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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 54°25′16″N 6°27′30″W / 54.421027°N 6.458244°W / 54.421027; -6.458244

Scots: Portadoun
Irish: Port an Dúnáin
Portadown town centre - - 190945.jpg
Portadown's main street in 2006
Portadown is located in Northern Ireland

 Portadown shown within Northern Ireland
Population 32,000 (estimate)
Irish grid reference J008537
    - Belfast  22 miles 
District Craigavon
County County Armagh
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT62, BT63
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
NI Assembly Upper Bann
Website [2]
List of places: UK • Northern Ireland • Armagh

Portadown (from the Irish: Port an Dúnáin meaning "port of the small stronghold") is a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It has an estimated population of 32,000, and is situated on the River Bann, in the north of County Armagh. It is within of the Craigavon Borough Council area.

Although the town can trace its origins to at least the 1600s, it was not until the Victorian era and the arrival of the railway that it became a major town. Portadown is known as "The Hub of the North", the origin of this phrase coming from its central position in Northern Ireland and being a major railway junction in the past, where the Great Northern Railway's line diverged for Belfast, Dublin, Armagh and Derry.



Sign at Portadown Railway Station

Little is known of the area now called Portadown prior to 1610 except that those who lived there were Irish Gaels. The dominant local clann were the Mac Cana (McCanns), known as the "Masters of Clann-Breasil" (Clanbrasil), who had been in the area since the 1200s. The Mac Cana were a sept of the Uí Néill (Ó Neills). The stronghold referred to in the Irish name Port an Dúnáin was likely the stronghold of the Mac Cana.[1]


During the Plantation of Ulster in 1610 the modern history of the town began with a grant of land to a William Powell, who then sold it to a Reverend Richard Rolleston in 1611. Rolleston later sold the land in two portions to Richard Cope and Michael Obins. Obins built a large tower house and bawn and settled up to thirty English tenants on the land around it. This was in the area of the present-day People's Park. Today this area is bounded on either side by Obins Street and Castle Street; reminders of "Obin's Castle".[1]

In 1631, Obins was granted a licence for a "fair and market" which led to the building of the first bridge across the River Bann.[1]

During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Obins Castle was captured by a force of dispossessed Irish led by the McCanns (Mac Cana), the Magennises (Mac Aonghusa) and the Ó Neills. In November 1641, Irish rebels forced almost 100 captured English colonists off the Bann bridge and they either drowned or were shot. This became known as the "Portadown Massacre".

The Irish Confederate troops abandoned the tower house during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, and Hamlet Obins (who had survived its capture) repossessed it in 1652. From then onwards a succession of children of this family continued to develop the town, until Michael Eyre Obins sold the castle to the Sparrow family of Tandragee when he took holy orders in 1814.[1]


Shillington's Quay

The town came into the possession of Viscount Mandeville when he married Miss Millicent Sparrow in 1822 and started an association with the Dukes of Manchester which, although severely diluted, still exists today in a small way. The Manchesters legacy to the town includes street names such as Montagu Street, Millicent Crescent and Mandeville Street,[2] in addition to properties such as the Fergus Hall (formerly the Duke's School and Church Street PS), and the Carlton Home (the Duke's former townhouse, latterly a maternity hospital/nurses accommodation and now private apartments).

The Blacker family, descended from Danes who entered Ireland in the 9th century [3] The estate at Carrowbrack, Drumnacanvey, later known at the Blacker Estate (Carrickblacker) was first purchased by Colonel Valentine Blacker from Sir Anthony Cope of Loughgall in 1660[3] One of the notables in the family Colonel William Blacker, High Sheriff of Armagh [4] fought at the Battle of the Diamond and was a founder member of the Orange Order[5] This and subsequent events like the setting up of a 'provisional' Grand Lodge in the town after the 'voluntary' dissolution of the Order in 1825 led to the town being known as 'The Orange Citadel' and becoming infamous as a center of sectarian strife for two centuries [3]

Many of the Blacker family, such as Valentine Blacker and more recently General Sir Cecil "Monkey" Blacker, KCB, GCB, OBE, MC, 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, were soldiers or churchmen. The family estate was purchased in 1937 by Portadown Golf Club[6] who demolished Carrickblacker House in 1988 to make way for a new, modern clubhouse.

Other prominent family names in the town are Curran, (Curran Street) Woodhouse, (Woodhouse Street) Workman, Pepper, Marley (Marley Street - now demolished) and Shillington (Shillington Street).


The affairs of the town were overseen by Portadown Borough Council until 1973 when it was amalgamated with Lurgan Borough Council to form Craigavon Borough Council. The new town of Craigavon being built between, and intended to link, both of the older boroughs to form a city. The seat of the old Borough Council still exists in the Town Hall, Edward Street.

