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Cumber Upper Parish, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1837
Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland

Transcribed, Compiled and Submitted by
Len Swindley, Melbourne, Australia

CUMBER, UPPER, a parish, partly in the barony of STRABANE, county of TYRONE, but chiefly in that of TIRKEERAN, county of DERRY, and province of ULSTER, 7½ miles (N. E.) from Londonderry; containing, with Claudy (which has a daily penny post), 5,430 inhabitants. The early history of this parish cannot be satisfactorily traced, further than that St. Patrick, having crossed the Foyle, founded several churches in this district, one of which occupied the site of the present church of Cumber. The original name is variously written by early historians; the present is modern, and acquired since the taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1291. At the Reformation the rectory belonged to the abbey of Derry, and was given by Jas. I. to the bishop, as part of the abbey lands. In 1622, it appears, by the Ulster Visitation book, to have been held with Banagher. The ancient parish of Cumber was the most extensive in the diocese, until 1794, when it was divided into Upper and Lower Cumber, by order in council: the parish of Upper Cumber, according to the Ordnance survey, comprising 26,202¼ statute acres, of which 23,072¾ are in Derry, and 3,129½ in Tyrone; the latter form a hilly district amid the Mounterloney mountains. In some parts, particularly on the Walworth estate, and on that of Learmount, the land, though hilly, is well cultivated; the extensive bogs are being worked out, and brought into cultivation. The inhabitants combine the weaving of linen cloth, with agricultural pursuits; there are several commodious and excellent bleach-greens on the Faughan water, none of which, however, are now at work. The southern parts of the parish consist chiefly of mountains, the principal of which is Sawel, the highest in the county, being 2,236 feet above the level of the sea; its summit is on the boundary between two counties. These mountains afford excellent pasturage on every side; and the rivers Faughan, Glenrandle, and Dungorthin have their sources in them. There are large woods and much valuable timber in the demesne of Park-Learmount; and the plantations of Cumber, Alla, and Kilcatton greatly embellish the surrounding scenery. There are several large and elegant houses, of which the principal are Learmount, the seat of Barre Beresford, Esq.; Cumber House, of John H. Browne, Esq.; Kilcatton Hall, of Alexander Ogilby, Esq.; and Alla, of the Rev. Francis Brownlow. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Derry, and forms the corps of a prebend in the cathedral of Derry, in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £740. The glebe, situated in Glenrandle, half a mile from the church, consists of the townlands of Alla, Gilky Hill, and Tullentrain, containing 1,508 statute acres. The church is a large modern edifice, with a small bell turret on the western gable, erected in 1757, on the site of an ancient building. In 1831, eight townlands were separated from the parish, to form part of the new district or parish of Learmount, and the rector of Upper Cumber has the alternate presentation to that perpetual cure. In the R. C. divisions the parish is partly included in the union or district of Banagher, and partly forms the head of a district, comprising also a part of that of Lower Cumber; there are chapels at Claudy and Gortscreagan. The Presbyterians have a meeting-house at Claudy, in connection with the Synod of Ulster. The parochial school, situated on the glebe lands of Alla, is well built and convenient; it is supported by the trustees of Erasmus Smith’s charity, and is under the management of the rector, who has endowed it with two acres of land. Male and female schools were built and are supported by the Fishmongers’ Company; and they have also excellent male and female schools at Gortilea and Killycor. There are also schools at Ballyarton, Craig, Kilcatton, and. Claudy. A female school at Claudy is principally supported by Lady Catherine Brownlow, who likewise contributes to some others. A female work school at Cumber was built and is supported by Mrs. Browne and other ladies of the parish. A male and female school at Learmount is principally supported by the Beresford family. There are also Sunday schools and a private day school. At Mulderg is a large dispensary, built and supported by the Fishmongers’ Company. There are the remains of a druidical altar at Baltibrecan; and at Altaghoney were discovered, in the summer of 1835, three stone coffins, each covered with three flag stones, and in each an urn containing ashes, calcined bones, &c. The graves were two feet deep in the gravel, where 8 feet of bog had been cut off the surface; and near the coffins were two idols, carved out of solid oak, which, with the urns, are now in good preservation, in the museum of Alex. Ogilby, Esq., of Kilcatton, who has also a good collection of landscapes, groups, &c, more than 200 of which are from his own pencil.