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Shankill Parish Church
Shankill Parish Church in the middle of Lurgan, built in 1725
Population 25,069 (estimate based on 2001 Census, see below)
Irish grid reference J080585
• Belfast 18 miles (29 km)
  • Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT66, BT67
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament
  • Upper Bann
NI Assembly
  • Upper Bann
List of places
Northern Ireland
ArmaghCoordinates: 54°27′53″N 6°19′56″W / 54.464722°N 6.332222°W / 54.464722; -6.332222

Lurgan (from Irish: An Lorgain, meaning "the shin-shaped hill") is a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The town is near the southern shore of Lough Neagh and in the north-eastern corner of the county. Lurgan is about 18 miles (29 km) south-west of Belfast and is linked to the city by both the M1 motorway and the Belfast–Dublin railway line. It had a population of about 23,000 at the 2001 Census. It is within the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon district.

Lurgan is characteristic of many Plantation of Ulster settlements, with its straight, wide planned streets and rows of cottages. It is the site of a number of historic listed buildings including Brownlow House and the former town hall.

Historically the town was known as a major centre for the production of textiles (mainly linen) after the industrial revolution and it continued to be a major producer of textiles until that industry steadily declined in the 1990s and 2000s. The development of the 'new city' of Craigavon had a major impact on Lurgan in the 1960s when much industry was attracted to the area. The expansion of Craigavon's Rushmere Retail Park in the 2000s has affected the town's retail trade further.


Bird's Eye View, Lurgan, Co. Armagh (26632482445)
Birds-eye view of Lurgan in the early 20th century
Edward Street, Lurgan (16484093242)
Edward Street, Lurgan, in the early 20th century

The name Lurgan is an anglicisation of the Irish name An Lorgain. This literally means "the shin", but in placenames means a shin-shaped hill or ridge (i.e. one that is long, low and narrow). Earlier names of Lurgan include Lorgain Chlann Bhreasail (anglicised Lurganclanbrassil, meaning "shin-shaped hill of Clanbrassil") and Lorgain Bhaile Mhic Cana (anglicised Lurganvallivackan, meaning "shin-shaped hill of McCann's settlement"). The McCanns were a sept of the O'Neills and Lords of Clanbrassil before the Plantation of Ulster period in the early 17th century.

About 1610, during the Plantation and at a time when the area was sparsely populated by Irish Gaels, the lands of Lurgan were granted to the English lord William Brownlow and his family. Initially the Brownlow family settled near the lough at Annaloist, but by 1619, on a nearby ridge, they had established a castle and bawn for their own accommodation, and "a fair Town, consisting of 42 Houses, all of which are inhabited with English Families, and the streets all paved clean through also to water Mills, and a Wind Mill, all for corn."

Brownlow became MP for Armagh in the Irish Parliament in 1639. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Brownlow's castle and bawn were destroyed, and he and his wife and family were taken prisoner and brought to Armagh and then to Dungannon in County Tyrone. The land was then passed to the McCanns and the O'Hanlons. In 1642, Brownlow and his family were released by the forces of Lord Conway, and as the rebellion ended they returned to their estate in Lurgan. William Brownlow died in 1660, but the family went on to contribute to the development of the linen industry which peaked in the town in the late 17th century.

An Gorta Mór/The Great Hunger

A workhouse was built in Lurgan and opened in 1841 under the stipulations of the Poor Law which stated that each Poor Law Union would build a workhouse to give relief to the increasing numbers of destitute poor. In 1821 the population of Lurgan was 2,715, this increased to 4,677 by 1841. There were a couple of reasons for this large growth in population. Firstly the opportunities provided by the booming linen industry led many to abandon their meagre living in rural areas and migrate to Lurgan in the hope of gaining employment. Secondly the ever-expanding town gave tradesmen the opportunity to secure work in the construction of new buildings such as Brownlow House.

