1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

LONDONDERRY (County of), a maritime county of the province of ULSTER, bounded on the south and south-west by the county of Tyrone; on the west, by that of Donegal; on the north-west, by Lough Foyle; on the north, by the Atlantic Ocean; and on the east, by the county of Antrim. It extends from 54° 37' to 55° 12' (N. Lat.), and from 6° 26' to 7° 18' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 518,423 acres, of which 388,817 are cultivated, 119,202 are mountain waste and bog, and 10,404 are occupied by water. The population, in 1821, was 193,869, and in 1831, 222,012.

The river Foyle appears to have been the Argita, and the Bann the Logia, of Ptolemy; and the intervening territory, constituting the present county of Londonderry, formed, according to this geographer, part of the country of the Darnii or Darini, whose name appears to be perpetuated in the more modern designation of "Derry." The earliest internal evidence represents it as being chiefly the territory of the O'Cathans, O'Catrans or O'Kanes, under the name of Tir Cahan or Cathan-aght, signifying "O'Kane's country:" they were a branch of and tributary to the O'Nials, and their chief seat was at a place now called the Deer Park, in the vale of the Roe. When their country was reduced to shire ground by Sir John Perrot, in the reign of Elizabeth, it was intended that Coleraine should be the capital; and the county was therefore designated, and long bore the name of, "the county of Coleraine," although it is a singular fact that the ruins of the court-house and gaol then built for the county are at Desertmartin, 15 miles from the proposed capital.


Derry was seized by the English towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, for the purpose of checking the power of O'Nial and O'Donnel; and when the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel fled the country, in 1607, nearly the whole of six counties in Ulster were confiscated. At this period the southern side of the county appears to have been possessed by the O'Donnels, O'Conors, and O'Murrys: the O'Cahans were not among the attainted septs, and consequently, in the ensuing schemes of plantation, many of them were settled among the native freeholders by James I., though they afterwards forfeited their estates in the subsequent civil war.

King James, conceiving the citizens of London to be the ablest body to undertake the establishment of a Protestant colony in the forfeited territory, directed overtures to be made to the municipal authorities; and on Jan. 28th, 1609, articles of agreement were entered into between the Lords of the Privy Council and the Committees appointed by act of Common Council. On the part of the citizens it was stipulated, that they should expend £20,000 on the plantation; and on the other hand, the Crown was to assign to them entire possession of the county of Coleraine, and the towns of Coleraine and Derry, with extensive lands attached, excepting 60 acres out of every 1000 for church lands and certain portions to be assigned to three native Irish gentlemen.

To this extensive grant the king added the woods of Glenconkene and Killetragh, and ordained that the whole should be held with the amplest powers and privileges, such as the patronage of the churches, admiralty jurisdiction on the coasts, the fishery of the two great rivers and all other streams, &c. For the management of this new branch of their affairs the Common Council elected a body of twenty-six, consisting, as at present, of a governor, deputy-governor, and assistants, of whom one-half retire every year, and their places are supplied by a new election.

In 1613, this company or court was incorporated by royal charter under its present style of "The Society of the Governor and Assistants of London of the New Plantation in Ulster, within the Realm of Ireland;" but is commonly known as the "Irish Society," and was invested with all the towns, castles, lordships, manors, lands, and hereditaments given to the city, which were erected by the charter into a distinct county, to be called "the County of Londonderry." The sum of £40,000 having now been expended on the plantation, it was deemed most advantageous to divide the territorial possessions of the Society into twelve equal portions, which were appropriated by lot to each of the twelve chief companies of the city, and so many of the smaller companies joined as made by their total contributions a twelfth of the entire sum. The twelve chief companies were the Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Tailors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners, and Clothworkers; and in their respective proportions is now included the chief part of the county.

The houses and lands in the city of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine, with their woods, fisheries and ferries (except that at the estuary of the Foyle, connecting the county with that of Donegal, which belonged to the Chichesters), not being susceptible of division, were retained by the Society, who were to receive the profits, and account for them to the twelve chief companies.

In 1616, information was received by Sir Thomas Philips of Newtown Limavady of a design formed by the Irish to surprise Londonderry and Coleraine, which being communicated to the Irish Government effectual measures were adopted for its prevention. On the communication of the intelligence to the Irish Society instructions were immediately issued by it to the twelve companies to furnish arms and accoutrements to be transmitted by the keeper of Guildhall for the better defence of the plantation, the prompt execution of which preserved the colony and gave new vigour to the exertions to stock it with English and Scotch settlers.

