|Population||9,071 (2011 Census)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Comber (from Irish : An Comar, meaning 'the confluence') is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies 5 miles (8 km) south of Newtownards, at the northern end of Strangford Lough. It is situated in the townland of Town Parks, the civil parish of Comber and the historic barony of Castlereagh Lower. Comber is part of the Ards and North Down Borough. It is also known for Comber Whiskey which was last distilled in 1953. A notable native was Thomas Andrews, the designer of the RMS Titanic and was among the many who went down with her. Comber had a population of 9,071 people in the 2011 Census.
The confluence of two rivers, which gave the town its name, is that of the Glen River and the Enler River which meet here. There is believed to have been a church here since the time of Saint Patrick, while a Cistercian abbey was founded around 1200 on the site of the present Church of Ireland church, a site likely chosen to take advantage of the good access to Strangford Lough. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1541, the abbey fell into ruins and its stone has since been used in other buildings.
During the influx of Scots in the early 1600s (see Plantation of Ulster), a settlement grew up at Comber, although it was focused about one mile (1.6 km) further south than at present, in the townland of Cattogs, and there is evidence that the settlement was a port used by traders and fishermen. By the 1700s, however, the focus of the town had moved to the area of the present main Square and Comber became established as an industrial centre with several mills.
The Andrews family made Comber a centre of both linen production and grain processing by the second half of the 1700s. Whiskey distilling was a prominent industry by the mid-1800s, the most prominent of the distillers being John Miller, uncle of William James (Lord) Pirrie and Eliza (wife of Thomas Andrews Snr.). One member of the Andrews family, Thomas, rose to fame as designer of the ill-fated RMS Titanic , although he tragically lost his life when the ship sank in 1912. By 1841 the town had 1,400 inhabitants. The 20th century saw Comber lose much of its industry but re-establish itself as a commuter town for the Belfast urban area, swelling in population from 4,000 in 1961 to 8,933 according to the 2001 census.
In Comber's square stands the statue of Major General Rollo Gillespie. Gillespie was a local war hero from the 19th century, famous for his heroic exploits in India. It was constructed under the oversight of John Fraser, the first county surveyor of Down, and was unveiled on 24 June 1845 (St. John's Day). Fifty lodges of the Masonic Order were present, in what is believed to be the biggest Masonic gathering in Irish history. It was calculated that 25,000 to 30,000 people crowded into the town to witness the ceremony. The column is 55 feet high. At the foot of the column are many Masonic symbols and his famous last words "One shot more for the honour of Down". The Square also has a memorial to those who died on the Titanic, which has strong links to the town. The town has its own "Comber Titanic Audio Trail which guides you to special places of interest throughout Comber that relate to the Titanic story."
In 1978, the Provisional Irish Republican Army bombed La Mon restaurant, killing 12 people.
The Enler River in Comber has flooded many times. As a result, the Comber flood wall was built along the river through the town which has held the water back since.
Comber grew as a market town with many family-run and independent businesses, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The town still remains home to a number of independent and artisan stores. The town holds a farmers market on the first Thursday of every month. The market sells fresh, seasonal food and plant products.
After achieving EU Protected Geographical Indication status in 2012, the Comber potato (Comber Earlies) became a global brand. The potatoes are now celebrated annually at the Comber Earlies Food Festival in June, together with the Comber Earlies Growers.
The town has also benefitted from a £2.4 million public realm scheme. The scheme encompassing High Street, The Square, Bridge Street, Bridge Street Link, Killinchy Street and Castle Street has reinvigorated Comber, creating a unique and uniform identity for the town centre. The design concepts were developed in partnership with Ards Borough Council, and, community and business representatives. Making the announcement, Minister McCausland said: “This represents a significant investment by the Northern Ireland Executive and Ards Borough Council. The scheme has been designed to bring the maximum benefit to all of Comber’s residents and to make the town centre much more attractive to visitors. This scheme is a fundamental part of the strategy ‘Envisaging the future of Comber’. “I know from the success of public realm schemes in other towns, that this investment will make a significant contribution to improving the fortunes of the town centre. This funding demonstrates my ongoing commitment to the regeneration of Comber.” Mayor of Ards, Councillor Stephen McIlveen, welcomed the confirmation of funding. He said: "This investment by DSD and the Council will transform the visual appearance of the town centres, enhancing their appeal as places to visit and shop, with the associated positive economic impact. I look forward now to seeing the designs developed and finalised and to work beginning."