World War II

German Prisoners of War.

A large POW Camp was constructed during World War 2 [7] at a former sports facility on what was then the western edge of town, now covered by housing from Fitzroy Street and the Brownstown Estates. This accommodated (mostly) German POW's. In the post VE Day era these POW's were guarded by Welsh servicemen who had been transferred from Germany (known as "Bluecaps") and who were billeted at St Patrick's Hall in Thomas Street in accommodation vacated by US servicemen who had left prior to the D Day landings. Many of the Welsh soldiers chose to be demobbed to Portadown as they had formed relationships locally and this accounts for a fairly large proportion of Welsh surnames in the town.

In 2005 a public air raid shelter was discovered during excavation works near the riverbank just outside the town centre. One of ten built by the council during World War 2 it is the only one now remaining and a rare example of public air raid facilities in Northern Ireland.[8]

The Troubles

  • For more information see The Troubles in Portadown, which includes a list of incidents and an over view of Portadown during the Troubles. Also see 'Two Hundred Years in the Citadel' [[[Northern Ireland]] has seen inter-communal conflict for more than two centuries and there are records of Protestant ministers, the agents for absentee landlords, aspiring politicians and members of the landed gentry stirring up and capitalizing on sectarian hatred and violence back as far as the late eighteenth century (See 'Two Hundred Years in the Citadel' online at [4]) ]

The River Bann

The River Bann and bridge over Bridge Street, taken from Shilllington's Quay, Portadown.

Most of the town is situated on the western side of the River Bann, and owes much of its prosperity to the river. It was the construction of the Newry Canal (linking the Bann with Lough Neagh) in 1740 coupled with the later development of the railway lines, which put Portadown at the hub of transport routes.

There are three bridges across the Bann at Portadown. Bridge Street and Northway are both road bridges and there is a railway bridge adjacent to the Northway. The story of the present bridge is unusual in that it was built without a river running underneath it. After construction was complete, the course of the River Bann was diverted by some 100 yards to straighten a meander. The old riverbed was then built upon. In subsequent years an archeological dig on the site, on which had stood the GPO for many years, uncovered the bones of some of those drowned in the 1641 massacre.[10] The existing bridge was lately widened for the second time since it was built.


Like the rest of Ireland, the Portadown area is split into a number of townlands (bailte fearainn), whose names are derived from the Irish language. Portadown sprang up along a road (High Street/Market Street) that marked the boundary between two of these — Tavanagh and Corcrain. Over time the urban area spread into the surrounding townlands, which lend their names to many roads and housing estates. These townlands are:

West bank of the River Bann:

  • Annagh (from the Irish: Eanach meaning "marsh")
  • Ballyoran (from Baile Odhráin meaning "Oran's townland")
  • Baltylum (from Bailte Loma meaning "bare townlands")
  • Clounagh or Clownagh (from Cluain Each meaning "horses meadow")
  • Corcrain (from Corr Chrainn meaning "round hill of the tree")
  • Garvaghy (from Garbh Achadh meaning "rough field")
  • Mahon or Maghon (from Maigh Ghamhan meaning "plain of the calves")
  • Selshion (from Soilseán meaning "brightness")
  • Tavanagh (from Tamhnach meaning "grassland")

East bank of the River Bann:

  • Edenderry (from Éadan Doire meaning "hill-brow of the oak grove")
  • Killycomain (from Coill Uí Chomáin meaning "Ó Coman's woodland")
  • Levaghery
  • Seagoe Upper


St Mark's Church, High Street, Portadown

No permanent places of worship existed in the town itself until the building of a Methodist Chapel in 1790. The site of this church has moved several times and it now stands in Thomas Street where it was finally rebuilt in 1860 [1] Prior to 1826 the Church of Ireland members attended Drumcree Parish Church or Seagoe Parish Church[11] but the diocese built the new church of St Martin's, later renamed St Mark's[12] in the town centre, which still stands today in its commanding position at the start of Market Street. Seagoe Parish is an well established Church of Ireland place of worship in Portadown. It is currently building a a new centre which will provide excellent opportunities for many in the town. There is also St Columba's Parish Church on the Loughgall Road which was built in 1970 in an area previously served by St Mark's. There are also two Presbyterian churches, First Portadown (aka Edenderry) (1822) and Armagh Road (1859). The two Presbyterian Churches hit the headlines in recent years, with Armagh Road appointing its first woman minister, the Rev Christina Bradley (originally from Germany), and the Edenderry minister, the Rev Stafford Carson, refusing to allow her to occupy his pulpit for the annual united Christmas services between the two congregations because she is a woman - the services date back at least 60 years. The issue remains unresolved within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's General Assembly where male ministers are allowed an 'opt out' clause in regard to woman clerics, who were first ordained in the mid-1970s. Mr Carson is Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, having taken up office on Monday June 1, 2009. The Roman Catholic faithful built two churches, St John the Baptist, Drumcree, (1783) and St Patrick's, William Street (1835). The original St John the Baptist Church was relocated to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum[13] in the 1970s[14] and replaced with a more modern building on the Dungannon Road/Garvaghy Road crossroads. Other churches or meeting halls include Baptist, Thomas Street and Killicomaine Road; Elim, Clonavon Avenue; Society of Friends, Portmore Street; Free Presbyterians in Levaghery and the Christian Meeting Hall, Fitzroy Street. There is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints chapel of Brownstown road. There are Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists and Sikhs all residing in Portadown.


