The Willsborough canals

Here is a canal system of whose existence I was ignorant until today.

The Willsborough canal system [OSI ~1840]

The Willsborough canal system [OSI ~1840]

Canals hither and yon, and even a sea lock. Here is it on the 6″ OSI map but, if you’re in the state of Ireland, access restrictions may prevent you from seeing it on the 25″ and modern maps. Here’s an embedded Google map that might work:

On the Google map, go north from Campsie to find the location, but the coastline seems to have changed since the early nineteenth century.

This PRONI page gives some of the background about Scotts of Willsborough and their turf business. In 1802 the Rev G Vaughan Sampson, in his Statistical Survey of the County of Londonderry, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up for the consideration, and under the direction of the Dublin Society, wrote:

The exertions of Mr Scott, of Willsborough, are second to none in the county. It has been already mentioned, that the evils of this gentleman’s farm are chiefly moss and clay. Mr Scott cuts off the moss for turf, with which his boats supply the city of Derry. Having left about 14 inches of the peat, his object is to bring up the rich clay, which lies beneath. For this purpose, he employed very heavy strong ploughs; these were the more necessary, in parts of the farm, where a thin stratum, intervening between the mossy and the clayey soil, was to be penetrated. This plough required six bullocks.

After having broke in these surfaces, and rather imperfectly incorporated them, Mr Scott laid on shells, to the quantity of 60, and even 120 barrels per acre, according to the stiffness and coldness of the subsoil. Under this fallow it remained one or two years, after which it was potatoed on dung in beds. The fields adjacent to the house were next year sown with oats, to which were added grass-seeds; and thenceforth it continued in meadow or pasture. Those enclosures which were more remote, were, after being ploughed, and manured with shells, rented to farmers, either with or without a cabin: they vary from four to 20 acres; every farmer being anxious to get an addition from the parts, which are brought in. Mr Scott gave grass-seeds, gratis, to industrious tenants.

Mr Scott gives farms also to his turf-cutters, of from eight to ten acres. His boatmen have grazing, but, in general, grass is yet too scarce to supply the common labourer.

The lands, either in a reclaimed state, or marked out for the most immediate processes, are chiefly enclosed by canals, which serve to convey the turf to the shore. Of these enclosures, there are three, which contain severally 36, 48, and 53 acres. […]

I would welcome more information. Is there any trace of the canals or of the lock?

I am grateful to Linde Lunney, who commented below, for this link to a photo of Willsborough House.


My OSI logo and permit number for website

2 responses to “The Willsborough canals

  1. Apologies if the post appears twice. Not sure what happened, I lost the first post. Thanks for posting this. I was following up references to Scott of Willsborough in the index to the Coleraine Chronicle newspaper indexed by Coleraine Family History Society, and found your essay by googling. Most interesting, and although from north Antrim/ Derry, I hadn’t heard of the canals. I will make sure that the dictionary of Irish Biography, where I work, has a database entry for at least one of these enterprising men. Linde Lunney

  2. It appeared only once. WordPress occasionally does odd things.

    I am glad that my page proved to be useful to you. I’m afraid that I have learned no more about Willsborough since I posted the page. bjg

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