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Local History As Told By Ancient Maps

Belfast Post October 22 1931

Sidelights on Transport and Social Life in the Eighteenth Century.

Many facts of historical interest concerning Dunmurry, Malone, Lambeg, and Derriaghy are contained in two articles, the first of which appears below, specially written for the "Whig."

The author's purpose is to show how a study of local roads as they existed in the eighteenth century throws light on the transport and social developments of the period.


MOST of those who read this article will, I believe, readily accept my assurance that the neighbourhood with which it deals is one of exceptional interest, both historically and industrially. To be sure, a good deal of its history is modern, but for that reason it has a direct interest for us. As contrasted with the archaeologist the student of history who pursues his investigations there will meet with a variety of features associated with events whose influence is moulding the life of the present day. But this article is not primarily concerned with these developments.

My object is, through a study of our local roads in the eighteenth century, to show the conditions as regards transport and social intercourse in which these developments took place.

My remarks are based principally on three maps, namely, Kendrick's map of the County Antrim, published in 1780; the map which appears in Benn's earlier History of Belfast, published in 1824; and the Ordnance Survey map issued about 1832. Here I may also allude to a map which the same historian reproduced in his better-known History of Belfast, published in 1877. This map is a portion of the so-called Down Survey and first appeared about 1657. At that date the old bridge which preceded our Queen's Bridge had not been built, and so the first three bridges shown over the Lagan (upstream, of course) were "Shawe's Bridge," "Drum Bridge and town," and a bridge at Lambeg. This indicates that "Shawe's Bridge," or one and the same site was in. existence at that early date.

The Way to Lambeg.

How did one reach Lambeg in the eighteenth century , Apart from the routes by the Falls or by the present road through Newtownbreda (both of which would have been needlessly roundabout), the direct road was by Castle Street, Mill Street, Barrack Street, Durham Street, and Sandy Row. The last two taken together were until 1,850 or so known as the lower Malone Road, and the district through which these led was known as Lower Malone. From the top, or south end, of Sandy Row the road coincided with the present University Road as far as the Clocktower Lodge of the Botanic Gardens. I accept the view that the ancient course was by the present Stranmillis Road-i.e., past " Friarsbush " and skirting the grounds of the teachers' training, establishment; in other words, old Stranmillis House, this reach of it ending nearly opposite old Cranmore House, known at one time as" Orangegrove." This in 1600 was the residence of a Mr. John Eccles, who had the privilege of entertaining there--for a very brief period, however--no less a personage than H.M. King William IIII. At what time the straight cut (past Lennoxvale, Dunraven, and Danesford) was made has not yet been ascertained, but I suggest that it was about 1750. At. any rate, the present road is shown on Lendrick's map of 1780.

Here I shall make only passing allusion to the historic connection of Sir Moses Hill with Stranmillis and its much later associated wit h the Black family, both being of great interest.

The Wilsons of Maryfield would also justify separate notice were the object of this article of a more personal character. I shall, therefore, pass on till I come to the road L.H. leading to Newforge Works, It is in alignment with Balmoral Avenue (Stockman's Lane), but in 1780 the latter was non-existent, although it is shown as connecting the Malone and Falls - Roads before the modern Lisburn Road came into being. Lendrick's map does not show the Newforge Road, yet I am quite satisfied that it was there. A great many of the old County Antrim roads do not appear on this map, especially if a newer road had been recently provided. My reason for believing that the road existed is that the Bleach Works and residence of the then proprietor (a Mr. Hugh Allen) are shown, so that there must have been a road giving access to them.

The Russell Family.

At this period (1780) the well-known Russell family, afterwards associated with Newforge, were settled at Edenderry, where they carried on the business of flour milling, and, I think, also of bleaching. The then head of the family was succeeded at Edenderry by one of his sons, probably the elder, and Newforge was taken over by another son, John, whose wife was Mary Ann, daughter of William Magee by hiswife Jane Calwell. It was John Shaw Brown, I think, who followed the elder brother Russell at Edenderry, and Thomas Ferguson succeeded the younger brother at Newforge. The daughter of Thomas Ferguson married Lawson Annesly, himself an eminent linen merchant and bleacher, who resided in Deramore House adjacent to the present Belvoir, and just across the river from Newforge it is interesting to note that this road is shown about 1825 as leading in a direct line to the Lagan ,and not turning to the south, as at present.

