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CIMG1481 ScraboViewNewtownardsTown.JPG

View of Newtownards from Scrabo Tower
Newtownards is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population28,050 (2011 Census)
• Belfast9 mi (14.5 km)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT22, BT23
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°35′28″N 5°40′48″W / 54.591°N 5.68°W / 54.591; -5.68

Newtownards is a town, townland and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies at the most northern tip of Strangford Lough, 10 miles (16 km) east of Belfast, on the Ards Peninsula. It is situated in the civil parish of Newtownards and the historic baronies of Ards Lower and Castlereagh Lower.[8] Newtownards is in the Ards and North Down Borough. It is known colloquially by locals as "Ards". The population was 28,050 in the 2011 Census.[4]


Irish settlement

In 540 AD, St. Finian founded Movilla Abbey, a monastery, on a hill overlooking Strangford Lough about a mile North-East of present-day Newtownards town centre. "Movilla" (Magh Bhile) means "the plain of the sacred tree," in Irish, which suggests that the land had previously been a sacred pagan site. It became a significant Christian settlement - a centre for worship, study, mission and commercial trade, well known throughout Ireland. It was sacked by the Vikings sometime after AD 824, though survived for a thousand years as a monastic settlement (becoming part of the Augustinian Order in 1135), until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1542.

Around 1226, the Normans, who arrived in Ireland after 1169, established a new town around Movilla, naming it Nove Ville de Blathewyc ("New Town of Blathewyc" in reference to an earlier Irish territory). A Dominican priory was built in 1244 and was also dissolved in 1542.[9]

In 1572, both monasteries were burned by the Clanaboy O'Neills under Brian O'Neill as part of a campaign to deny buildings to the English,[10][9] after which the urban settlement at Movilla disappeared and the area around it became known as "Ballylisnevin" ("the town land of the fort of the family of Nevin").[citation needed]

The Scottish town

In 1605, Hugh Montgomery was granted the lands and set about rebuilding what was by then known as Newtown, later expanded to Newtownards. Official records show the town was established in 1606. Montgomery built a residence in the ruins of the old priory, the tower of which remains. Scottish settlers, particularly from Ayr, and to a lesser extent Irvine, in Ayrshire, arrived in large numbers and the town grew quickly.[11]

Due to the shallow mud of Strangford Lough, Newtown never developed as a port, with goods instead transported from the nearby town of Donaghadee on the Irish Sea coast of the Ards Peninsula. Instead, it became a market town, with the Market House in Conway Square constructed in 1771.[12]


North Down and the Ards Peninsula were briefly held by United Irish insurgents in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. On the morning of 9 June, "Pike Sunday", United Irishmen, mainly from Bangor, Donaghadee, Greyabbey and Ballywalter, under the command of the Presbysterian licentiate (later American diplomat) David Bailie Warden, marched on the town. They were driven off with musket fire from the Market House, but the garrison of Yorkshire Fencibles then withdrew, allowing the rebels to establish a French revolutionary style Committee of Public Safety. The "Republic" in Newtownards did not survive the rout two days later of the main rebel conjunction at Ballynahinch.[13]

The Great Famine

During the Great Famine, which resulted from the dependence of small tenants and cottiers on a blighted potato crop, the largest local landowner, Lord Londonderry, rejected rent reductions on grounds of "personal inconvenience". By 1847 the 800 inhabitants of the town were witness to "emaciated and half-famished souls" queuing at soup kitchens and overflowing the newly built workhouse. Despite Lord Londonderry's objection, with the upgrading of the road to Donaghadee several public works programs for famine relief were instigated. In general, conditions on the land, not as acutely subdivided as in western districts of Ireland, and availability of weaving and other employments, saved the town from the worst.[14][15]

Victorian growth

The early 19th century saw the reclamation of the marshlands south of the town. At the same time its growth was accelerated by integration into the Belfast and Lagan Valley industrial region and market. The Belfast and County Down Railway connected Newtownards to Belfast, via Comber and Dundonald, in 1850, and to Donaghadee in 1861. By the same year the town's population had risen to 9,500. (This rail line was closed in 1950.) On 12 July 1867, despite the Party Processions Acts, the Orange Order paraded from Bangor to Newtownards. The parade was organised by William Johnston (sentenced to a short term in prison the next year for his actions) and about 30,000 took part.[16]

