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Comber Historical Society
COMBER WALKING TOUR
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A WALKING TOUR OF COMBER

This is Comber, or ﭡr�he place where the waters meet - perhaps a reference to the confluence of the Enler and Glen, which merge at the bottom of Park Way to form the Comber River. Equally possible is the meeting of the Comber River with Strangford Lough 䨥 䲡ng fjord of the Vikings꼂R>
St MaryСrish Church just off the Square is an appropriate starting point for any tour of Comber. It was on this site that a Cistercian monastery was built in 1199. During the Middle Ages this would have been a thriving community, but it was closed in 1543 by order of Henry VIII. Look for traces of the monastery in re-used stones in nearby walls and buildings. One of these, which has now disappeared, had a masonୡrk inscribed on it in the form of a cross. The Scots settlers established a church around 1610 in the ruins of the monastery, but the present St Maryडtes from 1840.

 
















    Points of interest:

  • Inscription on entrance pillar into grounds. The names of Thomas Andrews and James Lemont, churchwardens, are recorded, along with the date 1774. These men paid for the erection of the pillars.

    The Andrews Mausoleum, built in 1867 by William Glenny Andrews over the family burial ground. There are no burials inside. Study the inscriptions on the vault. They list those members of the family in the tomb below, including Thomas the miller (1698-1743), his son John 襠great豷21-1808) who developed Comber੮dustries in the 18th century, James (1762-1841) who enlarged the works in the 1830s and gave land on which to build the Non-Subscribing Church, and John (1792-1864) who built the Spinning Mill.

  • The graveyard contains many early headstones, some from the 17th century. One interesting inscription relates to William Murdoch, the �ent distiller of Comber෨o died in 1805.

  • Look out also for a red sandstone slab at the front of the church in memory of Isaac Meredith of Kilbreght who died in 1723. Judge for yourself whether he really lived to the grand old age of 127 years.

  • Also at the front of the church is a plaque in commemoration of Edmund Bennett, an early minister. As you will observe, Mr Bennett was also chaplain to the Earl of Mount Alexander. The first earl was the grandson of Viscount Montgomery of the Ardes. He took his name from Mount Alexander Castle, a large manor house in Castle Lane, long since gone.

  • As you enter the church (which is usually open) note the footscraper at the door. Look up to the top of the stairs and note two old marble tablets (once one piece) inscribed with the dates 1633 and 1637. Read the mottoes.

  • Note the font, which is very old and made of porphyry, a stone found in Mediterranean countries.

  • Look for the plaques in memory of Edmund de Wind, Comberփ hero of World War One, taken from the old German field gun which once sat in the Square.

  • Many old monuments are worth studying. Of major importance is the memorial to Captain Chetwynd, Lieutenant Unite and Ensign Sparks, 3 officers of the York Fencibles killed at the Battle of Saintfield during the 1798 Rebellion. Incidentally, Rev Robert Mortimer, the rector of Comber, was also killed at this battle.
  • The North Transept was dedicated in 1913 and is in memory of Canon George Smith, rector 1868-1911. The stained glass window dates from 1938 and commemorates John Allen of Unicarvil House who died in 1932. The east window and the communion table are also gifts of the Allen family.

  • The South Transept was dedicated in 2009 and contains the Cistercian, Dorcas and Quarry windows. Also note a collection of ancient stones believed to have belonged to Comber Abbey.


Proceed across the Square to the Gillespie Monument, remembering that this area is an ancient graveyard belonging to the monastery. Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie (1766-1814) is Comberডmous general, whose statue stands on top of a 55-foot high Grecian column. His birthplace, approximately where the entrance to Gillespie Court is today, was demolished in the 1840s and rumour has it that the workmen discovered a hoard of gold. Gillespie fought against the French and their allies in the West Indies, India and Indonesia. His ride from Arcot to Vellore in 1806 was the subject of a poem by Sir Henry Newbolt. Gillespie was killed outside the fortress of Kalunga in Nepal in 1814. His reputed, but doubtful, last words (recorded on the Monument) were shot more for the honour of Downȥ is buried at Meerut in India.




