The City of Londonderry

In this case study I have assembled a number of sources for the City of Londonderry from the 1830s to the early 1900s. Some sources relate to the greater part of the city and some relate particularly to William Street, which is the subject of a separate case study.

Maps of the City Maps of the city in   1833     1856     1905.
1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1832 Townland Valuation - read more. Excel        PDF House details Valuation map
1858 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1856 & 1905 Street Directories 1856 Slater's Directory 1905 Belfast & Ulster Directory
William Street Case study of a street in the city *

* Note that this case study will open in a separate page within this window.

Below are some notes relating to the sources in the table above.

The figures in the table below [compiled from the official census] show how the population of the city changed during the period 1831 to 1901.

1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
19,620 15,196 19,888 20,519 25,242 29,162 33,200 39,892

Population % change per decade:

3% 23% 16% 14% 20%

Population % change 1851 to 1901:


The 1831 and the 1841 figures are somewhat suspect. I am not sure that the areas being enumerated in these two years are exactly the same. The figures from 1851 onwards are enumerating the same areas. Certainly from 1851 the population rose every decade and by 1901 had doubled from the 1851 figure.
Although impressive, it does not match the growth of Belfast where the population quadrupled from 87.000 in 1851 to 349,000 in 1901. Within the county, however, Coleraine was the only other urban centre to increase its population between 1851 and 1901, and this was only by 18%. In Magherafelt, Limavady and Dungiven population fell by 4%, 16% and 30 % respectively.

Because of the size of the city the sources listed in the table above do not always cover the entire urban area. The maps dating from 1833 to 1905 should give you some idea of where the main streets are, plus some evidence of the physical growth of the city, particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The 1831 Census Returns cover all of the streets on the west bank of the Foyle but not the Waterside on the east bank of the river. I have databased the names in census in the order that they appear in the original transcripts. House numbers (unique to the census and not to be confused with local street numbers) are given in the database. The number of families in a house are given and multiple-occupancy houses are flagged up with an *.  Clearly, the city had more than its fair share of multiple-tenancies. If a house is uninhabited then this is noted. You will notice that it is obvious that certain people had more than one house in a street and some had a number of properties in different streets. The database makes it easier to identify these persons.

I have also included columns which give the ward or townland that each street was situated in.  The city was located within the townland of Londonderry [which was divided into four wards - Bishop Street, Shipquay Street, Butcher Street and Ferryquay Street] and the townland of Edenballymore. The database does not give the numerical details on each household or the information on religion. You will have to look in the microfilm copies for this information.

You will probably notice that, in some instances,  the numbering of a street can be a bit strange and the houses in some streets are not listed together in a single group. The numbering reflects the route that the enumerators took around the city. Some would complete a street in one walk. Others appear to have walked around an area in a more haphazard fashion. Remember this numbering has nothing, whatsoever, to do with local street numbering. If you are looking [in the microfilm returns] for a name or a house in a street in any largish urban area in the county, make sure that you search through all of the pages until you find all of the street. The 1834 map will tell you how many houses or buildings should be in a street.

I have databased the names in most of the streets in the 1832 Townland Valuation for the city. You might want to take a street and see how many names in the valuation can be matched to the 1831 Census Returns. The database also contains the valuation of each property, where given. Each entry in each street in the database has a map number which corresponds to the numbers on the 1834 Valuation Map. This should allow you locate many of the persons listed in both the census returns and the valuation. Note that I only been able to show a part of the 1834 map in this example. The map is centred on the Diamond and the area mainly to the north and west of it. If you want to look at streets not shown on the example map, you should get a copy of the entire map from PRONI [VAL/1/D/5/9]

I have also copied some of the manuscript pages from the 1832 Townland Valuation that give details of some of the houses in the centre of the city. When you click on the House details link a page will open with an index to the streets covered. The details include the size of the buildings and information on their age and condition. Although I have not included it, you could compare the information in the later VAL/2/B/5/1C-H field books of the 1856 Griffith's Valuation. It uses a similar code, except that the measurements are in yards rather than feet and the height of buildings is given in storeys. It is interesting to take some of these properties in a street and compare them to the buildings in the street today.

There are copies of pages from the 1858 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation with its accompanying 1859 large scale valuation map. Again, when you click on the Printed pages link a page will open with an index to the streets covered. Clicking on the Valuation map link will access the accompanying street map. Because of the size of the city not all streets are covered. However, this time you will get the streets on the Waterside, but not the map of the Waterside. Note that the 1859 map covers, more or less, the same area of the city as the 1834 map. Unfortunately the original of this map is of very poor quality and of a scale that makes reading the numbers on it very difficult. I have enlarged the map to much the same scale as the earlier 1834 map and put some numbers on it which should give you some idea of where the numbering starts in a street. This should allow you to, at least, identify which side of a street a property is situated on. This means that you should be able locate properties in both 1832 and 1858. Remember that the city was actually surveyed in 1856 and the results printed in 1858.

There are also copies of the pages from the 1856 Slater's Directory and the 1905 Belfast and Ulster Directories. It is possible to link many of the names in the 1856 directory with names in the 1858 Griffith's Valuation and get some idea of the commercial nature of many of the streets at that time. Remember in those days many people lived over their businesses. As we move into the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the more substantial merchants and professional people moved into the growing suburbs particularly in streets such as Great James Street and Clarendon Street.

When approaching your "tour of the city" you can either begin by looking at the city as a whole and then concentrating on William Street. Alternatively you can begin with William Street [where you will find the same sources plus some extra ones] and move outwards to the other streets in the city.

Making sense of the information in these sources would be enhanced if you were to read the following books - B. Lacy, Siege City: the story of Derry and Londonderry (Belfast, 1990); B. Mitchell, The Making of Derry: An Economic History (Derry, 1992); T. H. Mullin, Ulster's Historic City: Derry Londonderry (Coleraine, 1986); J. Hume, Beyond the Walls: Social and Economic Aspects of the Growth of Derry, 1825-50 (Belfast, 2002).

Also, if you want to see what the city looked like, particularly in the later part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries - see B. Mitchell, On the banks of the Foyle: historic photographs of Victorian and Edwardian Derry (Belfast, 1989) and D. Bigger & T. McDonald, In Sunshine or in Shadow: Photographs from the Derry Standard 1928-1939 (Belfast, 1990).

Copyright 2018 W. Macafee.