There is little left today of what was once reported as the largest railway junction in Ireland. The site is now covered by Asda and a retail park, but in 1847 when the Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway opened it was transformative. Strabane now had fast and efficient links to port and to the interior of Ulster which continued to expand in subsequent years. This house on Railway Street retains a memory of what was once here with a signal and some plaques from the line in its front garden.
The rail line along the Mourne and Strule valley to Omagh criss-crosses the winding river along its route and a number of fine, and very long, bridges still survive. These are made of riveted iron sheets supported on massive steel girders and date from 1910-11. Cast-iron girder trellis bridges preceded them and before that, in 1850, the bridges were wooden. The changes were needed because of the rapid improvement in rolling stock. The railway became part of the Great Northern Railway Company (Ireland) in 1876.
In the Victorian period banks became much more prominent and Strabane had many. These were designed to be solid and reassuring and most opted for a design inspired by Classical architecture. Unlike similarly inspired Georgian buildings, render and decoration around doors was not sufficient. Most were faced in cut stone with plenty of detail to emphasise their importance. Branch banking had been pioneered in Scotland and the Provincial Bank promoted this system throughout Ireland. Most of its staff, however, were Scottish.
Unlike the Georgian’s, the Victorian’s didn’t seek a unified architectural style, but tended to think that styles should be used as required to create an atmosphere or serve a particular function. Thus, classicism was appropriate for banks and gothic in various forms was appropriate for churches, alms houses, jails, hospitals and universities. In 1868 the Government decided to break the link between church and state in Ireland and the Church of Ireland was given significant funds to compensate it for the change. This resulted in a boom in church building. Christchurch Urney is one, elegant, example.
Signal, Railway Street, Strabane.
Camus Bridge, Sion Mills.
Alied Irish Bank, Main Street, Strabane.
Camus Church of Ireland.