What’s on at Newry Museums

Bagenals Castle Exhibition

This permanent exhibition tells the story of the Bagenal’s Castle project and the plans for its restoration as a new venue for Newry and Mourne Museum and Tourist Information Centre, opening in 2006. This exhibition explores the fascinating history of the site and the plans for its restoration.

A Border Town’s Experience of the Twentieth Century

Newry and Mourne Museum has secured £50,000 under the Peace II Programme through Newry and Mourne Local Strategy Partnership to produce an exhibition exploring the impact of twentieth century political events on the local area.

The exhibition aims to challenge popular preconceptions of our troubled past through exploring different perspectives and interpretations in an accessible, informal format. The exhibition will therefore be a medium for cross-community dialogue and interaction through workshops, seminars, re-enactments, reminiscence and recreational events.

We need your support and assistance. If you are willing to donate relevant objects, pass on useful information or share with us your experiences please contact Noreen on (028) 3031 3182.

Oral History Project

We often overlook one of the most obvious and relevant forms sources of information about the past i.e., those around us. To capture the wealth experiences of people in the Newry & Mourne and Co. Louth areas the Cross Border Education Project has devised an Oral History project, which will paint a unique insight into the region.

Local schools will be invited to question local people from a variety of different backgrounds on several themes, including school days, social life, folklore and traditions, fashion and marriage, and record the information generated. The results of the project will be published as part of both museums’ education and research resources. The project will be launched in September at a public music and storytelling event in both Newry & Dundalk.

Carlingford Maritime Festival

The Cross-Border Education Programme includes a Maritime Festival to celebrate local traditions and stimulate debate regarding future development in the area.

A weekend conference from 26th-28th March 2004 at Newry and Dundalk Museums will explore the strategic history of the area; fishing, trade and emigration; folklore and traditions and the environment through talks by leading academics from various fields of expertise. The conference will culminate in Carlingford in an afternoon of lively events for all ages and interests, including historical re-enactments, traditional boats and demonstrations on net and rope making, boat building and basket making. Prior to the conference Newry and Dundalk Museums will also host a week of events for local schools. For more information please contact Declan Carroll on (028) 3031 3182/ (0035342) 932 7056.

Rare Documents in The Reside Collection

During his lifetime, Major G.W. Reside acquired a number of rare and important documents relating to Newry’s architectural heritage. One of these is the original Articles of Agreement, dated 26th July 1750, between Robert Nedham and the Chief Commissioners and Governors of His Majesty’s Revenue in Ireland for the building of a new Custom House in Newry. The customhouse closed in 1806, but the collection also includes the original lease by which Francis, Viscount Kilmorey, demised the old building and its stores to the Grand Jury of the County of Down for use as a Bridewell (or Gaol) in 1820. The lease includes an elevation of the building as it looked at that time, before undergoing considerable rebuilding in the 19th century and eventually being demolished in the early 1960s.

Lace and Embroidery Research Project

The museum has been helping the Convent of Mercy in Newry to document and record the small collection of pieces surviving from the sewing school run by the Sisters. The school opened in 1855, shortly after the Sisters of Mercy first arrived in Newry from Kinsale, and provided a source of income for hundreds of poor girls in the town until the 1940s. There is an exquisite early sample book of fine embroidery miniatures, as well as several examples of limerick lace, Irish crochet and drawn thread work. Also of note are the ecclesiastical pieces worked by Sister Camillus, for many years the head and designer of the school, who died in the 1960s. Sr. Camillus developed her own unique style, which she named ‘Clanrye Lace’, that combined a variety of lace and embroidery techniques, which will be studied further by Una McCullough of the Lace Guild.

The museum has also commissioned Miss Mary Mahon from Crossmaglen to make three pieces of Carrickmacross lace for the collection. Miss McMahon is one of the last lace makers in an area known from the late nineteenth century for its network of skilled outworkers. Miss McMahon’s pieces from traditional designs owned originally by her mother will be an invaluable addition to the collection along with digital recordings of her at work.

