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Shrigley, County Down

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shrigley [1] is a small village in County Down, Northern Ireland about a mile north-west of Killyleagh. It is named after Pott Shrigley in Cheshire. In the 2001 Census it had a population of 456. It lies within the Down District Council area.

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Shrigley is a small satellite industrial village which grew up around the large six-storey cotton mill built in 1824 by John Martin. In 1836, Shrigley mill had more power looms than any other factory in Ireland. In the following year, Samuel Lewis described it at length:

Some large mills were built upon a copious stream, in 1824, by Messrs. Martin & Co., and were greatly enlarged in 1828: in these works are 13,798 spindles, employing 186 persons, and 244 power-looms attended by 156 persons, constantly engaged in weaving printers' cloths for the Manchester market; and connected with this manufactory are more than 2000 hand-looms in the neighbouring districts. The buildings, which are very spacious and six storeys high, are lighted with gas made on the premises, and the proprietors have erected a steam-engine of 35 horse power.' The original mill was burned down in 1845. It was replaced by a flax-spinning mill, subsequently occupied by United Chrometanners Limited.

The Grecian gate pillars, and some of the subsidiary stone buildings, were probably survivors of the original mill, and stood until quite recently. Naturally, the mill became the principal source of employment in the locality. Most of the workers lived in Killyleagh, but a number of blackstone workers' cottages, by no means unattractive though lacking modern conveniences, were built in a cluster along the three streets at the mill gate.

During his lifetime, the people of the district resolved to commemorate the contribution John Martin had made to their prosperity; a competition was held in 1870 for designs for a clock tower and drinking fountain in his honour; the premium was awarded to Timothy Hevey, a young Belfast architect apparently then working with Pugin and Ashlin in Dublin. The work was executed in 1871, and a truly remarkable, and typically High Victorian, monument was erected at the heart of the village - at the cross-roads outside the mill gate. John Martin died in 1876 at the age of 79; Timothy Hevey died in 1878 at the age of 33. Posterity took less than a century to make nonsense of what both had wrought.

Between 1968 and 1972, in the neutral words of the Downpatrick Area Plan, 'a very extensive redevelopment project was completed involving the replacement of the early industrial village, the construction of 154 houses and two shops'. In short, the village as a village was entirely swept away; not one of the original workers' houses remains. The people were all rehoused in a housing estate on the opposite hillside. It is very much a housing estate, and very much not a village. The houses have modern amenities; they have hard standings and garages; they have neat gardens behind wooden palings; they are all, without exception, built of grey concrete bricks; they have uniform detailing; they are laid out exactly like a suburban estate on the outskirts of a city. There is no variety, and there is no attempt to provide any kind of focus or heart to the community. There is not one element in the new estate which preserves or even recalls the identity of the old village; it is entirely inappropriate to its setting in the rolling drumlin country side of County Down.

Only the Martin monument still stands, in isolation, at the mill gate: derelict, sprouting vegetation, with a number of its stones fallen, neglected, abandoned by the community which John Martin created: in its present state, a decrepit eyesore.

Shrigley Monument (Martin Memorial)

Shrigley monument
Shrigley monument

1871<!Date made? Date unveiled?>, designed by Timothy Hevey. A remarkably imposing monument of brown stone, in three layers; the design has much in common with, but is rather grander than, the Rossmore Memorial of about the same date in the Diamond of Monaghan town. The base, surrounded by iron railings, originally with an elaborate lamp at each corner, is square. Upon this, an octagonal arcade of round-headed arches, carried on columns with Ruskinian foliated capitals, surrounds the central shaft which incorporates the drinking-fountain. Above this rises a square tower, supported by eight flying buttresses springing from pinnacles; in each face is a triple pointed opening divided by small foliate-capitaled columns. Above these openings are large circular oculi in which the clock (now entirely disappeared) displayed its four faces. The tower is surmounted by acute angled gable-pediments, with five-lobed ogee centre pieces; four corner pinnacles, the crockets now missing; and a pyramidal roof terminating in ornate cresting.

There are few High Victorian monuments of equal merit and importance in Ulster, and this one well deserves to be repaired and restored.

[Note: The Martin monument remains in parlous condition and continues to be the subject of sporadic debate by the villagers and the Housing Executive which is now responsible for the estate.] During the 1970s the mill was used as a tannery employing many men and women from Shrigley and Killeagh. Atlantic Tanners were fine tanners of local cow hides shipped worldwide.


This page was last edited on 3 March 2021, at 16:40
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