The Town of Magherafelt

In this case study I have assembled a number of sources for the town of Magherafelt from the 1830s to the early 1900s. Some sources relate to the whole town and two [the 1901Census Returns and the Griffith's Revision Books] relate particularly to Broad Street. The town of Magherafelt is the largest urban locality in the barony and the administrative centre of  the Magherafelt Poor Law Union.

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1832 Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation Town map Townparks map
1856 Slater's & 1905 Belfast & Ulster Directories 1856 directory 1905 directory
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books for Broad Street Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF

See also:

Admissions to Magherafelt Workhouse 1847 - read more. Excel PDF

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

1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
1436 1560 1390 1293 1401 1514 1421 1328

Population % change per decade:

-7% 8% 8% -6% -7%

Population % change 1851 to 1901:


Despite rising during the decade 1831/41, the population fell by 11% during the Famine decade of 1841/51. During the 1851/61decade the population fell by a further 7%, before recovering  during the years from 1861 to 1881, rising 8% each decade. Between 1881 and 1901 the population declined and by 1901 the town's population was almost the same as it had been back in 1851. Such a pattern of population growth and decline was not unusual in small towns in the west of Ulster particularly during the second half of the nineteenth century. There appears to be some movement of people from the countryside as the locality recovers from the Famine. However, most of the people coming out of the countryside usually went to Belfast or further afield to Britain and America. Towns such as Magherafelt were not able to generate sufficient employment opportunities during the second half of the nineteenth century to attract these emigrants.

I have brought together a number of key sources that will allow you to see who was living in the streets within the town from the 1830s to the early 1900s and two large scale maps of the town, dated 1834 and 1859.

The 1831 Census Returns lists the names of all householders in each street at that time. I have databased the names in the 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 *. 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 copied the manuscript pages from the 1832 Townland Valuation for all of the streets in the town. You might want to take a street and see how many names in the valuation can be matched to the 1831 Census Returns. Each property in the 1832 valuation has a number which corresponds to the numbers on the 1834 Valuation Map.  I have also copied the manuscript pages from the 1832 Townland Valuation which give details of some of the houses in Broad Street and Castledawson Street.

There are copies of pages from the 1859 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation with its accompanying 1859 large scale valuation map. Here you can identify and locate householders within the town at that time. Remember that the town was actually surveyed in 1858 and the results printed in 1859.

Note that both the 1834 and 1859 large scale maps of the town are too large to be presented as one map. When you click on the 1834 link a page will open with an index to the four individual maps covering the town. When you click on the 1859 you will find an index to six individual maps.

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 in the town at that time. Remember in those days many people lived over their businesses.

The Griffith's Revision Books [now online] from 1860 to 1910 will allow you to trace the changes in the occupancy of the properties in Broad Street during these years and perhaps give a clue as to when certain people arrived in the street.

Finally, in order to provide some detailed information on some of the families who lived in the town in the early 1900s I have included details [in database format] from the 1901 Census Returns for Broad  Street. Now that the 1901 and 1911 Census Returns for Co. Londonderry are online you will be able to look at the other streets in the town.


I have only had a cursory glance at the 1901 Census Returns. Of the 11 heads of family listed - 3 were Roman Catholics with occupations of solicitor, hotel proprietor and master shoemaker - 2 were Church of Ireland, a bank manager and a watchmaker - and 6 were Presbyterians, a merchant [also a J.P.], a draper, a sprit merchant and farmer, a solicitor and two doctors. Only the bank manager and the shoemaker were born outside the county. Broad Street is a relatively small street but it is a vital part of the central business district of the town. With one exception, the mix of occupations is very similar to what you would get in the Diamond and parts of Church Street and Bridge Street in Coleraine. Also, most of the people coming into the town to open a business were more likely to come from relatively nearby. Bank managers, schoolteachers and other professional people often came from further afield. This example of Magherafelt serves to demonstrate the rural nature of many country market towns at the end of the nineteenth century.

Making sense of the information in these sources would be enhanced if you were to read W. H. Maitland, History of Magherafelt (First published in 1916 and republished by Moyola Books in 1988).

Copyright 2018 W. Macafee.