Edenderry in bygone years

Vol. 10 No.2 - 2015

Edenderry in bygone years

by Arnold G. Sleator

d. 30 Nov. 2020

A walk round the Edenderry district with Arnold Sleator

Edenderry as a district is a unique part of Portadown. To a certain extent it was ‘removed’ from the town by the bridge over the River Bann, and therefore became self-contained and self-sufficient. For example in education it had both Edenderry Public Elementary school and Portadown College. It also had a range of shops, until the changing economy brought about the arrival of the large supermarkets and shopping centres.

Up until the late 1950s Edenderry was well populated, but since then it has lost whole ranges of houses – Watson’s Lane, Florence Court, Bright Street, the White Row, Foundry Street, houses on the Carrickblacker Road (where Edwin May’s car-park now is) and a row of houses where Eden Pharmacy now is. Except for some replacement and renovations there has been little new build, apart from Roslyn Avenue and Grantham Park.

Edenderry was also a much more vibrant area generations ago, and sadly that decline has continued to the present day. In the past Edenderry had an amazing variety of businesses which developed over the years. These were some of the large employers there:

Portadown Foundry

Generations of Edenderry men worked in Portadown Foundry. On dark winter nights, coming over the Bann bridge, you used to see the orange glow and sparks from the foundry furnaces. Among other things the Foundry built lighters (canal boats) for the Bann Navigation to Newry and Lough Neagh; road gully gratings with the distinctive ‘Portadown Foundry’ logo; and steelwork for many of the buildings round Portadown and elsewhere in the Province.

Road gully grating made by Portadown Foundry

One remaining example of their craftsmanship is the row of railings round St Mark’s church in the town centre. Foundry Street itself was fronted by houses round the edge of the present car-park, and down to the river where Sherman and Stoops had their coal-yard, supplying coal to houses in the district.

Heathwoods - used to be one of the largest building firms in Portadown, responsible for building Killicomaine Junior High School, the new Portadown College, Millington Primary School, the Ulster Laces factory on the Loughgall Road, and the Unidare factory at Seagoe, together with housing in various parts of the town. One other point of interest in the Heathwoods story is the disastrous fire at Wade’s factory in Watson Street on 29 October 1956, when the fire from a pottery kiln swept up the new wing of the factory and almost engulfed the First Presbyterian church halls, with the added danger of spreading to the church itself. Bob Heathwood (who had a lot to do with the Fire Service at that time) and Albert Dickson (the Heathwoods office manager) manned a hose which was played on the upper part of the factory next to the church, and in spite of a strong wind it was in large measure due to their efforts that the halls and church were saved from damage.

Linen factories – Watson Armstrong & Co in Watson Street was one of the first linen factories in Portadown. There was also Hamilton Robb’s in Goban Street. Both factories in their heyday gave good employment to a lot of local people.

The railway

Great Northern Railway – The railway was also a large employer: between 50 and 60 people worked at the station, not forgetting also the GPO sorting office with the mail coming in by train from all directions and the postmen with their big mail-bags going off on foot or bicycle on their early morning deliveries round the town. We also remember the war-time air-raid shelter in the station square, and the taxi rank to the left of the station portico.

Early photograph of Portadown Railway Station - now demolished

Wade’s came later to the Watson Armstrong factory, and was a significant employer to the next generation of workers. Some of the pottery items from Wade’s early days are now collectors’ pieces and very valuable. There is still a tale of a ‘ghost’ in Wade’s factory, where stout doors were mysteriously opened or closed without any visible human presence. Prior to Wade’s arrival, when the factory was vacant during the second War it was taken over by the Army during the second War and Welsh soldiers were billeted there; they contributed much to the singing life of the town, and some of them married local girls.

One other smaller employer was Sommervilles in Carrickblacker Avenue, manufacturing garments for some of the big-name shops.

