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Market Square Through Time Exhibition 2015

Exhibition: Market Square Through Time – a History of Market Square Lisburn

Market Square Through Time

Explore over 400 years of history of Market Square in the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum’s new exhibition: ‘Market Square through time’. This fantastic collection of past and present photographs, watercolours, cartoons and objects tells the square’s rich history, while exploring the lives of the people who lived and worked in it.

With an absorbing mix of the familiar and the forgotten, the exhibition promises a captivating trip down memory lane for people of all ages.

The exhibition opens on November 10th 2015. Admission is free.

The History of Market Square, Lisburn.

King James I granted the lands of south-west Antrim to Sir Fulke Conway in 1609.  In the townland of Lisnagarvey he established, what would become, Lisburn.  The ground plotte c.1625 of the town was laid out in c.1625.  By the 1630s it had over 250 inhabitants, and a weekly market.  Development was centred on Market Place, now Market Square, and under the stewardship of George Rawdon (1604-1684) – agent for the Conways – much was done to improve the town.  This included the construction of a Market House, c.1630s, depicted in the John Peers’ trade token of c.1660.  During the Williamite wars the Duke of Shomberg stationed his troops in the town over the winter of 1689-1690, and one of his generals took up residence on the north side of Market Place, staying in the timber-framed house of the Quaker George Gregson, now the site of Shannon’s the jewellers.

Seventeenth-Century Lisburn

A ‘terrible and sudden’ fire destroyed Lisburn in 1707; only the Market House was left standing. A sandstone plaque was erected on the front wall of Jacob and Isabel Hancock’s house in the middle of Market Square (where the Irish Linen Centre now stands) the following year to commemorate the event.  Market Square was at the centre of both the town and the flourishing local linen industry, and until the construction of the brown linen market in Linenhall Street c. 1750, weavers brought their cloth to the market house to sell.

In July 1756 John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism, preached in the Market House, and on his last visit to the town in 1789 he attended service in Lisburn’s Methodist chapel at Market Street (now the Christian Workers’ Union Hall).  In 1782 the Lisburn and Lambeg Volunteers celebrated the resolutions of the Dungannon Convention calling for legislative independence for Ireland, a scene imagined by John Carey in his famous oil painting.  Henry Munro (1758-98), a young volunteer, was in Market Square that day.  In June 1798, by then a United Irishman, he took charge of the Co. Down rebels, but was defeated at the Battle of Ballynahinch. He was arrested and hanged in front of his home in Market Square, and his head was impaled on a spike on the Market House.

The Early 1800s

The skyline of Market Square was transformed in the early nineteenth century with the erection of the spire on the cathedral 1804 and, soon after, the addition of a new cupola to the Market House.  Inside, the Assembly Room on the first floor was at the heart of social life in the town, hosting dinners, dances, concerts and speakers.   A bustling town of around 6000 people, in the 1820s Market Square had two inns, nine public houses, four grocers, a shoemaker, pawnbroker, apothecary as well as a damask manufacturer (Coulson’s).

The earliest known depiction of Lisburn – an 1801 watercolour by Thomas Robinson – looks north across the River Lagan from Co. Down, towards Market Square, before the cathedral spire or market house clock tower (cupola) were erected.

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