About the same period directions were also issued to the companies to repair the churches, to furnish each of the ministers with a bible, common-prayer book and communion cup, and to send thither a stipulated number of artizans; the trades thus introduced were those of weavers, hat-makers, locksmiths, farriers, tanners, fellmongers, ironmongers, glassblowers, pewterers, fishermen, turners, basketmakers, tallowchandlers, dyers and curriers. The Salters' company erected glasshouses at Magherafelt, and iron-works were opened on the Mercers' proportion near Kilrea which were carried on until timber failed for fuel. Notwithstanding the disbursement of large sums of money, at length amounting to £60,000, continued dissatisfaction was expressed by the Crown at the mode in which the stipulations of the society were fulfilled: in 1632, the whole county was sequestered; and in 1637, the charter was cancelled, and the county seized into the king's hands. Parliament, however, decreed the illegality of these proceedings; Cromwell restored the Society to its former state; and on the Restoration, Charles II. granted it a new charter, nearly in the same words as that of James, under which its affairs have ever since been conducted.

Of the twelve principal companies, all retain their estates except four, viz., the Goldsmiths, Haberdashers Vintners, and Merchant Tailors, who at various periods disposed of their proportions to private individuals.

  • The Goldsmiths' share was situated mostly within the liberties of Derry, south-east of the Foyle;
  • that of the Haberdashers was around Aghanloo and Bovevagh.
  • The Vintners had Bellaghy, and the Merchant Tailors' proportion was Macosquin.
  • These proportions are now held in perpetuity by the Marquess of Waterford, the Richardsons, the Ponsonbys, the Alexanders, and the heirs of the late Right Hon. Thomas Conolly.

Of the estates now belonging to the other eight companies,

  • the Mercers have Kilrea and its neighbourhood;
  • the Grocers, Muff and its dependencies;
  • Moneymore and its rich and improved district belongs to the Drapers;
  • the Fishmongers have Ballykelly;
  • Dungiven belongs to the Skinners;
  • Magherafelt to the Salters;
  • Aghadowey to the Ironmongers; and
  • Killowen, forming part of the borough of Coleraine, to the Clothworkers;
  • all are under lease, except those of the Drapers, Mercers, and Grocers, which are managed by agents, deputed by these respective companies.

The first intimation of the intended insurrection in 1641 came from Moneymore, in this county, through Owen O'Conolly, an Irish Protestant, in time to save Dublin, but not to prevent the explosion of the plot in the north. On the first day of the explosion Moneymore was seized by the Irish, and Maghera and Bellaghy, then called Vintners'-town, burned, as were most of the other towns and villages throughout the county. On the termination of the war the county and the city fell under the dominion of the parliament, and Sir Charles Coote and Governor Hunks ruled there with great severity. From the restoration to the revolution the county affords few materials for history; the siege of Londonderry, one of the most striking events of the latter period, more properly belongs to the history of the city.


The county is chiefly in the diocese of Derry, with some portions in those of Armagh and Connor. For the purposes of civil jurisdiction, it is divided into the city and liberties of Londonderry, the town and liberties of Coleraine, and the baronies of Coleraine, Tirkeeran, Kenaught, and Loughinsholin.

It contains

  • the city of Londonderry;
  • the borough and market-town of Coleraine;
  • the disfranchised borough, market and post-town of Newtown-Limavady;
  • the market and post-towns of Castledawson, Dungiven, Draperstown, Moneymore, Garvagh, Magherafelt, and Maghera;
  • and the post-towns of Bellaghy, Kilrea, and Tubbermore.
  • The principal villages are Articlave, Ballykelly, Claudy, Muff, Portstewart (each of which has a penny-post), Ballyronan, Desertmartin, and Swattragh.


It sent eight members to the Irish parliament, two for the county, two for the city and two each for the boroughs of Coleraine and Newtown-Limavady.

Since the Union it has sent only four to the Imperial parliament, two for the county, one for the city, and one for the borough of Coleraine; those for the city and county are elected in the city of Londonderry. The county constituency, as registered up to the October sessions of 1836, consists of 239 £50, 198 £20, and 1402 £10 freeholders; 41 £20 and 412 £10 leaseholders; and 7 £50, and 32 £20 rent-chargers; making a total of 2331 registered electors.

