Official Guide 1/-


Circa 1960





I. Introduction

The Hillsborough Rural District covers 111 square miles in the north-west of County Down immediately to the south of suburban Belfast. On the north and north-west it is bounded by the River Lagan across which is County Antrim; to the south the district reaches almost to the Mourne Mountains at Slieve Croob, whilst eastward the boundary is not many miles away from the lovely Strangford Lough.
Landscape looking towards the Belfast Hill from Ravarnett

Landscape looking towards the Belfast Hill from Ravarnett

The area is a rich farming district and like most of this part of Ulster it is made up of small farms whose buildings dot the landscape. In the south, amid a wilder country towards lovely Slieve Croob mountain are several placid lakes whose waters are well known to anglers. In the north-west are many areas of woodland which stretch to the lovely River Lagan and the adjacent Lagan Canal. Both are anglers' haunts and both have long quiet wooded reaches.

Small towns and villages are scattered across the area and reminders of a historic past include the prehistoric Giants Ring at Edenderry and the site of an ancient battleground at Saintfield. Dromara is the centre for the southern " lakes " and is well known as an anglers' centre on the upper swifter reaches of the Lagan. Hillsborough is one of Ulster's pleasanter old towns with the castle home of the Governor of' Northern Ireland as its main feature of interest, whilst other villages of note are Newtownbreda, Drumbo and Edenderry. Many of these places are within easy reach of Belfast and form pleasant excursions for people from that city. The Maze race-course, too, is a venue for Belfast folk - it lies north of Hillsborough and alongside the Lagan.

The whole district is a pleasant land of country and small towns and brings a surprising glimpse of the best of rural Ulster to the very gates of metropolitan Belfast

II. Around the Rural District

Annahilt and Ballykeel

Annahilt is a small village along the Hillsborough to Ballynahinch road. It is the site of one of the Rural District Council's Housing Schemes and the estate is well laid out in attractive surroundings. To the south and situated where the Hillsborough to Dromara road crosses that from Dromore to Ballynahinch is the roadside village of Ballykeel. Between Annahilt and Ballykeel is the settlement of Milltown which stands on Lough Agheny which is one of several Loughs in this part of the district. North-east of Annahilt is Lough Erne, whilst the two Bow Loughs and Lough Henney lie farther east in the direction of Saintfield. Lough Erne is a particularly attractive stretch of water. Lough Erne holds a good stock of big trout, but the food for these at the bottom of the Lough is so good that the fish are extremely difficult to tempt by the angler. The other Loughs all yield rare sport with pike, which are very numerous, and the occasional large trout. The U.T.A. Lisburn to Ballykeel and Dromara bus is useful for enabling anglers to reach these lakes.

Ballyskeagh and Drumbeg

These are two river Lagan villages to the north-east of the town of Lisburn. The Lagan Canal also passes through Ballyskeagh but is not now used for navigation. Hereabouts the Lagan river and canal flow together and form the border between the two counties.
Ballykeel Lough Shaws Bridge
Ballykeel Lough Shaws Bridge

Pleasant tow path walks are available through a land of rich woods, lush pastures and well-tilled fields with an occasional linen mill here and there. At this point the Lagan makes the greatest fall in its 43-mile course. The canal is under the control of the Roads Division of the Ministry of Commerce, and permits, costing 5 - for the season, may be obtained from tile Lock-keeper, First Lock, Lagan Canal, Stranmillis Road, Belfast.

The River Lagan holds bream, perch, pike, eels, gudgeon and brown trout and despite the fact that it is over-fished it still offers superlative sport with brown trout. Credit is due to Lisburn, Dunrnurry and Iveagh Angling clubs for keeping, the river in such good condition and by their restocking programme and supervision of the fishing. the Lagan remains practically free throughout its course. Near Lisburn is a long deep stretch inhabited by large pike and farther up is good dry-fly trout water.

Drumbeg is beside the river and stands amid leafy lanes. The name means " little ridge." Of interest are the fine mediaeval church with with its handsome lych-gate and the Drumbeg inn with one of the most peaceful and pretty rose gardens in Ulster.


