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Newtownards facts for kids

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  • Scots: Newton or Newtonairds
  • Irish: Baile Nua na hArda
  • Ards
CIMG1481 ScraboViewNewtownardsTown.JPG
View of Newtownards from Scrabo Tower
Newtownards is located in Northern Ireland
Population 28,050 (2011 Census)
• Belfast 9 mi (14.5 km)
  • Ards and North Down
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT22, BT23
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament
  • Strangford
NI Assembly
  • Strangford
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°35′28″N 5°40′48″W / 54.591°N 5.68°W / 54.591; -5.68

Newtownards is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies at the most northern tip of Strangford Lough, 10 miles (16 km) east of Belfast, on the Ards Peninsula. It is in the civil parish of Newtownards and the historic baronies of Ards Lower and Castlereagh Lower. Newtownards is in the Ards and North Down Borough. The population was 28,050 in the 2011 Census.


In 545 AD, St. Finian founded a monastery close to present-day Newtownards. He named it "Movilla" (Magh Bhile, "the plain of the sacred tree," in Irish), which suggests that the land had previously been a sacred pagan site. The monastery was destroyed by the Vikings sometime after AD 824. The Normans, who arrived in Ireland after 1169, founded a town in the same place around 1226, named it "Nove Ville de Blathewyc" ("New Town of Blathewyc"; the name of an earlier Irish territory). A Dominican priory was built in 1244, dissolved in 1541. In 1572, the monastery was burned by the Clanaboy O'Neills under Brian O'Neill as part of a campaign to deny buildings to the British, after which the urban settlement at Movilla disappeared and the area around it became known as "Ballylisnevin" ("the town land of the fort of the family of Nevin").

In 1605, Hugh Montgomery was granted the lands and set about rebuilding what was by then known as Newtown, later expanded to Newtownards. Official records show the town was established in 1606. Montgomery built a residence in the ruins of the old priory, the tower of which remains. Scottish settlers arrived in large numbers and the town grew quickly. Due to the shallow mud of Strangford Lough, Newtown never developed as a port, with goods instead transported from the nearby town of Donaghadee on the Irish Sea coast of the Ards Peninsula. Instead, it became a market town, with the Market House in Conway Square constructed in 1770. The market still operates today on a weekly basis.

On the morning of Pike Sunday, 10 June 1798, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, a force of United Irishmen, mainly from Bangor, Donaghadee, Greyabbey and Ballywalter, attempted to occupy the town of Newtownards. They were met with musket fire from the market house and were defeated. The early 19th century saw the reclamation of the marshlands south of the town. The Belfast and County Down Railway connected Newtownards to Belfast, via Comber and Dundonald, in 1850, and to Donaghadee in 1861. By the same year the town's population had risen to 9,500. (This rail line was closed in 1950.) On 12 July 1867, despite the Party Processions Acts, the Orange Order paraded from Bangor to Newtownards. The parade was organised by William Johnston (sentenced to a short term in prison the next year for his actions) and about 30,000 took part.

As the nineteenth century progressed the economy became increasingly tied to the growing city of Belfast and the town continued to prosper and by the 20th century had increasingly became a commuter town. Newtownards' population reached 13,100 in 1961 and had doubled to 27,800 by the end of the 20th century.

The Troubles

During the Troubles, Newtownards was the scene of a car bomb attack on 5 July 1993, when Roma's Bar in Regent Street was targeted. The pub was destroyed, but has since been rebuilt. The attack was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army with a 700 kg (1,500 lb) device. There were no fatalities.

Recent development

Castlebawn Shopping Centre is a proposed £250 million, 75-acre (300,000 m2), shopping centre and retail park in Newtownards. The proposals, which promise to create up to 2,000 jobs, will extend the town centre and edge of centre southwards in a three-stage development, which was expected to be completed by 2012. However, as of April 2016, only Tesco Extra, Matalan, Discount NI, Home Bargains and Burger King have been completed. Matalan, Home Bargains and Discount NI are in the retail units directly beside Tesco while Burger King and a Tesco petrol station are located in the main car park.

Following a judicial review in 2014 which overturned planning permission, the company Castlebawn Ltd went into administration. The proposed development of the site looks unlikely.


2011 Census

In the 2011 Census Newtownards had a population of 28,039 people (11,533 households).

2001 census

Newtownards is classified as a large town by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (i.e. with population between 18,000 and 75,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 27,821 people living in Newtownards. Of these:

  • 22.2% were aged under 16 years and 15.9% were aged 60 and over
  • 48.3% of the population were male and 51.7% were female
  • 85.9% were from a Protestant background, 8.4% were from a Catholic background
  • 3.6% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

Places of interest

CIMG1475 ScraboAndNewtownards
Scrabo Tower (with Newtownards in the background)

The town of Newtownards is overlooked by the 100-foot (30 m) high Scrabo Tower. The tower is 41 metres high, and was erected as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, in recognition of his concern for the plight of his tenants during the great potato famine. It is open to the public and houses a historical and local environment exhibition. The basalt topped sandstone hill at Scrabo is one of the dominant features of north Down. The tower now stands tall in Scrabo Country Park with its woodland walks and parkland through Killynether Wood.