Londonderry is included in the north-west circuit: the assizes are held in the city, and quarter sessions are held there and at Coleraine, Newtown-Limavady, and Magherafelt.

  • The county gaol and court-house are in Londonderry, and there are courthouses and bridewells at each of the other sessions towns.
  • The local government is vested in a lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 8 deputy-lieutenants, and 61 other magistrates; besides whom there are the usual county officers, including four coroners, one for the city, one for the borough of Coleraine, and two for the county at large. Of its civil jurisdiction it is remarkable that, like the county of Middlesex, its sheriffs are those elected by the citizens of its capital, who serve for the whole, excepting the liberties of Coleraine: the town-clerk of Londonderry, also, is the clerk of the peace for the county at large.
  • There are 19 constabulary police stations, having in the whole a force of a stipendiary magistrate, a sub-inspector, a paymaster, 4 chief officers, 20 constables, 83 men, and 6 horses.
  • The District Lunatic Asylum, and County Infirmary are in the city of Londonderry, and there are dispensaries at Londonderry, Bellaghy, Tamlaght O'Crilly, Port-stewart, Dungiven, Magherafelt, Maghera, Glendermot, Lower-Cumber, Newtown-Limavady, Coleraine, Killowen, Moneymore, Aghadowey, Ballynascreen, and Garvagh, which are supported equally by Grand Jury presentments, and by subscriptions from the Irish Society, the London companies, the landed proprietors, and other private individuals.
  • For the convenience of holding petty sessions, the county is divided into the districts of Coleraine, Garvagh, Innisrush, Maghera, Moneymore, Magherafelt, Kilrea, Inver, city of Londonderry, Newtown-Limavady, Muff, Dungiven, and Clady.
  • The amount of Grand Jury presentments for the county and city, for the year 1835, was £23,996. 16. 1., of which £1756. 12. 7. was for the roads, bridges, buildings, &c., of the county at large; £7464. 16. 3. for the roads, bridges, &c., of the baronies; £8702. 11. 10. for public buildings, charities, salaries of officers, and incidents; £2066. 17. 6. for the police; and £4005. 17. 11. for repayment of advances made by Government.
  • In the military arrangements the county is included in the northern district.


In form the county approaches to an equilateral triangle: its greatest length is from the point of Magilligan, at the mouth of Lough Foyle, nearly southward, to the vicinity of Coagh, a distance of 32 ½ miles. Although by no means distinguished for picturesque beauty, its surface presents many varieties of form, from the flat alluvial lands along its rivers to the wildest mountains. The latter form its central portion, extending in various chains, covered chiefly with heath, from near the sea-coast to the southern limit. Sawel mountain, in the south, attains an elevation of 2236 feet; Slieve Gallion rises to the height of 1730 feet; Carntogher, near the source of the Roe, 1521 feet; Donald's Hill, east of the same river, 1315 feet; Benyevenagh, forming the termination of that range towards the sea, 1260 feet; and Legavannon, between the Roe and the Faughan, 1289 feet.

Even in these wild regions there are secluded vales, called by the inhabitants "slacks," in which are often found charming spots of fertile soil and romantic scenery. The principal of these are, Faughanvale, where there are some romantic waterfalls; Muff-glen, which, with the beautiful glen of the Ness, affords mountain passes from the Foyle to the Faughan; Laughermore, between the Roe and the Faughan, which commands various fine prospects, and has in its vicinity numerous traces of ancient forests; Lissane, with some deep romantic glens; Feeny, between the higher parts of the Roe and the Faughan, into which several other glens open, of which the most beautiful is Fin-glen; the neighbouring slacks of Moneyniceny and Carntogher; that of Ballyness, leading into the wild district of Glenullen; that of Dunmore, between Coleraine and Newtown-Limavady; and that of Druim-na-Gullion, to the north. The most extensive and diversified view in this part of Ireland, is that from the summit of Benyevenagh, near the mouth of the Roe, from which mountain the huge masses of fallen strata form successive terraces descending to the sandy flats bounded by Lough Foyle and the ocean.