    Points of interest:
  • The monument was unveiled on 24th June 1845 (St Johnġy) in front of an estimated 30,000 people. Gillespie was a freemason, and the monument has much masonic symbolism, even down to the direction in which he faces.

  • The names of all Gillespieୡjor battles are inscribed on the sides of the column, from Tiburon in 1794 to Kalunga in 1814.

  • The date of Gillespieथath is given wrongly on the Monument as 24th October. It was actually 31st October.

  • Also recorded on the monument is another Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie, another general who fought in India. He was the grandson of the man on the statue.

  • There is another monument to Gillespie, inside St Pauláthedral, London, by the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey.

  • An old wooden hut once sat beside the Gillespie Monument. It was derisively called the Market House but was in reality a building to house the weighbridge for the Distillery where farmers would bring their grain to be weighed.

    This entire area in the centre of the Square is a Memorial Garden, dedicated in 1952 to the men of Comber and district who gave their lives in the Second World War. Walk over to the entrance pillars to the garden and you will be able to read their names, also the names of all those who served in the Forces. Note that the pillars were replaced in 1995 when the Square got a facelift, but the plaques are original.

    Take a look at Comber௴her soldier, the War Memorial dedicated in 1923. This records the names of 426 men who served in the First World War, including a tablet listing 79 who gave their lives. Look out for the following names:

  • Lawrence Arthur Hind ᮠEnglishman married to Eliza Montgomery (Nina) Andrews, sister of Thomas Andrews of Titanic fame. He was killed at the Somme in 1916.

  • James, Samuel and John Donaldson 䨲ee brothers killed side by side, also at the Somme.

  • George James Bruce �aging director of Comber Distillery, commander of Comber West UVF Company before the war. He died in the closing weeks of the war in 1918.

  • Edmund de Wind 㯭ber௮ly winner of the Victoria Cross, killed in March 1918 while defending the Racecourse Redoubt near the village of Grugies in Picardy. His father was chief engineer on the Belfast & Co Down Railway, as well as being organist at St Maryot far from the War Memorial sat the captured German field gun, presented to the town as a memorial to Edmund de Wind. It was removed for its scrap metal during World War Two, as were the railings round the Gillespie Monument.

  • A more recent memorial was dedicated on 14 April 2012 to mark the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. It commemorates not only all those who perished, including Thomas Andrews, designer of the ship, but also those who worked on Titanic࣯nstruction.
Take some time to study the Square, which is largely Georgian in origin. Note the houses on the north side with sentry-box doorways (one of these is now the Ulster Bank). Another building which used to house a bank is the Georgian House restaurant. The front part is mid 18th century, but it was extended to the rear around 1840, probably by Dr Jonathan Allen. Hornerనarmacy is on the site of an old tannery owned by the Allen family and later traction engines were built on the site by James George Allen. Note the traces of furnaces in the wall as you walk on the path towards the car park.

St MaryСrochial Hall dates from 1954. Before this date the old Londonderry School building occupied the site. This school was founded in 1813 by Lady Londonderry and the Erasmus Smith Foundation and closed in 1938 when Comber Primary School opened.

The south side of the Square has been re-constructed in recent years. The building containing Tescos replaces what was formerly the Big House built by the Stitt family and taken over by Isaac Andrews in the 1840s. It was Isaac೯ns who founded the Belfast flour mills of Isaac Andrews and Sons. The Stitt family once had a small spinning mill at the rear of the building. For many years the Big House was the car showroom of Kanes of Comber. The glebe house or rectory, built 1738, once sat between the Big House and St Maryt was demolished in 1958.
Much of the east side of the Square has also been re-constructed. This was where the Milling family, one of the oldest traders in Comber, established a business in 1731. A plaque on the wall once stated this. The house called Aureen was the home of John Miller (1796-1883), owner of Comber Distilleries.

