The White Linen Hall in Newry was built about 1783 to promote the direct export from Counties Down and Armagh of linen products manufactured there and to bypass the services of dealers in Dublin. The spinning-wheel motif and the crowned harp on the piers of the gate date from this period. The crowned harp symbolises the involvement of the state with the linen industry of the time.
Due to changes in trading patterns the Newry Linen Hall soon became redundant. It was in the early nineteenth century that the Government purchased it for use as a military barracks. When the former Richardson’s Spinning Mill at Bessbrook closed in the mid-twentieth century, its site became the new military barracks and it fills that role to this day. Bessbrook, it is said, is the largest military helicopter site in Western Europe. Hopefully that will soon end with the de-militarization expected to flow from the full enactment of the Peace Process. Meanwhile the site of the former Military Barracks in Newry was purchased by the local Council which built homes there for the working class of the town (use the Search facility above for more details).
The soldiers in the photograph could belong to any number of regiments of the regular infantry. The spiked helmet was introduced in 1878 and other details of uniform suggest that the photo dates no later than 1881. Then the barracks had accommodation for over 600 men and included hospital quarters for thirty.
Many of the families that were first housed in Linenhall Square had previous connections with the British Military, including the Caseys and Quinns. More of this later!