The great natural divisions of the profitable lands are, the rich and fertile vales of the Roe, the Faughan, the Foyle (with the liberties of Londonderry), the Moyola, the shores of Lough Neagh, the half valley of the Bann (with the liberties of Coleraine), and the sea coast with the flats of Lough Foyle. The longest of the vales opening from the mountains is that of the Roe, environed by hills appropriated as sheepwalks, and in many places having midway up their declivities a sort of natural terrace, frequently two or three hundred yards in breadth. To the west is the nearly parallel vale of Faughan, which, next to those of the Roe and the Moyola, displays, from Clondermot to the coast of Lough Foyle, one of the most delightful tracts in the county: a considerable portion, however, is occupied by rough though valuable turbaries, while other parts are clothed with natural wood: in the higher part the scenery is frequently romantic, and in other places is improved by round alluvial hills.

The vale of the Foyle is highly improved, and comprises the western extremity of the county, in which stands the city of Londonderry. The rich vale of Moyola extends from the eastern side of the mountains of Ballynascreen, towards Lough Neagh, being bounded on the south by Slieve Gallion. The borders of Lough Neagh form a low tract which presents a rich landscape, its surface being composed partly of gentle swells, and its fertility broken only by some extensive bogs. Around Ballinderry are considerable steeps, and at Spring Hill and over the town of Moneymore is a beautiful range of high land: beyond this extends a rich low tract called "the Golden Vale of Ballydawley." Lough Neagh bounds the county for nearly six miles, when the Bann, issuing from it, immediately falls into Lough Beg, the Londonderry shore of which is five miles in extent. The half valley of the Bann is composed of bleak ridges or tummocks of basalt, with a few more favoured spots near the streams, but accompanied by a series of scattered bogs, bordering the course of the river. These sometimes comprise high and barren swells, with lakes and small bogs intervening.

About Tubbermore, Fort William, and Maghaer, however, there is a pleasing and more fertile tract; and the interior of the district bordering on the Bann is greatly enlivened by the woody scenery around Garvagh. The sea coast, formed by the Atlantic for 12 miles from Portrush to Magilligan point, and thence for 16 miles by Lough Foyle, exhibits a succession of varied and interesting scenery. Commencing with Portrush it presents a number of creeks and inlets, of which the most remarkable is Port-Stewart, whence to the mouth of the Bann is a strand of great extent and beauty, succeeded by a range of cliffs rising boldly from the sea, on the summit of one of which is the mansion of Down Hill and Mussenden Temple, built by the Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry. From Down Hill to Magilligan Point, a distance of 7 miles, is a strand extending a mile in breadth from the base of the mountains to the water's edge, and on which the whole army of Great Britain might be reviewed. Thence the coast turns nearly due south to the mouth of the Roe, presenting a dreary expanse in which is seen only a deserted house half covered by drifted sand, and a martello tower, after which a varied tract of highly improved land continues to the mouth of Londonderry harbour.

The soil is of great variety. The vale of the Roe chiefly consists of gravelly loams of different degrees of fertility; the levels on the banks of the river are very rich; and though the higher grounds are sometimes intermingled with cold clays, there is scarcely any unproductive land in it. In the vale of Faughan good loams are found in the lowest situations. Bond's glen, which joins it, and rests on a limestone base, is one of the most fertile spots in the county. The valley of the Foyle is also a strong loam below, declining in fertility and depth towards the heights. In the vale of Moyola are levels of the richest quality, but liable to great ravages by floods. In the district bordering on Loughs Neagh and Beg are found sharp gravelly soils of decayed granite, with some moorland, and then extensive swells of sandy loam with intervening flats of great fertility and some bog. Along the sea coast the soil is an intermixture of silicious and calcareous sand, occasionally covered with peat.

At the mouth of the Bann these sands form hillocks, kept from shifting by the roots of bent-grass and available only as rabbit-warrens; nearly the whole of Magilligan strand is warren, followed by sandy hills covered with bent, and extensive tracts of bog. Beyond Walworth, along the shores of Lough Foyle, the beach is covered with herbage, forming salt marshes greatly esteemed for grazing horses. Lough Foyle is a large gulf, which, communicating with the Atlantic by a very narrow mouth, opens into a fine expanse, extending 15 miles into the country to the city of Londonderry, and being 7 miles across where broadest. Though there are shifting sand banks in some parts, the largest vessel may ride in safety in it in all weathers. The principal part of the mountain soils is based on basalt, generally presenting nothing to the view but bleak knolls rising out of the bog and covered with heath or marshy plants: In some more favoured situations the soil, though poor and loose, produces an herbage greedily depastured by sheep; and in the slacks or glens are found loams of better quality, varying in texture according to the soil of the hills from which they have been deposited.


