Banbridge is a town of 16,600 people (2011) in County Down. In the 19th century, it was an important centre of the Irish linen industry, and some factories remain.
The town's main street is very unusual, and rises to a steep hill before levelling out. In 1834 an underpass was built as horses with heavy loads would faint before reaching the top of the hill. It was built by William Dargan and is officially named 'Downshire Bridge', though it is often called "The Cut".
Banbridge is a relatively young town, first entering recorded history around 1691 during the aftermath of the struggle between William III and James II. An Outlawry Court was set up in the town to deal with the followers of James. The town grew up around the site where the main road from Belfast to Dublin crossed the River Bann over an Old Bridge which stood where the present bridge now crosses the river.
The town owes its success to flax and the linen industry, becoming the principal linen producing district in Ireland by 1772 with a total of 26 bleachgreens along the Bann. By 1820 the town was the centre of the 'Linen Homelands' and its prominence grew when it became a staging post on the mail coach route between Dublin and Belfast. A gift of £500 from the Marquis of Downshire around this time helped to alleviate some problems with the steepness of the road and paid for significant improvements. This industry has now greatly diminished in prominence, but Banbridge still has three of the major producers in Ulster: Weavers, Thomas Ferguson & Co, and John England Irish Linen.
Banbridge is on the A1 main road between Belfast and Newry, 10 miles (16 km) south east of Portadown.
- Banbridge has staged an annual busking competition and music festival called Buskfest since 2004. Performers often travel long distances to participate. The competition closes with an evening concert composed of performances by world-famous artists.
|Routes through Banbridge|
|Belfast ← Hillsborough ←||N S||→ Newry → Dublin|