Great Northern Railway Logo
Ulster Transport Authority Logo

A combination of road, canal and rail links all converging on Portadown gave it the nickname "Hub of the North" and this created employment through mass industry as well as benefitting the traditional agronomy of the area. In particular the Newry Canal opened up waterborne trade from Lough Neagh to the East coast at Newry and Belfast leaving Portadown ideally situated to take full advantage of the trading routes. With the establishment of the Great Northern Railway the overland trading routes were extended and delivery times shortened as well as creating further employment in the railway industry from 1852 when the first station opened in the town [15] which increased when the repair yards were opened in 1925.[15] A large facility built by the GNR adjacent to West Street was the epicentre of rail travel in Northern Ireland. Intersected by lines which went from Belfast to Dublin, Armagh, Dungannon and Derry the facility also had maintenance facilities for engines, good wagons and carriages.[16] The large concrete structures of the repair sheds dominated the skyline on the west of the town centre until their demolition in the mid 1970s.


A steam locomotive at the Railway Repair Sheds in Portadown.

Portadown has a manufacturing sector that has grown beyond its roots in linen production to include carpet-weaving, baking and engineering. These industries all thrive against a backdrop of the traditional rural economy.

There are a number of companies that have been a major part Portadown's history:

  • W.D. Irwin & Sons Ltd Irwin's Bakery. Irwin's was established in 1912 by the grandfather William David Irwin, grandfather of the existing joint managing directors, as a grocery retailer. Irwin's wife and sister-in-law were talented home-bakers, who baked cakes and bakery items for the shop. Soon additional bakers were employed to cope with the increasing trade, expanding the bakery out behind the shop. It moved to larger premises at Carn in 1994. The High Street Mall shopping centre now stands in place of the old bakery. Today Irwin's bakery is the largest independent bakery in Northern Ireland. Its products are supplied to supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, and other retail outlets, right down to small corner shops.
  • Wade (Ireland) Ltd. Wade Ceramics[17] had a substantial plant in Portadown[18] between 1946 and 1989 in Watson Street, Edenderry, adjacent to the Victorian Railway Station which was closed in the 1970s.
  • Ulster Carpets Ltd[19] established in the town since 1938 was the major employer through most of the 1950s to 1980's, engaged in the manufacture of fine woolen Axminster.
  • Henry Denny & Sons (NI) Ltd. Originally established in Obins Street, but moved to Corcrain. Acquired by Kerry Group[20] in 1982.
  • Other industries have vanished from the town such as; whisky distilling and brewing, cider making by Grews in Portmore Street, milling of animal feed by Clows and Calvins, Castle Street, iron and brass from Portadown Foundry and other smaller firms, ham/bacon curing by McCammons and also Sprotts. There were also a number of small industries related to farming and agriculture, like packing and/or distribution of eggs, butter, poultry and apples. Several nurseries were established in the town, most notably Samuel McGredy & Son Ltd., and James Walsh Ltd., these too have gone. But these firms have been replaced by giants like Moypark, who process chickens and employ around 600 in the town, as well as Almac, a pharmaceutical firm who employ around 1,000 in Portadown and have a worldwide reputation, currently creating a large development in the United States.[citation needed]

Linen manufacturing

Much of the town's industry in the 19th and 20th century was centred around the linen trade. The 1881 edition of Slater's Directory (a comprehensive listing of Irish towns) gives the following as manufacturing employers in Portadown at that time:[21]

