Historical Agrucultur

Below is a snapshot of the variety of agriculture practiced around the Lough shores during the 18th and 19th centuries using information extracted from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs. The Memoirs contain accounts of the topography, history, industry, and society for each parish within Northern Ireland and were compiled in the 1830’s as an accompaniment to the 1st Ordnance Survey mapping of Ireland. Though some parishes were better recorded that others, in essence the memoirs are a snapshot of 1830’s life in Northern Ireland.

North Shore
The people of Duneane Parish were described as being so poor that few could afford to keep a cow and therefore had to buy milk and butter. Some managed to keep pigs and these were slaughtered at home before being brought to market along with grain. The horse trade was popular in Drummaul Parish and seen as a way to pay the rent by the small tenant farmers. Cabbages, leeks and onions were grown in the garden to supplement the main crops of potatoes and oats.  Within the town of Antrim, horses were kept in stalls while cattle were grazed on open ground about the town. In the parish of Antrim some farms kept sheep as well as cows and here farm size averaged between 10 and 40acres.

East shore
In the parishes of Camlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry the size of farms varied between 1 and 150 acres. Crops grown consisted of wheat, barley, oats, potatoes and rye and these were brought to the markets at Belfast, Lisburn, Lurgan and Antrim.

East-southeast shore
The farms in the parishes of Aghagallon and Shankill averaged in size between 10 and 13 acres. Along with crops of wheat, oats and potatoes, farmers here are recorded as keeping geese for market. Many weavers lived in this area and though they usually kept a few hens for eggs and pig for pork they had to purchase wheat, oats potatoes and even fish. Those that did not keep a cow also purchased milk and butter.

South shore
In parishes of Seagoe, Shankill and Tartaraghan the hills were well cultivated and wheat, barley, oats, flax and potatoes were grown. It was noted in Tartaraghan parish that the land close to the Lough shore was affected by strong winds, and here the ground was low lying and boggy. In Shankill parish a weekly fair was held in Lurgan each Friday where fruit, fish, flesh meat, vegetables, black cattle, pigs were sold.  In the parish of Montiaghs, the memoirs mention that corn was sold at market in Portadown though due to the poverty of the soil very little corn was actually grown.

West Shore
In the parishes of Clunoe, Ballyclog and Ballinderry (west) potatoes, wheat, oats and flax were grown. In particular, the memoirs note that nearly the whole parish of Clunoe was under cultivation but despite the intensive farming practiced here holdings remained small, averaging 6acre.  Cows, some sheep and pigs were kept, and in Ballinderry horse trading was popular in the 1830’s.

Northwest Shore
Grain was mainly grown in the parish of Ardtrea for the brewery and distillery industries though some was shipped to the Belfast markets via Ballyronan. The townland of Creagh, to the west of Toome, was noted in the Memoirs as being of poor quality low-lying land and it inhabitants described as poor cottiers i.e. landless labourers.