A knitted, unbleached cotton fabric used in making underwear or hosiery.

Humble beginnings

The fabric is named after the town of Balbriggan, a coastal town near Dublin in Northern Ireland.

Balbriggan itself has a much shorter history than many of the neighboring villages. In the Civil Survey of 1656 it consists of just 2 farmsteads, those of Nicolas Barnewall and Peter Barnewall. The census of 1659 boasts a total of just 30 living souls.

Growing up

The next century saw the waning of the Barnewalls and the advent of the Hamilton family. The period of 1761-1765 saw numerous improvements. The Baron Hamilton saw potential in Balbriggan and invested, in conjunction with Parliamentary grants, in developing a harbor which included 600 feet of harbor wall making it suitable for the anchorage of larger vessels. The Baron also developed a fishing fleet numbering 23 vessels, each manned by a crew of 7. The year 1769 saw the addition of a lighthouse and a northern jetty between 1826-1829 completed the harbor.

The 1780s saw the addition of 2 large cotton mills which were powered via millraces from the local stream. It was noted in 1837 that upwards of 300 people were employed by the mills in addition to 942 hand looms in the village serving the weaving departments.Some of the crafts required in service of the town's thriving industry were weavers, smiths, tailors, brewers, butchers, tanners, and spinners. The town was also still a center of shipping via the harbor, boasted a saltworks, and a large corn storage facility.

All good things must come to an end

The withdrawal of the fishing bounty saw the drastic shrinking of the local fishing fleet by 1837. The mills saw a decline by 1838, and that, along with a diversion of the great northern roadway, spelled lean times for the once thriving village. Still and all, the 1841 census showed Balbriggan far outstripping the other villages of the region, namely Balrothery and Balscadden, which had once eclipsed humble little Balbriggan.

Balbriggan fared better than her rural neighbors. Destitute persons and entire families came to Balbriggan in the hope of finding sustenance. Discussions were held concerning the establishment of workhouses to meet the desperate needs of the wandering and homeless poor. Little did anyone expect that just ahead lay one of the great tragedies of history, the Irish Potato Famine.

Fast forward

Balbriggan today has seen a renaissance. It has become a tourist destination with Ardgillan Castle, the Martello Tower, and the Balbriggan Lighthouse along with the scenic beauty of the area.

Sources:

http://wordsmith.org/words/balbriggan.html
http://www.balbriggan.net/history.html
http://www.superstock.com/stock-photography/Balbriggan

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