Exhibition depicts rich architectural history of Strabane and district

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Exhibition depicts rich architectural history of Strabane and district thumbnailThe Church of Ireland near Ballymagorry.

A UNIQUE exhibition of watercolour sketches depicting the rich history of Strabane's building and landmarks has gone on display at the Alley Theatre.

Architect Manus Deery has spent the last year looking in depth at the built heritage of the town and its district.

The culmination of that work is the 'Marks of Time' exhibition which was officially launched on Monday night.

The striking must see images will remain on display in the local theatre until February 10.

Admission is free but any proceeds will be donated to GABLE - a Shelter Northern Ireland project based here in the town.

Speaking this week, Mr Deery who is a principal conservation architect in the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities, said the personal project reflects a twenty year career visiting historic buildings and sites across Northern Ireland.

"Through my day job I have been privileged to visit and get to know many of the structures illustrated in this exhibition. The Strabane region has a great wealth of historic features and through these drawings I hope to celebrate and highlight just some of these and the story that they tell.

"There is much to cherish and be proud of in the Strabane area. I would like to thank the Alley Theatre for making it possible to stage this exhibition and for their great help and encouragement.

"The Barony of Strabane has had a long and often turbulent history, but it also has a wealth of historic buildings and structures. These (sketches) reflect this history, the unique geography of the area and also the influence of national and international trends," he explained.

In 50 watercolour sketches 'Marks of Time' shows how the built structures of the region reveal its story, including Mesolithic wedge tombs, Plantation castles, industrial development, ideal villages and modern developments.

The result is a reminder that, although the area has experienced a turbulent history, past generations have created many beautiful and interesting features and places within this area, and that there is much to be proud of.

Highlights of 'Marks of Time' include the town of Strabane itself with many interesting structures such as its Georgian buildings - reflective of the prosperity of the 18th Century and its fine churches.

In the surrounding area Strabane Canal is key to understanding this prosperity as are the watermills in the foothills of the Sperrins. Further out, the village of Sion Mills, which was a model of benevolent industrial investment in the 19th Century and its buildings, strongly illustrate this.

Newtownstewart has three castles to tell an earlier part of the story -the influence of the Normans, how Gaelic Ireland responded to that and the more urban focus of the new Scottish landlords following the 17th Century Plantation of Ulster.

Close by, Ardstraw reflects an earlier period again with an enigmatic medieval graveyard on a hill above the village conveying some of the atmosphere of its importance in early Christian times.

The railways that crossed the area are also a key part of the district's story, leaving an unusual station at Ballymagory and elegant bridges over the Mourne River. In the more rural area the buildings of the Baronscourt Estate reflect the power of landed gentry to the modern period and their ability to introduce new ideas.

In Strabane there are also a number of 20th Century buildings that help to tell the story of this period.

Overlooking it all, the silent, but powerful court cairns, tombs and standing stones of pre-history are a strong reminder of the long human history of the Tyrone area.

To coincide with the exhibition Manus will give an illustrated talk on the same theme, incorporating almost 100 sketches, on Thursday, February 2 at 7pm. This talk will form part of the spring lecture series of Strabane Historical Society.

To see some of Manus' other work of locations across the province, visit


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