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Newtownards - Down - Conway Square

early photo

In 545 AD, St. Finian founded a monastery near to present-day Newtownards. He named it Movilla (Magh Bile, 'the plain of the sacred tree,' in Irish) which suggests that the land had previously been a sacred pagan site. This monestery was destroyed by the Vikings sometime after 824 AD and in the 12th century joined together with Bangor Abbey as an |Augustinian Monastery. Later, the monestry was raided by Hugh O'Neill from Mid-Ulster, after which the urban settlement at Movilla disappeared and the area around it became known as Ballylisnevin,


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Photo Details

  • County: Down
  • Town: Newtownards
  • Scene: Conway Square
  • Date: 1920 (estimate)


  • Digitally remastered
  • 10' x 8' printed on quality photo paper
  • Also available mounted & framed, ask for details
  • Colour images can be printed in black & white if preferred.
  • Read about Newtownards below





Newtownards (Irish: Baile Nua na hArda), is a large 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. Newtownards is the largest town in the Ards Borough Council area. According to the 2001 Census, it has a population of 27,821 people in 11,502 households, placing it in the Large Town class. Approximately 85 of the population is from a Protestant and 9 from a Catholic background.


In 545 AD, St. Finian founded a monastery near to present-day Newtownards. He named it Movilla (Magh Bile, 'the plain of the sacred tree,' in Irish) which suggests that the land had previously been a sacred pagan site. This monestery was destroyed by the Vikings sometime after 824 AD and in the 12th century joined together with Bangor Abbey as an |Augustinian Monastery. Later, the monestry was raided by Hugh O'Neill from Mid-Ulster, 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.' 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) and established a Dominican priory. However, the town declined and by the 1400s the land was controlled by the O'Neill clan, and the town lay virtually abandoned.

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. He built a residence in the ruins of the old priory, the tower of which remains. Scottish settlers arrived in large numbers during the Plantation of Ulster 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 met with musket fire from the market house and were defeated. The early 1800s saw the reclamation of the marshlands south of the town. Newtownards acquired rail links 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. As the economy became increasingly tied to Belfast, the town continued to prosper and by the 20th century had increasingly became a commuter town. Newtownards' population reached 13,100 in 1961 and doubled to 27,800 by the end of the century.

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

Places of interest

  • The town of Newtownards is overlooked by the 100 foot high Scrabo Tower which sits atop a 534 foot volcanic plug. Scrabo Tower, which is 41 metres high, 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. The tower is part of Scrabo Country Park. It is open to the public and houses an 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 the Country park with its woodland walks and parkland through Killynether Wood. The view from the hill and the summit of the tower are breathtaking, across Strangford Lough, scattered with its many islands, to the Mourne Mountains and the Scottish coast. The Tower houses two floors of displays and a climb of 122 steps takes the visitor to the open viewing level. Scrabo Country Park is always open, admission to the park and the tower is free.
  • 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 awful 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 over 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.
  • Also to the north of the town is the Ark Open Farm, specialising in rare and endangered species of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, many of which are no longer seen in Ireland today. Facilities at the farm include a petting zoo, pony rides and restaurant.
  • Newtownards sits at the most northernly tip of Strangford Lough. The wealth of wildlife in Strangford Lough, unrivalled in Europe, is complex, delicately balanced, dependent on tides, and the variety of habitats found between seabed and shoreline, and of course, how we as humans interact with this precious resource.
  • 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 is widely regarded as one of the greatest in the British Isles and earned it a World Heritage Site nomination. Largely created by Edith, Lady Londonderry, wife of the 7th Marquess, in the 1920s, it has an unrivalled collection of rare and unusual plants.
  • To the south of the town lies Ards airport, home of the Ulster Flying Club ?Northern Ireland's largest, non commercial training and flying organisations. This is where many future airline commercial pilots from Northern Ireland do their PPL training before going on to Oxford aviation to further the flying career as commercial airline pilots.
  • Newtownards is getting a shopping Centre/Retail park that will link the town center with the Castlebawn shopping and retail park. However the project is on hold due to a listed wall that might be runned down by a 'Backing up JCB'. The Castlebawn project is located on the Comber Road in Ards (Locals to the area call the town of Newtownards, 'Ards' and is on signage as N'Ards). As stated the project is on hold and there is no news when work will continue. However The development could be completed by 2009.
  • Newtownards also has a small airport that is used for the Air Display show every June. This is one of the largest in Northen Ireland, displays inlcude the Red Arrows, TA and Royal Air Force.


Newtownards is well-known for being the home town of the Second World War SAS veteran Robert Blair 'Paddy' Mayne. A Bronze statue of Blair Mayne is outside the town hall.

Eddie Irvine, the former Formula 1 racing driver was born here and attended Regent House Grammar School in the town.


  • The local football team, Ards F.C., plays in the Irish Football League. The club, founded in 1902, play their home matches at Clandeboye Park in Bangor, which they share with Bangor F.C., due to the sale of local ground Castlereagh Park on the Portaferry Road in Newtownards.
  • There is also another football team named Ards Rangers FC who play in the Northern Ireland Amateur League Division 1A. They play their home matches at Drome Park which is located beside the location of the former Castlereagh Park.
  • From 1928 to 1936, the Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcar Races took place on a road circuit encompassing Newtownards, Comber and Dundonald in County Down. At the time it was Northern Ireland’s premier sporting event, regularly attracting crowds in excess of a quarter of a million people. The first driver to complete thirty laps of the circuit was the winner. On September 5, 1936, in wet conditions, one driver lost control of his car and crashed into the crowd, killing eight spectators. This tragedy brought an end to nine years of racing over the Ards road circuit.
  • Ards Cricket Club currently plays in Division 1 Section 4 of the NCU league structure. Their home games take place at Londonderry Park, which is on the Portaferry Road. With two teams now being promoted to Section 3, it is thought that this coming season is their best chance of promotion for a long time. However Ards does live in the shadow of its powerful neighbours North Down and Bangor, who are both NCU Ulster Bank Premier League teams.

Town Twinning

  • Flag of Finland Kemi, Finland