Note the cobbled pavement which once belonged to the house. You will see John Miller஡me picked out in white stone; also a dog chasing a hare, along with the figure of a man. Some surmise the dog to be the champion greyhound Master McGra, owned by Lord Brownlow. (His cousin James Brownlow was agent for Lord Londonderry, and in Comber we have Brownlow Street and the Brownlow Arms pub). It may, however, simply be a hunting scene.

Letயw investigate Killinchy Street, formerly Market Street, and earlier still Barry Street. The Northern Bank was formerly Barryɮn. Early meetings of the Non-Subscribing Church were held in Barryࢡrn. At the first of these in 1837 Dr Montgomery preached for two hours. Proceed along the street until you see Second Comber Presbyterian Church on the right. The date 1839 was when the foundation stone was laid and John Rogers installed as the first minister. In 1838 around 70 families had broken away from First Comber because of disagreement about the new minister there. The suite of halls is modern, although a plaque inside (rescued from the old hall) commemorates the financial gift from John Smyth of New Comber House towards the building of the manse (1860) and the schoolhouse (1861). This subsequently became known as Smythӣhool and closed in 1938. The building was demolished in 1993.

Opposite Second Comber is a housing development called the Old Distillery. This was the site of the Upper Distillery which manufactured the famous Old Comber whiskey from 1825 until the last distillation in 1952. In 1829-30 some 80,000 gallons of whiskey were produced. The buildings were demolished in 2003, although the chimney lasted until 2004. The only remaining part of the distillery is the Cooperage just across the road. This is where they made the barrels. And Second Comber car park occupies the site of the distillery dam. Water flowed from the Glen River into the dam along an aqueduct called the Troughs (pronounced trows). The Troughs can still be seen today amidst the undergrowth off Comber Bypass.

Go down Park Way, formerly Potale (pronounced potyal) Lane. Potale was the remains of the barley after the distilling process and was sold to farmers for cattle feed. Another name for Park Way was Waterford Loney, as it led down to a ford over the river. It is at the bottom of Park Way that the Glen and Enler Rivers meet. On the way to this junction you will pass the home of Comber Rec Football Club, formed 1950. Their greatest success was in 1991 when they defeated Brantwood in the final of the Steel & Sons Cup.

Return to Killinchy Street and turn left past the police station (opened 1931). Behind this was Comber͡rket House, demolished in the 1950s. The Roman Catholic Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin opened for worship in 1872. Prior to this, mass had been celebrated in the Market House and earlier still in Lower Crescent. The present school dates from 1955, but the original building of 1904 still stands.
Walk up to the roundabout, where Comber Bypass crosses over Killinchy Street. Phase 1, from the Belfast Road to Killinchy Street, dates from 1962, Phase 2 to the Newtownards Road from 2003. The Bypass follows the track bed of the old railway line to Newtownards and this was the spot where the line crossed the road on a level crossing. It was an accident blackspot, with at least 3 people killed by trains here in separate incidents.

Retrace your steps to the Square. Hugh Mawhinneyࢵtcher೨op on the corner of High Street and Castle Street is well worth a visit to see the old photographs of Comber which line the walls. Also note the plaque on the wall outside, commemorating the Ards Tourist Trophy (TT) Races, held over 30 laps of the 13�e circuit from Dundonald through Newtownards and Comber in the years 1928 to 1936, after which it was abandoned following a fatal accident in Newtownards. Comber had its moments, and this was the renowned ButcherӨop Corner where many a car came to grief.

Proceed up High Street, the Coo Vennel or Cow Lane of the Scots settlers. Note the following points of interest:

Near the bottom of the street, on the right hand side, an archway leads into a modern housing development. This is the site of Milling١rd, and it was here in the upper room of an old outhouse that Second Comber first met in 1838.

The Lightning Tree occupies the site of the Paragon Pub, opened by John W Ritchie in 1900. In 1837 a total of 19 pubs is recorded in Comber. John McCance, the Presbyterian minister, attributed to them 쭯st all the wickedness and misery that surround us튼BR>
High Street Court contains a large house, which was once Dr Henry೵rgery and later became the Blades Restaurant.

