Residential Stability in Lurgan

Vol. 5 No. 3 - 1987

Residential stability and population mobility in Lurgan


by Francis X McCorry

The fortuitous appearance of a census1 of Lurgan taken in 1856 for the local town commissioners, and the availability of the Second Valuation of 1864, allows a survey to be made of residential stability and population mobility in the town for part of an era when enhanced economic investment, urban expansion and population gain occurred.

In eight years 1856-64 the population number of Lurgan rose steadily2 from 5,650 to 8,800, an increase of almost fifty-six per cent. This augmentation of Lurgan's population, the dominant socio-demographic feature of the era, may conceal less obvious but nevertheless significant population trends. Locally as well as nationally social upheaval and the subsequent process of adjustment in the wake of the famine produced unpredictable population movements.

The census manuscript was found in January, 1984, among a collection of documents in Craigavon Civic Centre; the documents were formerly stored in Portdown Town Hall, and may have been transferred there from Lurgan Town Hall when the latter building was handed over temporarily to the Police Authority as a police station, in 1972. The following `Remarks' preface the census. `The number opposite the names of the respective householders include Servants, Weekly Lodgers and all persons resident in the house when this Inquiry was being made. Itinerant nightly lodgers were not included. Where two or more families live in one house and occupy the same or different sublet apartments, the name of the Principal or Accountable Proprietor is given and the number of all inmates of that house are included in the family total; But, where the Rooms are not weekly sublet (though in the same house) but separate unconnected occupancy, I have entered the name of the head of each distinct family with the number of such family respectively affixed.

"the lower Order of the Community"

As I took the whole town of Lurgan indiscriminately in the order in which the houses are situated when taking the Agricultural Inquiry, there has been some difficulty in showing the street and courts etc. consecutively, which together with the various duties of the Public Service occurring in the month of July, have delayed this return being perfected so soon as I at first anticipated. As there is much difficulty in arriving accurately at the truth from the lower Order of the Community, I have been most careful in this Inquiry, and I most respectfully submit it as being a generally correct Return of the Population of Lurgan Town, taken in June 1856.

"There are about 30 new houses building and preparing for occupancy.
And about 5 other houses unoccupied at present.
Total 35 Houses. 6 average No. of inmates.
Would make 210 persons in addition to present total".

In a rural parish close to Lurgan, criss-cross population movements of poorer people within the district were apparent not only when a considerable gain in population resulted from a very high degree of natural increase and relatively minor out-migration, in 1851-61, but also, one decade later, when a decrease in population was accompanied by substantial natural increase and great out-migration. In particular, and for reasons of acquiring a basic subsistence, one townland's decline in population became a neighbouring townland's gain.

Such movement in the rural context necessitated much re-organisation not the least feature of which involved the erection of a new dwelling on previously virgin bogland. With corresponding enonomic and social reorganisation evident in Lurgan, the local rural reactions to the post-famine situation may serve as a guideline to possible population trends in town as rural migrants tended increasingly to account for the greater part of the urban population as the town expanded. The number of unoccupied houses in Lurgan listed in the Valuation of 1864 suggests that the capacity of the town's housing-stock had kept pace with the rapid increase of population.

The rapidity of this increase suggests that within the dominant industry a variety of workplaces was available. Taken together, the abundance of houses, some of which were new and above-average in quality, and the variety of workplaces, would encourage mobility of both occupation and population within the town.

Second valuation

Inherent differences in the composition of the two mid-nineteenth century sources limit the scope of the survey. The census of 1856 lists, street, by street, the names of household heads and the number dwelling in each household; this number includes servants, weekly lodgers and all persons resident in the house when the census was made. Widows were named as such. The Second Valuation, taken eight years later when elected town commissioners had already re-drawn the town boundary, altered street boundaries and improved town government and associated urban facilities, provides a description of the property, the name of the occupier, the rateable annual valuation of the premises, but not the number of occupants. Thus while names of householders can be compared, one source with another, no comparison can be made of numbers per household in each year; neither can an assessment be attempted of the relative numerical density of widows in the town as a whole or in various streets, in 1864.