As the nineteenth century progressed the economy became increasingly tied to the growing city of Belfast and the town continued to prosper and by the 20th century had increasingly become a commuter town. Newtownards' population reached 13,100 in 1961 and had doubled to 27,800 by the end of the 20th century.[citation needed]

The Troubles

During the Troubles, Newtownards was the scene of a car bomb attack on 5 July 1993, when Roma's Bar in Regent Street was targeted. The pub was destroyed, but has since been rebuilt. The attack was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army with a 700 kg (1,500 lb) device.[17] There were no fatalities. Police said the 10-minute warning, telephoned to a local radio station, was "totally inadequate." The warning said the bomb contained 1,500 pounds of explosives.[18]

Recent times

The Newtownards townland of Ballywatticock, towards Mount Stewart, made headlines on 17 July 2021 when it was announced by the Met Office that the local weather station clocked the hottest temperature ever recorded in Northern Ireland, reaching 31.2 °C at 15:40. The previous high in Northern Ireland was 30.8C set in the summers of 1976 and 1983.[19]


Castlebawn Shopping Centre is a shopping centre and retail park in Newtownards. As of April 2016 it contained a Tesco Extra, Matalan, Discount NI, and Home Bargains outlets. A Burger King and a Tesco petrol station are located in the main car park.[citation needed] Following a judicial review in 2014 which overturned planning permission, the company Castlebawn Ltd went into administration,[20] and no additional development was progressed.

Places of interest

Scrabo Tower (with Newtownards in the background)
Scrabo Tower (with Newtownards in the background)

Scrabo Tower

The town of Newtownards is overlooked by the 100-foot (30 m) high Scrabo Tower. The tower is 41 metres high, and was erected on Scrabo Hill as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1857. Those loyal to the Stewart family suggested the inspiration lay in the gratitude of his tenantry for his solicitude during the famine. Given the popular criticism the Marquess in those years, this seems doubtful. In 1847 he and his wife made contributions of £20 and £10 to their local relief committees. The following year they expended £15,000 renovating their home in Mount Stewart.[21] Only 450 subscribers were connected to the estate on which there were 1,200 tenants farmers and many associated employees. Two-thirds of the cost was met by 98 subscribers (on a list headed by Emperor Napoleon III of France), most of whom were fellow gentry.[22]

The Scottish baronial-style tower is open to the public and houses a historical and local environment exhibition. The basalt topped sandstone hill at Scrabo is one of the dominant features of north Down. The tower now stands in Scrabo Country Park with its woodland walks and parkland through Killynether Wood.[23]

Movilla Abbey

The ancient ruins of Movilla Abbey, monastic settlement are situated within the grounds of Movilla Cemetery. Nothing visible remains today of Finnian's original Celtic Abbey, but the 15th Century Augustinian ruins still stand, and are worth seeing. They are a part of the St Patrick's Trail Tourist Route[24]

Somme Heritage Centre

The Somme Heritage Centre, which is situated a little north of the town, is the Somme Association's flagship project. Situated adjacent to the Clandeboye Estate outside Newtownards, the centre is a unique visitor attraction of international significance showing the reality of the Great War and its effects on the community at home. The centre commemorates the involvement of the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions in the Battle of the Somme, the 10th (Irish) Division in Gallipoli, Salonika and Palestine, and provides displays and information on the entire Irish contribution to the First World War.[citation needed]

The centre promotes cross-community contact, mutual understanding, an appreciation of cultural diversity, and is a major visitor attraction. The centre is built on ground provided by Ards Borough Council in what is to be the Whitespots Country Park. Historically, the 36th (Ulster) Division trained on the estate during the first few months of the war and German prisoners of war were interned there. A replica of Helen's Tower was built on the Somme battlefield as Northern Ireland's national war memorial.[citation needed]

Mount Stewart

On the east shore of Strangford Lough, a few miles outside Newtownards and near Greyabbey, stands Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and garden – the home of the Londonderry family. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Londonderrys who played a leading role in British social and political life. The ninety-eight acre garden at Mount Stewart has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[25]

Largely created by Dame Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry, wife of the 7th Marquess, in the 1920s, it has an unrivaled collection of rare and unusual plants.[citation needed]



Ards Rugby Football Club plays at Lansdowne Road, south of the town along the main Comber road. The 1st XV currently plays in the Ulster Qualifying Division 2.[citation needed] Former players include Blair Mayne DSO, Phil Matthews and Nigel Carr, all former Ireland and British Lions players.