The large numbers of poor workers migrating to the town inevitably resulted in over-crowding and a very low standard of living. When the potato crop failed for a second time in 1846 the resulting starvation led to a quickly overcrowded workhouse which by the end of 1846 exceeded its 800 capacity. In an attempt to alleviate the problem a relief committee was established in Lurgan as they were in other towns. The relief committees raised money by subscription from local landowners, gentry and members of the clergy and were matched by funds from Dublin. With these monies food was bought and distributed to the ever-increasing numbers of starving people at soup kitchens. In an attempt to provide employment and thereby give the destitute the means to buy food, Lord Lurgan devised a scheme of land- drainage on his estate.

The so-called 'famine roads' were not built in Lurgan to the same extent as the rest of Ireland, although land owners also provided outdoor relief by employing labourers to lower hills and repair existing road. During the period 1846 to 1849 the famine claimed 2,933 lives in the Lurgan Union alone. The Lurgan workhouse was situated in the grounds of what is now Lurgan Hospital and a commemorative mural can be seen along the adjacent Tandragee Road.

New city

Lurgan High Street, 1960 geograph-3773914-by-Ben-Brooksbank
Lurgan's main street in 1960

The town grew steadily over the centuries as an industrial market town, and in the 1960s, when the UK government was developing a programme of new towns in Great Britain to deal with population growth, the Northern Ireland government also planned a new town to deal with the projected growth of Belfast and to prevent an undue concentration of population in the city. Craigavon was designated as a new town in 1965, intended to be a linear city incorporating the neighbouring towns of Lurgan and Portadown. The plan largely failed, and today, 'Craigavon' locally refers to the rump of the residential area between the two towns. The Craigavon development, however, did affect Lurgan in a number of ways. The sort of dedicated bicycle and pedestrian paths that were built in Craigavon were also incorporated into newer housing areas in Lurgan, additional land in and around the town was zoned for industrial development, neighbouring rural settlements such as Aghacommon and Aghagallon were developed as housing areas, and there was an increase in the town's population, although not on the scale that had been forecast.

The textile industry remained a main employer in the town until the late twentieth century, with the advent of access to cheaper labour in the developing world leading to a decline in the manufacture of clothing in Lurgan.

The Troubles

Lurgan and the associated towns of Portadown and Craigavon made up part of what was known as the "murder triangle"; an area known for a significant number of incidents and fatalities during The Troubles. Today the town is one of the few areas in Northern Ireland where so-called dissident republicans have a significant level of support. The legacy of the Troubles is continued tension between Roman Catholics and Protestants, which has occasionally erupted into violence at flashpoint 'interface areas'.


Lurgan sits in a relatively flat part of Ireland by the south east shore of Lough Neagh. The two main formations in north Armagh are an area of estuarine clays by the shore of the lough, and a mass of basalt farther back. The earliest human settlements in the area were to the northwest of the present day town near the shore of the lough. When the land was handed to the Brownlow family, they initially settled near the lough at Annaloist, but later settled where the town was eventually built. The oldest part of the town, the main street, is built on a long ridge in the townland (baile fearainn) of Lurgan. A neighbouring hill is the site of Brownlow House, which overlooks Lurgan Park.


Like the rest of Ireland, the Lurgan area has long been divided into townlands, whose names mostly come from the Irish language. Lurgan sprang up in the townland of the same name. Over time, the surrounding townlands have been built upon and they have given their names to many roads and housing estates. The following is a list of townlands within Lurgan's urban area, alongside their likely etymologies:

Shankill parish:

  • Aghnacloy (from Irish Achadh na Cloiche, meaning 'field of the stone')
  • Ballyblagh (from Baile Bláthach meaning "flowery townland")
  • Ballyreagh (from Baile Riach meaning "greyish townland")
  • Demesne (an English name – this townland was carved out of Drumnamoe and others)
  • Derry (from Doire meaning "oak grove")
  • Dougher or Doughcorran (from Dúchorr meaning "black round hill" and Dúchorrán meaning "small black round hill")
  • Drumnamoe (from Druim na mBó meaning "ridge of the cows" or Druim na Mothar meaning "ridge of the thickets")
  • Knocknashane (formerly Knocknashangan, from Cnoc na Seangán meaning "hill of the ants")
  • Shankill (from Seanchill meaning "old church" or Seanchoill meaning "old wood")
  • Taghnevan (formerly Tegnevan, from Teach Naomháin meaning "Naomhán's house")
  • Tannaghmore North & Tannaghmore South (from an Tamhnach Mór meaning "the big grassland")
  • Toberhewny (from Tobar hAoine/Tobar Chainnigh/Tobar Shuibhne meaning "Friday well/Canice's well/Sweeny's well")