This is a rapidly growing area developing around a busy road intersection on the Belfast to Downpatrick Road. In the district is the Knockbracken Reservoir of the Belfast Water Commissioners which serves part of the city of Belfast. Many very attractive building estates have been developed in this locality which is in an elevated position overlooking the Lagan Valley with pleasant views of the Antrim Hills and the Mourne Mountains. Main water supplies and a main sewerage system are now in course of completion and sites have been earmarked by the Council for Playing Fields.



Fishing on the Lagan (Near Broomhedge). Bridge over the River Lagan in Dromara.

Fishing on the Lagan (Near Broomhedge).

Bridge over the River Lagan in Dromara.

Dromara is a busy little township in the very south of the rural district with roads radiating to Ballynahinch. Banbridge, Hillsborough and south to the coast at Dundrum Bay. Above the houses of the town huddled in their valley rises the I,502 feet height of Slieve Crook which is one of Ulster's loveliest mountains and a northern " outpost " of the Mourne range farther south. The Lagan river rises

 on the northern side of Slieve Croob and descending swiftly passes through Dromara en route to Belfast by way of Dromore and Lisburn. Angling in the river here -indeed from Dromore right through Dromara up to Slieve Croob is good with trout to be expected at almost every cast.

North-east of Dromara is an agricultural land with numerous lakes to delight both the angler and the lover of these quiet still stretches of water. Lough Agheny is well stocked with pike, whilst Glassdrummond Lake near the road to Saintlield holds pike and perch. These lakes may be fished quite freely. In this area of fields and lakes is ancient Mayheraknock Fort which is a reminder of former more troublous times.

Drumbo and Edenderry

Drumbo is an agricultural village amid the fields and lanes that lie between the Lagan and The " Lakes " of the southern half of the rural district. Several Large estates including those of Belvedere and Trench House Lie close to the village which is known for its ancient round tower (the only remaining one in County Down).

Round Tower at Drumbo.

Round Tower at Drumbo.

To the north of Drumbo are the villages of Purdysburn and Edenderry with the famous Giant's Ring located between them. Edenderry with the adjacent estate of Edenderry House is on the River Lagan which here follows a very winding course. The Lagan Canal nearby cuts a straighter path across the countryside. Edenderry (it means the " hill of the oak ") is a tidy little village with attractive scenery by its river lock. Here are the famous linen mills of John S. Brown and Sons Ltd. Close by also is picturesque Shaw's Bridge so beloved by artists and photographers. The Lagan Canal is here in one of its lovelier stretches near Shaw's Bridge. The Canal was constructed out of funds amassed by a tax on ale and whisky sales in the locality during the years from 1754 to 1764. In those days a pint of porter never exceeded 3d. and spirit was little more -yet �70,000 was built up for the Lagan navigation scheme.

The Giant's Ring at Ballynahatty between Edenderry and Purdysburn, is a very important Celtic and Druidical relic.It was most probably built as a fort or funeral monument by some great Ulster chief some 4,000 years ago and every one of its huge stones was carried by hand for some considerable distance. The 15-feet high ramparts form a very regular circle with a diameter of some 350 yards around the central grassed area. Excellent views of the Lagan valley and nearby hills is to be obtained from the top of these ramparts. The circumference is composed of 7 sections which may prove that the great prehistoric chief ruled over that number of tribes. In the centre stands a dolmen of 7 great stones supporting one more in table form - underneath was an ancient human burial site. Possibly an outer belt of stones formed an enclosure to the dolmen (or cromlech) but no trace of this now remains. In a somewhat later period this ancient ring was looked on as an object of superstition. Standing at the centre by the dolmen nothing but the sky is seen, the ramparts cutting off the outside world. One can imagine then, in this enclosed spot, the awesome scenes witnessed in those long past decades.


Hillsborough Parish Church.
Hillsborough Parish Church.

Hillsborough is a small and quite delightful town on the high road from Belfast to Newry and Dublin. however, despite its busy aspect, it still preserves an air of peace and the dignified houses run quickly down the steep twisting hills of the town. The lovely parish church nearby is approached by a splendid avenue of lime trees.