The fertile soils are chiefly under tillage, in farms varying in size from 2 to 200 acres and averaging eight. Though wheat is cultivated on some of the richest soils, barley is grown to a far more considerable extent, especially in the districts bordering on Lough Neagh, also around Myroe and Coleraine; the other crops most extensively raised are oats, potatoes, and flax; barley is said to pay the summer's rent and flax the winter's. Beans were formerly grown in vast quantities in Aghanloo and in Myroe, and rye in some of the lower districts, but both are now uncommon; four kinds of wheat, red, white, plain and bearded are sown, the produce of which varies from twelve to twenty barrels per acre; of barley, which is all of the four-rowed kind, called bere or Scotch barley, from eight to fourteen barrels of 21 stone (one-half more than the wheat measure); and of oats, of which the brown Poland, light-foot, blantire and potato oat are commonly sown, from 30 to 70 bushels per acre.

Potatoes yield from 200 to 800 bushels per acre. An acre of good flax will produce twelve stocks, each yielding seventy-two pounds of clean scutched flax; but the common produce is one-third less. Turnips are grown by all the gentry and leading farmers, and mangel-wurzel is a favourite crop with some, but its cultivation is yet imperfectly understood. The principal artificial grass is clover, to which the annual and perennial ray are sometimes added: these seeds are generally sown as the last crop of a course, but the common farmers seldom sow any, trusting to the powers of the soil and the humidity of the climate to restore the herbage: the prevailing kind is, in marshy situations, the fiorin, or jointed grass, which produces crops of amazing weight and good quality. Of manures, lime, which can be procured in almost every part of the county, is in most extensive use, that of Desertmartin being esteemed the best; the contiguous marl is also used, especially at Cruint-ballyguillen, or the Leck.

In the maritime districts, and from six to ten miles inland, a favourite manure is sea-shells brought by boats from islands in Lough Foyle. the shells are chiefly oyster, muscle, and cockle; from 30 to 60 barrels are spread on an acre. Shelly sand is also gathered from the coast and from the shores of the Bann: trenching and throwing the mould on an unturned ridge, and the burning of peat for the ashes, are likewise practised. The breeds of cattle of every kind are much improved by judicious crossing; Derry not being a sheep-feeding county, the attention of the farmers has been less turned to this species of stock; yet some of the gentry have large flocks. Pigs are to be found in almost every house and cottage; they are usually slaughtered at home and the carcasses sent to market for the supply of the provision merchants of Belfast, Londonderry, and Coleraine.

Of the horses, one breed is the active, hardy mountain garran, of a bay or sorrel colour and slight make: the Scottish highland horses are likewise in great request, and, together with a cross with the sinewy draught-horse, are in common use. A cross with the blood horse has also been introduced. Myroe is famous for good cattle. All the improved agricultural implements are in general use; the advances made in every department of rural economy have been considerably promoted by the exertions of the North-West Farming Society, which holds its meetings in Londonderry and receives an annual donation of ten guineas from the Irish Society of London. Among wildfowl, one species is very remarkable, the barnacle, which frequents Lough Foyle in great numbers, and is here much esteemed for the sweetness of its flesh, in like manner as at Wexford and Strangford, though elsewhere rank and unsavoury: this difference arises from its here feeding on the fucus saccharinus.

The ancient abundance of timber is evinced both by tradition and public documents, also by the abundance of pine found in all the bogs, of yew at Magilligan, and of fossil oak and fir in the mosses, even in the most exposed situations; but the woods have been wholly demolished by the policy of clearing the country, the lavish waste of fuel, the destruction made by exporting staves (once the staple of the county), and the demand for charcoal for smelting lead and iron. Coal, chiefly from Lancashire, is the principal fuel of the respectable classes in Londonderry and its vicinity. English, Scotch, and Ballycastle coals are used at Coleraine: but almost the universal fuel of the county is turf; in the fertile and thickly inhabited districts many of the bogs are exhausted, and recourse has been had to those of the mountains.


