Craigavon Historical Society

Craigavon History

The brief history of the "New City" of Craigavon

The history of the new city of Craigavon may only start in the 1960s but the area has long been rich in cultural and industrial history. Craigavon's site encompasses the towns of Lurgan to the east and Portadown to the west with the new urban area of Brownlow in the centre. Many smaller towns and villages, each with its own history and folklore, contribute to make Craigavon the historical and culturally rich area it is today.

Newspaper Like many areas of Ireland, the site of Craigavon has yielded evidence of settlement stretching back 7,500 years. Archaeological evidence from the Lough Neagh basin suggests that this area was settled by hunters and gatherers who recognised the wealth of natural resources to be found along the Lough's shores. The area has been consistently populated throughout the centuries and became widely populated in the seventeenth century when the area was planted with Scottish and English settlers who founded and developed the towns of Lurgan and Portadown. In the following centuries the area flourished as a result of the linen industry, the railway and the Portadown / Newry Canal.

The "New City" of Craigavon was brought into being in 1965 following plans laid out in Professor Sir Robert Matthew's 'Belfast Regional and Survey Plan' published in February 1963. This report proposed the creation of N Ireland's first new city in north Armagh. This new city would accommodate 120,000 people by the 1980s, increasing to a potential 180,000 by the end of the twentieth century. Matthew identified three principal functions of the new city: firstly the creation of a new base for industry which would increase the attractiveness of the area to foreign investors; secondly the creation of a new residential area which would relieve housing and traffic problems in the Belfast Urban area; and lastly the creation of a new service which would contribute to the regeneration of the south and west of N Ireland. The town's name is derived from James Craig, Viscount Craigavon, Northern Ireland's first Prime Minister. In October 1963, Her Majesty the Queen, in her speech introducing the new Parliamentary Session, outlined a number of Regional Planning Measures including the creation of a New City in North Armagh, thus: "A measure will also be placed before you which will deal with the project to create a new city in County Armagh. This measure will provide from the setting up of a strategic body with power to acquire land and generally to carry the project into effect."

The New Towns Act was passed in June 1965 and one month later the Ministry of Development designated an area of approximately 100 square miles as a site for the new city. This area incorporated the existing boroughs of Lurgan and Portadown and part of the rural districts of Lurgan and Moira, which in 1965 contained a total population of approximately 61,700. The Craigavon Development Commission was appointed in October 1965 to develop the New City in accordance with the Master Plan and their first step in the creation of Craigavon was the vesting of an area of approximately 6,200 acres in June 1966 to make way for the planned 'Designated Area'.

The Craigavon Development Commission continued to administer Craigavon and carry out the plans of the Ministry of Development until October 1973 when, following the reorganisation of Local Government, Craigavon District Council was created. The Council achieved borough status under Royal Charter granted to Lurgan by King George VI in 1949 and transferred to Craigavon in 1973. The motto on its coat of arms is "Together we progress".

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