The town derives its name from Sir Arthur Hill who erected a castle here in the reign of Charles I. Charles II made it a royal fortress and Sir Arthur was constable with 20 warders. These have now been replaced by a company of the Irish Guards but a bugler still carries on his traditional custom at the parish church on Sunday mornings. The fort commanded the strategic pass of Kilwarlin and was used by William the third in 1690 whilst on his way to light the Battle of the Boyne. The room in which he slept still remains in the castle today. The castle is square with castellated turrets at each corner and matching battlements along the top of each of the four main walls. The town itself was built at this time by the Hill family, later the Marquises of Downshire. To them it owes its rather English appearance.

The castle stands in a large and lovely park on the south side of the town and is now used as the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland. Strangely enough, a Royal grant is still given annually for the castle's upkeep as a military fort. The Marquis of Downshire is a descendant of Sir Moyses Hill whose estates reached virtually from Lisburn through to Newry. A monument of the third Marquis stands on the hill top overlooking the estates. In 1924 the castle was purchased by the Imperial Government from the Downshire familv and here now lives the present Governor, His Excellency the Lord Wakehurst, K. C. M. G., LL.D.

The Maze Races
The Maze Races

Near Hillsborough are the B.B.C.'s Northern Ireland Radio Station and the very efficient Ministry of Agriculture Research Station. The Rural Council has recently acquired the site of the former Downshire Hotel (an old coaching inn) and here it is intended to erect a modern block to house all the Council's services.

To the north of Hillsborough and just within the rural district is the Maze, the oldest race-course in Ireland.(Mazetown, just beyond and over the Lagan, is in Antrim.) The race-course is a historic venue where many important races including the Ulster Derby, are run each year. The race-course is owned by a very old association-" The Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders " who were established in 1685 by a Royal Charter granted by James II of " England, Scotland, France and Ireland "-" for the improvement of horse breeding in the County of Down."


In the extreme north of the rural area, Newtownbreda borders the outskirts of Belfast and has become a popular residential district for that City. Despite this closeness to a large city, the original village of Newtownbreda is still a pleasant place of old cottages covered in honeysuckle and with roses in each garden. In the old churchyard is buried Richard Cox Rowe, a celebrated 18th century comedian. His memorial stone quaintly says-" If 'er thou was't claimed from dull anguish and woe, Pay a sigh-as a debt o'er the relicks of Rowe."

West of Newtownbreda and bordering the River Lagan is the Deramore estate and the Belvoir Park Golf Club. This beautifully wooded 18-hole course of 170 acres is very popular with Belfast golfers and is easily accessible to them. The club house is loftily sited with Newtownbreda behind it and in front fine views out over Colin and Black Mountains, Cavehill and much of the city of Belfast. Belvoir Park (home of the Deramore family) has been acquired by the Northern Ireland Housing Trust who are to erect 1,000 houses here. The Rural Council also plan to build a further 350 dwellings here.
Close to Belvoir Park are found the Northern Ireland Fever Hospital and Purdysburn Mental Hospital, both being sited in a wooded countryside.


Saintfield is the anglicised form of the Irish "Tonaghnieve," meaning "Hill of the Holy." Nothing is known of how the place got this name, nor of its early history, although the Norman Mound just N.W. of the town shows that it must have had some early history. Tonaghnieve was in that part of Ulster " planted " by James Hamilton from Scotland in the early seventeenth century, but whatever existed at that time must have been swept away by the rebellion of 1641 and even in 1658 after peace had been restored, there seems to have been no regular village. General Price bought the Manor in 1709 at which time the name of " Saintfield " was introduced. Harris writing in 1744 records that he " made a Town " and " opened and made passable the roads from Belfast and Down through it."

With a resident Landlord the town began to thrive and all went well until the rebellion of 1798 when Saintfield became a centre of the rebels. A party of York Fencibles was ambushed on the Comber

Saintfield Gorse surrounding bog where Betsy Grey was buried


Gorse surrounding bog where Betsy Grey was buried

 Road near the present Intermediate School and the victims buried nearby, leaving behind them the name of " York Island " for the little island in the marsh. The rebels took possession of the " Big House " of Nicholas Price (" Bloody Nick " to the rebels, who was away in Dublin at the time) but after three days moved on to Ballynahinch where they were defeated by the regular forces. A number of the Saintfield rebels were hanged at Downpatrick and others deported, including the Presbyterian Minister of Saintfield.

