This cross in a corner of a field, below the Duncrun Road and overlooking Magilligan, is all that is left (that can be seen) of the early medieval Duncrun Monastery. Reportedly destroyed by the Vikings its stone is reported to have been reused for a nearby castle which was in turn used in the construction of nearby cottages. The cross itself is a very unusual one for these parts. Often described as a ‘Cross of Lorraine’ i.e a cross with two horizontal bars associated with Lorraine in France and thought to have originated in Moravia from Byzantine influences, if true, this is a reminder of the connection between the church of these times and a much wider world. I am not so sure however. To my eye the second bar may be a device to separate the cross above from a different image below.
St Cadan’s Church of Ireland on the Duncrun Road overlooking Magilligan. Built in 1784 by Lord Bristol (The Earl Bishop) to replace the old church of Tamlaghtard, ‘it being in a decayed condition’. Located in a fantastic site, windows along one side (to the view) are blank. Nearby was a medieval monastery.
Magilligan Halt is a dramatic example of railway architecture with horizontal lines and overlapping roofs appearing to emphasise speed in this new form of travel. Designed by John Lanyon and built between 1875 and 1875, the signal box windows at the end are from elsewhere and were added, to complementary effect in the early 1990′s.
Magilligan Martello Tower looks across the narrowest point of Lough Foyle to a similar fortification above Greencastle in Co Donegal. Both were built between 1812 and 1817 and formed part of a series of similar fortifications built around the British Isles to guard against a Napoleonic invasion. The squat circular form with a pronounced batter was thought to be effective against canon fire from ships attempting to access the Lough. A large 24 pound gun was mounted on a track on top of the fort. Inside, are vaulted brickwork rooms and a well. A projecting machiolation protects the door to the rear and houses a small guard room. The Greencastle fort is elliptical rather than circular and is linked to a barrack and a two levels of gun emplacements. Those at the lower level are now partly obscured by a row of holiday apartments. During WWII an anti aircraft gun was mounted on top of the tower. The structure is now a Monument in State Care.
392 Seacoast Road Magilligan, a three roomed traditional house with unrendered basalt rubble stonework. Like other vernacular houses in the area it is located with its gable facing the prevailing westerly wind. Magilligan was once famous for its thatched houses and there is still a reasonable number surviving. This building was formerly thatched in Marram Grass taken from the nearby sandhills and secured with ropes. This was changed to wheat straw secured by hidden scallops in 1994.
Bellarena House was the centre of an estate that once covered around half of Magilligan. These were designated church lands under the Plantation of Ulster and were leased from the Bishop of Derry. It is a triple pile building (three pitched roofs) with a projecting sandstone porch added by the eminent Victorian architect Charles Laynon in the late 1830′s, who also made internal changes. The main part of the building is said to date from 1797 but there may be remnants of an earlier, seventeenth century house within its fabric. Built of basalt stone it has a very distinctive appearance and commands its surroundings well.
Bellarena Dispensary is located behind a curve on the Seacoast Road as it enters the Magilligan area. Built around 1840 the taller building is the dispensary while the lower is a separate house. In 1997 it was still in use as a doctor’s surgery two days per week. The little Gothic windows give the building great charm and this, and the fact that it is built on the edge of the Bellarnea Estate, suggest the hand of the landlord in its commissioning and construction.
Ballycastle Farm Aghanloo, Limavady. Reputed site of the first Anglo Norman fortification in the Limavady area and also the site of the Haberdashers Bawn during the Ulster Plantation. A beautiful place but little evidence of its interesting history-apart from its name- can be seen there today.
This unusual structure is a WWII training dome on the former Aganloo airfield near Limavady. This was used for training gunners during World War II. An image of an aircraft was projected onto the inside surface (which was lit up with blue florescent light to simulate the sky), and a dummy gun was fitted in the centre with a small projector which pinpointed where the gun was pointed. This is understood to be a unique survival in Northern Ireland. Three or four examples are understood to survive in the UK as a whole.
The West Lodge, Drenagh, is a reflection of the big house beyond. Finely proportioned, it was designed in c.1840 by the eminent Victorian architect Charles Lanyon.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West and further afield with a little information about their history.