The erection of new streets, the drawing-up of new street boundaries and the renaming of some streets, place limitations on the completeness of the survey. In 1864, through a transference of names, Thomas Street was a side street, off Shankill Street. In 1856, Thomas Street was an important, if small, thoroughfare beside the church and close to the town-centre; it was subsequently amalgamated with part of Market Street and part of Portadown Street (now Edward Street), and designated as Church Place. Because of the absence of house-numbers in the census of 1856, and the presence of considerable gaps in the pattern of householders' names when the census and Valuation lists are compared, it is not possible to survey streets which were greatly enlarged after 1856. Adding to these survey-limiting factors is the presence in the two major streets of Lurgan of houses attributed with unusually large household numbers. These generally comprise business premises, e.g. Robert Armstrong, 24, and James Armstrong, 33, in Market Street; in High Street the numbers of such premises are greater even if household numbers are somewhat smaller, viz. John Byrnes, 17, Dunlop Moore, 14, Thomas Armstrong, 14, William Armstrong, 11, Charles Magee, 13, John Johnston, 15, William Watson, 19, and John Mahaffy, 19. It is likely that these premises accommodated some employees, e.g. apprentices and their minders, and caretakers; the commercial section of such households extended some distance from the main street down extensive but narrow tenements over the Pound river and beyond and living-in provided a reasonable degree of security. It is also likely that lodging families are included in some of the totals; such unnamed persons and families cannot be traced, if present, in 1864. Peculiarities of boundary and in household numbers therefore effectively prevent the usage of Market Street and High Street for assessment purposes since differential treatment would be required. However, a token check for both streets indicates a degree of business-location stability far in excess of corresponding residential stability in the other streets of Lurgan.

The survey has therefore been narrowed down to an assessment of 17 streets containing 343 households, in 1856, becoming in effect a 35% sample survey of the town. The valuation of these houses and streets in 1864 suggests that the sample was slightly biased towards poorer areas.

Residential stability was assumed if a named householder in 1856 was still present in the same street in 1864, or if the householder's surname of 1856 was repeated in the same street in 1864 regardless of where placed in the street list. In many streets the names of house-holders in 1856 were listed in an order different to that of 1864, ruling out any attempt to trace a householder to a particular house in 1856. The pattern of householders' names in some streets however does allow the assumption that some families swapped houses while still remaining in the same street. In such instances residential stability was assumed.

The Table indicates that only 37.9% of those Lurgan house-holders assessed by the sample remained in their original street during the eight-year period. However, the table offers little by way of suggesting why residential stability was so low. Certainly, the number of persons per household in 1856 appears to have had little influence on the decision to move house. The quality of housing endured or enjoyed, as suggested by the Valuation of 1864, may have been an influencing factor but trends are difficult to trace. Streets of average house-valuation, two pounds and under, yielded a figure for residential stability greater than that of streets of houses valued one pound higher. In streets where the average house-valuation exceeded three pounds, residential stability was relatively high at 46.3%. The token check on Market Street and High Street, where business and professional people chiefly dwelt, produced a figure of 64%. In streets with a variety of house-types, residential stability tended to be marginally higher in houses of valuation in excess of the street average but the evidence is not sufficiently strong for poorer streets to conclude that quality of housing was a definite factor in determining the degree of residential stability in a particular street.

Streets producing the lowest degree of residential stability were opposites in some respects. Mays Court, 13% residential stability, was in the process of expanding from 16 houses in 1856, to 28 houses in 1864; Blaney's Court, 14%, on the other hand, was a small street in obvious decline. Black's Court, almost similar in size, location and average house-valuation to May's Court, yielded a figure for residential stability more than three times higher than that of May's Court, viz. 43%. Two streets of unusually high residential stability provide their own contrast; Castle Street, including Gilbert's Court, a relatively large residential area with some business premises and with an average house valuation of five pounds, provided almost the same degree of residential stability as Hoop Hill, a much smaller street of lowly-valued houses. Such examples indicate that a look beyond the statistical evidence of Table A is required to provide some explanation for the diminutive degree of residential stability apparent in an expanding urban area. In the survey, Thomas Street, business and residential in nature, yielded the highest stability in population by far, and also provided the most highly-valued properties. Allied to the results of the token check on Market Street and High Street, the Thomas Street figures suggest that in streets with properties of average valuation, five pounds or more, residential stability in Lurgan over the eight-year period was in the region of 60% - 70%. High residential stability was therefore generally related to ownership or occupation of business or professional premises. In streets where the average house-valuation fell below five pounds, i.e. the majority, the degree of residential stability encountered was on average no higher than 33%.

