The town of Lurgan owes its existence and much of its success to the family of Brownlow. The surname is also written Bromloe and Bromley in state papers.
In 1567 the Mayor of Nottingham was one John Brownlow, a Miller of Basfod in Nottingham. He also held this office in 1568/9, 1575/6, 1589/90, and 1591/92. He died in 1592 leaving his son John Brownlow his corn mill at Basfod. John married a daughter of Douglas Robards of Heanor in Derby and went to live in Epworth in Lincolnshire. His wife died and was buried with his first son John, leaving a second son William, baptised October 1591.
Shortly after the death of his wife, John Brownlow returned to Nottingham, but held his house and lands at Epworth till 1615.
During the plantation of Ulster by James I, John Brownlow offered himself as an undertaker of lands in O'Neilland, stating that he was worth £150 per annum and that he wanted 2,000 acres. He was granted the middle proportion of Doughcarron containing 1,500 acres at a total rent of £8 to hold for ever, May 29th 1610.
In the maps of Escheated Counties of Ireland, Doughcarron appears violet, the colour used to distinguish those of middle size and occupies the northern portion of the ancient territory of Clan Brassil stretching along the shore of Lough Neagh. Excluded from this grant was the balliboe of Shankill and half the balliboe Aghnacloy or Aghecloghie containing 90 acres, this was set aside for the church.
On this map there is in the townland of Shankill, a roofless church surrounded by trees - Shankill - meaning "Old Church".
John Brownlow's son William was also granted 1,000 acres in the Manor of Ballynamoney, June 18th, 1610. This portion lay on the southern shore of Lough Neagh, stretching from the upper Bann eastward to Doughcarron and southward to John Machett's part of Kerhonan.
By 1611, the Brownlows were residing in the district and started to build two bawns having brought six carpenters, one mason, a tailor and workmen. In 1619, a fair town had arisen on Doughcarron consisting of forty two houses, streets all paved, two water-mills and a windmill.
John Brownlow died about 1616 and his son William was regranted the lands at Ballynamoney and Doughcarron by letters patent under Seal of Charles II to form Manor of Brownlows Derry 29th June 1629.
In this grant we find the first mention of the name Lurgan. It states that Sir William Brownlow was empowered to hold a weekly market on Friday and two annual fairs in Lurganballyvacken, alias Ballylurgan.
On the 15th December, 1622, William Brownlow was knighted by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Cary and the following year was High Sheriff of the county. By 1636, the Lurgan estate was worth £750 a year in rents.
William married Eleanor, the daughter of Sir John 'Dougherty, Lord of Innishowen. In 1639 he was M.P. for Armagh in the Irish Parliament. The estate of Brownlow suffered a set-back during the war of 1641. His castle and bawn were destroyed and he was taken prisoner to Dungannon where he was found a year later by Lord Conway's forces. This must have left his estate ruined and in debt. William died on the 20th Jan. 1660, leaving three daughters, Lettice, Rose and Eleanor. The eldest, Lettice, married firstly, Patrick Chamberlain, a member of an old Anglo-Norman family of Nizelrath, Co. Louth. He came to County Louth about 1312 and from this marriage there were three of a family, Arthur, Philemon, and Eleanor
Lettice married secondly to Christopher Clinton of Clintonstown Co. Louth and from this union there were three more of a family William, Arthur and Christopher. She married thirdly to Capt. Alenandra of Williston, Co. Louth, and fourthly to a Mr. Beversham. Arthur Chamberlain, the eldest son of Lettice Brownlow, was born at Ardee Co. Louth, in 1645, educated at Trinity College, Dublin and qualified in law at Lincoln's Inn.
In 1660 when he became of age, he assumed the name of Brownlow and inherited his grandfather's estate. Under his supervision Lurgan began to grow and prosper; building was encouraged by giving tenants renewable leases and stipulating that one or more houses of 20 to 30 feet in length, 18 to 20 feet high were to be erected on the front of their own tenements. From this stipulation Lurgan began to grow and to take the shape which its main street retains today.
