The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"COUNTY LONDONDERRY, a maritime county in the province of Ulster, Ireland, bounded on the N. by Lough Foyle and the Atlantic Ocean, on the S. by Tyrone, on the E. by Lough Neagh and the county Antrim, and on the W. by the county Donegal. Its greatest length from N. to S. is 40 miles, and its greatest breadth from E. to W. is 34 miles, comprising 518,493 acres, of which about 318,282 are under cultivation, 180,709 uncultivated, 7,718 in plantations, 10,327 under water, and 1,559 in towns and roads. According to Ptolemy it formed part of the country of the Darnii, or Darini; hence the modern designation of Derry. It was chiefly the territory of the O'Nials, O'Loughlins, O'Donnels, and the O'Cahans, or Kanes. Derry was seized by the English towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, so as to check the power of O'Nial and O'Donnel; and when, in 1607, the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel fled, nearly all the six counties in Ulster were confiscated. King James sold the county, with all the forfeited territory, in 1609, to the twelve London companies of Clothworkers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Grocers, Haberdashers, Ironmongers, Skinners, Mercers, Merchant Tailors, Saltern, and Vintners, who undertook to establish there a Protestant colony, and to expend £20,000 on the plantation, in return for the grant of extensive privileges.

Four years later this company was incorporated by royal charter as "The Society of the Governor and Assistants of London of the New Plantation in Ulster, within the Realm of Ireland," or, as it is commonly known, the Irish Society, and all the towns, manors, lands, &c., given to these companies were erected by the charter into a distinct county called "Londonderry." King Charles I., being dissatisfied with the mode in which the Irish Society fulfilled their stipulations, cancelled the charter, and seized the county into his own hands; but parliament subsequently declaring the illegality of these proceedings, Cromwell restored the society to its former state, and Charles II. granted it a new charter, under which its affairs have been conducted ever since. All of the London companies retain their estates except the Goldsmiths, Haberdashers, Vintners, and Merchant Tailors, who have disposed of theirs to private individuals, as the Marquis of Waterford, the Richardsons, the Ponsonbys, the Alexanders, and the Conollys. The county is divided into six baronies, the city and liberties of Londonderry, the town and liberties of Coleraine, and the half baronies of Coleraine, Tirkeeran, Kennaught, and Loughinsholin. It is chiefly in Derry diocese, with portions in Armagh and Connor. The principal towns are Londonderry city, with a population in 1861 of 20,153; Coleraine, with a population of 5,628; and Newtownlimavady, with 2,734; the other market towns are Castle-Dawson, Draperstown, Dungiven, Garvagh, Maghera, Magherafelt, and Moneymore-the first three, with Magherafelt, are quarter sessions courts and Poorlaw Unions. The principal villages are Articlave, Ballykelly, Clandy, Muff, Portatewart, Ballyronan, Desertmartin, and Swattragh. Since the Union it has only sent four members to the Imperial Parliament-two for the county at large, constituency in 1859, 5,178, one for the city of Londonderry, constituency 825, and one for the borough of Coleraine, constituency, 274; previous to which it sent eight members to the Irish parliament. The rivers are the Bann, the Foyle, the Faughan, Roe, and Moyola, Macosquin, Owenreagh, and Owenbeg, with their numerous feeders. There is a salmon leap at Coleraine, on the Bann. The surface is rugged and hilly, but there are large tracts of very fertile land in the "slacks," or glen, and along the rivers. The principal summits are in the Speerin mountains, where the Sawel attains an altitude of 2,236 feet above the sea-level; Muinard, 2,064 feet; Mullaghash, 1,518 feet; and Streeve, 1,260 feet. In the S.E. part of the count is Slieve Gullion, a mass of porphyry rising to the height of 1,730 feet. Near the edge of the great basalt tableland, to the E. of the river Roe, are the White Mountain, which attains an altitude of about 2,000 feet; Craignahish, a mass of mica slate, 1,723 feet; Carntogher, 1,521 feet; and Benyevenagh, 1,260 feet, commanding a fine view over Loch Foyle. The best improved portions of the county are the district of Lough Neagh, the valley of the Roe, the valley of the Faughan, including the coast of Lough Foyle, between the embouchures of these rivers, and the immediate vicinity of Londonderry, on both sides of the Foyle. To facilitate the development of the agricultural capabilities of the county the Grocers' Company established an agricultural college near Muff, which has done much good. The substratum is chiefly mica slate, clay slate, sandstone, and trap, with isolated tracts of basalt and limestone. The population in 1851 was 191,868; which, in 1861, had decreased to 184,209. The lands are generally held on lease, and are well cultivated. The inhabitants live principally by agriculture-the chief crops being oats, barley, potatoes, and flax. The net annual value of property under the Tenement Valuation Act is £342,600; Pigs are universally reared by the farmers and cottiers, for the supply of the provision merchants of Belfast, Londonderry, and Coleraine. There is also a breed of hardy, active horses. The barnacle, a species of wild fowl which frequents Lough Foyle in great numbers, is much esteemed for the sweetness of its flesh. The staple manufacture is linen, which is spun everywhere in the vicinity of Derry, Coleraine, Newtownlimavady, and Magherafelt. Pottery is extensively made at Agivey. On the banks of the Roe and Faughan are numerous bleach grounds. Iron and manganese mines have been worked, but without much success, and traces of copper, lead, and coal have been found. The condition of the cottiers and agricultural labourers is wretched enough, and their cottages mere hovels; but they are better off than the peasantry in some other parts of Ireland, wages being 1s. per day, besides which many of the peasantry keep pigs, goats, and poultry. At Templemoyle is an agricultural school. The county is within the Belfast military district, and in the north-western circuit. The assizes are held at Londonderry. It is governed by a lieutenant and 20 deputy-lieutenants, custos rotulorum, high sheriff, and about 80 magistrates. It is traversed by part of the Londonderry and Enniskillen and Londonderry and Coleraine lines of railway. The principal roads from Derry are by Clandy to Douglas Bridge, where one section runs under the hills to Cookstown, and so to Armagh and Dublin, and another by Magherafelt to Antrim and Belfast. Another line of road passes through Faughanvale and Newtown-Limavady to Coleraine, and so to the Giant's Causeway. A third line runs through Coleraine to Garvagh, and so to Moneymore and Cookstown, while numerous cross roads connect the various towns and villages. The remains of antiquity include Druidical structures at Slaught Manus and Giants' Scone, a rath at Dungorkin, a round tower at Tamlaght-finlaven, abbey ruins at Dungiven, with numerous baronial castles and churches."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018