Seagoe parish:

  • Aghacommon (from Achadh Camán meaning "hurling field")
  • Ballynamony (from Baile na Móna meaning "townland of the bog")
  • Silverwood (an English name – formerly called Killinargit, from Coill an Airgid meaning "wood of the silver")


Lurgan has a temperate climate in common with inland areas in Ireland. Summer temperatures can reach the 20s °C and it is rare for them to go higher than 30 °C (86 °F). The consistently humid climate that prevails over Ireland can make temperatures feel uncomfortable when they stray into the high 20s °C (80–85 °F), more so than similar temperatures in hotter climates in the rest of Europe.

Climate data for Lurgan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) 2
Precipitation cm (inches) 5.6


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1821 2,715 —    
1831 2,842 +4.7%
1841 4,677 +64.6%
1851 4,205 −10.1%
1861 7,772 +84.8%
1871 10,632 +36.8%
1881 10,135 −4.7%
1891 11,429 +12.8%
1901 11,782 +3.1%
1911 12,553 +6.5%
1926 12,500 −0.4%
1937 13,766 +10.1%
1951 16,183 +17.6%
1961 17,872 +10.4%
1966 20,673 +15.7%
1971 25,431 +23.0%
1981 20,991 −17.5%
1991 21,905 +4.4%
2001 23,534 +7.4%

For census purposes, Lurgan is not treated as a separate entity by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Instead, it is combined with Craigavon, Portadown and Bleary to form the "Craigavon Urban Area". A fairly accurate population count can be found by combining the data of the electoral wards that make up the Lurgan urban area. These are Church, Court, Drumnamoe, Knocknashane, Mourneview, Parklake, Taghnevan and Woodville.

On the day of the last census (27 March 2011) the combined population of these wards was 25,093

Of this population:

15,607(62.2%) were Catholic or from a Catholic background

8,460(33.7%) were Protestant or from a Protestant background

1,026(4.1%) were of other religious backgrounds or no religious background.

The town is divided along political/sectarian lines with entire housing areas being almost exclusively Catholic/nationalist or almost exclusively Protestant/unionist. The north end of the town centre is considered Catholic, the south end is considered Protestant, with the "invisible dividing line" crossing Market Street at Castle Lane and Carnegie Street. In the 1980s there were two Protestant enclaves in the north end of the town, Gilpinstown and Wakehurst. They have both since changed to become Catholic areas as Protestants gradually moved out.

Culture and community

Cultural references

There is a figure of speech used in Northern Ireland – to have a face as long as a Lurgan spade – meaning "to look miserable". The origins of this expression are disputed. One theory is that a "Lurgan spade" was an under-paid workman digging what is now the Lurgan Park lake. Another theory is that it could be from the Irish language lorga spád meaning the shaft (literally "shin") of a spade.

The ballad Master McGrath concerns a greyhound of that name from Lurgan which became an Irish sporting hero. The dog was bought in Lurgan by the Brownlow family, and the song also mentions his owner Charles Brownlow, referred to in the lyrics as Lord Lurgan. Master McGrath won the Waterloo Cup hare coursing competition three times in 1868, 1870 and 1871 at a time when this was a high-profile sport. A post mortem found that he had a heart twice the size of what is normal for a dog of his size. He is remembered all over the town, including in its coat of arms. The dog was named McGrath after the kennel boy responsible for its care. A statue of him was unveiled at Craigavon Civic Centre in 1993, over 120 years after his last glory in 1871. The statue was relocated to Lurgan town centre in 2013. A festival is also held yearly in his honour. A Lurgan pub was also named after Master McGrath, although it has been renamed in recent years.

Community facilities

Oxford Island is a nature reserve on the shore of Lough Neagh that includes Kinnego Marina and the Lough Neagh Discovery Center, which is an interpretive visitor centre offering information about the surrounding wildlife, conference facilities, and a café.

