Ireland // Antrim and Derry //

The plantation towns

Southeast of Dungiven and over the Glenshane Pass on the way to the northern tip of Lough Neagh, it is worth making a detour to see some interesting examples of town planning – the plantation towns of the London companies, most of them characteristically focused around a central Diamond.

One such town is MAGHERAFELT, granted to the Salters’ Company by James I, which has a wide, sloping main street and makes a reasonable base for exploring the lough and the Bellaghy area. MONEYMORE, about five miles further south, was originally constructed by the Drapers in the early seventeenth century (and restored by them in 1817), and was the first town in the North to have piped water – amazingly enough, as early as 1615.

A mile outside town off the B18, Springhill is a grand plantation manor-house built between 1680 and 1700 by William “Good- Will” Conygham in order to fulfil a marriage contract with the father of his bride- to-be, Anne Upton. Elegant both without and within, its sober whitewashed architecture houses fine rooms, equipped with original period furniture and paintings belonging to William and his descendants, who occupied the house until 1959. Upstairs, the Blue Room is said to be haunted by the ghost of Olivia Lenox- Conyngham, whose husband George was found shot here in 1816. Outside, the stables house a costume collection, which adopts a specific theme each year, drawing upon three thousand items collected from the mid-seventeenth century to the 1970s. There are also delightful gardens, a tower dating from the 1730s, which was probably originally part of a windmill, and a pleasant walk through beech and yew trees.

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