He took a deep interest in the welfare of his tenants by introducing linen weaving to them and buying their produce at a loss to himself. Thus he laid the foundation of the linen industry in this district and by 1675 there was a market house established around which linen was sold. In 1708, Lurgan was described by Thomas Molyneux as a town which has the greatest mart of Linen Manufacture in the North, being almost entirely peopled by linen weavers.
Besides being a man of business, Arthur was a man of culture. He spoke fluent Irish and he saved the Book of Armagh from destruction. This book was sold for a small sum of money by the infamous Florence McMoyne. Shortly after this it was discovered by Arthur Brownlow who purchased it and kept it in his own library. This Book of Armagh was written in 807 A.D. and contains the New Testament, together with the Confessions of St. Patrick, two early Lives of the Saint, and a Life of Saint Martin of Tours.
Arthur was High Sheriff of Co. Armagh 1668, and 1669 and M.P. for County Armagh 1692-1710. In 1689 during the Williamite wars he sat in the Parliament summoned by James II, and is believed to have been the only member of this Parliament to sit in the Williamite Parliament of 1692. As early as 1699, along with several others, he had the idea of building a canal between Lough Neagh and Newry.
On 6th December 1697, Arthur married Jane, the daughter of Sir Standish Hartstronge, Bart of Bruff, Co. Limerick, who survived him and died March 1720.
Arthur died 22nd February 1712, and was buried in Shankill Graveyard, leaving two daughters, Lettice and Anne and five sons, William, Standish, John, Philemon and Arthur. The eldest, William, was baptised 31st December, 1638, educated Trinity College, Dublin graduated B.A. 1703, M.P. for Armagh 1711-1715 and 1729-1739.
It was during William's lifetime that the Church of Ireland left the old Church in Shankill and began to build the Parish Church on the Fair Green of Lurgan. Commenced in 1722 and opened for worship in 1724, this building was in Georgian style and in 1837 a tower of 80 feet was added and a spire built on this tower in 1756.
This was 36 feet from the battlements of the tower and was of oak and red fir, shingled with oak and topped with a weather vane of copper and gilt. This spire was destroyed by fire in 1792.
During that occasion, Henry Monro, who later became the leader of the Down Insurgents at the Battle of Ballynahinch, was in Lurgan and exerted himself heroically to save the nave of the church. An account of his efforts are to be found in the Belfast News Letter which states "several times he exposed himself that the beholders turned their eyes away expecting to see him topple from his giddy heights amongst the burning ruins, and though the bell fell hissing from the belfry this brave man continued his efforts till the fire was reduced and the church safe."
After the fire the tower was raised by 20 feet and a new spire was added, this was completed by 1801.. The nave was improved in 1832 at the cost of £1,000. In the Ordinance survey memoirs of 1834 the church is described as a large whinstone building corniced with cut stone. It is 96ft long, 49ft across with a square tower about 27ft square and a wooden spire which was coppered. The interior of the Church was rather plain, the ceiling was corniced with oak. There was a small gallery at the south-east end and. a pulpit neatly carved.
In 1839 disaster struck the spire again for it was blown down on the night of the big wind. This spire was replaced but in 1861 the church was taken down and re-built in the pointed Gothic style with a new freestone spire at a cost of £8,000. The only remaining parts of the Georgian Church are the window at the right of the East end and part of the tower, and the iron railing which encloses the church.
William Brownlow married, 2nd January 1711, to Jane, the daughter of James Hamilton, 6th Earl of Abercorn, who brought with her a dowry of £22,859. She outlived her husband and later married Martin Count de Kearney in France. She died in Dublin 1760. William died 27th August 1739, leaving a son William who was baptised 25th April 1826. He was M.P. for Armagh in six Parliaments 1753/60, 1761/8, 1769/76, 1776/83, 1785/90 and 1790/94.
When his mother remarried, William and his sisters went to live on the continent. On 24th May 1744, he married firstly, Judith, the daughter of Rev. Charles Meredyth, Dean of Ardfert , and returned to live in Lurgan 1748. Judith died at Lyons, October 1763, leaving two sons, William and Charles.