When coaches and post chaises were introduced in the early nineteenth century, Saintfield became a place for changing horses and a stable door, high enough to enable the postillion to ride his horse into the stable, is still to he seers in the yard of' McRoberts' Hotel. At this time the present main road was made so as to reduce the gradients.

Not so many years ago Saintfield Fairs, especially the Horse Fair, drew large crowds from far and near, but now the Fair Green is deserted and any horses coming into the town are probably destined for the Horse Abbatoir in the old Mill. The broad Main Street is a legacy from these Fairs much appreciated by the modern motorist and the Churchyard trees and old Court House make this street an attractive feature of the town.

A few miles south of the town are Rowallane Gardens, made famous by their late owner, Mr. Armytage Moore and now taken over by the National Trust. Thousands of visitors enjoy their beauty, every year, May being the peak month. The gardens are open from April to September on Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoons from 2 to 6 (2 to 9 on Wednesdays in May and June). Admission is 2/- and teas and light refreshments arc obtainable at weekends.

(These notes on Saintfield were kindly given by Col. M. C. Perceval-Price of Saintfield House.)

III, Travel Information

Since the closure of most of the Belfast and County Down Railway system and most of the Great Northern branches. the Hillsborough Rural District is now devoid of train services. The Ulster Transport Authority, however, provides an excellent bus service throughout the area. Time-tables ( I -) may he obtained from [he L U.T.A. ollices at 21. Linen Hall Street, Belfast.

The following routes serve the Rural District:

Service 12A. Comber-Saintfield -Ballynahinch (Daily).
Service 14. CARRY DUFF-DRUMBO (Daily)
Service 15. Belfast - PURDYSBURN - CARRYDUFF - SAINT-FIELD - Downpatrick (Daily).
Service 18.-- Service 20. Belfast - PURDYSBURN - CARRYDUFF - Ballynahinch - Newcastle (Daily).
Service 19. Ballynahinch-DROMARA - GRANSHA (Daily).
Service 22. Belfast-EDENDERRY-Lisburn (Daily).
Service 24. Belfast - BALLYSKEAGH - Lisburn (Daily).
Service 26. Belfast - Lisburn - BALLYCRUNE - BALLYKEEL - DROMARA (Daily).
Service 27. Belfast - Lisburn - HILLSBOROUGH - Donadeney (Daily).
Service 28. Belfast - Lisburn - HILLSBOROUGH - Dromore - Rathfriland (Not Sundays).
Service 38. Belfast - Lisburn - HILLSBOROUGH - Dromore - Banbridge - Newry ( Daily).


