Edenderry Village must be one of the best kept secrets in the whole of the Greater Belfast area! And I think it needs to stay that way, in order to retain its unique rural charm. It’s a mere four miles from the city, and yet on entering it, you feel as if you are stepping back into the 19th century; and into a completely different world.
I am indebted to the National Trust for most of the information that follows.
The name comes from the Gaelic EADAN DOIRE—front of the oak grove, and the village owes its existence to Belfast’s linen industry, this association going back over 200 years. A bleach-green was actually established as early as 1780. Apart from a short deviation into flour milling, powered by the nearby river, it returned to linen production in 1866, when it was bought by John Shaw Brown. He converted the mill to a weaving factory, which soon blossomed into a successful linen empire. The village grew up around this factory, with about 90 terraced houses being built for the workers. These still form the basis of the small community.
Brown was obviously a man of vision, innovation and humanity. He had a power plant installed in the factory, which produced coal gas for the houses. He also ensured that the workers had access to a number of baths in the factory and—most bizarrely—in the village shop! Now there’s a thought for our local Spar!!
More of his visionary ideas were evident in his provision of allotments for the workers, enabling them to grow their own vegetables cheaply and therefore eat more healthily. (Amazingly, the current residents have developed their own wonderful 21st century allotments, in what used to be a boggy patch of land. In a future article, I hope to follow this up with more information.)
Even the social life of the work-force was catered for, as Brown organised a ‘club’ in the village, where he held weekly dances for his work-force. I have nothing but the utmost admiration for such a captain of Victorian industry, who went the extra mile to ensure a better life for his workers. And I can’t help feeling his spirit is still alive and well in the village today, as on a recent visit I noted a sign indicating their plans for a community celebration of Hallowe’en. Long may that spirit survive and prosper in the enchanting village of Edenderry!