Portadown ( ) is a town in
County Armagh, Northern
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
Although the town can trace its origins to at least the 1600s, it
was not until the Victorian era
the arrival of the railway
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
Little is known of the area now called Portadown prior to 1610
except that those who lived there were Irish Gaels
. The dominant local clan was the
Clann Cana (McCanns), known as the "Masters of Clann-Breasil"
(Clanbrasil), who had been in the area since the 1200s. The McCanns
were a sept
of the Uí Néill
(Ó Neills). The stronghold
referred to in the Irish name Port an Dúnáin
the stronghold of the McCanns.
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
settled up to thirty English
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".
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
During the Irish Rebellion of
, Obins Castle was captured by a force of dispossessed
Irish led by the McCanns (MacCana), the Magennises (Mac Aonghusa)
and the Ó Neills. In November 1941, Irish rebels forced almost 100
captured English colonists off the bridge over the Bann and they
either drowned or were shot. This became known as the "Portadown Massacre
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.
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, 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
The Blacker family, descended from Danes who entered Ireland in the
9th century are also associated with the town. 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 One of the notables in the family Colonel
William Blacker, High Sheriff of
Armagh fought at the Battle of the
Diamond and was a founder member of the Orange Order.
Many of the Blacker
family, such as Valentine Blacker
and more recently General Sir Cecil "Monkey" Blacker, KCB
, 5th Royal Inniskilling
, were soldiers or churchmen. The family estate
was purchased in 1937 by Portadown Golf Club who demolished
Carrickblacker House in 1988 to make way for a new, modern
Other prominent family names in the town are Curran, (Curran
Street) Woodhouse, (Woodhouse Street) Workman, Pepper, Marley
(Marley Street - now demolished) and Shillington (Shillington
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 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
- For more information see The Troubles in Portadown, which
includes a list of incidents and an over view of Portadown during
- Portadown has been the site of the Drumcree conflict, a long-running dispute
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. The existing bridge was lately
widened for the second time since it was built.
The following is a list of the townlands
and electoral wards
make up Portadown:
- Annagh (from the Irish Eanach meaning "marsh")
- Ballybay (from the Irish Baile an Beith meaning
"townland of birches")
- Ballyoran (from the Irish Baile Odhráin meaning
- Brownstown (from the Irish Baile an Bhrúnaigh meaning
- Corcrain (from the Irish Corr Chrainn meaning "mound
of the tree")
- Drumcree (from the Irish Droim Crí meaning "ridge on
- Edenderry (from the Irish Éadan Doire meaning "front
of the oak grove")
- Garvaghy (from the Irish Garbh Achaidh meaning "rough
- Killycomain (from the Irish Coill Uí Chomáin meaning
"forest of Ó Coman")
St Mark's Church, High Street,
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 Prior to 1826
the Church of Ireland
attended Drumcree Parish Church
Seagoe Parish Church but the diocese built the new church of St
Martin's, later renamed St Mark's 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 in the 1970s 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
With the establishment of the Great Northern Railway
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 which increased when
the repair yards were opened in 1925. 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. The
large concrete structures of the repair sheds dominated the skyline
on the west of the town centre until their demolition in the mid
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
- 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 had a substantial plant in
Portadown between 1946 and 1989 in Watson Street, Edenderry,
adjacent to the Victorian Railway Station which was closed in the
- Ulster Carpets Ltd 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 in
- 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
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
- Acheson J. & J. & Co. Bannview Weaving Factory
- Bessbrook Spinning Co. Limited, Bridge Street & at
- Castle Island Linen Co. Castle Island Factory ; & at
- 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
- Turtle W. J. Bridge Street
- Watson, Armstrong & Co. Edenderry Factory and at
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.
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 1960's.
- Watson Street - Railway Street, because the railway station was
accessed from here.
- Lurgan Road - Guinea Row, because the weekly rent was twenty
- Armagh Road - Rheumatism Row, because the houses were always
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 ecavated underneath a
- Fowlers Entry - The Orange Cage, because of its strong
association with Orangemen.
- William Street - Chapel Street, because of the Roman Catholic
- 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
- 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
- Country Comes to Town a flagship festival on the third week of
September since 1998. Its future is uncertain due to funding
- Ardress House
- Moneypenny's Lock
- 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 Newry Canal Way
- Colin Turkington, a racing car
driver who competes in the British Touring Car
- Mary Peters, Olympic
- Joyrider, a 1990s rock
- Gloria Hunniford, a BBC
- Alexander Walker, film
critic and writer
- Leigh Alderson, an award wining
male ballet dancer, model, actor and choreographer.
- Adam Carroll, a race car
- Newton Emerson, journalist and
founder of Portadown News
- David Simpson, DUP
MP for Upper Bann.
- Paddy Johns, former Ireland and
Ulster rugby player.
- Marion Greeves MBE, the first female Senator in the Stormont Parliament.
- Billy Wright, founder of
the Loyalist Volunteer
- Brendan McKenna, an Irish republican politician and
spokesman of the Garvaghy Road
- In Case of Fire, a progressive
- Les Binks, former drummer of Judas Priest.
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
, which was opened in 1924.
- Portadown Health Centre (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.
approximately 241,000 people from Mid Ulster and is one of the main
cancer treatment centres outside Belfast.
The town has become more stable between the Catholic and Protestant
communities. It has seen a rise in population due to many moving to
the town. It has a long, well established Chinese community. The
Indian and Pakistani communities are continuing to grow. The
Eastern European communities form an increasing large portion of
the population. The town also has residents from the Philippines,
Africa, South Korea and the United States. Development continues in
the town, the town holds a prosperous future.
- George Montagu, 6th Duke of Manchester
- Craigavon Historical Society
- Adventure Guide to Ireland By Tina Neylon, Hunter Publishing
2003, ISBN 1588433676 p551
- Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1881, Ulster &
Belfast Sections, ISBN 184630038X
- Portadown Times; 18 January 2008 -