Seventeenth-century settlers in Lambeg
The fertile land of the Lagan Valley was part of the manor granted in 1611 to Sir Fulke Conway. English tenants, mainly from the north of England according to Rankin, were brought by Conway to settle on his estate. It is suggested that they also brought experience of textile making with them. The first bleach green in Lambeg was established, close to the church, in 1626 some years after those settlers arrived. Fagan relates local information that the village ‘is said to have been founded in 1676’ (from a date stone on an old house). The village was built close to the concentration of bleach greens along the banks of the Lagan where it flowed through the parish.
Quaker families from the North of England settled in several places in the Lagan Valley from about 1654 onwards during the Cromwellian Commonwealth. They also brought experience of textile making and made an important contribution to the early development of the linen industry in the area over forty years before the arrival, in 1698, of Louis Crommelin and the Huguenot families from France and Holland. Many of those families settled in this part of the Lagan Valley. The Huguenots brought skills in improved bleaching techniques and the manufacture of fine linen fabrics which led to a significant development of that branch of the linen industry in the Lagan Valley in the 18th century.
The location of Lambeg, close to Lisburn, which became a major centre of the linen industry and beside the River Lagan, which supplied abundant water power in the period before coal, was a major factor in the economic developments which took place in the parish. Equally important was the fact that the main lines of communication along the Lagan Valley – the old coach road from Belfast to Dublin, the Lagan Navigation Canal to Lough Neagh and, in the 19th century, the Ulster Railway – ran through the parish.
The history of the parish outlined above is reflected in the names on many of the older gravestones in the churchyard. According to a report, in the ‘Belfast News Letter’ on Friday 22nd June, of the consecration of the new church building in 1849 the Bishop referred in his sermon to the ‘ancient burial place having on its tombs the names of old English settlers and some of the Huguenots’. Twelve years earlier Thomas Fagan, when compiling his report on the parish for the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, listed 48 surnames on tombs and headstones among which were several distinctively English, Scottish, Irish and Huguenot names.