Ards Cricket Club currently plays in Section 3 of the NCU Senior League. Its home games take place at Londonderry Park, which is on the Portaferry Road.


There are two local football teams: Ards F.C., who play in the NIFL's Danske Bank Premiership, and Ards Rangers F.C., who play in the Northern Amateur Football League. Ards F.C. was founded in 1900 and plays its home matches at Clandeboye Park in Bangor, which it shares with Bangor F.C., following the sale of local ground Castlereagh Park. Ards Rangers F.C. plays its home matches at Drome Park which is directly beside the former Castlereagh Park. 1st Bangor Old Boys F.C. also play at Drome Park.[citation needed]

Ards motor racing Circuit

The Ards Circuit through Newtownards was a motorsport street circuit used for RAC Tourist Trophy sports car races from 1928 until 1936. At the time it was Northern Ireland's premier sporting event, regularly attracting crowds in excess of a quarter of a million people.[26]

On 5 September 1936, in appallingly wet conditions, local driver Jack Chambers lost control of his Riley approaching the Strangford Arms in Newtownards at the Newtownards rail bridge and crashed into the crowd, killing eight spectators. This tragedy brought an end to nine years of racing over the Ards street circuit.[27]

Notable natives/residents

See also


  1. ^ "Home | Department of the Environment" (PDF). Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  2. ^ "North-South Ministerial Council: 2002 Annual Report in Ulster Scots" (PDF). Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  3. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Newtownards Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Census 2001 Usually Resident Population: KS01 (Settlements) - Table view". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). p. 5. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Histpop - The Online Historical Population Reports Website". Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  7. ^ For post 1821 figures, 1813 estimate from Mason's Statistical Survey For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee "On the accuracy of the pre-famine Irish censuses Irish Population, Economy and Society edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p.54, in and also New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850 by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov 1984), pp. 473–88.
  8. ^ "Newtownards". IreAtlas Townlands Database. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  9. ^ a b Thompson, Mark (2 February 2009). "Newtownards Priory - one of the great Ulster-Scots churches". (blog). Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Newtownards Priory". Ulster Scots Heritage Trail. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  11. ^ Bardon, Jonathan (2012). The Plantation of Ulster. Dublin: Gill Books.
  12. ^ "The Market House". Newtownards Historical Series. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  13. ^ Stewart, A.T.Q. (1995), The Summer Soldiers: The 1798 Rebellion in Antrim and Down Belfast, Blackstaff Press, 1995,ISBN 9780856405587.
  14. ^ "Irish Famine: How Ulster was devastated by its impact". BBC News. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  15. ^ McCavery, Trevor (1994). Newtown: a History of Newtownards. Gatefold Paperback. ISBN 978187013246 6.
  16. ^ "Parades and Marches – Chronology 2: Historical Dates and Events". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  17. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1993". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  18. ^ "IRA car bomb injures 17". Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  19. ^ Maskell, Geoff (17 July 2021). "Hottest NI day ever as temperatures soar above 30C". BBC. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  20. ^ John Campbell. "Castlebawn: Future of Newtownards retail plan in doubt". BBC News. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  21. ^ Kineally, Christine (2013). Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland: The Kindness of Strangers. London: Bloomsbury. p. 53. ISBN 978-1441117588. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  22. ^ McCavery, pp. 140-141
  23. ^ "Scrabo Country Park - Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings in Newtownards, Newtownards - Discover Northern Ireland". Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  24. ^ "Saint Patrick's Trail". Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Mount Stewart's world-class gardens". National Trust. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  26. ^ Ireland, Culture Northern (23 December 2005). "The Tourist Trophy Races". Culture Northern Ireland. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Memorial revives Ards TT memories". BBC. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  28. ^ "About | WinningTrack". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  29. ^ "Lt Col. Robert Blair 'Paddy' Mayne DSO Freemason". Irish Masonic History and the Jewels of Irish Freemasonry. Retrieved 15 September 2016.

Further reading

  • Hanna, J. and Quail, D. 2006. Old Newtownards. Stenlake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 9781840332902.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 September 2021, at 12:08
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