Many of the houses on the left hand side in the upper part of the street belong to the Hearth Housing Association and were built around 1820 for the Distillery. Later they were taken over by the Andrews family for their workers. Many of the houses you will see in Braeside, Carnesure Terrace, Railway Street and Brownlow Street were built as mill houses by the Andrews family.

At the top of the hill is First Comber Presbyterian Church. A look at the noticeboard will tell you that the congregation was founded in 1645, but there was probably no church building here until around 1670. The date of 1645 coincides with the arrival of a Presbyterian minister called James Gordon in Comber, but Gordon was minister at St MaryСrish Church! Until, that is, he was ejected and imprisoned. A crowd of women attacked his replacement, William Dowdall, in the church and pulled off his robes.

In 1764 there were 1,220 Presbyterians in Comber, compared with 315 members of the Established Church of Ireland and 165 Papists. Major building work took place in 1740 and 1887, and at this latter date the balcony and outside steps were removed. The porches were added in 1951. Today the church is octagonal in shape. Government troops were quartered in the church after their defeat at the Battle of Saintfield in 1798. The outer wall of the Minor Hall records the date 1866 and the name of the Rev Killen, minister 1843-79. This building originally housed First Comber National School. Rev Killen was minister at the time of the Great Revival of 1859 when many people at the church were reduced to tears on account of their sins and some had to be removed after fainting.

Just beyond First Comber is Windmill Lane, leading to Windmill Hill, so called because there was once a windmill there. Make your way down the lane and though the gates of the Non-Subscribing Church. This was another breakaway group from First Comber in 1837 and it is known as a Remonstrant congregation, because they remonstrated against compulsion to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith. James Andrews donated the land on which the church was built. John Miller the distiller was another great benefactor and in 1871 had the church finished in Portland cement all at his own expense. Today the original stonework has been restored. The church was due to open in 1839, but in January of that year disaster struck on the night of the Big Wind. The top blew off the windmill on to the roof of the newly-built church causing severe damage. The church was unable to open for worship until 1840,making it the third church in Comber to open in that year. The first minister was William Hugh Doherty who emigrated to America in 1850. The graves of his two young sons can be found at St Maryhe manse dates from 1859 and the schoolhouse from 1878. The unusual tree outside the church is a monkey-puzzle tree.


Normally the church is closed, and if you would like to see the interior you should contact the Rev Ian Gilpin (Tel. 02891 872265). Note the following:

When you enter into the vestibule, look up the stairs to each side and you will see the portraits of John Miller and his wife Agnes.

Inside the church is a tablet sculpted by Rosamund Praegar and erected in 1944 by Eva Andrews. It depicts several figures moving forward and is inscribed 堰ress on쩳ting the names of James Andrews, founder of the congregation, John Andrews JP and Annie, Evaడrents, and John and Mary Ann, her brother and sister.

The stained glass windows are of interest. 塣e硳 erected by the congregation in memory of Thomas Andrews of Ardara (1843-1916). 衲ity硳 the gift of Thomas穦e Eliza Pirrie (sister of Lord Pirrie, head of Harland & Wolff shipyard), as a memorial to her mother, also Eliza, and her uncle John Miller. ﶥ硳 erected in 1963 by Willie Andrews in memory of Eliza, who was his mother. It portrays his mother and her children, with the family home Ardara House in the background. The children were a talented lot. The eldest, John Miller Andrews (1871-1956) became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1940 and guided the Province through the difficult days of the Second World War. His brother Thomas (1873-1912) was a shipbuilder and designed the ill-fated Titanic. He was one of those who didn೵rvive after the Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage. The third son James (1877-1951) was Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, while Willie (1886-1966) was well known in cricketing circles. That is why a cricket bat and ball appear on the window. There was also a daughter Eliza Montgomery Andrews (1874-1930), known as Nina. She married an Englishman, Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence A Hind, who was killed in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme and whose name appears on the War Memorial in the Square. But note a sixth child on the window, the baby in the motherࡲms. This represents the infant son who died in 1884 aged only one month.

