RICHHILL DISTRICT L.O.L. No.2

 

The original name for Richhill was Legacorry, and in 1664 there were 20 houses in the village. Around 1681/82 permission was granted to Major Edward Richardson to hold a Saturday market and three fairs per year. The fairs were held on Shrove Tuesday, St. Swithin's Day and St. Francis Day. New orchards were being planted at this time and houses were springing up along the road sides.

In 1688 a party of the local Volunteer Light Dragoons left to take part in the Relief of Derry, and in 1690 part of the Williamite Army camped at Legacorry, en route to the Battle of the Boyne. We are told that much cider was consumed by his soldiers in the spring of that year.

By 1736 Legacorry had become known as Richhill, probably so named by Edward Richardson or his wife. As one writer commented, "it was most appropriately named, in so much as it commands a full view of a country rich in pastures, plantations, orchards and grain fields".

Just across the road from the "Twelfth" field is Course Lodge, and it was adjacent to here that the famous Richhill Races were held each July for five days. It seems that Richhill in Race Week was the place to be. It attracted people from all classes; they arrived on foot and in carriages drawn by from one to six horses. Racing started each day at three o'clock to the accompaniment of balled-singers, fiddlers and other side shows. Each morning was taken up with cock-fighting, a very popular sport at that time. It is a well known fact that the fighting never ended in the cockpit as the owners and their supporters often re-fought the contest in one of the many public houses in the village. Hunting with hounds was another popular sport at that time and unlike the cock-fighting still takes place, the surrounding countryside during the winter months echoing to the sound of the beagles and their handlers.

A Market House was built in the Square by William Richardson in 1753. It became a very important centre of the brown linen trade where in 1804 sales averaged at least £500 per week, despite rival markets in both Armagh and Portadown. The construction of a new road from Armagh to Belfast which by-passed Richhill triggered the decline of the weekly market and the three fairs. So it was that the Market House was converted into the Present Parish Church in 1837. It is interesting to note that in a census in 1814 Richhill had 161 dwellings, six more than Portadown. Occupations included hand loom weaving, straw platemaking, shuttle-making, wood turning and spademaking.

By 1835 the three Miss Richardson's, who now owned the estate, and were described as excellent landlords, had built many new country schools on the estate, Mulladry and Derryhale being two examples.

With the coming of the railway in 1848, again by-passing Richhill the village became even more isolated. With the markets having died out and the advent of weaving factories most of the hand looms became redundant and the population decreased. Occupations too were changing and the village now had two tanneries and a fruit preserving factory.

Moving into the 2Oth century Richhill became famous as a furniture making centre with at least four fairly large factories producing all kinds of household and office furniture. This trade is still very much in evidence with the manual skills and the machinery having changed to produce the type of furniture in demand for modern homes.

Modern homes are something Richhill has in abundance. Over the past thirty years the population has spiralled and the "Best Kept Village" of the sixties is now in the small town category. Even the centre of the village has not escaped the developers with the greatest changes being evident in the vicinity of the War Memorial. Here new self contained flats for the elderly have replaced the once impressive Legacorry House. The old Congregational Church cum Orange Hall has now been converted into a Day Centre for the handicapped.

RICHHILL CASTLE, ANCESTRAL HOME OF THE RICHARDSONS

Built between 1664 and 1669 Richhill Castle is steeped in history. It stands on the site of an earlier dwelling erected by Francis Sacheverall, a planter from Rossbye in Leicestershire in 1611.

In 1610 Sacheverall had received two portions of land, 1000 acres in each, called Mullalelish and Legacorry and decided to live on the latter. He declared himself to be worth £300 a year and brought over from England with him, three masons, one carpenter, one smithy, nine labourers, two women, four horses and a cart. Before his death in 1649 Sacheverall had sold the Mullalelish portion to Sir William Alexander, a Scottish speculator who was later honoured with the title "Earl of Stirling".

Francis Sacheverall's son and heir, also called Francis, and his wife Dorothy had only one child, a girl named Anne, who married Major Edward Richardson in 1654. Major Richardson was M.P. and High Sheriff for Armagh. Through this marriage Legacorry became the property of the Richardson family and the present castle was built.

The Richardson's originally came from Pershore in Worcestershire, and a branch of the family later settled in Rossfad, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh.

Edward and Anne Richardson had two sons, William and John. William was M.P. for Armagh when King William III camped at Scarva. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Chief Justice Reynell in 1695, they had no family. John Richardson's grandson, also called William, followed his great-uncle into politics and served as M.P. for Armagh for many years.