  • Acheson J. & J. & Co. Bannview Weaving Factory
  • Bessbrook Spinning Co. Limited, Bridge Street & at Bessbrook
  • Castle Island Linen Co. Castle Island Factory ; & at Belfast
  • Cowdy Anthony & Sons, Thomas Street
  • Gribbin Edward & Sons, Market Street & at Belfast
  • Harden Acheson, Limited, Meadow Lane & at Belfast
  • Lutton A. J. & Son, Edenderry & at Belfast
  • Moneypenny & Watson, Cornascrebe
  • Montgomery John, Derryvore
  • Reid Robert & Son, Tarson Hall
  • Robb Hamilton, Edenderry
  • Sefton J. R. & Co. Edenderry and at Belfast
  • Sinton Thomas, Thomas Street and at Laurelvale and Tanderagee
  • Turtle W. J. Bridge Street
  • Watson, Armstrong & Co. Edenderry Factory and at Belfast

Some of these linen mills survived as manufacturers and major employers into the 1960s, such as Robbs and Achesons but all eventually closed as the demand for Irish Linen fell due to the manufacture of cheaper, man made, fabrics.

Street nicknames

Many of these are still in use today:

  • Wilson Street - Jam Row, because a jam making factory used to be located there.
  • Annagh Hill - Bucket Row, because water had to be drawn from a pump well into 1960s.
  • Watson Street - Railway Street, because the railway station was accessed from there.
  • Lurgan Road - Guinea Row, because the weekly rent was twenty one shillings.
  • Armagh Road - Rheumatism Row, because the houses were always said to be damp due to flooding from a nearby river
  • Obin Street - The Tunnel, because of the pedestrian underpass leading to it and the fact that the road was excavated underneath a railway bridge.
  • Fowlers Entry - The Orange Cage, because of its strong association with Orangemen.
  • William Street - Chapel Street, because of the Roman Catholic church there.
  • Charles Street - Charlie's Walls, because of the boundary wall built by Charles Wakefield around his 'Corcrain Villa'.
  • Woodhouse Street - Dungannon Street, because it led to Dungannon.
  • Garvaghy Road - The Walk, because it formed part of the route Orangemen took on their annual "walk" to Drumcree Church.

Places of interest

McConville's Pub (2009)
  • Millenium Court Arts Centre[22]
  • Country Comes to Town[23] a flagship festival on the third week of September since 1998. Its future is uncertain due to funding difficulties.[24]
  • Ardress House[25]
  • Moneypenny's Lock[26]
  • McConville's Hotel/Public House, Mandeville/West Street. dates back to 1865 but moved in 1900 to its current corner location. The pub is in a superb state of preservation with original wooden snugs inside, etched glass windows at ground floor level, original gas light fittings which now run on bottled gas and an iron door canopy and lantern. Local legend has it that some of the Russian Oak fittings in the bar were made to the same design as those used on the Titanic.[27]
  • The Newry Canal Way[28]

Famous residents


Portadown Library (2009)

Portadown boasts a large selection of academic institutions, past and present. There are many primary and secondary schools in the area, and the town is home to one of the top Grammar Schools in Northern Ireland, Portadown College, which was opened in 1924.


  • Portadown Health Centre[47] (recently rebuilt).
  • Craigavon Area Hospital, built 1972 on the outskirts of town. Replaced Lurgan Hospital and the Carleton Maternity Hospital in Church Street as the primary source of care for the town. It serves approximately 241,000 people from Mid Ulster and is one of the main cancer treatment centres outside Belfast.



Climate data for Portadown
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) 3
Precipitation cm (inches) 8.23
Source:[49] 2009-10-08

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ George Montagu, 6th Duke of Manchester
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^,W/life.htm
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Mulholland, P. (1999) 'Drumcree: A Struggle for Recognition'. Irish Journal of Sociology, 1999, Vol. 9 pp. 5-30 [1]) ]
  10. ^ Craigavon Historical Society
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Adventure Guide to Ireland By Tina Neylon, Hunter Publishing 2003, ISBN 1588433676 p551
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1881, Ulster & Belfast Sections, ISBN 184630038X
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Portadown Times; 18 January 2008 -
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ "Weather Averages - Portadown, GBR". Microsoft. Retrieved October 08, 2009. 

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PORTADOWN, a market town of county Armagh, Ireland, on the river Bann and the Great Northern railway, 25 m. W.S.W. of Belfast. Pop. (1901), 10,092. It is a junction of lines from Dublin, Clones and Omagh. The Bann, which is connected with the Newry Canal and falls into Lough Neagh 5 m. north of the town, is navigable for vessels of go tons burden. It is crossed at Portadown by a stone bridge of seven arches, originally built in 1764, but since then re-erected. The manufacture of linen and cotton is carried on, and there is a considerable trade in pork, grain and farm produce. In the reign of Charles I. the manor was bestowed on John Obyns, who erected a mansion and a few houses, which were the beginning of the town. A grain-market was established in 1780. The town is governed by an urban district council.

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