Proceed outside to the graveyard which was consecrated in 1863. Here you will find the graves of John Miller and of Thomas Andrews of Ardara and his family, including John Miller Andrews the Prime Minister and his son John Lawson Ormrod (JLO) Andrews (1903-86). If you walk down as far as the gate out to Mill Street you will notice how worn the steps have become over the years. Look out also for the date 1879 on the gable of the house on your right as you approach the gates.

Retrace your steps to High Street and proceed past Raspberry Row (named after its colour), across the bypass and down Braeside.

Stop at the former flax-spinning mill of John Andrews & Sons. This was the brainchild of John Andrews (1792-1864), who was also agent for Lord Londonderry, who owned the town. It opened in June 1864, but John had died a few weeks before and it was left to his sons to carry on, especially Thomas (of Ardara) who had supervised the building work. Not all parts of the mill date from 1864; the earliest bit is the 4-storey Preparing and Spinning Rooms with a date stone of 1863. There are other date stones around the building e.g. 1907. The mill once employed over 500 people, but closed in 1997. Today the buildings form the centre of a mill village with luxury apartments.

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Note the inscription over one of the doorways ワmber Spinning Mill National Schoolᮤ the date 1877. This was the entrance to the mill school which closed in 1938.

Across the road from the mill is the Andrews Memorial Hall, opened in 1915 to the memory of Thomas Andrews Junior, shipbuilder, designer of the Titanic. Thomas was brought up at Ardara House, a short distance along the Ballygowan Road. Today it has been converted into apartments. Note the inscriptions at the front of the Andrews Hall. Elizabeth Law Barbour Andrews (known as Elba), who laid the first sod in 1913, was the young daughter of Thomas Andrews. She tragically died in a car crash in 1973. Note also the cherubs on either side of the main door, the work of Rosamund Praegar.

The Andrews Hall was originally a community hall for the town. Dances were held here, and in the 1920s Mickey White showed Comber঩rst movies here. Today it belongs to the South Eastern Education and Library Board. The Andrews Primary School originally met in the hall before transferring in 1978 to the new purpose-built school beside it. What is now the playground was once the home of Comber Tennis Club.

Just behind the Andrews Hall, at 26 Carnesure Terrace, is a blue plaque marking the birthplace of Ottilie Patterson, famous jazz and blues singer, in 1932. Ottilie sang with the Chris Barber Band in the 1950s/1960s and married Barber in 1959.

The main line of the Belfast & County Down Railway crossed the Ballygowan Road on a level crossing. Turn into Railway Street. The railway line once ran along the right-hand side and housing now covers what was the track bed. The houses on the left-hand side were built by the Andrews family for their workers. Also on the left-hand side is Comber Orange Hall, a modern building erected 2010 replacing the structure of 1875. You can still see the date stone of the old building in the grounds. A picture of the old hall is etched on the glass above the doorway. A little further along are the headquarters of Comber Cadets and the Rifle Club. A house called Inla once occupied this spot. Another short distance and you will see the Masonic Hall, opened 1870.

Proceed to the end of the street and note the greyhound above the doorway at the Brownlow Arms pub. Thomas Patton, who once owned the pub, raced greyhounds 鳠it a dog called Inla, or could it be Master McGra? Remember the pavement in the Square.

Cross over the Glen Road into Glen Link. The Civic Amenities Centre (or dump) is on the site of Comber Railway Station. The railway lasted exactly 100 years (1850-1950) and Comber was an important junction with the main line going via Ballygowan to Downpatrick and Newcastle while the branch line went to Newtownards and Donaghadee. The express train to Belfast took just 12 minutes!

The former goods shed has been tastefully converted into Comber fire station. The structure also incorporates part of the original station platform, at 832 feet the longest on the entire BCDR system.


Turn back and go through the bridge beneath the bypass. The North Down Arms went under the name Railway Tavern in 1925. A visit to the TT Lounge would be of interest, with pictures of the famous race around the walls. Note the ornamental Apollo-like heads and fountain across the street from the pub.