The Somme Heritage Centre, which is situated a little north of the town, is the Somme Association's flagship project. Situated adjacent to the Clandeboye Estate outside Newtownards, the centre is a unique visitor attraction of international significance showing the reality of the Great War and its effects on the community at home. The centre commemorates the involvement of the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions in the Battle of the Somme, the 10th (Irish) Division in Gallipoli, Salonika and Palestine and provides displays and information on the entire Irish contribution to the First World War.

The centre promotes cross-community contact, mutual understanding, an appreciation of cultural diversity, and is a major visitor attraction. The centre is built on ground provided by Ards Borough Council in what is to be the Whitespots Country Park. It is linked to Helen's Tower on the Clandeboye Estate via the Ulster Way. Historically, the 36th (Ulster) Division trained on the estate during the first few months of the war and German prisoners of war were interned there. A replica of Helen's Tower was built on the Somme battlefield as Northern Ireland's national war memorial.

On the east shore of Strangford Lough, a few miles outside Newtownards and near Greyabbey, stands Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and garden – the home of the Londonderry family. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Londonderrys who played a leading role in British social and political life. The ninety-eight acre garden at Mount Stewart has been proposed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Largely created by Edith, Lady Londonderry, wife of the 7th Marquess, in the 1920s, it has an unrivalled collection of rare and unusual plants.


Winter were a progressive rock/metal band who were formed in 1987 and based in Newtownards. They received critical acclaim for their live performances in the 1980s and 1990s, combining hard rock, multi-layered melodies, with Johnny Lennie's flamboyant stage presence and clever lyricism. They released a debut EP titled "Across The Circle's Edge" in both Vinyl format (by Circle's Edge records in 1990) and in CD format (by SI Records in 1992) which received airplay on BBC Radio 1's Tommy Vance Rock Show.


On Census Day (27 March 2011) the usually resident population of Newtownards 28,050 accounting for 1.55% of the NI total. Of these:

  • 98.67% were from the white (including Irish Traveller) ethnic group;
  • 8.32% belong to or were brought up Catholic and 79.35% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and other (non-Catholic) Christian (including Christian related)' and
  • 76.37% indicated that they had a British national identity, 4.86% had an Irish national identity and 31.39% had a Northern Irish national identity.

Respondents could indicate more than one national identity



Ards Rugby Football Club plays at Lansdowne Road, south of the town along the main Comber road. The 1st XV currently plays in the Ulster Qualifying Division 2. Former players include Blair Mayne DSO, Phil Matthews and Nigel Carr, all former Ireland and British Lions players.


Ards Cricket Club currently plays in Section 3 of the NCU Senior League. Its home games take place at Londonderry Park, which is on the Portaferry Road.


There are two local football teams: Ards F.C., who play in the NIFL's Danske Bank Premiership, and Ards Rangers F.C., who play in the Northern Amateur Football League. Ards F.C. was founded in 1900 and plays its home matches at Clandeboye Park in Bangor, which it shares with Bangor F.C., following the sale of local ground Castlereagh Park. Ards Rangers F.C. plays its home matches at Drome Park which is directly beside the former Castlereagh Park. 1st Bangor Old Boys F.C. also play at Drome Park.

Ards motor racing Circuit

The Ards Circuit through Newtownards was a motorsport street circuit used for RAC Tourist Trophy sports car races from 1928 until 1936. At the time it was Northern Ireland's premier sporting event, regularly attracting crowds in excess of a quarter of a million people.

Notable natives/residents

  • Christine Bleakley, television presenter known for her work on ITV, was raised in Newtownards
  • Harry Cavan, senior VP of FIFA (1980–90), and president of the Irish Football Association from 1958 to 1994.
  • Sir Robert Colville (died 1697), politician and landowner, owned much property in and near Newtownards.
  • Jason Dunkerley, Canadian five-time paralympic medalist, was born and raised in Newtownards. His family emigrated to Canada when he was 14.
  • Nick Earls, a novelist born in 1963 in the area; he later moved to Brisbane, Australia.
  • Celia de Fréine, dramatist and poet, was born in the town in 1948 before later moving to Dublin and Galway.
  • Eddie Irvine, racing driver and runner-up in the 1999 Formula One World Championship for Ferrari, was born and lived in Newtownards.
  • Alex Lightbody, international lawn bowler and former Northern Ireland and Irish singles champion and British singles Champion was born and lives in Newtownards.
  • Martyn Irvine, former World Cycling Champion and two-time silver medalist, is from the town.
  • Michael Legge, stand-up comedian, was born and raised in the town.
  • Robert Blair "Paddy" Mayne, SAS co-founder, was born and lived in Newtownards and attended Regent House Grammar School. A bronze statue of him stands outside the town hall. He played rugby for Ireland and for the Lions in the 1938 British Lions tour to South Africa.
  • Conor McBride, computer scientist
  • Rhys McClenaghan, Irish international gymnast, 2020 Tokyo Olympic pommel horse finalist, was born and lives in Newtownards.
  • Colin Nixon, former football player who managed Ards, is from Newtownards.
  • Ricky Warwick, best known as the frontman for the Scottish band The Almighty, is from the town.

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