Taking a look at some of the smaller businesses generally, the variety is amazing. There were two cobblers at one time in the row of houses between Heathwoods and the Presbyterian church; in this row too there is a record in the 19th century of a court house, where those found guilty of small misdemeanours were put for a spell in the town stocks (which were in use up to about 1850 at High Street, opposite the present Ulster Bank).

Along the row from Foundry Street to the bridge was Tom (later Ross) Raymond’s bicycle and taxi business, and Pentland’s hardware shop (where the Golden Bridge now is) which was later to become Mason’s furniture store. This was also the location of a YMCA canteen run for soldiers in the second War. At the church end of the row were Hadden’s Funeral Undertakers, who kept their horses and carriages in the yard behind on Foundry Street. At the bridge end was the Anchor Café, a very prominent pre-War meeting place for the businessmen of the area. There was also Sal Little’s sweetie shop in this row, and after the War the Daleway School of Motoring and later Hugh Crawford’s greengrocery shop.

Portadown College

Across the road here was Portadown College, which grew up round Edenderry House, the former residence of the Hamilton Robb family. Next to the College was the yard (now Poots Funeral Undertakers) where the Inglis Bakery kept their horses and horse-drawn bread delivery carts.

There were at least three barbers in Edenderry – Bairds, Johnny Thompson’s (later to become Billy Johnston’s) and James Henry Magee at the corner of Goban Street. The barber shops were the source of all news in the district, particularly the football results. It was also quite common for local men to have a shave with the barber on a Friday or Saturday to prepare for Sunday.

In earlier days Edenderry had ‘three-and-a-half’ places of worship – the First Presbyterian church, Edenderry Memorial Methodist church, the Roman Catholic chapel on Carrickblacker Road, and perhaps the ‘half’ was Seagoe Church of Ireland Parochial Hall in Bridge Street.

Early photograph of Bridge Street and the First Presbyterian church. Note the factory chimneys and trough in the centre of the road providing water for horses.

There were two grocery shops – Johnny England’s, next to the former accountants Rocke Hall & Co., and further on Bob Calvert’s. Round a slight corner was Gillespie’s fruit and vegetable shop, and next door Lily Lyske: everyone knew Lily Lyske and the papers, comics and sweets served from that busy little shop. Next door was the well-known district nurse (Mrs Woods) who delivered many of the babies in the district.


Just back a few yards and we look up the gateway beside the former Christian Book Shop. There we find a set of buildings which were close to where the turnpike was in the early 19th century.

Former blacksmiths opposite Scarlett’s upholstery

This would have been where the tolls were paid, the mail-coach horses changed and stabled, and blacksmith services and overnight accommodation provided, making the current Gary’s Bar one of the oldest sites in Portadown. In living memory there was still a blacksmith working here, making gates and wheel-barrows. He was called Joe Ward, and lived in Seagoe. Arthur Scarlett’s upholstery business also occupied these remarkably preserved old buildings.

Moving on quickly into Edenderry square, who remembers Sally Neiland’s ice-cream and dairy shop, about where Eden Pharmacy now is? or Walsh’s garden shop, where you could buy seeds out of little wooden drawers? Further up was Vance’s grocery-cum-bakery, run by the Augheys and later Cecil Brown, who dispensed buns and scones to all the local customers. Behind the shop lay the café and tea-rooms, a popular meeting-place at lunchtime and in the evenings.

Almost next door was Victoria House, which used to belong to a doctor Rowlett who visited his patients by pony and trap. It was later known as the Victoria Nursing Home, before becoming the residence of the Brown family and later being turned into flats. Mr Sammy Brown ran a large motor factoring business at the corner of Carrickblacker Avenue and there is a record of a police station on the opposite corner from 1870 to 1920. The Ulster Bank also traded at Carrickblacker Avenue before moving to High Street in 1857. At the bottom of the Avenue and just around the corner is a very impressive terrace of houses where many notable Portadown families lived in days gone by. At the bottom of the next street (Eden Avenue) was Dawson’s abattoir.