Like the rest of Ireland, the Comber area has long been divided into townlands, whose names mostly come from the Irish language. Over time, more rural townlands have been built upon and they have given their names to many roads and housing estates. The following is a list of townlands within Comber's urban area, alongside their likely etymologies:
The Comber Greenway is a 7-mile (11 km) traffic-free section of the National Cycle Network, along the old Belfast-Comber railway line. The cycle path starts on Dee Street in Belfast and finishes at Comber. Now completed the Greenway provides an eco-friendly cycle path with views of Stormont and Scrabo Tower. This attracts many cyclists into the town boosting the local economy. The current route of the Greenway was originally used as the route for the Belfast and County Down Railway. The railway was in use from the 1850s to 1950 when it was permanently retired. Throughout the 1950s the track was lifted in stages and infrastructure, including bridges, removed. Local activists and politicians have proposed plans to extend the Greenway into the town centre directly which they say would benefit the local businesses even more.
Castle Espie is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) on the banks of Strangford Lough, three miles (5 km) south of Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland. It is part of the Strangford Lough Ramsar Site. It provides an early wintering site for almost the entire Nearctic population of Pale-bellied Brent Geese. The Castle which gave the reserve its name no longer exists. Castle Espie was officially opened as a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre by Lady Scott on 4 May 1990. The site had previously been a limestone quarry, and also had a brickworks, pottery and lime kilns for producing lime from limestone, as well as part of a farm.
In September 2007, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £2.96 million towards a major wetland restoration project at Castle Espie, the largest investment in biodiversity in Northern Ireland. At the heart of the project, costing £4m in all, will be the restoration and improvement of intertidal and freshwater habitats along the shores of Strangford Lough to encourage more species and greater numbers of waterbirds to feed, roost or breed at Castle Espie, as well as restoring important habitats. A new ecologically sustainable visitor centre would also be constructed, and other improvements would be carried out to hides and observatories.
Comber railway station on the Belfast and County Down Railway, opened on 6 May 1850, but finally closed on 24 April 1950.Comber also has a good public transport network with buses travelling to Belfast and Newtownards everyday on a frequent basis.
In 2003 'phase two' of the Comber bypass was officially opened for traffic.[ citation needed ] This new section starts at the end of the dual carriage way from Newtownards and links up with the existing section via a roundabout on Killinchy street. Comber is also connected by a direct cycle route to Belfast. Known as the Comber Greenway, this traffic free cycle path runs for 7 miles (11 km) along the old railway track bed.
One of the three local primary schools is Comber Primary School. There are 15 teachers at the school. Notable alumni include Northern Ireland footballer Stephen Craigan.
The other local primary school is Andrews Memorial Primary School, operating under the headmaster, Ralph Magee, which is of a similar size and as part of the school buildings includes the Andrews Memorial Hall, which was built by the citizens of Comber in memory of Thomas Andrews, the shipbuilder of the RMS Titanic.
The third primary school is St. Mary's Primary School, which is much smaller in size.
Many pupils from these schools go to Nendrum College, Comber, next door to Comber Primary, and Regent House Grammar School, Newtownards.
On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 9,071 people living in Comber (3,811 households),an increase of 1.5% on the Census 2001 population of 8,933. Of these:
The Ballydrain Harrier and Athletic Club was founded in 1932 and originally trained from The Old Schoolhouse, Ballydrain. For many years it was one of the most successful clubs in Northern Ireland, but went into decline, and by 2010 had only a few members left. A move to training at the North Down Cricket Club brought about a resurgence in membership, continuing to grow quickly with members training and racing weekly.
