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Ards Tourist Information Centre
31 Regent Street, Newtownards, County Down,
(028) 9182 6846
(028) 9182 6681
A few miles inland from Comber, and set amid a typically rural scene, is the village of Ballygowan (‘town of the Smiths’). The village is a minor market centre for the surrounding rural district, with increasing importance as a residential village for commuters travelling mainly to Belfast.
Prior to the Ulster-Scots settlement in the early 1600's, when a great number of Presbyterians moved over from the Scottish Lowlands to settle in North Down on lands granted by James 1 to James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery. The area surrounding Ballygowan was sparsely inhabited by the native (or "mere") Irish who were subsepts of the great O'Neill clan of Castlereagh.
In the late 1700s the village was comprised of a bridge (over the River Blackwater at the intersection of the Comber/Saintfield and Killyleagh/Belfast roads), a dozen or so small houses and an inn. The surrounding townlands were populated by a great number of small tenant farmers and weavers. The main landlords were Lord Dufferin and Lord Londonderry.
From the mid-1800's through the early 1900's the population of the rural area surrounding Ballygowan declined considerably as many people emigrated to North America or found work in Comber, Saintfield and particularly in Belfast. However, it was during this period, and subsequent to the introduction of the Belfast & County Down Railway in 1850, that the village began to grow.
After the railway closed in 1950 the village became an attractive 'dormitory' town and the ensuing 50 years has seen rapid growth.