Lurgan Park, a few hundred yards from the main street, is the largest urban park in Northern Ireland and the second-largest in Ireland after Phoenix Park, Dublin. It used to be part of the estate of Brownlow House, a 19th-century Elizabethan-style manor house. In 1893, the land was purchased by Lurgan Borough Council and opened as a public park in 1909 by Earl Aberdeen, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It includes a sizeable artificial lake and an original Coalbrookdale fountain. Today the park is home to annual summer events such as the Lurgan Agricultural Show, and the Lurgan Park Rally, noted as the largest annual motor sport event in Northern Ireland and a stage in the Circuit of Ireland rally. Mount Zion House in Edward St, formerly the St Joseph's Convent, is now a cross-community centre run by the Shankill Lurgan Community Association/Community Projects. It is funded by the Department for Social Development, the EU Special Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, and the Physical and Social Environment Programme.


Brownlow House
Brownlow House
Lurgan Park Fun Run June 2008
Lurgan Park, formerly part of the Brownlows' estate, and now a public space.
Former Linen Mill - - 129113
The former Johnson & Allen linen factory on Victoria Street, built in 1888 and now used as multiple small industrial and retail units

Lurgan town centre is distinctive for its wide main street, Market Street, one of the widest in Ireland, which is dominated at one end by Shankill Church in Church Place. A grey granite hexagonal temple-shaped war memorial sits at the entrance to Church Place, topped by a bronze-winged statue representing the spirit of Victorious Peace. A marble pillar at the centre displays the names of over 400 men from the town who lost their lives in the First World War.

The rows of buildings on either side of Market Street are punctuated periodically by large access gates that lead to the space behind the buildings, gates that are wide enough to drive a horse and cart through. The town's straight planned streets are a common feature in many Plantation towns, and its industrial history is still evident in the presence of many former linen mills that have since been modified for modern use.

At the junction of Market Street and Union Street is the former Lurgan Town Hall, a listed building erected in 1868. It was the first site of the town's library in 1891, was temporarily used as a police station in 1972 when it was handed to the Police Authority, and is today owned by the Mechanics' Institute and is available for conferences and community functions.

Brownlow House, known locally as 'Lurgan Castle', is a distinctive mansion built in 1833 with Scottish sandstone in an Elizabethan style with a lantern-shaped tower and prominent array of chimney pots. It was originally owned by the Brownlow family, and today is owned by the Lurgan Loyal Orange District Lodge. The adjacent Lurgan Park, now a public park owned by Craigavon Borough Council, used to be part of the same estate. The park is the venue for the Lurgan Park Rally.

Religious sites

St Peter's Church, Lurgan - - 65190
St Peter's Catholic Church, North St. Built in 1832

The site of what is now Shankill cemetery served as a place of worship over the centuries. It began in ancient times as a simple double ring fort, the outline of which is still noticeable, and is today an historic burial site holding the remains of people who lived in the earliest days of the town's existence, including the Brownlow family. Dougher cemetery is another old graveyard that was donated to the Catholic people by the Brownlows following passage of the Catholic Relief Act.

The two most prominent modern places of worship are Shankill Parish Church in Church Place and St Peter's Church in North Street, the steeples of which are visible from far outside the town.

Shankill Parish Church belongs to the Church of Ireland. The original church was established at Oxford Island on the shore of Lough Neagh in 1411, but a new church was built in Lurgan on the site of what is now Shankill Cemetery in 1609 as the town became the main centre of settlement in the area. It was eventually found to be too small given the growth of the town, and the Irish Parliament granted permission to build a replacement in 1725 one mile away on the 'Green of Lurgan', now known as Church Place, where it stands to this day. It is believed to be the largest parish church in Ireland.

Following passage of the Catholic Relief Act, Charles Brownlow granted a site to the Roman Catholic parish priest the Reverend William O'Brien in 1829 for the construction of a church on Distillery Hill, now known as lower North Street. It was there that work began in 1832 on what is now St Peter's Church. In 1966, another Catholic church, St Paul's, was built at the junction of Francis Street and Parkview Street. This was a radical departure from traditional church architecture with its grey plaster finish, copper roof, slim spire, hexagonal angles and modern design throughout. Many of its architectural features such as the copper roof and gray plaster finish are shared by the neighbouring St Paul's School. It was designed to cope with the extra demand for worship space following the growth of the surrounding Taghnevan and Shankill housing estates.