Bachelors Walk

Beyond this point was Edenderry Primary school, the White Row, the much-painted Bachelors’ Walk corner and cottages, and the Atkinson estate on Bachelors’ Walk with connections to the very old firm of solicitors Carleton Atkinson & Sloan and Major Thomas Joyce Atkinson who was killed at the Somme.

Major T.J. Atkinson
Major T.J. Atkinson, 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. Killed in action near Hamel, France on 1st July 1916 while serving with the Ulster Division.

Swinging round the corner at the Lurgan Road end of Bachelors’ Walk we come to the Red Row – one of the oldest terraces in Portadown. Opposite is the Presbyterian Manse built in 1855, and next door Sam McGredy’s family home (of roses fame).

Further down is Eden Crescent, or Guinea Row as it was sometimes called, either because there were 21 houses or the weekly rents were 21 shillings – a guinea. Interestingly the front walls of the Eden Crescent gardens are the old boundary wall of the Eden Hall estate. The gate lodge to this estate was at the old entrance to Chambers Park (opposite the Orange Hall). Not much is known about Eden Hall, but a memoir from Joe Hynes the artist states: "

My grandparents resided in the gate lodge. They were employed by Master Frank Armstrong and Miss Florence Armstrong, the owners of Eden Hall and Watson Armstrong’s linen factory in Watson Street. My grandmother was a dairy-maid, and my grandfather a labourer. His son (my father), also called Joe, looked after the gardens at Eden Hall. There was a walled garden where the Rugby Club now is. In 1939 the Armstrongs left and the Hall was closed and later demolished."

Further on again lay the gas works – ‘Portadown Gas Light and Electricity Company’ – supplying coal gas to the whole of Portadown and giving a lot of employment. [The site is now occupied by ASDA's supermarket.]

The Plaza Ballroom

Bright Street with houses on both sides has now disappeared, but was noted for a Mrs Ellen Stothers who lived at No. 12 and sent four sons to the first War: only one returned. Opposite was Aggie Wilson’s sweet shop, where you could buy liquorice pipes. The Plaza Ballroom (above McNabbs Funeral Undertakers) was a hive of activity on Saturday nights in the swinging 50s and 60s.

Dermott’s grocery shop was on the corner of Watson Street, and on the opposite side Moffett’s Studios, where the life of the town and its families was recorded in photographs. Mr Moffett formed the first Boy Scout troop in the town; he was a survivor of the Armagh Railway Disaster in 1889.

Just one final dip into Watson Street, where there was Rocke’s Café, with the Express Mineral Water Stores behind, and Rockeden Guest House, one of three bed-and-breakfasts in Edenderry, the others being Moore’s at 107 Bridge Street and Gough’s at 115 Bridge Street.

Hoy's Butchers

The great and the good of Portadown lived in the terrace from Moffett’s Studios to Hoy’s butchers shop. At no. 117 was the Magowan family: Bob Magowan became Chairman of Portadown Urban District Council and later first Mayor of the borough of Craigavon; he also had much to do with bringing the town a supply of water from the Mournes through the Portadown and Banbridge Waterworks Joint Board.

At no. 115 was the Lyttle family: Norman Lyttle owned a foundry originally sited in Goban Street, later trading as Norman A. Lyttle in Meadow Lane across the bridge.

Hoys shop, Edenderry
Hoys butchers - original shop opened by Thomas Hoy (great-grandfather of the present owner, John Hoy) in the early 1900s

One last stop is Hoy’s Butchers shop, which was originally Wilson’s grocery and undertaking business. Above the shop in the 1930s was Miss Montgomery’s Kindergarten school, with its playground in the yard behind where Miller, Piller and Beattie had their builders’ premises.

This brief ‘walk’ round Edenderry I hope will show just how much it has changed over the years. Perhaps we are now at the opening of a new era for it, but there will never again be the people and characters who populated the district with such a kaleidoscope of industry and entrepreneurship as we had in the past.