CAN YOU HELP? If you have any objects or information relating to the Convent of Mercy Lace School or lace making in Crossmaglen, please contact Noreen on (028) 3031 3182.

Bagenals Castle – Excavations

Excavations by Archaeological Development Services Ltd in April have uncovered more exciting information about the castle.

Archaeologists uncovered the foundations of the dividing wall shown on the 1568 ground floor plan. The wall is further evidence for the accuracy of the plans, which we now know illustrate a vaulted ceiling spanning the north room on the ground floor. The excavations uncovered more of the steps previously found, which rather than leading to a medieval vaulted basement, revealed an eighteenth century basement under the south room. The basement appears to have been filled in during renovations at McCann’s Bakery. It may have been used to store mercantile goods, since we know from research carried out by Ken, our Archive Officer, that ‘the castle of Newry with the garden and Meadow behind’ was leased from Robert Nedham of Newry, Esquire on 12th May 1746 by Robert Hutcheson, Merchant. Stone cobbling also discovered has been identified as the original floor of the castle. All these features will be left uncovered and glassed over for public viewing.

In June the National Arts Collections Fund announced an important new initiative to assist museums in Northern Ireland to purchase works of art. This pilot project was made possible by support from the Esmee Fairburn Foundation. Newry and Mourne Museum successfully secured a bid for a series of six paintings by County Down artist, Jasper McKinney. The Art Fund purchased the paintings outright for the museum.

The artist has based the paintings on the 1568 map of Newry and the plans of Bagenal’s Castle. He describes the works as ‘my excavations; the remains of images and thoughts hidden within time and later exposed’.

Friends of Newry and Mourne Museum at Bagenal’s Castle

We plan to set up a Friends Group, which will help develop a closer relationship between the new museum service and the local community. For a small yearly subscription, friends will have access to specially organised exhibition previews, talks, tours and events and will receive a copy of our bi-annual newsletter.

If you are interested in becoming a friend of the museum or want to find out more please contact Noreen on (028) 3031 3182 or E-Mail museum@newryandmourne.gov.uk.

Documentary Evidence for Crelly’s Castle

Research on Bagenal’s Castle has also uncovered interesting material relating to Newry’s second tower house, known as ‘Crelly’s Castle’. It was built sometime after 1588 when Patrick Crelly was granted substantial land in Newry by Sir Nicholas Bagenal. An inquisition into the lands of Thomas Crelly (probably Patrick’s son) taken after his death in 1607 records that he held a stone castle and other property in “the Millstreet”. It later became known as ‘Lord Hillsborough’s Castle’ after it the estate was sold to Michael Hill. Demolished in the 1960s, Crelly’s Castle was at the east end of Mill Street, near the junction with Market Street. A photograph held in the museum, possibly dating from the 1950s or early 1960s, shows evidence of 17th-century brickwork and a fireplace with it’s original 16th-century moulding.

Archive Project

The Museum was delighted to receive a valuable archive of material relating to the local area, owned by Major G.W. Reside, a well-known local architect and engineer, and recently donated by his nephew Fergus Hanna Bell. An archivist has been appointed to catalogue the collection and we are exploring funding opportunities for a travelling exhibition, book and range of educational packs. The material dates from the early eighteenth century to the 1980s and will be available for public research at Bagenal’s Castle.

Recent Acquisitions

Patricia McArdle has recently donated a beautiful Limerick lace costume made by her mother in the 1930s. Ellen McArdle (née Gardle) was taught lace-making by Sister Camillus at the Convent of Mercy, Newry, where she worked before she got married. The dress, veil and purse were made for Patricia’s First Communion and a new bodice was made for the dress for her Confirmation. To have received all these items as well as photographs of Patricia in both dresses makes this a very valuable donation. The Museum Assistant will be carrying out further research on local lace making enterprises for an exhibition later this year.

Being able to save money on things like this will not only get your day off to a good start but leave you with a healthier wallet. If you plan seeing a number of interesting historical sights in Newry and beyond you notice the savings starting to add up.

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