Proceed into Mill Street. Apartments on your right occupy the site of the Thompson Hall, a dance hall which also housed Comber Technical College. Nearby is the Pound Bridge, so called because it was beside the Pound for stray animals. Close to Comber Christian Centre in Laureldale was the Upper Corn Mill, taken over by Thomas Andrews the miller in 1722. It was demolished around 1900.

Further along the street you will come to the Baptist Church, built in 1975 on the site of Comber Gasworks, which in turn was once a quarry belonging to John Andrews. The gasworks operated from 1847 to 1957, providing gas for many houses and other buildings in Comber, as well as street lighting. It reached its peak in 1925, but had to close as more and more people switched to electricity.

A little way past the gates to the Non-Subscribing Church is the former shop of J.A. Macdonald, with the date stone above of 1913. Today it is an Indian takeaway, but the fa硤e is retained, describing Mr Macdonald as cartage contractor, funeral furnisher, posting master and general merchant. J.A. Macdonald was the father of James Macdonald, a noted cricketer and hockey player for North Down who later became headmaster of Regent House School, Newtownards.

Turn into Castle lane and stroll past the former site of the Albion Stitching Factory (now modern housing) to the ground of North Down Cricket Club. This was originally a bleach green established in 1745 by John Andrews the great, and in 1763 we are told that 2,000 pieces of linen were bleached here. We also read of it being robbed on occasion, even though the penalty was death by hanging.

The cricket club was formed in 1857 and a book was brought out in 2007 to mark its 150th anniversary. They are 32 times senior cup winners and 21 times league champions. The pavilion was opened in 1909 but has been much extended. Notice the two boulders at the entrance to the ground. These once sat at the corner of Castle Lane with Castle Street to prevent traffic banging into the houses. This was also where teams met before travelling to away matches.

Further down Castle Lane was Mount Alexander Castle (a manor house rather than a castle), now gone. It was built as a wedding present by Hugh Montgomery, Viscount Ardes, for his son and his wife, Lady Jean Alexander, hence the name. Close by is the award-winning Kennel Bridge of 1995, which replaces an earlier structure. It took its name from the nearby kennels at the castle.

Return along Castle Lane to its junction with Mill/Castle Street and turn left. Immediately across the street is a building containing the Joshua Tree. This was once the House of Industry (an early workhouse), established in 1826 for 30 inmates. It also supported 70 outdoor families with meat and potatoes. Poor House Lane runs alongside the building. Barrack Row is the name for the line of houses beginning with Express Pizza. The police station was here from 1861 to the 1920s.

Make your way to the Supervalu store, opened in 1986 on the site of Comber Cinema (1957-85). There was also an older picture house beside it dating from 1934 in what were formerly the stables belonging to the Old House of John Andrews (built 1745 and demolished in 1956 to make way for the Cinema).

Across the road from Supervalu is the site of a 3-storey building which was also an Andrews house built by James in 1792 岡ghmore, the place of the big yew trees, named after large trees in the garden believed to be several hundred years old. The garden is now occupied by apartments, but was once laid out in tiers behind iron railings and was nicknamed the Palace Stages.


Demolished 16th January 2011
Uraghmore or Uraghamore
This was a historic building unfortunately unlisted.

Old Castle Street House In Comber Report by Violet Brown v.brown@ardschronicle.co.uk

The demolition of the former Uraghmore House at Castle Street, Comber, thought to be the oldest three storey building in the town, has been met with sadness.



Copy from Newtownards Chronicle, Thursday 27th January 2011.

      Len Ball, of Comber Historical Society, explained the substantial house was built by James Andrews in 1792, at the time of his marriage to Frances Glenny. "James was the son of the 'John the Great', who had many businesses, including soap making, bleach works and beetling mills," he related. "James called his house on Castle Street, 'Uraghmore', which means the place of the big yew trees, which had been growing.

there for 400 years". James Andrews, Mr Ball added, died in 1841. "Throughout the years the building was occupied by various tenants, including Smyth & McClure in the 1950's and 1960's," he said. "Latterly it was the home of a sports centre, then it lay vacant for a time. It is sad that another historical building has disappeared in the town". Comber, Ards Borough Councillor Jim Fletcher remarked, had lost one of its most significant buildings. "When the house was built, Comber was still a small village," he continued. "It contained a particularly grand staircase which, I understand, featured in a scene in a film starring the late Errol Flynn". "It is sad to witness this breaking up of old Comber again," Mr Fletcher continued. "Again the community is powerless to prevent it, the building having been flattened during the early hours on a Sunday morning". "I intend to investigate how this was allowed to happen and prevent any further damaging developments to the town of Comber," he promised. "Otherwise, in a very short time, we will have very little left to remind us of our past".