Geologically the county is composed of two great districts, divided into two nearly equal portions by the course of the Roe. The western is the extensive mountain tract reaching from that river to Strabane, in which mica-slate predominates in such proportions as to compose nine-tenths of the whole; it is accompanied by primitive limestone in the lower districts, especially in those bordering on the vale of the Roe. On the eastern bank of the same river this system of mountains is succeeded by a range of secondary heights, reposing on and concealing the mica-slate, which dips under them eastward. On these is piled a vast area of basalt, forming the basis of almost the entire country between the Roe and the Bann. These basaltic strata dip with the fall of the hills towards the north-east, to meet the opposite dip of the strata on the other side of the Bann, forming the other half of this great basaltic tract.

The covering of basalt appears to acquire its greatest thickness on the north, where, as in the cap of Benyevenagh, it is more than 900 feet thick. Between the basalt and the subjacent mica-slate are found in close succession many of the most important formations which occupy a great part of the southern and eastern counties of England. Next to the basalt (descending westward towards Lough Foyle and the vale of the Roe, and to the rich lands in the vale of Moyola and its vicinity) is found chalk, in beds of an aggregate thickness of about 200 feet, analogous to the lower beds of the English chalk formation, and therefore approaching in character to white limestone, being used and commonly designated as such. Even in its fossils and organic remains, this chalk is perfectly identified with that of England.

Next is seen mulatto, precisely analogous to the green sandstone formations of England: the mulatto rests immediately on a lias limestone, blue and argillaceous, disposed of in small beds alternating with slate clay, and distinguished by ammonites, gryphites, and other fossil remains. The lias, in turn, reposes, as in England, on beds of red and variegated marl, containing gypsum, and even distinguished by numerous salt springs; and this marl is underlaid by a thick deposit of red and variegated sandstone, containing clay galls, and in its turn incumbent on the mica-slate formation.

Sometimes, however, the mulatto and lias are entirely wanting, and the chalk may be seen immediately resting on the sandstone, both of which are constant and continuous. The deep valleys separating the detached eminences of the basalt region afford abundant evidence of their formation in excavations of part of the solid strata by some vast convulsions or operations of nature.

North-east of the source of the Roe is a small detached district of mica-slate, nearly surrounded by the basaltic ridges of Benbradagh and Cragnashoack, and forming the entire mass of the mountain of Coolcoscrahan. The mountain limestone, which is micaceous and granular, occurs to the most remarkable extent on the north-west side of Carntogher mountain, in Bennady glen, near the old church at Dungiven, at Banagher, near Clady, near Newtown-Limavady, and on Slieve Gallion mountain, where it contains crystallised hornblende in abundance. Hornblende slate occurs in Bennady glen, Aglish glen, and the bed of the Roe river near Dungiven, where it is contiguous to the primitive limestone. Porphyry is the fundamental rock on the east side of Slieve Gallion, and one variety resembles sienite, with which it is in connection. Transition trap also occurs on Slieve Gallion.

The transition limestone, intervening in a few places between the primitive formations and the sandstone, is of the same kind as that which occupies so great a portion of the central counties: it is of a smoke grey colour, contains two sorts of terebratulites, and nodules of glassy quartz, which render it dangerous to blast; but being, nevertheless, the best species in the county for manure and all ordinary purposes, it is most extensively quarried. The sandstone extends the entire length of the county, from its northern extremity near Down Hill up the eastern side of the Roe, and surrounding Cragnashoack and Carntogher mountains, whence it stretches by the eastern declivity of Slieve Gallion into the county of Tyrone.

The upper strata of chalk are characterised by parallel beds of flinty nodules; and, at their junction with the basalt, these flints are found embedded in the lowest member of the trap deposit: it is curiously affected by intersecting dykes filled with basalt. The only great geological phenomenon exhibited on the sea-coast is the gradual emergence of the chalk from under the trap beds. The basalt is chiefly tabular, with the varieties called greenstone, amygdaloidal wacké, &c. A laminated schist of the mica-slate formation is quarried between Derry and Newtown; there is a good quarry of lamellated schist between Bond's glen and Gossaden; gneiss occurs in the quarries of the mica-slate near the Faughan river; granite on the northern summit of Slieve Gallion; the finest rock crystals are found in Finglen, Dungiven, Banagher, and in the primitive mountains near Learmount; and steatite is found in the basaltic region. Iron is found disseminated through many of the strata of the county, and in the basalt is sometimes so abundant as to affect the needle.

