The Agricultural Museum at Ardress House

Vol. 6 No. 1 - 1978

The agricultural museum at Ardress House

by Linda Seawright

When the Craigavon Historical Society was founded in 1969, a number of the members felt that it was imperative that some action be taken immediately to ensure that the development of Craigavon City did not entirely destroy all evidence of our historic heritage in this area.

The New City of Craigavon was in the earliest stages of construction and there were still many old buildings in the immediate area, housing a large variety of old farm implements and machines from bygone days.

Accordingly, Messrs. Cooper, Robinson, McShane and Lutton began to collect good specimens of these artifacts with the intention of preserving them. The Craigavon Commission provided storage in Monbrief at that time, and later, after the demise of the Commission, the collection was kept in property loaned to the Society through the good offices of Mr. S. Lutton.

Some time ago, the Society was approached by the National Trust who suggested that they would provide suitable buildings for the display of the implements and machines if the Society was willing to lend them.

Schools Competition

A local property of the National Trust within the Craigavon area, Ardress House, was to be used, as it has a large farmyard with considerable outbuildings. This was agreed and the National Trust made all the necessary repairs and alterations to the buildings. The Society further decided to promote local interest in this exhibition by sponsoring a Schools Competition for the best project produced by several categories of school-children to a given theme.

The Craigavon Historical Society is very much indebted to several members of committee, Messrs. W. Cooper, G. Robinson, B. Cassells and S. Lutton who worked hard during last winter to prepare the collection for exhibition and the particular skills and knowledge of Mr. Robinson were very valuable as quite a number of items had to be repaired.

Ardress House itself is a building of charm, distinction and character. It is situated several miles from Portadown on the old county road to Moy. In addition to viewing those parts of the house open to the public, visitors to Ardress may now also see the Society's collection of old farm implements and machines displayed in a setting of considerable visual appeal in the buildings to the rear of the house.

The cobbled farmyard is very attractive surrounded by low buildings which include a smithy and a piggery as well as the exhibition area. It is hoped in the future to develop the blacksmith's forge and the piggery, when sufficient appropriate items to mount an interesting display have been assembled.

Very comprehensive collection

The collection of implements and machinery exhibited now is very comprehensive. There are many different kinds of ploughs including a wooden plough and a "swing plough", several types of spring harrows, a turnip sower and quite a number of threshers. In fact the collection includes all types of machinery for the whole gamut of farming from sowing to harvesting. Among the horse-drawn machines is an early binder designed to be drawn by four horses and also a horse-drawn reaping machine. These are some rare examples of farm carts and a wide selection of hand tools.

All of these items are attractively displayed and fully described with additional material from the schools' projects. It is hoped that now the Society's collection has been established on a permanent exhibition site that other members will be interested in this aspect of the preservation of our local heritage. Any gifts of items not already represented will be gratefully received. It is also hoped that members of the Society will take the opportunity to visit Ardress House both the house and the exhibition are open to the public every afternoon (except Tuesday) from 2 o'clock to 6 o'clock until the end of September.