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Newtowncrommelin, Northern Ireland


Presbyterian Church
Skerry East Road,
Newtowncrommelin, Northern Ireland

The village of Newtowncrommelin was started in the early 1800s when a Huguenot family, by the name of Crommelin, purchased the townlands of Skerry East, Skerry West and Scotch Omerbane. The Presbyterians here in conjunction with those in other neighbouring townlands held open air meetings in a field, preparing the way for a church. The Presbytery of Ballymena erected Newtowncrommelin Presbyterian Church as a separate charge in June 1826. Mr. Joseph Anderson was ordained as their first minister on 8th August, 1826.

Newtowncrommelin Presbyterian Church is located just nine miles from Ballymena and two miles from Knockanally Station, nestled in the foothills of the entrance to the Glens of Antrim. Iron ore mining is the chief industry.

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View from Crommelin Hill, Newtowncrommelin

Another new house and garage nearing completion in Newtowncrommelin. The houses above are along the main street of the village.

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Brief History

Louis Crommelin came from Picardy and was a master bleacher who introduced new industrial methods to the linen industry in Ireland and left a lasting legacy. Daniel De la Cherois also came from Picardy and arrived in Lisburn in 1699 after having married Marie Angelique Crommelin a cousin of Louis Crommelin in London. They had only one daughter. Nicholas De la Cherois, his brother, joined him and married Mary Madeleine Crommelin, a sister of Louis Crommelin. Nicholas and Mary Madeleine had a son Samuel who adopted the name Crommelin thus creating the composite name 'De la Cherois Crommelin' which acknowledges the inter-relationships of the generations. His grandson Samuel De la Cherois Crommelin owned property in Donaghadee and then built Carradore Castle where the family lived and became known as the 'Crommelins'. Their descendants bought the lands in the area of the future Newtowncrommelin in 1800 where they engaged in many speculative projects in mining, estate development, road building, smelting and many other undertakings of dubious financial reward. In the nineteenth century the family seems to have endured a chronic state of financial crisis.

Their Cushendun project which commenced about 1826 involving the harbours and mills were a natural continuation of all this, but they added the eccentricity of building their residence on a site accessible only through a cave and for which a considerable amount of road construction and retaining wall construction was necessary. There was a logical master plan to these activities. Somewhat unsuccessful as this complex of projects may have been, they were a massive investment into a remote struggling area, which would have given lasting prosperity, if they had succeeded. The Newtowncrommelin project was even more difficult than Cushendun. Taking the two projects together they are a remarkable testimony to the flair and entrepreneurial spirit of the descendants of these two Huguenot families who settled far from their homeland in what they saw as a land of freedom and opportunity. It is regrettable that so little of their legacy is remembered, and that even their name cannot be commemorated in any visible way e.g. in the names for the new bay development.

The Harbour: Cushendun is the nearest landing Ireland to mainland Britain. The road from Clough through Newtowncrommelin over the mountain has existed for many years and is the direct route from the centre of the county. Cushendun was linked by regular ferry with Dunaverty in Scotland for two centuries until the 1840ís and merited both a customs house and a passport office before the Act of Union of Britain and Ireland of 1800. When Alexander Nimmo was surveying the north coast to plan improvements to the fishing industry in the early 1800ís he found that there were about 15 vessels associated with Cushendun. At that time there was no bridge and the whole basin was available. An old pier probably existed where there is still a pile of stones below the fishery, as one of the plans drawn up for that site by James Donnell in 1828 was to incorporate an existing old pier. Donnell drew plans for two different projects each involving construction of piers at the mouth of the river and on both sides. All that was ever constructed was a south quay wall along where the hotels are now sited. And it is still there.

The present sandstone bridge was built about 1860. Previously there had been a wooden bridge up at the narrow part below the Sleans road.

Sir John Rennie had drawn up plans for a much more grandiose harbour south of the river mouth in 1833 at the request of Nicholas Crommelin and several detailed acts of parliament were obtained in relation to this. It was a commercial port probably to provide a service for Ballymena but failed to materialise due to Crommelins endless financial difficulties. The inspiration may have been the harbour developments at Donaghadee. The project was finally killed by the construction of the alternative Red Bay Pier. The stones you see opposite on the north side of the river is a crude breakwater built by the National Trust for some ill-defined reason about 1986. They spent £250,000 on it. It was said that there had been a previous structure there in the past which Maurice Finlay is said to have destroyed early in the twentieth century.

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"The Post Office of Newtowncrommelin" by Gregory Moore

Located 13 miles North of Ballymena town, and acting as a gateway to the famed Nine Glens of Antrim via the A43, Glenravel, known locally as the íTenth Glení, incorporates the three picturesque villages of Cargan, Martinstown and Newtowncrommelin.

At one period in its history, Glenravel was an important centre for iron ore mining with the first mines opening in 1866. A narrow gauge railway line from Ballymena was built to serve the iron ore mines. Now a piece of history, however if you look closely as you pass through Glenravel, it is still possible to see the scars of the mining industry on the surrounding mountains.

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Taking home the turf...

The Red Earth (Peat)

An area in Antrim, Ireland changed dramatically when James Fisher, from Barrow in Furness, opened an Iron Ore Mine on the slopes of Slievenanee in 1866. Others before him, like Nicholas Crommelin and Edward Benn, were aware of the existance of iron-bearing rock but failed to exploit it or locate the richest seams. Crommelin went so far as attempting to smelt the ore in a furnace using local peat for firing, but ran into so many difficulties that he abandoned the idea. His blast furnace still stands today on the edge of the village of Newtowncrommelin.

With the establishment of James Fisher's mining company, and several others, there was an influx of people to the three villages from other parts of Ireland and Scotland. The ore had to be transported to the coast for shipment to England. At the beginning this was undertaken by horse and cart but was a very slow process, so a unique development occurred, the building of a wire tramway. This ran from just outside Cargan to the top of Parkmore and worked on a pulley system, whereby full buckets of ore ran down one side with the empty ones returning.

The wire tramway was sabotaged by the carters as they had lost out on work. There was still the difficulty of transporting the iron ore, so a narrow gauge railway was built, the remnants of which can be seen as you drive along the road today. The last iron ore mine closed in 1933, as the ore was of too poor quality to compete with the ores being imported from abroad. This, however was not the end of the mining industry, because with the start of the Second World War there was a shortage of aluminium for planes etc. Bauxite, which is the aluminium ore, was to be found beside the iron ore deposits, so some of the mines were reopened. In all it was estimated that the Glenravel mines provided some 60,000 tonnes of aluminium for the war effort. The last mine closed in 1945, but if you look closely enough as you come into Glenravel it is still possible to see the scars of the mining industry on the surrounding mountains.

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