Ironstone, found in great abundance in Slieve Gallion, was formerly worked, but the undertaking was abandoned on the failure of fuel. The metal is found in a mixed state with manganese, and in the mountain streams, mounds of it are observed in the character of yellow ochre. To the abundance of this metal in the peat moss are owing the red colour and weight of the ashes. Coal, copper, and lead have been found in very small quantities.


The staple manufacture is that of linen, of which the raw material is grown here, chiefly from American and Riga seed, though partly from Dutch, which is most esteemed. The flax is spun by the rural population, and the weavers themselves are husbandmen; so that during seed-time and harvest the loom is abandoned. The flax is generally spun from three to four hanks in the pound weight, and the tow yarn is made into sacking for home use. The coarser yarn is carried to Londonderry to be exported to Liverpool for Manchester, and some to Scotland, the finer being disposed of at Coleraine, Newtown, &c.

The fabric made in Coleraine is the finest, and all webs of the same texture, wherever manufactured, are called Coleraines. The fabrics of Londonderry are of two kinds, one only twenty-seven inches wide, made of tow yarn, and called Derry wrappers; the other thirty-two inches wide, and made of fine yarn. Considerable quantities of linens are exported unbleached; the coarse chiefly to Liverpool. The white linens are shipped from Londonderry or Coleraine to Liverpool or London. Coarse red pottery is made at Agivey, and at some other places.

There are several distilleries and breweries, and numerous corn and flour mills. The coast abounds with all the ordinary kinds of fish, which are taken for home consumption; but the principal fisheries are those of salmon and eels in the Bann, which are superior in extent to any others in Ireland, employing a great number of persons; almost the entire produce of salmon is exported. There are several other considerable fisheries along the sea-coast and in the small rivers; but most of the salmon brought to the provincial markets comes from a distance of several miles, and is much inferior to that of the Bann.

The commerce of the county centres in the city of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine, but chiefly the former. At Ballyronan, on Lough Neagh, vessels of sixty tons' burden can unlade, and, though the exports are inconsiderable, timber, iron, slates, coal, flaxseed, hardware, and groceries are landed in large quantities.


The principal rivers are the Foyle, the Bann, the Roe, and the Faughan. The Foyle, which derives its name from the smoothness of its current, intersects the liberties of the city of Londonderry, in a majestic course north-eastward, having descended from Lifford, where, after the union of several important streams, it first obtains its name: at Culmore, six miles below the city, which it appears formerly to have insulated, it expands into the estuary of Lough Foyle. The Bann, or "White River," so-called from the purity of its waters, intersects the liberties of Coleraine, within four miles of its junction with the ocean; but the navigation is greatly obstructed by shallows and a very dangerous bar, where the currents of the freshwater and the tide meet.

The Roe, or "Red River," so-called from the colour of its waters, receives at Dungiven the Owen-Reagh: hence, in its course directly north, it receives from the mountains on each side the Owen-Beg, the Gelvin-water, the Balteagh river, and the Castle and Curley rivers; and winding through the fertile flat by Newtown-Limavady, it falls into Lough Foyle at Myroe. The flat country bordering the lower part of its course is exposed to sudden and impetuous floods poured down from the surrounding mountains: many acres of the finest lands are with difficulty defended by embankments, and even with this protection the securing of the crop is never a matter of certainty. The deposits brought down by this river form many shifting banks in the Lough, which prevent its mouth from becoming a convenient little port, although there is sufficient depth of water at high tides.

The Faughan in its course receives numerous rills and streams from the surrounding heights, and falls into Lough Foyle. The Moyola is a considerable stream descending into Lough Neagh; the principal tributaries of the Bann are the Clady, Agivey, and Macosquin streams. There are no canals connected with the county, but an inland navigation, either by a canal, or lateral cuts along the Bann, is contemplated from Lough Neagh to Coleraine, and a bill is now being applied for to enable the proprietors of the lands around the lake to lower it to a summer level, and thereby render the Bann navigable to Coleraine.

