The Watch House
In the 18th and 19th centuries there was a considerable volume of trade into Strangford Lough.
The Quay would have been thronged with ships’ crews and porters as timber arrived from America; sugar, rum and woollen cloths were unloaded from Liverpool; coal was landed from Whitehaven and whiskey came from Dublin. At the same time ships would be loaded with exports of corn, herrings, cattle, potatoes and kelp. At the end of the 18th century Strangford ranked eighth among the ports of Ireland.
In the 18th century the main taxes were duties on tobacco, tea and alcohol – particularly French brandy. This, perhaps, gave rise to the local rhyme:
‘Killyleagh for baps and tay, Strangford is for brandy.’
The Watch House, perched on the rocks at the edge of Ferry Quarter point, has been added to over the years and is now an impressive private home (best viewed from the Quay).
To combat smuggling in the first half of the 19th century, the Newry Custom House established a branch in Strangford and this former Watch House and boathouse, with its own quay, were constructed as a lookout station. There are many stories of local smugglers having to run the gauntlet of Revenue men stationed here. It is said that these Revenue men ‘in their black boaters’ were ashamed of their ‘contemptible’ occupation and so often turned a blind eye to what was going on under their noses.