In the second half of the 18th century Portaferry, with its many industries, was the Lough’s leading port. By 1754 a bleachworks with a green was in operation and a linen market was established soon after. Linen was regularly transported to markets in England. This area would have been bustling with commercial activity.
Until 1875 a ropewalk extended north from this point alongside the castle garden and ropes were made there by John Drennan of Mill Street. Close by the ropewalk was a tan yard, a tobacco factory, a distillery and a drying kiln. Shipbuilding was carried on and vessels up to 400 tons burthen were constructed. After 1877 a sawmill was set up by Hugh Beck.
The large stone building opposite was once a water mill, complete with a water wheel on the gable wall. It ground wheat and corn (oats) into meal.
The building in front was owned by a local merchant, James Elliott, and in 1850 he had stables in the Rope Walk for keeping his dray and carts in. The Nugent estate stored their sand lime and building material for repairing their town houses.
20th June 1769
“A stout new vessel, Thomas McCready master, will sail from Portaferry 27th June, wind and weather permitting, to take goods to the Chester Fair.”
Castle Street, locally known as The Shambles, was described historically as ‘an excellent street, constructed on a dog-leg!’