This William Richardson's first wife, Dorothy Munroe, was the celebrated Dolly Munroe, who at seventeen was acclaimed the most beautiful girl in all Ireland. When she went to visit her aunt, Lady Loftus, in Dublin, she was the object of such admiration that she could not walk in the Mall because of the crowd of undesired worshippers. Instead she had to rise at 6am and take her exercise in St. Stephens Green to ensure some privacy. Dolly and William were married in 1775, but sadly she died, childless, in 1793.

William Richardson's second wife however, bore him three daughters, Elizabeth, lsabella and Louisa, who collectively inherited the village, now called Richhill, and the rest of the estate. It is recorded that these three ladies were remarkable for their charity to the poor of the neighbourhood, and generously supported many worthy causes. Only the youngest, Louisa, was married. Her husband, Edward Bacon, was High Sheriff of Armagh and as she had no family the estate passed to the Rossfad Richardson's after her death in 1881.

In the early part of this century the castle was the residence of Major Robert Gordon Berry and there are some stories surrounding him involving secret passages, skeletons and a grave in the castle grounds. After the establishment of the Government of Northern Ireland in 1920, the castle became the property of the Northern Ireland Education Authority. During the 1930s it was occupied by a Mr. Sam Hewitt, whose main claim to fame was the invention of an egg washing machine.

Architecturally Richhill Castle is described as a two storey building with a gabled attic in a high pitched roof. It consists of a centre range plus a wing at each end with Dutch gables. There are four similar, but smaller gables on the centre range, and on the inner face of each wing. It is typical of many mansions built throughout Europe in the 17th century.

According to one famous archaeologist, Francis J. Biggar, "the glory of the place is the extended range of iron gates and railings at the main entrance to the castle." No finer specimen of wrought iron-work remains in Ireland today," he said. These gates were made by the Thornberry Brothers of Armagh in 1745; they were eighteen to twenty feet high and topped with the Richardson family's Coat of Arms.

Unfortunately you cannot see these magnificent gates in Richhill today. In 1936 they were removed by night to Hillsborough Castle, then the residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland, which was being renovated after a fire in 1934. In spite of a storm of protest from local councillors and the people of the village at this high-handed move by the Civil Service, the gates were never returned. One consolation, I suppose is that they are being well looked after, and over the years many thousands of people have admired them at the front of Government House as they visited the historic conservation Village of Hillsborough.

At present the castle and five acres of woodland is owned and occupied by three families of Lyttles, and is also the headquarters of their land surveying business. It is to their credit that they have not changed the exterior, though some modernisations have been carried out to the interior.

ORANGEISM IN RICHHILL AND DISTRICT

The first reference to Orangeism in the Richhill area is of two meetings held on the 17th and 18th of March 1796, attended by the tenantry of the manors of Legacorry and Mullalelish. At this meeting Orange Associations were formed to protect the Protestant people of this district against the outrages being continued throughout the country. The following resolution was unanimously passed:-

"That every honest man should protect himself and his neighbour against the present outrages, and give information to the nearest magistrate against every person who violates the peace, no matter what his profession. We also pledge at the hazard of life and fortune to support and defend the King, George the Third, against all foreign and domestic enemies. We further resolve to discourage and oppose all with their treasonable intent"

At the turn of the century Richhill District L.O.L. No.2 consisted of seven Lodges and held its meetings in the Parochial Hall. The oldest District records show that in 1936 total membership was 170 made up thus: No.11 Ballyleany 23, No.47 Hamiltonsbawn 30, No.54 Cloughan 22, No.79 Sleepy Valley 10, No.114 Rockmacreaney 34, No.312 Irish Street 12, and No.665 Parochial Hall 39.

The next Lodge to get into difficulty was L.O.L. No.79, their warrant was handed in to the District on April 28th 1937 by Bros. G. Kennedy and F. Hewitt, six pounds was also handed over which was to be used to maintain their former hall, a tin hut in Sleepy Valley. Permission was granted to Greenview Dart Club to use the old L.O.L. No.79 hall in return for a rent of six shillings per quarter. This hall was later sold in June 1942 to a Mrs. Morrison from Markethill to be used by the Y.M.C.A. and can now be seen in use as a cattle shed on the Ballygroobany Road.

