Extracts from Harris

The Antient and Present State of The County of Down, 1744

Newtown is agreeably situated on the most northern point of the lake of Strangford, which at low water affords a fine level strand for many miles. it was erected into a Borough Town, and constituted a Body Politick and Corporate, under the names of a Provost, twelve Free Burgesses and Commonalty, by Patent 11 Q Jac. 1, and the Provost has power to hold Plea of any sum not exceeding five Marks. The lake of Strangford is navigable, and the Tide flows up as far as this town; yet the principal and most beneficial trade of it is the Linen Manufacture, and it is especially in repute for the sale of great quantities of fine Diaper Linen. The Quakers have a factory in it, and the Presbyterians two meeting houses of the New and Old Light.

A convent of Dominican Friars was settled here in the Year 1244, by the Savages (as it is said) in which Chapters of the Order were held in 1298 and 1312. This Priory was at the time of the Suppression possessed of three Town Lands, which was the size of it, were granted by King James I to James, Viscount Clandeboye, at the rent of 13 s. 4 d. current money of Ireland, and afterwards came by Assignment to Montgomery, Viscount Ardes.

The old Church of Newtown is a large building, divided into Isles by four handsome stone arches of the Dorick Order. It was finishes, or at least repaired and adorned in 1632, as appears by an Inscription on a stone over the pulpit. Another inscription, on a stone over the North Entrance shows that the Steeple was finished in the year 1636. The door, which affords an entrance under the Steeple, is an arch curiously ornamented with carved work in stone, where may be seen the arms of the Montgomerys, under which, over the Portal, are these letters in syper NA. The Steeple is moderately high, yet neatly built, and a spire of hewn stone erected lately on it gives a handsome appearance.

A large tomb of the Colville Family (to a Descendent of which the town now belongs) stands on the North Isle, raised five or six feet above the floor, but naked of any inscription. This Church is only kept roofed, but is entirely out of repair inside, and the seats, except for a few are destroyed. Divine service is performed in a Chapel adjoining it, built by Sir Robert Colville for his family since the Revolution; the entrance into which is by a large stone door case, curiously adorned with sculpture. This Chapel is the neatest piece of church building that is to be met with in Ulster. The pulpit is finely carved and gilded, and so are the large two seats of the Colville's, placed on each side of the great door, over which the King's Arms, and under them this Inscription "Sanctuarium meum Reveremini"

The other seats are regularly placed and painted, the floor well flagged, the Compass ceiling divided into nine Panels, and curiously adorned with stucco work in Plaster of Paris, well executed in various Wreaths, Foliages, and the Figures of Angels. The Communion Table is raised and wainscotted, and encompassed with twisted pillars carved and gilded. These ornaments, and much more of the same kind, added to the well lighting of the room have a fine effect.

The old house of the Montgomery family stood pleasantly seated on the edge of the lake and the gardens, containing nine acres that are enclosed with a high and firm wall, with flankers at each corner. The house was burned down since it came into possession of the late Rev. Dr. Colville, and all that remains of it are the Gate house (over which are fixed the Montgomery Arms) and some offices which are now converted into a dwelling house and a common brewery.

The Market House of this town is a handsome structure, on the west end of which is erected a cupola with a public clock; before it stands a neat octagonal building of hewn stone, adorned with a slender stone pillar, at the top which serves the town as a Market Cross. In each side of the octagonal, measuring to five feet four inches, is a niche curiously wrought and adorned with an escallop shell. It measures ten feet ten inches from the pedestal to the Cornish and a belt of stone in an architrave runs around it, through which at every angle a stone spout projects itself, consisting each one entire stone a foot and a half long to convey the water from the roof. All these spouts are set off with a variety of carved work, some of them terminating in a dog's head and others in those of other animals. On the top of the pillar, springing out of the roof, a lion carved in stone is placed in a sitting posture. The room within this building serves as a Watch house for the town. On every face of this octagon are different fancies and coats of arms carved into the stone, namely, on one a Rose, on another a Helmet within the horns of a half moon and on it a Fleur de Lys encompassed within a Wreath of Laurel; on another a Cross within a Coronet; on another the Arms of Montgomery, Earl of Mount Alexander; on another the Arms (we believe) of one Shaw, being a Star in the middle of three Cups, and the crest of a Phoenix; for on a house near this building, erected by one of that name, are the same arms, on the sixth face of this octagon is a harp for the Arms of Ireland; on the face next to the Market House is inscribed, 1636 being the date it was built, and on the opposite face is the inscription under the King's Arms "These Arms which the rebels threw down and defaced in 1653 are by this loyal Borough now replaced 1666 W.P. Provost" "Deus nobis haec otia facit"

This town is well paved and has many neat houses in it, on the front of several of which are the dates and names of the builders cut in stone. There is a humorous, perhaps a modest inscription over the door of one of them, we know not by whom it was erected, which reads thus "Not by my merit that I inherit".

As the situation of this place is very pleasant, so the air is pure and healthful. It is sheltered to the north and west by hills which serve to break the winds on one hand and the flowing of the tide twice every day up to the town helps by its motion to keep the air from any stagnation.

Movilla - also called Maigevilla, a monastery of Augustin Canons founded by St. Finian about the year 550, stood near an English mile E.N.E. Of Newtown on the road to Donaghadee. This house subsisted till the time of the general dissolution of Abbeys in the reign of Henry VIII, as appears by Inquisition taken Ad Jac 1 and was then seized by the spiritualities and Temporalities of seven townlands, and the Spiritualities of sixteen townlands and a half and other possessions which were granted by the aforementioned Monarch to James, Viscount Clandeboye, in fee farm at the rent of 32-3s-4d Irish Money; and from him by Assignment to Hugh, Viscount Ardes. Part of the ruins of the Abbey church yet remain and the vestiges of large foundations appear within the cemetery, which issued as such by the Parish of Newtown, and there being no Church yard in the said Town, a practice worthy of imitation in all Cities and town that are thickly populated. There are no inscriptions in this place that are ancient or in any way singular.

Scrabo (sic) Hill - The hill of Scraba begins to rise about half a mile south of Newtown and from its top affords a vast extended prospect. It is a fruitful hill and the ploughman's furrows are carried up very near the summit, where there was a fine spring wall, but of late years it is filled up with stones by idle boys. The freestone quarries here will be taken notice of under another heading. About two miles North of Scraba is another hill, although in appearance lower because it rises more gradually, called Karn Gaver, or Goats Mountain. Under the hill of Scraba, and between that the lough is a large and noted salt marsh. 

Quarries - About a mile S.W. of Newtown the hill of Scraba opens into a great quarries of freestone which improve every day as they are wrought deeper. The top of the quarry here, which furnished the hewn stone for the College Library of Dublin, was not nearly so good as that now raised out of quarries open in other parts of the Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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