IV. General Information

Area The Rural District covers 111 square miles.
Banks Hillsborough-Northern Bank.
Saintfield-Belfast Bank: Northern Bank.
Education Primary schools are found at Hillsborough, Dromara and many villages throughout the rural district.
At Hillsborough is a special school (" Beechlawn ") run for backward children. At the neighbouring town of Lisburn are numerous primary schools as well as Intermediate Schools and Grammar Schools both of which serve part of the Hillsborough rural area.
At Ballynahinch are both Intermediate and Technical schools.
At Saintfield there is also an Intermediate school.
Electricity Supplied by the North of Ireland Electricity Board. Nearest offices and showrooms are at Lisburn and Ballynahinch. Newtownbreda gets its supply from Belfast Corporation.
Entertainments The Picture House at Lisburn. Continuous from 6.15 p.m. with afternoon matinees on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and a morning, matinee for children on Saturdays. Three changes of programme each week. No Sunday performances.
Gas Supplied to part of the Hillsborough Rural District by the Lisburn Gas Company. Offices and showrooms situated in Lisburn. Newtownbreda is supplied by Belfast Corporation.
Golf 'The 18-hole Belvoir Golf Club is found in the extreme north of the rural district close to Newtownbreda in lovely surroundings. Three others are found adjacent to the boundaries. These are the Lisburn Golf Club whose 9-hole course is at Lisburn just a half-mile from the rural boundary: the Spa Golf Club ( I S holes) near Ballynahinch and Dromara in the south of the area, and the Malone Golf Club of 18 holes in the southern suburbs of Belfast not far from Newtownbreda.
Hospitals The Lagan Valley Hospital (200 beds) at l Lisburn and the 60-bed Lisburn Hospital. Maternity needs are catered for at the Lagan Valley Hospital. These hospitals cater for not only Lisburn Town but the whole of the area covered by the adjacent Lisburn and Hillsborough Rural Districts. The Purdyshurn Mental Hospital and Northern Fever Hospital are located near Newtown-breda
Hunting The County Down Staghounds meet frequently in the district throughout the season.
Local Government The Hillsborough Rural District Council offices are situated at Dublin Road, Lisburn (Phone- 3l 17).
The officials are:
Clerk-Mr. J. C. M. Clague.
Engineer.-Mr. C. R. Mitchell.
Solicitor-Mr. D. B. Simpson.
Architect-Mr. W. B. Maxwell.
Medical Officer of Health-Dr. S. Hayes.
Housing Manager-Mr. R. Greer.
Divisional Sanitary Officer-Mr. W. E. C. O'Brien.
Administrative Assistant-Miss M. J. Napier.
Medical Officer of Health--Dr. S. Hayes.
Housing Manager-Mr. R. Greer.
Divisional Sanitary 0fficer-Mr. W. E. C. O'Brien.
Administrative Assistant-Miss M. J. Napier.

The Council's Building Inspector is located at Comber Road, Saintfield (Phone-313). Council meetings are held monthly.
The Council has erected 478 post-war houses and plan the building of a further 1,000. Extensive schemes have been prepared for the redevelopment of Saintfield and Milltown, Shaw's Bridge.
Public Health.
The Divisional Health Office for the district is at 414, Ormeau Road, Belfast (Telephone 42905) which is the Headquarters of the Medical Officer of Health and the Public Health Inspectorate. Child Welfare Clinics under the Down County Health Committee have been established at Newtownbreda, Ballylesson, Boardmills, Carryduff, Dromara, Drumbo, Hillsborough, Legacurry, Maze, and Saintfield.
The Divisional Welfare Office under the Down County Welfare Committee is also at 414, Ormeau Road, Belfast.
The Hillsborough Rural District Council is not the Planning Authority for the area, having delegated these powers to the Down County Council. The Planning Officer's Headquarters are at English Street, Downpatrick.
All public roads in the area are under the supervision of the County Surveyor of the Down County Council whose office is at English Street, Downpatrick.

Markets Weekly markets arc held at Lisburn and Ballynahinch.
Newspapers " The Ulster Star " (Saturdays, 4d.) and " The Lisburn Herald "-published in Lisburn. " The Down Recorder " (Saturdays, 3d.)-published at Downpatrick. " The Dromore Leader" (Fridays)-published at Dromore.
Population The Population of the Rural District at the 1951 census was 23,876 ( 11,742 males and 12,134 females). Today it is estimated to be 30,000.
Rateable Value �128,956.
Rates 24/11 in the pound (1959/60). (Of this 20/11 forms the general rate, the rest forming the water rate.)
Industry The basic industry is agriculture and the district includes some of the best agricultural land in the Province. All types of farming arc carried out in the area including dairy farming, mixed farming and market gardening.
Other industries include textile weaving, dyeing and finishing closely associated with the linen industry for which Northern Ireland is famous.
Several parts of the area are ideal for large-scale industrial development and sites up to about 80 acres may be available for this purpose. Ample water supply can be obtained (up to 600,000 gallons per day from mains supply; about 10,000 gallons per hour from artesian wells). Easy facilities for disposal of trade effluents. The areas adjoin the new " South Approach Motorway " at present under construction and this new roadway will provide easy access to the district for transport of raw materials and manufactured articles. Passenger transport and electricity supplies are already available.
A large pool of skilled and semi-skilled labour is available in the district and adjoining towns. Many of these are already skilled in the textile or engineering industries and most have a long family tradition of craftsmanship.

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this guide, and the statements contained herein are believed !n he correct. the publishers and the promoters of this publication will not hold themselves responsible for any inaccuracies.