Leaving this approach to Newforge behind, we move on for half a mile and. (for the present) merely note the vacant site of the old smithy, whose disappearance many will regret. It is here that the "Dub" Road now begins but of this more later. It was not there in the eighteenth century. To get to Lambeg one had to continue forward along what is now the present avenue to Malone House, and there in a gently curving line via " Longhurst, "Lismoyne," and the "Drum" Bridge Let us pause for a. Moment at the point were the way becomes private. I would here draw attention to the fact that the preset road leading down to Shaw's Bridge from this point was not, there in. the eighteenth century. At the period I treat of the road from the bridge followed a comparatively direct line westward, and joined the Malone Road at a point now well inside the grounds not far from the house, and to the right of it as viewed from the bridge.

I now invite my readers attention to the accompanying sketch which shows the roads of this locality as they were about 1824. It is taken from 'Benn's map of that year. It will be noticed that in the map of 1824 there is shown a semi-circular or, more accurately, a, semi-elliptical road which turns off the old road at a point just beyond Malone House. This road rejoined, and even now rejoins, the ancient road at a point about seventy yards on the hither side of "Longhurst." It should be borne in mind that the turn of the road intervening between Malone gate lodge and " Longhurst " is now entirely derelict, and that both termini of the loopline are situate on this derelict section; also that the area traversed by the loopline lies entirely on the Finaghy or south-west side.

" Dub" Road.

About 1825 the so-called "Dub" Road was made. Beginning at the recently-demolished smithy it leads south-west in the first instance as far as the popular resort after which it is named. Just beyond this may still be noticed a lane L. H. which, if traced backward, will be found to originate just south of Malone House. It is, in fact, no other than the first section of the semi-elliptical loopline already mentioned ; and here, at, the "Dub," the new road caught up with it, so to speak, for the simple reason that the alignment of both coincided. It was evidently the plan of the engineers that the new road should utilise the already existing loopline as far as it served their purpose, and. that was just to the eastern terminus of the well-known Finaghy Lane, which was made about this time. From this point a, short length of, say, 160 yards was joined on to the curve of the loopline connecting to the original Malone Road (or, as we may now call it., the Lambeg Road) at " Longhurst." The latter is about seventy yards beyond the point where the loopline may still be seen to join the ancient road.

About the same period (1825-30), and probably as part of the same scheme, a change was made in the terminal section of the Shaw's Bridge Road. The change consisted in constructing the present road downhill from Malone gate lodge to the road already described, which it joined about 120 yards west of Shaw's Bridge. Substitutes having thus been provided for the parts that now lie inside the grounds, these sections were soon afterwards closed, according to plan, and the road scheme assumed its present aspect.

Calwells and Magees.

Let us now resume the old Lambeg Road at " Longhurst," which was for many year the residence of the late Mr. John Brown, F.R.S. This gentleman, who will still be remembered by many, succeeded his father (Mr. John Shaw Brown) as head of the famous firm of John Shaw Brown & Sons, damask manufacturers. Less than half a mile beyond the entrance to "Longhurst," and on the same side, we reach the lodge gate to "Lismoyne," for many years occupied. by the Calwells. These were of the banker's family, and were almost invariably referred to as the "Calwells of Lismoyne." This place under the name of " Newbridge" had belonged from early in the eighteenth century to a well-known family-the Magees-who appear to have been native to the district.

The late Mr. F. J. Bigger wrote a very interesting pamphlet on the Magees from which it is clear that the early Belfast printing firm of that name and those of " Newbridge" were closely connected. An intimate association of business interests between the Calwells and the Magees in Belfast was followed by still closer associations through marriage. I think it is in this way that the settlement of the Calwells at " Lismoyne" is to be accounted for. It was the granddaughter, I think, of William Magee, printer, of Belfast, who became Duchess of Lousade, a Spanish title. William's younger brother, John, settled in Dublin, where for many years he was much in the public eye as a printer, and more especially as a newspaper proprietor, in which capacity he seems to have attracted the unfabourable notice of the Irish Government. Both the Calwells and the Magees are still represented locally, but I am not sure that the latter are still represented by name.

These, by the way, are the Magees mentioned in the Drennan Letters, which 'have recently been made available through the instrumentality, as editor, of Mr. D. A. Chart, Litt.D., Deputy, Keeper of the Records of Northern Ireland. The " J. Magee " referred to on page 197 is clearly John Magee, of Dublin, above mentioned. He was son of James Magee (1707-1797), founder of the. printing firm in Belfast, and younger brother of William, who is almost certainly the " Mr." Magee mentioned on page 253. But " Magee, Dean of Cork," referred to on page 398, did not belong. to this group.

[To be Continued.]