In January 1942 a committee was formed to negotiate the purchase of Richhill Congregational Church which they did successfully, their bid of £300 being accepted on the 18th of May. Bro. Bob Buckley was appointed caretaker and being a handyman spent many hours repairing and improving the property. One pew was given to L.O.L. No.47 and the rest were sold. The new hall was used regularly by the following organisations, Greenview Dart Club, Richhill Part Flute Band, The Home Guard, L.O.L. No.665 and R.B.P. No.113. The last two paying a charge of 50 shillings per year. Note that the April 1944 electric bill came to £1-6s-7d, or £1.33 in today's money.

With parades resuming after the Second World War, the new bannerette purchased for £10 in 1940 was unfurled in July 1945, by Past District Master Bro. William Nellins. The previous summer a new drum bearing General Montgomery's portrait was unveiled by his mother, for L.O.L. No.11 at Ballyleaney.

The banner formerly carried by L.O.L. No.79 was sold to Derryhennett L.O.L. No.37 in 1946. The District had a choice of "Twelfth" venues in 1945, having been invited by both Portadown and Armagh; they decided to go to Armagh as train times were more suitable. A similar situation arose in 1946 between Markethill and Armagh, again the latter was chosen. The county returned to a single demonstration in 1947 with Tandragee District as host.

Until 1959 the Annual Service was held in the Parish Church every year, but changes had been suggested in 1957 and in 1960 it was agreed to go to the Presbyterian Church, since then the District Service rotates around the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. Richhill Conservative Part Flute Band headed this Parade every year since records began until 1966 when they disbanded. After that Hamiltonsbawn and Rockmacraney were invited on alternate years to lead the parade on the Sunday before the Twelfth.

Although the selling of the Orange Hall by L.O.L. No.665 in 1993 surprised most people, in fact, they first discussed this action over thirty years ago. The District Hall had been handed over, free of charge, to them on 26th of April 1950, with clauses covering future use, sale, or event of "665" ceasing to exist. On 21st of January 1961 they reported to the District meeting their intentions to sell, a proposed exchange for the Masonic Hall was also mentioned. Later L.O.L. No.665 let their hall to a religious body for £50 per year and the situation eased for the time being. But the issue didn't go away and on 29th January 1986 it was again reported that L.O.L. No.665 was looking a buyer for their hall. This buyer was eventually found, and at a special meeting on the 13th February 1993 the District Lodge gave their approval to L.O.L. No.665 to proceed with the sale and their plans to build a new hall next door, on ground which they already owned.

In order to save money the warrant No.312 was handed in after the October meeting in 1962, L.O.L. No.312 had been dormant for some years. Their last known meeting places were the old school-house beside the Parish Church and in rooms at what is now "Ye Olde House Bar" in Irish Street.

An interesting contradiction happened in the late nineteen sixties. In January 1965 a letter of confidence was sent to Rt. Hon. Terence O'NeiIl, Prime Minister, after his meeting with the Eire Prime Minister, Sean Lemass.

Grand Lodge had also expressed pleasure at Prime Minister O'Neill's action and hoped it would lead to better trade relations with Eire. Four years later however, the District Lodge had changed their opinion and the following resolution was passed, "that this Lodge has no confidence in the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Capt. Terence O'Neill". This attitude was also apparent in 1972 when it was rumoured that all "Twelfth" parades would be banned. As Richhill were the hosts that year it was unanimously agreed that they would hold a rally, irrespective of whether the rest of the county came or not!

A new District bannerette was unfurled in July 1966 by Bro. Hamilton Hawthorne, W.D.M, and dedicated by Canon John Cockrill, it cost £19. The effects of rampant inflation can be seen here because twelve years later in 1978 another new bannerette cost £60. It was unfurled by Bro. James Nicholl, W.D.M. in June and dedicated at the Annual Service in July.

The "Twelfth" has come to Richhill Village in the years 1892, 1905, 1919, 1925, 1936, 1963, 1972, 1983 and 1994. There was also a demonstration in Hamiltonsbawn in 1819. At the "Twelfth" in 1983 an Orange Arch was erected in the Village. Made in 1939 by Bro. Billy Forbes at a cost of £5, it was originally erected each year outside Cloncore Orange Hall on the Dungannon - Birches road. After a road widening scheme due to the building of the motorway, it was then too short for the site and was put into storage. There it remained until 1983 when Bro. George McAdam, a native of the Birches, along with the District Officers successfully negotiated its transfer to Richhill. After repainting, mainly carried out by Bro. James Gwynne of L.O.L. No.114, it was erected on the 2nd of July beside the War Memorial. Bro. McAdam was also instrumental in bringing another of Bro. Forbes' arches to the district. This arch came from Derrykeevin and was first erected outside his premises, "The Bawn Inn", sixteen years ago.