The contemplated line of railway from Armagh to Portrush will pass for more than 30 miles through the county, but no steps have yet been taken respecting it, beyond the selection of the line. The roads are numerous and highly important, several very useful lines have been made and others greatly improved solely at the expense of the Drapers' Company; all the other roads are made and kept in repair by Grand Jury presentments. Several new lines of road are contemplated, the principal of which is a mail road from Belfast to Derry, of which that portion from the Pullans to Coleraine is already commenced.


In the original plantation of the county in 1609, and the subsequent years, the English settlers were located in the fertile tracts along the borders of Loughs Foyle and Neagh, and the banks of the Roe and Bann; the Scotch were placed in the higher lands as a kind of military barrier between their more favoured brethren of the south country and the Irish, who, with the exception of a few native freeholders, were removed to the mountain districts. The varieties of religion corresponded with those of country, the English being Protestants of the Established Church; the Scotch, Presbyterians, or other sects of Protestant dissenters; and the Irish, Roman Catholics. This arrangement of severance long prevented, and still in some degree continues to prevent, the amalgamation of the several classes.

The Irish, shut up within their secluded mountain ravines, retain many of their peculiarities of language, customs, and religion; those of Glenullin, though near a large Protestant settlement at Garvagh will admit none but members of their own church to reside among them, though in other respects they are on terms of great kindliness with their neighbours of a different creed, except when under the excitation of party animosity.

The residences of many respectable gentlemen are in the cottage style, generally ornamented and surrounded with planting and gardens: the habitations of the rural population are of every description, from the slated two-story house of brick or stone, and the long narrow cottage with two or three partitions, to the cabin of dry stone or clay, without even a window. In the districts of Coleraine and Desertmartin, where lime is plentiful, the dwellings of the peasantry are neatly white-washed, and sometimes rough-cast, but in other parts they present a very sombre appearance.


Remains of its ancient inhabitants of every period are scattered over the county. There is a cromlech at Slaght Manus, another at Letter-Shandenny, a third at Slaghtaverty, and others at Bally-na-screen: some had been surrounded by a circle of upright stones. There are remains of sepulchral mounts or tumuli at Mullagh-cross, and a vast tumulus is seen at Dovine, between Newtown-Limavady and Coleraine, besides several of smaller dimensions. Numerous cairns are met with in every quarter, especially on the summits of the mountains. Near Dungiven is a very remarkable sepulchral pillar.

Raths or Danish forts are likewise scattered in chains in every direction, each being generally within sight of two others: the most remarkable is that called the Giant's Sconce, anciently commanding the communication between the districts of New-town and Coleraine. Ditches enclosing spaces of from half a rood to several acres are also discernible contiguous to these forts.

There is a curious mound surrounded with a moat on the road from Springhill to Lough Neagh; and another, of larger size, at Dungorkin, on the road from Cumber Clady through Loughermore. Ancient intrenchments of different character are seen at Prospect, and between Gortnagasan and Cathery. Various coins, pins, rings, and forks have been found about a moat near Lough Neagh, and, among other ancient instruments, quern stones have often been discovered. Hatchets made of hard basalt, spears of grey granite, and barbed arrow-heads of flint (the last sometimes neatly executed, and vulgarly called elf-stones) are very frequently found.

Sometimes gold and silver coins, fibulae, and gorgets, with other ornaments, are dug up, but these are rare. There are many artificial caverns, which seem to have been designed for the concealment of goods, or for the refuge of families in case of sudden attack: the sides are built of common land stones without cement, and the roof is composed of flags, or long stones, but the vault is seldom high enough for the passage of a man in a stooping posture; they consist sometimes of different galleries, and the mouth was most usually concealed by a rock or grassy sod.

Besides the remains of monastic institutions in the city of Londonderry, seventeen others appear to have existed within the limits of the county; there are still remains of those situated respectively at Camus, Errigal, Tamlaghtfinlagan, Domnach-Dola, and Dungiven, at the last of which are the most interesting of all the ecclesiastical ruins. Near the old church of Banagher is a monastic building almost entire.

There are few castles of Irish erection. Ballyreagh, on a rocky cliff overhanging the sea, is said to have belonged to one of the Mac Quillans; and a castle which stood near the church of Ballyaghran is reported to have been the abode of the chief of that sept. There were several English castles, with bawns and flankers, built by the London companies, one at least in every proportion of allotment, but they are all in ruins except Bellaghy, which is still occupied.

SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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