The Ards Circuit through Comber was a motorsport street circuit used for RAC Tourist Trophy sports car races from 1928 until 1936. At the time it was Northern Ireland's premier sporting event, regularly attracting crowds in excess of a quarter of a million people.
One of Comber's finest sporting moments came on Christmas morning 1991 when local amateur football team Comber Rec., managed by Mervyn Boyce, overcame favourites Brantwood to lift the Steel and Sons Cup for the first time.
Comber is also the home of one of Ireland's oldest and most successful cricket clubs, North Down Cricket Club, which has played its home matches at the Green since 1857. It has won the NCU Challenge Cup a record 30 times, the NCU Senior League outright on 17 occasions and the Irish Senior Cup 3 times since its inception in 1984.
The club was formed by members of North Down Cricket Club in 1896 and is one of the founder-members of the Ulster Hockey Union. The first reported Club match in Ulster was played in Comber against Cliftonville on 7 November 1896, with North Down winning 8–0.
In 1899-00 North Down won their first two trophies. In the only year when the Keightley Cup for the Ulster Senior League was played for on a knock-out basis, Antrim were defeated 3–2 in the final and in the Kirk Cup Final Cliftonville were beaten 4–2.
The men's section fields six adult teams, with the First Eleven competing in the Ulster Senior League One. There are boys youth teams at under-12, under-13 and under-15 levels.
The ladies section field four adult teams, a veterans team and girls teams at under 11 and under 14 levels.
North Down Hockey Club is based at The Green in Comber, home of North Down Cricket Club. The first hockey pitch was at the Castle Lane side of the ground on the cricket outfield. A celebration game against Cliftonville as part of the Centenary was played on this same pitch.
In 1994 the decision was taken to play all first team games on the artificial turf pitch at Glenford Park, Newtownards. In 1999 the team returned to Comber and now play at Comber Leisure Centre. The Club still uses the synthetic pitch at Glenford Park and also at Nendrum College, Comber so that all home games are played on synthetic surfaces.
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Newtownards is a town, townland and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies at the most northern tip of Strangford Lough, 10 miles (16 km) east of Belfast, on the Ards Peninsula. It is situated in the civil parish of Newtownards and the historic baronies of Ards Lower and Castlereagh Lower. Newtownards is in the Ards and North Down Borough. It is known colloquially by locals as "Ards". The population was 28,050 in the 2011 Census.
County Down is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. It covers an area of 2,448 km2 and has a population of 531,665. It borders County Antrim to the north, the Irish Sea to the east, County Armagh to the west, and County Louth across Carlingford Lough to the southwest.
Castle Espie is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) on the banks of Strangford Lough, three miles south of Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland, in the townland of the same name. It is part of the Strangford Lough Ramsar Site. It provides an early wintering site for almost the entire Nearctic population of pale-bellied brent geese. The Castle which gave the reserve its name no longer exists.
Strangford Lough is a large sea loch or inlet in County Down, in the east of Northern Ireland. It is the largest inlet in either Britain or Ireland, covering 150 km2 (58 sq mi). The lough is almost totally enclosed by the Ards Peninsula and is linked to the Irish Sea by a long narrow channel at its southeastern edge. The main body of the lough has at least seventy islands along with many islets (pladdies), bays, coves, headlands and mudflats. Strangford Lough was designated as Northern Ireland's first Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) under the introduction of the Marine Act 2013. It has also been designated a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, and its abundant wildlife is recognised internationally for its importance.
Bangor is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a seaside resort on the southern side of Belfast Lough and within the Belfast Metropolitan Area. It functions as a commuter town for the Greater Belfast area, which it is linked to by the A2 road and the Belfast–Bangor railway line. Bangor is situated 13.6 miles (22 km) east from the heart of Belfast. The population was 61,011 at the 2011 Census.