William remarried secondly, in 1765 to Catherine, daughter of Roger Hall of Mount Hall, Co. Down. She died leaving a son Francis who became Rector of Upper Comber, Co. Derry.
In the Hibernian magazine of March 1777, Lurgan was described as a town consisting of wide streets half a mile long with several lanes, consisting of 400 to 500 houses. The greatest number being thatched or shingled, very few being slated.
During the Volunteer Movement 1778, a corps was formed with William Brownlow as their captain. We read in the Belfast News, January 1780, that on January 1st, the Corps of 83 privates paraded in uniform and carried out their evolutions on the field, afterwards dined at the Blackbull Inn.
In the latter part of the 18th century, even though there was prosperous linen industry, poverty was common amongst the unskilled people of the town and district. William Brownlow set about to enlarge and improve his demesne after the current fashion of his day. One of the improvements was the making of the artificial and it was at the digging of this lake that the term "Lurgan Spade" came into use. According to residents of the town, the work-men who were digging the lake worked for 1 1/2d to 3d a day less than ordinary rate of wages. This fact is also borne out by Sir Charles Coote in his survey of 1803 which states "throughout the environs of Lurgan, Labour is high. In summer the pay is 16d. a day Very few labourers are employed by the year in the fields except those who are employed in Mr. Brownlow's demesne who have constant employment and receive 10 pence in winter and I3 pence in summer."
William died October 1794 and was buried in the vault in Shankill Graveyard. He was succeeded by his eldest son William, born 1st September 1755. William was High Sheriff of County Armagh 1787, M.P. 1795/97, 1807/12 and 1812/15. He married Charity, daughter of Matthew Ford of Seaford, in 1803. William Brownlow, opened a private Bank called William Brownlow Esq.,& Co., his partners being Joseph Malcolmson, Henry McVeigh, John Cuppage and John Waite. At one time it had notes to the value of £170,000 in circulation. These were issued, payable at Wilcocks and John Philps, Caple Street, Dublin, and there alone they were redeemable. By 1815, William Brownlow, John Cuppage and John Waite had retired from the business and the bank was called Malcolmson & Co., and the partners were Joseph Malcolmson, Henry McVeigh and Alexander Cuppage.
A description of the Brownlow Estate is contained in a Survey of County Armagh by Sir Charles Coote for the Dublin Society 1803: This manor is all leased in so small divisions as to average less than five acres and a great number so low as three acres. All these are leased except the town of Lurgan, where there is a perpetuity on the whole. The town of Lurgan has been called Little England and is composed of one very long street, which is in one place near the church greatly disfigured with .a number of very miserable houses, which are strangely built in its centre, and quite spoil the effect it otherwise has. There is an excellent house which if any, is the only building that should be suffered in the centre of that street; the entrance to this building has been ornamented with iron railings, and in the apartments overhead the sessions have been held, but a neat court house and bridewell have been newly built and now newly finished. Many of the houses in the town are covered with shingles and it is surprising to see this made adaptable even in some handsome modern houses.
There is a poor school supported by an annual charity sermon and liberal subscriptions in which seldom less than 200 children are educated.
Mr. Brownlow's demesne, which consists of 300 acres, adjoins the town of Lurgan and is very much improved and enclosed with a capital stone wall. The mansion is a very antique castle, and has received many additions since the original walls were built in 1609. The demesne though very beautiful, corresponds with the antiquity of the castle, and the many enclosures in which it is divided. It is highly ornamented with a fine sheet of water, which is covered with swans, Cape Geese, wild duck and a beautiful variety of water-fowl. Around the lake is a pleasant and neat gravel walk decorated with elegant plantations. The park is well stocked with deer and numerous hares sport, through every part of the demesne.
In 1808 a coach service was started between Belfast and Dublin. This service ran through Newry, via Lurgan and Waringstown, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and returned on alternate days. This journey took roughly 20 hours and the fare from Belfast was £1.14.11 inside and £1.0.7 outside. By 1836 three coaches ran between Lurgan and Belfast daily, and were named the Phoenix, the Day Fly, and McCann's Portadown Coach. But this mode of transport was short lived for the railway reached Lurgan on the 18th November, 1841.
