1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Londonderry (county)

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LONDONDERRY, a northern county of Ireland in the province of Ulster, bounded N. by the Atlantic, W. by Lough Foyle and Donegal, E. by Antrim and Lough Neagh, and S. by Tyrone. The area is 522,315 acres, or about 816 sq. m. The county consists chiefly of river valleys surrounded by elevated table-lands rising occasionally into mountains, while on the borders of the sea-coast the surface is generally level. The principal river is the Roe, which flows northward from the borders of Tyrone into Lough Foyle below Newton-Limavady, and divides the county into two unequal parts. Farther west the Faughan also falls into Lough Foyle, and the river Foyle passes through a small portion of the county near its north-western boundary. In the south-east the Moyola falls into Lough Neagh, and the Lower Bann from Lough Neagh forms for some distance its eastern boundary with Antrim. The only lake in the county is Lough Finn on the borders of Tyrone, but Lough Neagh forms about 6 m. of its south-eastern boundary. The scenery of the shores of Lough Foyle and the neighbouring coast is attractive, and Castlerock, Downhill, Magilligan and Portstewart are favourite seaside resorts. On the flat Magilligan peninsula, which forms the eastern horn of Lough Foyle, the base-line of the trigonometrical survey of Ireland was measured in 1826. The scenery of the Roe valley, with the picturesque towns of Limavady and Dungiven, is also attractive, and the roads from the latter place to Draperstown and to Maghera, traversing the passes of Evishgore and Glenshane respectively, afford fine views of the Sperrin and Slieve Gallion mountains.

The west of this county consists of Dalradian mica-schist, with some quartzite, and is a continuation of the northern region of Tyrone. An inlier of these rocks appears in the rising ground east of Dungiven, including dark grey crystalline limestone. Old Red Sandstone and Lower Carboniferous Sandstone overlie these old rocks in the south and east, meeting the igneous “green rocks” of Tyrone, and the granite intrusive in them, at the north end of Slieve Gallion. Triassic sandstone covers the lower slope of Slieve Gallion on the south-east towards Moneymore, and rises above the Carboniferous Sandstone from Dungiven northward. At Moneymore we reach the western scarp of the White Limestone (Chalk) and the overlying basalt of the great plateaus, which dip down eastward under Lough Neagh. The basalt scarp, protecting chalk and patches of Liassic and Rhaetic strata, rises to 1260 ft. in Benevenagh north of Limavady, and repeats the finest features of the Antrim coast. A raised shelf with post-glacial marine clays forms the flat land west of Limavady. Haematite has been mined on the south flank of Slieve Gallion.

The excessive rainfall and the cold and uncertain climate are unfavourable for agriculture. Along the sea-coast there is a district of red clay formed by the decomposition of sandstone, and near the mouth of the Roe there is a tract of marl. Along the valleys the soil is often fertile, and the elevated districts of the clay-slate region afford pasture for sheep. The acreage of pasture-land does not greatly exceed that of tillage. Oats, potatoes and turnips are chiefly grown, with some flax; and cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry are kept in considerable numbers. The staple manufacture of the county is linen. The manufacture of coarse earthenware is also carried on, and there are large distilleries and breweries and some salt-works. There are fisheries for salmon and eels on the Bann, for which Coleraine is the headquarters. The deep-sea and coast fisheries are valuable, and are centred at Moville in Co. Donegal. The city of Londonderry is an important railway centre. The Northern Counties (Midland) main line reaches it by way of Coleraine and the north coast of the county, and the same railway serves the eastern part of the county, with branches from Antrim to Magherafelt, and Magherafelt to Cookstown (Co. Tyrone), to Draperstown and to Coleraine, and from Limavady to Dungiven. The Great Northern railway reaches Londonderry from the south, and the city is also the starting-point of the County Donegal, and the Londonderry and Lough Swilly railways.

The population decreases (152,009 in 1891; 144,404 in 1901) and emigration is extensive, though both decrease and emigration are well below the average of the Irish counties. Of the total, about 43% are Roman Catholics, and nearly 50% Presbyterians or Protestant Episcopalians. Londonderry (pop. 38,892), Coleraine (6958) and Limavady (2692) are the principal towns, while Magherafelt and Moneymore are lesser market towns. The county comprises six baronies. Assizes are held at Londonderry, and quarter sessions at Coleraine, Londonderry and Magherafelt. The county is represented in parliament by two members, for the north and south divisions respectively. The Protestant and Roman Catholic dioceses of Armagh, Derry and Down each include parts of the county.

At an early period the county was inhabited by the O’Cathans or O’Catrans, who were tributary to the O’Neills. Towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth the county was seized, with the purpose of checking the power of the O’Neills, when it received the name of Coleraine, having that town for its capital. In 1609, after the confiscation of the estates of the O’Neills, the citizens of London obtained possession of the towns of Londonderry and Coleraine and adjoining lands, 60 acres out of every 1000 being assigned for church lands. The common council of London undertook to expend £20,000 on the reclamation of the property, and elected a body of twenty-six for its management, who in 1613 were incorporated as the Irish Society, and retained possession of the towns of Londonderry and Coleraine, the remainder of the property being divided among twelve of the great livery companies. Their estates were sequestrated by James I., and in 1637 the charter of the Irish Society was cancelled. Cromwell restored the society to its former position, and Charles II. at the Restoration granted it a new charter, and confirmed the companies in their estates. In the insurrection of 1641 Moneymore was seized by the Irish, and Magherafelt and Bellaghy, then called Vintner’s Town, burned, as well as other towns and villages. There are several stone circles, and a large number of artificial caves. The most ancient castle of Irish origin is that of Carrickreagh; and of the castles erected by the English those of Dungiven and Muff are in good preservation. The abbey of Dungiven, founded in 1109, and standing on a rock about 200 ft. above the river Roe, is a picturesque ruin.