The Lurgan Museum houses one of the largest collections of items relating to Irish History in the North of Ireland. The Museum has many photographs and artefacts connected with Lurgan life over the past 150 years. It houses an extensive collection relating to the periods known as "The Troubles", "Operation Harvest" 1956-62, and "The 1916 Easter Rising". This collection also has a popular section covering the social history of the area.

The first Methodist church was built in Nettleton's Court, Queen Street in 1778. It was found to be too small and a new church was built on High Street in 1802, and replaced by a newer building in front of it in 1826. This was extensively renovated in 1910 and stands to this day sporting a simple facade.

Sport and leisure


Lurgan has a municipal swimming pool and leisure complex called Waves. This includes a swimming pool, squash courts, a gym, and offers such activities as pilates, circuit training, and spinning classes. Following a vote taken by Craigavon Borough Council on April 7, 2010, Waves is to be closed as will the Cascades Centre in Portadown, and both facilities are to be replaced by a large central swimming facility that will be built near the Craigavon balancing lakes. Lurgan has two 18-hole golf courses, an artificial ski slope and an equestrian centre for show jumping.


Lurgan is home to the Association football clubs Glenavon F.C., Dollingstown F.C., Lurgan Celtic F.C., and Lurgan Town F.C.. There are another thirteen clubs that play in the Mid Ulster Football Leagues. They are Derryhirk United, Hill Street, Lurgan Institute, Taghnevan Harps, Silverwood United, Tullygally, Lurgan BBOB, Lurgan United, Goodyear, Craigavon City, Lurgan Thistle, Celtic Club (Lurgan No. 1), Oxford Sunnyside F.C.. Loughgrove and Sheffield Thursday F.C. play in the Lonsdale league. Glenavon is the most prominent of these, playing in the IFA Premiership.

The GAA has a large presence in the area with Gaelic football being played by clubs Clan na Gael CLG (based at Páirc Mhic Daibhéid), Clann Éireann GAC (Páirc Chlann Éireann), Éire Óg CLG (Pine Bank, Craigavon), Sarsfields GAC (Páirc an tAth. Dhónaill Mhig Eoghain, Derrytrasna), St Mary's GAC (Aghagallon), St Michael's GAC (Magheralin), St Paul's GFC (Na Páirceanna Imeartha), St Peter's GAC (Páirc Naomh Peadar) and Wolfe Tone GAC, Derrymacash (Páirc na Ropairí).

Camogie is played by the St Enda's club which shares the grounds of the Wolfe Tone club, and there is one hurling club in the town, Seán Treacy's, which shares the grounds of Clann Éireann. Clann Éireann also has a handball club. All play in Armagh leagues and competitions except St Mary's and St Michael's (Antrim).

Cricket has two clubs, Lurgan Cricket Club and Victoria Cricket Club. Cycling is promoted by three clubs, Apollo CT, Clann Éireann CC, and Lurgan Road Club. Rugby union is played by Lurgan RFC.

Tennis is played by Lurgan Tennis Club which is in Lurgan Park. Lurgan Golf Club is situated at The Demesne beside Lurgan Park and is an 18-hole challenging parkland course bordering on Lurgan lake.

Railway links

Lurgan railway station opened by the Ulster Railway on 18 November 1841, connecting the town to Belfast Great Victoria Street in the east and Portadown and Armagh in the west. The Great Northern Railway of Ireland provided further access to the west of Ulster which was then closed in the 1950s and 1960s from Portadown railway station.

Presently Lurgan railway station is run by Northern Ireland Railways with direct trains to Belfast Great Victoria Street and as part of the Dublin-Belfast railway line. The Enterprise runs through Lurgan from Dublin Connolly to Belfast Central, and a change of train may be required at Portadown to travel to Newry or Dublin Connolly.

Railway access at Sydenham links into George Best Belfast City Airport on the line to Bangor.

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