William Brownlow died July 1815, leaving no family. His brother Charles, succeeded him.
Charles Brownlow, born 30th April, 1757, Lieut. Col. 57th Regt., married 5th March 1785, Caroline, daughter of Benjamin Ash of Bath who outlived him. She died 5th Sept. 1838. Charles died 11th Sept., 1822, leaving three sons, William, who was killed in Spain in 1813, Charles, who later became Lord Lurgan and Rev. John Bligh, incumbent of Sandgate, Kent.
Charles Brownlow born 17th April, 1795, was M.P. for Armagh 1818 to 1832 He married firstly, June 1st, 1822, Lady Mary Bligh daughter of John the 4th Earl of Dornley. She died 20th June 1823 having had a daughter Mary Elizabeth. He married secondly, 15th July 1828, Jane the daughter of Roderick McNeill of Barra, Inverness. She died 6th January, 1878.
In 1826 the Methodist Church situated in High Street was built and in 1827 the First Presbyterian Church was opened in High Street. This meeting House was originally at the opposite side of the street.
In 1829, the year of the Catholic Emancipation, Charles Brownlow gave the Rev. W.O. O'Brien, V.G. the site of the present church in the townland of Derry on which a church was built and in 1833, it was dedicated by the Most Rev. Dr. Blake, Bishop of Dromore. This church was enlarged in 1871 and a tower and spire added in 1901 and finally, consecrated, 18th May 1927. In 1931 the population was 3,760 and in 1836 Charles replaced Lurgan House, as it was called with an Elizabethan type manor. This building was designed by William Playfair, the celebrated Victorian architect, and consists of three main reception rooms and a staircase with two wings taken off to the north. The main building is faced with Sandstone imported from Scotland with sandstone quoins and mullions.
In May 1839, Charles Brownlow was raised to the peerage of the United Kingdom and was created Baron Lurgan of Lurgan, Co. Armagh and was granted a Coat of Arms with supports and reads or Blazens thus:
Quartly of four. First and fourth.
Per Pale or and argent, and escutcheon of between an oriel of eight martlets sable. (Brownlow)
Argent) a stag current proper on the chief vert. 3 Mullets of the first order. (0'Dougherty).
Glues on a chevron argent between 3 escallops of Chamberlain.
On a cap of Maintenance azure turned up in ermine, a greyhound glues collar or.
Motto: Esse Quam Vider.
On the Dexter side a Greyhound Argent, charged with a wreath of Shamrock vert.
On the sinister a Highland Soldier in his uniform with his flintlock all proper.
Charles Brownlow died 30th April 1847 leaving by his second marriage, a daughter Clora and two sons, Charles and Edward.
Charles, Second Baron Lurgan, was born 10th April 1831, K.P. 76th Regiment, Lord Lieut. Co. Armagh 1864/82. Lord in waiting Queen Victoria 1869/74. He married 20th June, Emily Ann, daughter of John Brown the 3rd Lord Kilmaine. When his father died, Charles was a minor and the estate was managed by the Agent, John Handcock. Between 1845-49 the greatest disaster ever to hit Ireland was the potato famine People of this district are inclined to think that the famine was in the South and West but that is not so. Here are some extracts from a letter by a Church of England clergyman to the Relief Committee of the Society of Friends about conditions in North Armagh, dated Feb. 23rd 1847. "The weaver at present can only earn by weaving a web of sixty yards; two shillings and six-pence to four shillings and sixpence which employs him nearly a whole week in preparation, while at present such wages will not support the mere weaver without a family Even at such wages I can state as a fact having come under my own immediate observation that weavers are sitting up three nights per week in order by any means to procure food One of the poorhouses in the district of Lurgan is shut for ingress or egress; seventy-five died in one day. We are in short rapidly approaching, and if unassisted, must arrive at the worst picture that has been presented to the public from Co. Cork."
