The Newry Canal admits vessels of 50 tons through the heart of Ulster. It was commenced in 1730, by commissioners appointed under an Act of the Irish Parliament, passed in the 3rd of George II, and was wholly constructed by government.

The original object was chiefly to afford a water carriage for the coals of Tyrone district to Dublin. The canal lies partly in the county of Down and partly in Armagh; it extends, from its junction with the Bann river near Guilford, to Fathom, on the bay of Carlingford, about 14 Irish or 17¾ English miles, having its summit level 77 feet above the sea.

The average breadth of the canal at top is 40 feet: the locks are 15 in number, and 22 feet in the clear. The canal was opened in 1741, but being among the first works of the kind attempted in Ireland it required numerous repairs, and has not yet made any considerable return for the original outlay.

From the year 1802 to the year 1817, the total amount of toll received was £27,838, 13 shillings, 6 , and the total expenditure was £70,495, 18 shillings, 8 pence, and for the succeeding ten years the gross receipts wore £25,461, 19 shillings, 6 pence, and the gross expenditure £16,897, 14 shillings, 7 pence.

This navigation was vested in the directors-general of Ireland navigation down to 1827. It is now under the control of the Board of Works.

Down is well supplied with roads. The great northern road from Belfast to Dublin passes through the county from north to south, by Hillsborough, Dromore, Banbridge, Loughbrickland, and Newry: this is the only turnpike road in Down.

The other chief lines are from Belfast to Donaghadee by Newtownards: from Belfast to Downpatrick by Ballynahinch: and from Downpatrick to Newry by Castlewellan and Rathfriland.

The roads in general are hilly, but well constructed, and kept in excellent repair by the grand jury.

The Ulster Railroad, from Belfast to Armagh, will pass through parts of the parishes of Moira and Shankill in this county. The entire length, when completed, will be 36 miles and 291 yards. A railroad has been projected from Belfast to Holywood, a bathing-place much resorted to by the citizens of Belfast in summer.