Church Street, Coleraine

As it name implies, Church Street in Coleraine contains the Parish Church of St. Patrick. The street runs eastwards from the Diamond towards Kingsgate Street which, as its name also implies, was the point where the King's Gate was located in the seventeenth century ramparts. The street is intersected by New Row and Park Street, formerly Rosemary Lane. Being part of the town of Coleraine, the street was located in the townland of Coleraine and Suburbs in the civil parish of Coleraine in the barony of North East Liberties. Later the street was part of the District Electoral Division of Coleraine in the Poor Law Union of Coleraine. 

The records listed in this example will allow you to see the range of sources that you would need to consult in order to find out who was living in a street in a provincial market town at various times from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Below you will also find some information relating to the earlier part of the nineteenth century. The map of 1845 shows Church Street and the adjoining streets within the town.

1816 Drawings - read this. North Side South Side
1831 Census Returns [ See copies of page 10 and page 11 ] Excel PDF
1832 Townland Valuation - read more   [  House details ] PRONI: VAL/1B/542A Excel        PDF Valuation map
1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation [  House details ] Excel PDF Valuation maps [Apologies for Map]
Printed pages
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1900 to 1967 Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel  [1]  Excel [2] PDF  [1]  PDF [2]
1911 Census Returns Excel  [1]  Excel [2] PDF  [1]  PDF [2]
1900s Photographs - read this. North Side South Side
1920s to 1960s Photographs North Side South Side
1990s/2000s Photographs North Side South Side

[1] lists families who actually lived in the street in 1901 and 1911. [2] lists families who had a shop or a business in the street at some time in the early 1900s, but lived elsewhere in the town.

The 1831 Census Returns show that the population of Church Street at that time was 213 persons. The table below gives details of the number of houses in the street in 1831 and the religious breakdown of the population. It is interesting to note that at this time 65% of the population was Presbyterian. Unlike William Street in Londonderry, Church Street had few multiple-tenancy houses.  Note, however, that 3 of the 41 families [14 persons] might have lived in the Diamond.

Street Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Church Street 41 2 44 213 35 16% 23 11% 139 65% 16 8%

The 1832 Townland Valuation, with its accompanying 1834 map, lists the names of the occupiers of each property in the street at that time and the map allows you to locate each of them precisely in the street. However, it must be remembered that not all persons listed against a property actually lived there. It is important, therefore,  to compare the 1832 list of names with the names of persons in the 1831 Census who did actually live in the street.
The 1832 Townland Valuation also provides detailed information on individual buildings within the street - their age, condition and dimensions. I have reproduced copies of the actual pages for the street. There is also a database which lists all the occupiers in the street, summarises the dimensions, age and conditions of the main building [usually a dwelling house] on each property. Using information from Street Directories I have indicated the occupations of each of the householders and, where possible, linked each occupant to both the 1832 Valuation Map and the later 1859 Valuation Map of the town.

The key source for the middle of the century is the 1858/59 Printed Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation with its accompanying large scale map. A copy of the actual pages which cover the street and a copy of the 1859 map have been provided. This will enable you to pinpoint the exact location of each property numbered in the valuation list and, as mentioned above, match both properties and some names in the street between 1832 and 1859.

The VAL/2/B manuscript books of the Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation [dated 1858 for Coleraine] provide details of the houses in the street - their age, condition and dimensions, as well as comments on some by the valuers. I have provided you with an example of one page to let you see, exactly, the kind of information that is available on each property. I have databased the information on the main building [usually a dwelling house] within each property in the street. This data can be compared with the earlier 1832 information on houses, mentioned above, and the information on houses in the later 1901 Census Returns. If you pick a building you can often work out how that building developed during the nineteenth century and what it might have looked like at various times.

The Griffith's Revision Books* also make it possible to match up some of the properties and names in the 1858/59 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation with the names and houses in the 1901 Census Returns as well as see the amount of change that took place in the street during the second half of the nineteenth century. There was certainly considerable refurbishment and rebuilding of a number of buildings in Church Street during the second half of the nineteenth century.  A useful way of spotting redevelopment is to compare the valuation columns for 1859 and c.1900 in the Griffith's Revisions database covering the years 1860 to c.1910.

The 1901 Census Returns* are probably the most important of all the sources listed here. These returns provide both statistical and personal details of families living in the street on 31st March 1901 and allow us to infer information about individuals and families such as when they might have been born, where they were born, when they were married, etc. Unlike the valuation records which only list the names of the heads of households the 1901 Census Returns provide information on individual members of a family such as age, sex,  level of literacy, marital status, religion, occupation and where the person was born. These returns are the only source that provides details of the relationships between persons in the latter part of the nineteenth century that can be matched to the civil and church records of the period. The place of birth of married couples and their individual children provide some clues as to where people might have come from - important information in a street where about half of the families living there in 1901 were probably relatively recent arrivals.

The table below shows the number of inhabited houses and the number of families living in them as well as the religious breakdown of the population in the street in 1901.

Street Inhabited Houses Uninhabited "Houses" No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Church Street 18 4 18 81 5 6% 12 15% 106 59% 16 20%

Population and houses

The first point to note is that the population of the street had fallen by 62%. Certainly the number of families living in the street has more than halved. However, given that every property in the street is a commercial operation, such a change is not unusual in a town. Clearly the 18 families that were enumerated in the street lived above their shops. I know that about 14 families with shops in the street lived elsewhere in the town, particularly in the suburbs - see below. There were also a couple of families that I know lived in the street at that time but they are not enumerated. Presumably they were residing elsewhere on the night that the census was taken. What does appear odd is the fact that the enumerator has only listed 4 uninhabited houses which he described as shops.  There were probably about 34 commercial and family properties in the street in 1901 which suggests that something like 12 properties were not listed - read more.

The table below gives some average details of the 18 buildings in the street that were occupied by families in 1901. Details on each individual house can be seen in the 1901 database. This data can be compared with the detailed information on each building in the street that is given in the manuscript valuation books books for 1832 and 1859.

% of houses slated

Average no. of front windows

Average no. of rooms

Average household size





Religious breakdown of the population in the street in 1901

There are no surprises here and the breakdown is very similar to that of 1831. What is actually more interesting is the breakdown of the religion of the 18 heads of families. 11 were Presbyterian, 2 were Baptist, 2 were Methodist, 2 were Roman Catholic and one was Church of Ireland. These figures reflect the fact that many of the shopkeepers in the street were the sons or grandsons of Presbyterian farmers who lived both within the local catchment area of the town or further afield and moved into the street during the second half of the nineteenth century. The only difference in this process between the first half and the second half of the nineteenth century was that in the earlier part of the century more would have come from the local catchment area of the town.

Occupations of heads of households

There were 18 heads of households listed in the 1901 Census Enumerators' Returns. Shopkeepers ranged from the usual draper, boot & shoe merchant, grocer, and tobacconist to publican, undertaker, cabinetmaker, doctor and bookseller. Of course others such as hardware merchants do not appear in the 1901 Returns because they lived elsewhere in the town.

Families in the street

As you would expect for a street in a town, there is a much greater turnover of families over the years compared to rural areas. However, Church Street in Coleraine does not experience the level of change that took place in William Street in Derry/Londonderry. Nevertheless, only H & T. Bellas was the only 1831 family still trading in the street at the end of the nineteenth century. In fact only the names Curry, Given, McAllister, McMullen, Nevin and Robb made it through to 1859 from the 1830s.

As a result, the majority of occupants of the street listed in the Valuation 1859 were newcomers to the street. Furthermore, not all the persons listed as occupier against each property actually lived in the street. Taylor, Cunningham and McCarter were merchants who lived in other streets in the town. They had acquired properties [Nos. 13 to 16 on the 1859 map] that they were redeveloping. Today these properties can be seen in a distinctive block that includes Dixons, Barclay's Bank and Easons.  I suspect also that Robert Small in [No. 9] and William Wilson in part of [No. 17] were not resident. Nor was Robert Given whose family had lived in the street in the earlier part of the century. He was simply retaining some stores in the street. In fact many merchants used the upstairs of properties as grain stores at this time

I'm fairly certain that the remainder of the persons listed did live in the street. At that time building of villas in the suburbs for merchants and professional people had not really begun. One of these new residents was Abraham J. H. Moody who had come from the townland of Clooney in Magilligan via Bridge Street. You can read more about him from his diary. This diary provides both personal family details and some insights into life and work in the street and the town at that time. Abraham Moody died in 1899 so his family is not listed in the 1901 Census Returns.

By using the 1856 Slater's Directory it is possible to get some idea of the occupations of the persons listed in the 1859 valuation. For example John Huey and John Lusk were corn merchants. Robert Nevin, James Nevin, John McCandless and Arthur Currie were grocers. John Huey was the son of the Rev. James Huey, minister of Ballywillin Church. John Huey may have lived for a time in the street. However, by 1865 he was living at the newly-built Clifton Terrace on the Millburn Road. Later he built a villa at Cloonavin on the Portstewart Road.

The evidence from both the Griffith's Revision Books and the 1901 Census Returns indicate that new people and new businesses came to the street in the second half of the nineteenth century. Eleven of the 18 heads of households enumerated in 1901 were listed as born in Co. Londonderry, 3 in Co. Antrim and 1 from each of the following: Co. Tyrone, Co. Donegal, Scotland and Philadelphia.

The Hill family is a good example of the sons of farmers moving into the street from the surrounding countryside. The brothers, William W. and John H. Hill are listed in the 1901 Census Returns living with their sister Ellen. The rest of the occupants in the house were apprentices. In fact this house was not only a family home it was also a  a draper and tailor's shop. The brothers and their sister had moved from the Garvagh area,  first to the Waterside and then in the 1890s to this building [No. 29 in Griffith's] at the corner of Church Street and Rosemary Lane [now Park Street]. By 1911 the census shows that they had then moved across the street to [No. 6 in Griffith's] before moving in the 1920s to the Diamond where the firm traded until relatively recent times.

Another example of apprentices and employees living on the premises was that of Baxter's chemist shop where the owner, Sir William Baxter, lived on the Lodge Road but on the premises were Fanny K. Finlay, house manager, an assistant chemist Joseph McMullan [who later opened his own chemist's shop in the street], four apprentice chemists and a servant.

Other families came from further afield. The Macfarlanes, cabinet makers and undertakers came from near Plumbridge in Co. Tyrone [No. 25 in Griffith's via No. 29],  Other new arrivals were the Andersons and the Moorheads who had drapery stores on opposite corners at the Diamond end of the street. A look at the 1901 Census Returns shows that the Andersons, not to be confused with Hugh Anderson of the Wine Store, must have come from Co. Down. The Griffith's Revisions suggest that they came c.1870 and this is reasonably consistent with the evidence in the 1901 Census Returns.

Of course not all new arrivals in the street throughout the second half of the nineteenth century came from outside the town. Families such as  Long, MacDonald, Edmiston, McGrath and McLeese came from neighbouring streets.

In 1901 there were some 18 families living in Church Street and probably a further 12 families who owned, or were connected to, shops in the street. Most of these 12 or so families lived in the suburbs which had developed during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Today Church Street is entirely a commercial street - no families live above the shops. None of the families listed in either the 1901 or the 1911 Census have a business in the street today . The last of these to disappear relatively recently was the hardware firm of John McCandless. Well known shops such as Moores and Dixons did not appear in the street until the 1920s. David Dixon, who was the founder of Dixons, Ltd. was trading in Railway Road in 1901 and he moved from there to the present premises in Church Street c.1930.

Photographs 1900s

A selection of photographs dating from c,1900 to 1920 will help to show the visual changes in the street during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I have added notes to these photographs which relate them to the valuation and census records and indicate some of the families that were trading in the street at various times. Most of the photographs have been taken from Memories in Focus by Robert Anderson and Tom MacDonald. My thanks to Robert and Tommy for permission to use these photographs.

* Note that in this case study I have also included the 1911 Census Returns and there are two databases of the Griffith's Revision Books - one from 1860 to 1910 and one from 1900 to 1967. These should help you to make more senses of the photographs.

A note on the databases

The information in most of the above sources has been databased and is available in Excel and PDF formats.  Note that the names and properties listed in these databases follow the order in which they were listed in the original document.

Note that I have added two columns on the extreme right of most of the databases which indicate which side of the street a property was located on and its order from the Diamond end of the street. The side of the street which contains St. Patrick's Church has been designated as the north side, the other as the south side.

Note, however, that the numbering of the street changes after the 1880s. Around that time the south side of the street was allocated odd numbers from 1 to 37 and the north side even numbers from 2 to 38. These are shown on the later valuation map covering the period 1882 to 1907. I added a column in the Griffith's Revisions database which contains these new numbers, making it easy for you to link the new number back to the 1859 map number. Note, however, that the local street numbers which are listed in the 1859 Printed Griffith's Valuation and are used in the 1856 and 1870 Slater's Directories were also changed over the years. Whilst there is a clear match between the 1859 Griffith's map numbers and the 1859 local street numbers this is not always the case with later numbering.  It is best when locating a property in the street to use the Griffith's map numbers of 1859 or c.1900 and ignore the local street numbers.

Copyright 2018 W. Macafee.