It must be borne in mind that between 1856 and 1864, Lurgan was expanding and that 460 - 500 new houses were erected in the town, mainly for working families involved in Factory-Linen production. Such expansion allowed and may even have encouraged high population mobility within the town. Established families could improve their lot by moving to a new house of similar or greater valuation than their original home. The original houses, perhaps well-maintained, may have been just what other established but less well-off families desired. Recent migrants could divide themselves between the three grades of houses on offer, viz. the poorer house, the house left vacant by a good tenant, and a new house. In all this, an important criterion had to be met, viz. could and would the incoming tenant pay the weekly rent. The urban developers or speculators were in the business of investment, and recoupment of long-term profit, and houses were not on offer to all and sundry. Some form of character reference or testimony was required before a new house was let, and in such circumstances, the availability of reliable kinship-ties were invaluable. Non-payment of rent, particularly among the numerous poor may have been a definite factor in recurring nineteenth-century Irish urban residential instability especially in expanding towns and times of economic difficulty. This does correspond to one aspect of Irish rural population mobility, and is particularly relevant to Lurgan in the period, 1875-85.

Factory houses

In Lurgan, 1856-64, among older streets mainly comprising factory-built houses, viz. Johnston's Row, Watson's Row and Factory Lane, where the quality of housing was above the average of the sample, and where families might be expected to have had allegiance to the house supplied by the factory, residential stability was relatively low, viz. 20%, 37% and 25% respectively. Such figures in fact suggested that a straight-forward comparative check on the 'outs' and 'ins' of the sample streets of Lurgan, 1856-64, was insufficient to trace residence-location trends of those who left the seventeen streets. An attempt was made, therefore, to trace in all the streets of Lurgan, 1864, the householders who moved from the streets of the sample.

Using a reasonable but necessary degree of tolerance when interpreting the names of household heads in 1864, considered to be the equivalent of those leaving streets in 1856, the following figures emerge. 30% of the households who departed their original street of residence were located, by 1864, in other streets of the sample. 24% were adjudged to be dwelling in the new streets of Lurgan. 4% were in other streets, and 42% could not be traced in Lurgan, in 1864. Former residents of factory-houses were traced in roughly the same proportion as other 'missing' householders, and showed a slightly greater tendency to dwell in one of the new streets. These figures are advanced as approximate, since movements out and in to various streets by householders with surnames common to the area, e.g. the twenty-two families of Thompson or Thomson, cannot be correlated with any certainty; objectivity in tracing population mobility was therefore diminished.

Among the 42% of families who could not be traced in Lurgan, in 1864, would have been a few who changed their surname for some reason, and remained in the town; there would have been others, originally headed by a female who through marriage or remarriage changed name and residence. Other families may have died out, and others still who remained in the town but who just could not be traced. But the great majority of the 'missing' families had undoubtedly left the town, perhaps after a short period of residence.

There were four households of Reynolds in Lurgan, in 1856, three in Hoop Hill, and one in Factory Lane. By 1864, the three Reynolds families of Hoop Hill had left the town, and the Reynolds household of Factory Lane had re-settled in newly-built Charles Street. This illustrates the tendency of many to leave the town, even when economic prospects appeared bright; this and many other examples also highlights the probability that kinship ties weighed heavily on the decision to move house or to leave street or town. In-migrants may have behaved similarly. No Whitesides are recorded in the census of Lurgan, 1856; by 1864, three families of Whitesides were dwelling in the town.

Female heads of household

In nine instances where a female household head of 1864 was deemed to correspond with a missing male household head of 1856, the family had moved to a street within the sample almost similar in average house-valuation to the street of origin. This implies a desire to move home after the death or departure of the husband or father; in other words, changed social or economic circumstances triggered off a change in house-location, the change reflecting neither improvement nor worsening of economic circumstances. That such house-flitting was a move to join kin, or was merely an enforced move resulting from the disappearance of the male whose duty it was to pay the rent, cannot be traced in these circumstances, but a propensity to dwell close to kin is made clear by an assessment of the `outs' of 1856 and the `ins' of 1864. Assuming that similar surnames betrays some form of kinship particularly with sur-names not abundant in the town, eight examples can be traced of families moving to dwell beside kin as next-door neighbours. Another ten examples were found where families in the same street were obviously closely-related, e.g. two William Hannas in Watson's Row, probably father and son, and two Martha Willises in Thompson's Court. Among these eighteen examples were families from the full range of socio-economic grades, when house-valuation and information from estate documents are used to adjudge social and economic placement of householders.