Portaferry is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula, near the Narrows at the entrance to Strangford Lough. It is home to the Exploris aquarium and is well known for the annual Gala Week Float Parade. It hosts its own small Marina, the Portaferry Marina. The Portaferry - Strangford Ferry service operates daily at 15-minute intervals between the villages of Portaferry and Strangford, less than a mile apart, conveying about 500,000 passengers per annum. It had a population of 2,514 people in the 2011 Census.
Ards was a local government district in Northern Ireland with the status of borough. It was one of twenty-six districts formed on 1 October 1973, and had its headquarters in Newtownards. It was merged with neighbouring North Down on 1 May 2015 to form the new Borough of Ards and North Down. Other towns in the defunct Borough included Portaferry, Comber, and Donaghadee, and the population of the area was 78,078 according to the 2011 census.
Carryduff is a small town and townland in County Down, Northern Ireland, about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of Belfast city centre. It had a population of 6,961 people in the 2011 Census.
Newtownabbey is a large settlement north of Belfast in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Sometimes considered to be a suburb of Belfast, it is separated from the rest of the city by Cavehill and Fortwilliam golf course. At the 2011 Census, Metropolitan Newtownabbey Settlement had a population of 65,646, making it the third largest settlement in Northern Ireland. It is part of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Dundonald is a large settlement and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies east of Belfast and is often considered a suburb of the city. It is home to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald International Ice Bowl, Dundonald Omnipark, has a Park and Ride facility for the Glider, access to the Comber Greenway and several housing developments. John de Courcey established a keep including a motte-and-bailey in the 12th century. This is known as Moat Park and can be accessed from Church Green, Comber Road and the Upper Newtownards Road.
Portavogie is a village, townland and fishing port in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies within the Ards and North Down Borough and is the easternmost settlement in Ireland. It had a population of 2,122 people in the 2011 Census.
Ballygowan is a village in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is within the Ards and North Down Borough. The town of Comber is a short distance to the north-east, the town of Saintfield to the south, and the city of Belfast further to the north-west. It is within the civil parishes of Killinchy and Comber and the historic barony of Castlereagh Lower. It had a population of 2,957 people in the 2011 Census.
Greyabbey or Grey Abbey is a small village, townland and civil parish located on the eastern shores of Strangford Lough, on the Ards Peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland.
The A20 is a road in County Down in Northern Ireland. It runs from Belfast to Newtownards and on to Portaferry.
North Down Hockey Club is a field hockey club affiliated to the Ulster Branch of the Irish Hockey Association. The club was founded in 1896.
Nendrum Monastery was a Christian monastery on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough, County Down, Northern Ireland. Medieval records say it was founded in the 5th century, but this is uncertain. The monastery came to an end at some time between 974 and 1178, but its church served a parish until the site was abandoned in the 15th century. Some remains of the monastery can still be seen.
Victoria was one of the nine district electoral areas (DEA) in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from 1985 to 2014, when it was mostly replaced by the Ormiston district.
Mahee Castle, also known as Nendrum Castle, is a small ruined tower house near Nendrum Monastery on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough, County Down, Northern Ireland. It was built in 1570 by Captain Thomas Browne. It was abandoned by the early 17th century, and fell into disrepair. In 1923, H.C. Lawlor and the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society partly renovated the tower house to avoid further erosion and built a buttress wall to support the northwest corner of the tower.
Castlereagh Lower is a historic barony in County Down, Northern Ireland. It was created by 1841 with the division of Castlereagh into two. It is bordered by three other baronies: Ards Lower to the east; Dufferin to the south; and Castlereagh Upper to the west and south-west. Castlereagh Lower is also bounded by Belfast Lough to the north and Strangford Lough to the south-east.
Lisbane is a small village and townland in the parish of Tullynakill and the barony of Castlereagh Lower in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is between Balloo and Comber on the A22 road, 5 kilometres south-east of Comber. It is near Strangford Lough in the Ards and North Down Borough Council.