Go down the lane beside Supervalu to the car park which dates from the 1980s. This was once the gardens of the Old House, but was growing wild for many years. Some of the garden walls have been incorporated in the tennis courts, and several trees in the centre of the car park were originally in the garden.

The Four Seasons Home for the elderly covers much of what was once an industrial complex belonging to the Andrews family. This included an impressive 5-storey flour mill dating from 1771, which closed in 1883 and was demolished around 1900. Across the hockey pitch on the banks of the Enler was the Old Mill from the 17th century, while a huge 6-storey grain store was demolished in 1978 following a fire caused by vandals. This was close to the site of the leisure centre and was sometimes known as the Piggery because it was used as such after the Second World War by two ex-Indian army colonels, one of whom was the father of ex-Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, who spent part of his boyhood in Comber. The so called tunnels running under the car park are actually drains leading from some of the larger houses down to the river.

Proceed out to Bridge Street via Bridge Street Link, passing old ruined walls which belonged to the Allen traction engine works. Note the blue plaque to Edmund de Wind on the gable wall at the corner. Turn left into Bridge Street. On your left is an open space where the Methodist Church stood from 1820 until 1995 when it was demolished. Today the congregation meets in the church hall. Just past the Stepping Stones sheltered accommodation is a fine Georgian doorway with a fantail window above. The First and Last pub was the police barracks before it moved to Barrack Row in 1861.

Note the inscription on the bridge ⥣ted 1843 Edward Porter contractor͵ch work was done around this area of the river in the 1980s to prevent flooding. From the bridge you can see Comber Primary School, opened in 1938. Apparently there was no furniture for the first few weeks and the children had to sit on the floor. Behind the Primary School on Darragh Road is the modern Nendrum College, taking its name from the ancient monastic school at Nendrum on Mahee Island. It was completed in 2008.

The petrol station at the corner of Darragh Road occupies the site of an old dam, supplied with water by a run-off from the River Enler. The dam belonged to the Lower Distillery which was just across the Newtownards Road on a site now lying derelict following the demolition of the Airsteps factory. The Lower Distillery closed around the time of the First World War.

Turn into Darragh Road and immediately right into Lower Crescent, sometimes called Hen Dung Row because of the number of hens kept by the inhabitants and the inevitable consequences. This was originally the route taken by the main road to Newtownards. Circle round Lower Crescent and back on to the Newtownards Road. Turn right, and immediately on your left is a new housing development replacing the former Upper Crescent built in 1928 but demolished recently. An alternative name was Hill 60, the name of a battle in the First World War, and many of the occupants had taken part in the fighting. We conclude the tour by retracing our steps to the Square.

You may not wish to do all of this historical trip around Comber at the one go, but rather to take it in gentle stages. However you decide to do it, I do hope that you enjoy it. There is certainly a lot to be seen, although there is no doubt that much has disappeared under the name of progress. If you wish to learn more about the history of the town, may I recommend that you read ԡste of Old Comber⹠Len Ball and Desmond Rainey and "A Chronicle of Comber, The Town of Thomas Andrews, Shipbuilder 1873-1912" by Desmond Rainey and Laura Spence.

You may wish to come along to meetings of Comber Historical Society. We meet on the second Monday of the month (September to April) in Comber Learning Centre, Park Way. For more details speak to Kathleen Coulter, telephone 02891 872621.

Thank you for your interest.
Desmond Rainey.

Modern View of Comber Square 2010



Comber Square as it used to be. This painting by kind permission of the artist Jean Hadden.
Painted sometime during 1988 and 1990.




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