Widows are difficult to place in the kinship setting since they can be dwelling beside or close to parents, brothers, sisters or married sisters without a comparison of surnames yielding any hint of family ties. In 1856, forty-eight female house-hold heads were listed as widows, twenty of whom were dwelling in the sample streets; four such were in Watson's Row and seven dwelt in Castle Street. Twelve of the twenty widows had left their original residence by 1864; three of the four in Watson's Row had gone, as had five of the seven in Castle Street.

This assumes that the widows did not re-marry in which case a "new" male householder's name would be representing the widow and her family. In all, the degree of residential stability apparent for households headed by widows was more or less similar to the general trend. The average Lurgan household contained 5.9 persons in 1856; those headed by widows held, on average, 4.7 persons, which again corresponds to the overall pattern, given that the husband had not been replaced.

To summarise: During a period of substantial innovative economic investment which brought industrial and urban expansion to Lurgan, 1856-64, residential stability in the majority of the town's streets was on average little more than 30%. In those three or four streets housing commercial premises and higher-valued houses, residential stability was substantially higher. Better-off and commercially-orientated households tended to remain stable in residence since they could not improve upon their location inside the town; with the new streets catering almost entirely for working families, the majority of the population had choice in residential location.

The availability of new homes, alternative employment prospects, and the tug of kinship ties were major determinants of the obvious high mobility of population within the town. This seems not far removed from the rural experience previously outlined. If 60% of the 963 households, present in Lurgan in 1856, moved house in the subsequent eight-year period, and approximately 40% of these departed the town, the resulting out-migration from Lurgan when economic prospect seemed good can be put down as 230 households or 1,360 people, representing roughly one quarter of the original population of 1856. The factors governing this considerable out-migration from the town cannot be investigated without veering towards anthropological characteristics of people from various districts which supplied Lurgan with population over a long period. Suffice to comment that the high mobility of population inferred is characteristic of those floating families described by Thernstrom as resembling the classic European proletariat.3

Table to Indicate the Degree of Residential Stability in Lurgan in the Eight-Year Period, 1856-64

The following table, setting out the principal statistics of the survey, indicates that fewer than 38% of the householders in 1856 were still dwelling in their original street by 1864.

Street Name No. of houses in year No. of houses un- occupied in 1864 Avg. valuation per house in 1864 Householders or households of 1856, present in 1864 Avg. valuation of houses showing population stability compared to avg. house valuation in the street Avg. no. of persons per household in 1856 who had
A) remained
B) departed the street by 1864
Campbell's Court15154£1-5-04 out of 15 (27%)marginally higher4.84.6
Johnston's Row10103£3-0-02 out of 10 (20%)same7.55.1
The Rookery10200£2-0-03 out of 10 (30%)same4.76.0
Watson's Row27261£3-0-010 out of 27 (37%)same4.65.1
Lavery's Court11110£ l -5-02 out of 11 (18% )marginally higher4.05.3
Thompson's Court16192£1-10-05 out of 16 (31%)higher4.45.1
Emerson's Court580£2-0-02 out of 5 (40%)higher8.55.7
May's Court162832-5-02 out of 16 (13%)same5.04.9
Hoop-Hill20201£2-0-09 out of 20 (45%)marginally4.96.8
Rodger's Court40391£2-10-016 out of 40 (40%)marginally higher5.75.8
Black's Court14331£2-0-06 out of 14 (43%)same4.35.1
McStay's Court750£1-10-03 out of 7 (43%)marginally higher3.74.3
Blaney's Court752£1-2-01 out of 7 (14%)marginally higher4.03.0
Diaper Row22244£1-5-09 out of 22 (41%)marginally higher6.24.8
Factory Lane16210£4-10-04 out of 16 (25%)marginally higher5.55.1
Castle Street incl. Gilbert s Crt.82603£5-0-036 out of 82 (44%)marginally lower6.45.6
Thomas Street (the original)25Not known-£5-10-017 out of 25 (68%)same6.77.0
Total130 out of 343 (37.9%)