In 1351 the population of Lurgan was 4,651 and ten years later it had risen to 8,500. This was probably due to power loom weaving introduced by James Malcolm in 1855. In 1861, owing to the American Civil War, there was a great upsurge in the linen trade. Old mills were enlarged and power looms built and powered by steam. Lurgan began to extend its boundaries. To keep factories supplied with coal, a new Cut was made in 1863, 300 yards longs from Lough Neagh to Kinnego. This meant that lighters of 60 to 100 tons could come into the new quay, towed by a steam tug from Ellis Cut which was where the Lagan Canal met Lough Neagh.
In 1863 the Town Hall was built at the cost of £2,300 and the Town Commission did Lord Lurgan the honour of appropriating his family coat of arms and crest, and impaled it with a coat of their own design which was: Vert, on a chevron ermine, charged with three bezants, between a pile of linen in chief, and in the base a beehive with bee, all proper supported with flax plants and the motto: "Be Just and Fear Not."
This coat of arms is termed. bogus or unauthorised arms. No person can give or sell this coat of arms. The legal right to the use of a coat of arms can only be obtained on the payment of certain fees and stamps. This coat of arms was used by Lurgan Town Council until it became a Borough.
The Lurgan industries increased and the town spread out its boundaries. The second Lord Lurgan's claim to fame was that as a leading figure in the coursing world he held the nomination for the Waterloo Cup. He held an annual coursing - meeting at Raughlin in which the Visitors' Cup was the main feature of the programme, and it was at this meeting in October 1867, that the famous dog, Master McGrath, owned by Lord Lurgan won the Visitors' Cup and was nominated to contend the Waterloo Cup which he won in 1868, 1869 and 1871. His success has been told over and over again in song and story.
The Second Lord Lurgan died 16th January, 1882, leaving six daughters, Mary Emily, Clara Agnes, Louisa Helen, Isobella Anne, Clementina Georgina and Emmeline and three sons, William, John Roderick and Francis Cecil.
William Brownlow 3rd Baron Lurgan, K C.V.O. was born 11th February, 1858. He was 2nd Lieut, Grenadier Guards and married 7th February, 1893 Emily Cadogan, eldest daughter of George Henry, 5th Earl of Cadogan. She died 12th December,
In 1884, Lord Lurgan sold some of his land under the provision of the Ashbourne Land Purchase Act on the f following terms.
For lands in Electoral Division of Lurgan, 18 1/2 years, for holdings in Montiaghs 16 1/2 years, and for the rest of the estate 18 1/2 years. In the same year 1884, the Town Commissioner purchased the patent for the Market and Fair granted by Charles II to his ancestors from Lord Lurgan for £2,000.
The Demesne was bought by the Lurgan Real Property Co., who cut down most of the timber and later sold it to the Lurgan Town Council and it was opened as a Public Park on July 1909 by Lord Aberdeen.
Brownlow House was bought by the Orange Lodges in the district and is now used as the Headquarters of the Orange Order. During the 1914-18 war it was used for the training of the 16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles with the late Sir William Allen as their Colonel, and during the 1939-45 War it was the headquarters of the American Forces in Northern Ireland and was visited by General Eisenhower shortly before D Day.
William died 9th February, 1937, leaving a son William George Edward, 4th Baron Lurgan, who was born 22nd February 1912, and spent some of his early years at the Vice Regal Lodge, Phoenix Park Dublin. The Earl of Cadogan, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
In 1949 Lurgan became a Borough and had a Mayor and four Aldermen. Lord Lurgan presented a Mayoral Chain which cost in the region of £600. The council applied for a coat of arms and was granted it and is now displayed on all their official documents.
The Ordinance Survey of 1839 shows that Lurgan was 1,140 yards long by 240 yards broad. The main street with a few lanes branching off at right angles was 832 yards long and at its extreme breadth 44 yards. There were 438 houses and the greatest number of these were old. They consisted of 120 one-storey, 224 of two-storey, 93 of three-storey and two of four-storey. Two-hundred and forty-two were slated, two with bog oak shingles, the remainder were thatched.