The town of Gilford
in County Down
The town of Gilford sits astride the Upper River Bann between the towns of Portadown and Banbridge, the name Gilford is an abbreviation of Magill's Ford referring to a Captain John Magill of Gillhall near Dromore (See Gillhall Estate) who was granted a large parcel of land during the plantation of Ulster
There was probably a small settlement associated with the ford from very early times, the first mention of milling in Gilford dates to 1691,when Sir John Magill grandson of Captain Magill granted by lease, to Thomas Purdy for the tuck mill and corn mill of Gilford, together with the land on which the present mill stands. The Purdy family were obviously successful in their business in Thomas Purdy's will dated 21st August 1728 he left the mills and lands to his sons James and John after his mothers day.
The completion of the Newry Canal in 1741 which passed Gilford at a distance of about 1½ miles at Madden on the Tangragee Road brought great advantages from a transportation point of view. However after about 1775 the Purdy's began to dispose of their property, by 1792 the majority of the milling and linen business in Gilford was in the hands of one George Law, Law expanded the business considerably, building a Beetling Mill south of the location of Gilford Castle. He extended the weir on the river increasing the power output available from the river. After his death in 1802 his property became the subject of a law suit between members of his family, eventually his nephew Hugh purchased the property.
By 1836 a new name became involved in Gilford's business community, Hugh Dunbar decided to open a spinning mill in the town after involvement with several partners the business came to be called Dunbar Mc Master and Co. The new spinning mill began production in 1841 amid a flurry of publicity, the building of the mill heralded the beginning of a period of unprecedented house building in the town.
Gilford Mill went from strength to strength at the end of the 19th century it was considered one of the foremost mills not only in Ireland but in the British Isles. There is little point in me writing a condensed and possibly confused account of the mill at Gilford when you can read an excellent article by The Craigavon Historical Society, click the links at the bottom of this page.
Today the mill is embarking on a new course, it is to become a hotel with fitness suites, art galleries and all the trimmings considered necessary for life in the 21st century.
During the Second World War many American troops were billeted on farms and estates around Gilford, as part of the preparations for the invasion of Europe. An interesting story from the period relates to a local entrepreneur, who's contribution to the war effort consisted of selling bicycles to the troops, and of course buying them back at a reduced price before they left. One particular group dissatisfied with the price offered, lined the bicycles up on the Stramore Road and drove a tank over them, needless to say the gentleman at the centre of this story despite the temporary setback rose to become a successful businessman.
St. Johns Roman Catholic Church in the town has two stained glass windows designed by Ireland's famous exponent of the art Harry Clarke, one of the windows depicts St. Catherine of Sienna, the other Bernadette Soubirous and the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.