Lisburn historian, Fred Kee, ringing the old Grain Market bell, 1971. Watching on are officers of the Lisburn Historical Society – Samuel Smyth (hon. treasurer), Samuel Semple (chairman), Robin Kirk (curator), Harold A. Duff (hon. secretary) – and the Mayor, Cllr. Hugh G. Bass (Ulster Star, 8 May 1971)
Two of our previous Virtual Museum posts explored the rich history of the Grain Market at Smithfield, Lisburn. It was part of routine for many who went there on a weekly basis to buy and sell. For others, it was a place they regularly attended for demonstrations, political rallies, and meetings.
When the Grain Market was established in 1828, it had a market house connected to it with a tower and bell. This was rung each Tuesday morning at 8:00 am to mark the start of the weekly market. The old market house was demolished in 1896 to create a large open space, possibly so that the cattle market could be expanded. The remaining stores and outhouses fell into disrepair by the mid-1900s, and the site was redeveloped in the 1960s to make a car park and eventually a swimming pool which was opened in 1970.
However, this was not the end of the Grain Market’s story. The bell from the old market house survived demolition and redevelopment, and when it was discovered in 1970 it found a new home in the Lisburn Historical Society’s collection. The society held an exhibition on old Lisburn in 1971 at the Town Hall, Castle Street, and the Grain Market bell was one of the key artefacts on display. It was given one last chime by Lisburn historian, Fred Kee, who had devoted much time and effort to preserving Lisburn’s past as a former curator of the society’s collection. The bell was later gifted to the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum.