Castlebellingham is best known for Bellingham Castle. The medieval village with the ancestral home. The 17th century castle has been a hotel since the 1950s. A decade ago, the Corscadden family bought Bellingham Castle in County Louth and exquisitely restored it, stripping off render to expose the original stonework, replacing the windows with proper sashes, and generally doing a lot more than a lick of paint. They have form. They did quite the same thing with Markree Castle, County Sligo.
Apart from its namesake hotel, Castlebellingham used to be well known for being halfway between Dundalk (to the north) and Drogheda (to the south) along the old Belfast to Dublin road. The opening of the M1 motorway dramatically changed its character from sleepy to busy. The castle isn’t the only building of interest in the village – far from it. Smallwares Ltd, a company making clothes hangers since 1936, occupies a large industrial complex adjoining a tall three storey Victorian house, all faced in brownish brick.
This building, or rather group of buildings, started life in the 1870s as Castlebellingham Brewery. On the outskirts of the village lies The Crescent, an enigmatic ruin, made more enigmatic by its name and lack of visible curves. Castlebellingham Tidy Towns have helpfully placed a placard on the perimeter stone wall: “The Crescent was a beautiful house owned by the Brewery. It was leased to Charles J Thornhill, who was Managing Director of the Brewery at the turn of the last century [19th]. Charles married Helen Mary Eager in 1905 at Killencoole Church.
When the Brewery closed down in 1923, the Thornhills moved to Belfast where Charles was employed in its sister brewery. In the late Thirties, The Crescent House was converted into six large flats and leased out to local people. Some of the earlier residents were: Karl Roche and his family; Garda Jim Cleary, his wife and nieces; Sinclair and Kit Brophy; James and Nellie Lynch and their daughter Kathleen; Jack and May Marley and their family John, Jim, Bernadette and Brendan; Paddy and Mary Faulkner and their family; Peter and Kathleen Sands and their family; Bobby and Susan Hosie and their family; Joe and Grace McIntyre; Vin and Ann Byrne and their family; Tommy and Delia Daly and their family.
Mrs Marley remembers the beautiful avenue leading up to the house. The rent was six shillings and six pence a week, a sum that never increased in all the years she lived there. In 1938 they even had running water and light, the reason being the Button Factory, which occupied part of the Brewery, was powered by the same generator that also powered The Crescent. For this privilege, they put a shilling into a meter which was collected weekly from each flat by Mr McMullen who ran the Button Factory. The only problem was that the generator was switched off at the weekends which left the flats without light or water. Mrs Marley remembers that when they had no electricity or water, they would sit around the fire telling stories, a very popular pastime in those days.”