Pocket Britain

Either a park attached to a town, or a town attached to a park


Market Street
Lurgan Park
Brownlow House
The town of Lurgan was known as an important producer of linen during the Industrial Revolution. This was big business until as recently as the 1990s. It brought prosperity, resulting in the wide streets and pretty Victorian buildings which are in abundance here today. The town's Market Street is particularly notable for being among the widest in the country.
Of course, a disadvantage of urbanisation is the loss of green spaces. Many town and city residents have to travel some distance to see parks or gardens. Lurgan, on the other hand, doesn't suffer from this problem. Its greenery encroaches right to the centre of town, occupying a spot where you might normally expect to find a suburb or shopping centre. Lurgan Park is just a stone's throw from Market Street, and it's huge. In fact, with over 250 acres of space, this is the biggest urban park in Northern Ireland. Over 2000 people enjoy it every day.
A fifth of the territory is taken up by Lurgan Lake. Incredibly, it was dug entirely by hand, just after the potato famine in the mid-19th century. The project gave work to hundreds of poor, starving natives. They took up their spades and dug from dawn 'til dusk. Unfortunately, this wasn't a very profitable job. It was dirty, tiring and depressing. To this day, a person looking weary or upset is described as having a "face like a Lurgan spade".
Of course, now the lake is finished and anybody is free to enjoy it. This is a particularly popular spot with fishermen, who can take advantage of the purpose-built fishing stands. On some summer weekends, visitors can hire rowing boats, and head out onto the surface.
Another of the park's water features is the Coalbrookdale Fountain. Originally, it stood in the centre of town as a tribute to Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Despite its relocation, it's still one of the most complete examples of its type. Similar constructions can be found as far away as New Zealand, but only this one still has its original lampposts.
Before it was opened to the public, the park used to belong to the estate of Brownlow House. This early 19th century Elizabethan residence was built for its namesake, a wealthy politician called Charles Brownlow. Its designer was William Henry Playfair, a Scottish architect who was also responsible for most of Edinburgh's best buildings.
From a distance, the house's most notable features are its strange chimneys. Perhaps these structures, which look a bit like miniature towers, are why Brownlow is sometimes known as Lurgan Castle. Apparently it has 365 rooms, one for every day of the year! It's difficult to be certain though, because nobody has time to count them all. One of them, the Eisenhower Room, is so named because it once hosted General Eisenhower himself: World War II's Supreme Allied Commander.
As well as all those rooms, the house is also rumoured to have a secret tunnel. It runs underneath the lake and into Lurgan Town. This was supposedly the work of the amorous Lord Brownlow, who had grown tired of his wife and wished to visit other ladies. The tunnel was his rather complicated way of leaving the house undetected!
Visitor Information
Brownlow House Tea Room is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm serving lunches, tea, coffee, scones and tray bakes. Tel: 028 3832 6049

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