A new bannerette was unfurled in 1990 as part of the Tercentenary of the Boyne celebrations, which included a parade of fancy dress, floats and a detachment of the Williamite army, to the recreation ground on the New Line where sports and side-shows entertained the crowds.

THE VILLAGE OF HAMILTONSBAWN

Hamiltonsbawn takes it's name from John Hamilton, a nobleman from East Lothian in Scotland, who was granted a tract of land by King James I in the year of 1619. He brought with him 30 soldiers and 26 families, to hold possession of and to work the land. John Hamilton built a Bawn, (a fortified farmhouse surrounded by an 18- feet high defensive wall). This lime and stone building stood outside the present village on the road to Markethill, and the village grew up around the junction of the Armagh - Tandragee Road and the Richhill - Markethill Road.

During the rebellion of 1641 the Bawn came under attack from a raiding party led by Owen Roe O'Neill in which it took a severe pounding and was almost destroyed.

Hamilton's daughter married into the Acheson family of Markethill, (the Acheson's were later elevated to the peerage as Earls of Gosford in 1806). Arthur Acheson and his wife wanted to rebuild the Bawn but couldn't decide whether it should become a Malthouse or a Barrack. After lengthy debates between them and their friend Dean Swift work started in 1729 to build a Barrack.

It is said that Dean Swift was very impressed by the hardworking people of Hamiltonsbawn and wrote a humorous little poem about the village as follows:-

"Newry town for mice and rats,
Armagh city for dogs and cats,
Hamiltonsbawn that keeps no Sunday,
For every day is an Easter Monday."

By the end of the 19th century Hamiltonsbawn was a thriving community with over one hundred hand loom weavers working in their own homes. There were also two very famous hire fairs held each year on the 26th of May and the 26th of November, except Sundays, when servants were hired for six months at an agreed wage. It became a local school holiday because the children were needed to help bring the animals to the fairs, they also had a rhyme which went:-

Twenty sixth of May, The 'Bawn fair day,
If we don't get a holiday, We'll all run away.

In the early nineteen thirties the hiring fair had died out, but its passing was mourned by one local at least who wrote:-
"It was a gran' hirin' fair they used till have here, but who needs servant boys now? Shure the young fellas now wud rather drive a bus or go till Ameriky or one of them foreign places, than feel the reigns atween their fingers. Aye it's a hard life the farmers have but its good till be alive an in the fiel's with the horses at times. Ye have a guess as till how the saysons go when yer in the open. Not but what they've changed too. I doubt whether it wus wise till alter the clock. Shure what has foolish man till do with God's own time?
But mind ye I'm not denyin' the long evenin's is good for them that has time till skite about, but what about the mornin's an the dew on the grass, an nothin' a doin' at all, at all, until it's nearin' the middle of the day".

There are no churches actually in Hamiltonsbawn at present, the last known church was a Presbyterian congregation which met for worship in a building on the site where 43 Main Street is now situated. This building had also been used as a school in the past, and L.O.L. No.47 met there, prior to the existence of the present Orange Hall. The Presbyterians built a Meeting House of their own at Druminnis and moved there in June 1842.

Since the start of the recent period of Terrorist violence in 1969 (universally called the "Troubles") three brethren from this District have been murdered.

Bro. Hugh Turbitt, L.O.L. No.11,
R.U.C. Constable, killed in 1978.

Bro. Jackson Hogg, L.O.L. No.47,
Shot while returning to his car in Armagh City car park, after work.

Bro Paul Bleakley, L.O.L. No.665,
Private in the U.D.R, blown up in the Glenanne U.D.R.

base in 1991 while on guard duty.

In addition one Brother Orangeman from L.O.L. No.47 had a sister killed on a train by a bomb while returning home from work for the weekend and another Brother from L.O.L. No.114 lost his daughter when she was killed by a bomb, on a train from Belfast.

 

 

PRIVATE LODGES

 

 

BALLYLEANEY PURPLE STAR L.O.L. No.11

 

HAMILTONSBAWN GUIDING STAR L.O.L. No.47

 

CLOUGHAN CRIMSON STAR L.O.L. No.54

 

SLEEPY VALLEY L.O.L. No.79

 

ROCKMACRANEY TEMPERANCE L.O.L. No.114

 

IRISH STREET L.O.L. No.312

 

BATTLEHILL L.O.L. No.395

 

RICHHILL TRUE BLUES TEMPERANCE L.O.L. No.665

 

 


 

 

County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge 2008


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Design and Development by Jim Reaney