Newry.ie – A reminder of a booming Newry port
The old port began to decline as the needs of Newry’s maritime merchants changed. In 1806 the old customshouse was converted into a bridewell (a house of correction or prison) just as a new customshouse was being established at Merchant’s Quay. In 1807 Lord Kilmorey had a new butter crane erected on the side of the canal, just below Merchants Quay, beside Ballybot Bridge. The old butter crane was located in Boat Street, too far from the canal.
The new Butter Crane, after which the quay is named, was a quality testing station, where butter was tested, graded, weighed and taxed before being exported to Liverpool. In 1820 Newry had a considerable export of butter supplies, valued annually at around 80,000 barrels. Later, as the market for butter declined, the Buttercrane began to serve other purposes, including a pork and flax market in the 1840s and timber yards owned by Newry Saw Mills, Wood and Iron Company , possibly 1860s. In 1831 plans were underway for a new bridge between Margaret Street and Monaghan Street called Needham Bridge, a significant development linking the Low Ground/Hill Street area with the Merchant Quay and Monaghan developments Street.
The Albert Basin and Victoria Lock were completed in April 1850 and improved Newry’s port facilities by accommodating vessels over 500 tons. This incredible feat lasted seven to eight years and was baptized with a major show on the 15thand April. The Newry Telegraph reported on the 16thand April that “Amid the thunder of cannon and the cheers of thousands assembled, the sea lock was opened and several ships were admitted into the spacious waters of the canal. The vessels were flagged; and on either side, the picturesque hills, which echoed the roar of cannon and the shearing of the multitude. The schooner Pride, belonging to the townsman Francis Carvill, took the lead… As each successive ship approached Albert Basin, it was greeted with loud cheers, the assembled multitude appearing greatly delighted at the magnificent and beautiful spectacle. The band of the 2nd Regiment, throughout, played, in its superior style, a selection of admired music.
In 1853 the merchants and traders of Newry erected a memorial as a result of the lack of legal space to load and unload ships in Newry. Merchant’s Quay was the only legal quay for the use of loading and unloading ships until 1853. Canal Quay and Sugar House Quay were used only with the permission of Her Majesty’s Customs authorities. No permission was granted for the use of Buttercrane Quay or the embankment opposite Merchant’s Quay at this time. The quays surrounding Albert Basin had only just been cleared by Her Majesty’s Customs for use, although again said Albert Quays had not been fully and properly legalized for such purposes. With the help of then local MP William Kirk, the entire series of docks were legalized for this important use, encouraging Newry’s trade for many decades to come.
The Museum currently offers free tours of the exhibition halls on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. These must be booked in advance by calling our Education Officer on 0330 137 4422.
The Newry and Morne Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please call 0330 137 4422 or email [email protected] for more information.