Bessbrook is a village in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It lies
about three miles (5 km) northwest of
Newry and near the Newry
bypass on the main A1 Belfast-
Dublin road and Belfast-
line. Today the village of
Bessbrook straddles the three townlands of
Maghernahely, Clogharevan and Maytown.
Bessbrook is near
During the late 20th century some of the worst violence of "the
Troubles" took place near the village and it became a military zone
with a large garrison. The small village became the busiest (military)
heliport in Europe.
2 The Troubles
3 Places of interest
Bessbrook is named from Elizabeth or Bess Nicholson, wife of Joseph
Nicholson whose family had carried on a linen business in the district
from 1806 until 1845. The 'brook' is a stream which runs through the
outskirts of the village.
Bessbrook was founded by
John Grubb Richardson
John Grubb Richardson in 1845 as a 'model
village', with spacious streets and squares surrounding a large linen
mill owned by the
Quaker Richardson family. As a social experiment it
is similar to the model of the better-known
Bournville company town
founded by the
Cadbury family near Birmingham, England, however it
predates this development by more than 30 years. It is likely that the
precedent on which it was based was the industrial village at Portlaw,
County Waterford, Ireland, founded in 1825 by the
Among the principles on which the village was based was a philosophy
of "Three P's": there should be no public houses, no pawn shops, and
consequently no need for police. It was John Grubb Richardson's belief
that without a public house there would be no need for a pawn brokers
or police station. To this day there are no public houses in the
village. Nor are there any pawn shops, although nowadays there is a
Police Service of
Northern Ireland (PSNI) station. In 1885 the
Newry Tramway opened.
An old drawing of Richardson's Mill, Bessbrook
At one time,
Bessbrook linen was among the finest in the world, and
the linen mill provided most of the employment in the village.
Tenement houses were constructed for the mill workers, many of which
were of such good quality that they are still inhabited today. Each
house also had an allotment garden for the growing of vegetables, and
the area of the village where they were situated is still known as
'The Gardens', although the allotments themselves have been replaced
by further housing. Most of the buildings in the village are
constructed of granite, which is abundant locally.
In the frequently segregated communities of Northern Ireland,
Bessbrook is an unusually mixed village, with representation of
Roman Catholic denominations.
The village also has a
Quaker meeting house. This is set in the
demesne of The Woodhouse, which was inhabited by the Richardson family
until the 1980s, and of
Derrymore House – also a Richardson property
until bequeathed to the National Trust, it was once the home of Isaac
Corry MP. The area has been designated an historic park. Football
Bessbrook has been steeped in history. Well known footballing
families, like The Carroll's and Feehans have produced a long line of
professional and semi professional footballers.
The Troubles in Bessbrook
Bessbrook saw much of the worst violence in the Troubles. The linen
mill was converted by the
British Army into a major military base. A
helicopter landing area was established to supply other military
outposts in the area since road-borne movements of troops and supplies
were vulnerable to landmine attack. At one stage the little village
was reportedly the busiest helicopter airport in Europe.
On 25 June 2007 the
British Army withdrew their military presence from
Bessbrook and closed all of their facilities, marking an end to
British military presence in the South
The end of the Troubles, following the signing of the Good Friday
Agreement in 1998, has led to some recovery for the village. Traffic
restrictions have been relaxed and the visible security presence has
been reduced. It has been confirmed that the local police station will
be disposed of within the current financial year, one of twenty-six
stations that the Police Service of
Northern Ireland has announced
will be closing due to cost efficiency measures.
Places of interest
On the outskirts of the village is John Macneill's Craigmore Viaduct,
known locally as the Eighteen Arches, built in 1851. The viaduct still
carries the Dublin-
Belfast railway line and with eighteen,
(60 ft) twenty metre high arches, spanning about quarter of a
mile (500 m), it was for a long time the longest bridge in
Ireland. Constructed from local granite it makes for great distinction
in the area.
Derrymore House, a National Trust property open to the public, is
nearby. It is an 18th-century thatched house set in over 100 acres
(0.40 km2) of beautiful parkland and woodland. The Act of Union
was drafted in the drawing room of the house in 1800.
Bessbrook Primary School
St. Joseph's Primary School
St. Paul's High School
St. Peter's Primary School, Cloughreagh
^ Bessbrook/An Sruthán, Placenames Database of Ireland
Newry and Mourne Area Plan 2015 – Draft Plan August
2006 – Volume 3
Newry and Mourne District Proposals" (PDF). The
Planning Service. p. 147. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
^ "Last troops pull out of Bessbrook". BBC News Online. 25 June 2007.
Retrieved 8 August 2009.
^ "Police stations which may close". BBC News Online. 3 August 2009.
Retrieved 8 August 2009.
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