St Patrick’s Church is on high ground at the end of Gortin village. Designed by EJ Toye of Derry and built between 1898 and 1902, it has many similarities with St Patrick’s, Pennyburn, which he designed at the same time. It also has a rose window and blind arcading on the main facade. The door here is pointed Gothic rather than rounded Romanesque and the church has a broach spire rather than the Byzantine dome of Pennyburn. This building is well sited with fine views and a dramatic entrance as it is hidden from view on the road up from the village. Worth a visit.
Beltrim Castle is located at the edge of Gortin Village. The main house shown here was built between 1780 and 1820 but it incorporates part of a Seventeenth Century bawn from the Ulster Plantation in a long rear return This image, based upon a nineteenth century photograph, shows a rectangular wind porch to the front of the building. This is now removed revealing a fine Georgian door with elliptical fanlight.
North over the hills. On the road is this former school. A plaque beside the door states: ’ This schoolhouse was erected by Arthur Willoughby Cole Hamilton Esq A.D. 1832.‘ A system of National Schools was created in Ireland in 1831, and this building may have been one result, however, at this time, schools were still being created and maintained by a variety of means, including as in this case, the local landlord. Cole Hamilton is often referred to as a Major. He lived in Beltrim Castle near Gortin on the other side of the mountain. He was born1806 and died in1891.
The Old Bridge in Newtownstewart of 1727 is beside the Motte and thought to be a rebuilding of an earlier bridge on the site. Like Moyle Bridge it has unusual triangular cutwaters but this bridge is much bigger and taller with six arches rather than three.
On the other side of the river is the site of the third castle in the village. This is a motte known as Pigeon Hill. The foundations of a rectangular stone castle are recorded, though these can’t be seen today. It was occupied by the O'Neill’s in advance of the Ulster Plantation of the early Seventeenth Century but was recorded as ruined by the new settlers.
Before we leave Newtownstewart lets look at this unusual carved head above a carriage arch on the steep road down behind the castle. Apparently dating from the 1850’s, some archaeologists have suggested that it might be early Christian in origin.
Back through Newtownstewart and north east over the Moyle Bridge below the town. This is thought to date from 1727 and has large unusual cutwaters projecting out into the river
Ballyrenan Chambered Grave is one of a small complex of two similar prehistoric monuments on the hill beside the former Post Inn at Baronscourt. Dating from the megalithic period, arrowheads, beads and pottery shards have been found at the site. Both would have originally been within cairns of stones. Today, they are an enigmatic and characterful reminder of the long history of occupation of this place.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West and further afield with a little information about their history.