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Located on Carlingford Lough, Warrenpoint and Rostrevor emerged as important seaside resorts in the 19th century, attracting visitors from far and wide.

Coffey’s shoe and drapery store in Warrenpoint pictured c.1930 Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Coffey’s shoe and drapery store in Warrenpoint pictured c.1930 Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Warrenpoint, the larger of the two, began to develop as a town after 1767 with the building of a tidal dock. By 1820, Warrenpoint had grown quite rapidly as a seaside resort with the majority of businesses being public houses, lodging houses and grocers. People were employed as tidewaiters (harbour customs officials), ship builders, carpenters, captains, chandlers, mariners and boatmen. 

Slides from the Garden Cinema in Warrenpoint advertising local businesses, 1930s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A slide from the Garden Cinema in Warrenpoint advertising local businesses, 1930s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The 1840s saw further commercial development of Warrenpoint. In 1845, a Patent Slip was constructed for the building and repair of vessels and in 1849 the railway between Newry and Warrenpoint was opened. A horse drawn tramway linked the Great Northern rail-head at Warrenpoint with Rostrevor between 1877 and 1915. By the late 19th century there were seven hotels in Warrenpoint and three hotels in Rostrevor, the Mourne (Great Northern), Woodside and Rostrevor.  

William Lyons who set up a building firm in Water Street in Rostrevor in the 1900s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
William Lyons who set up a building firm in Water Street in Rostrevor in the 1900s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Although Warrenpoint was primarily a seaside attraction, there was also local industry, with McClelland’s coach builders, Hunter’s ship building yard, Greer’s Corn Mill and a busy port which mainly dealt with exporting cattle and importing coal. The pier at Rostrevor was used to export timber and potatoes and import coal. In the vicinity of the village there were linen industries, with a bleach works at Kilbroney, a beetling mill at Newtown and a dyeing and finishing establishment at Forestbrook. 

By 1920 there were twenty boarding and lodging house owners in Rostrevor and twenty seven in Warrenpoint. The latter also had eleven boatmen, who rowed tourists and day trippers back and forth to Omeath on the other side of Carlingford Lough. There were also a range of businesses geared toward the local population, as well as the seasonal trade, including grocery shops and pharmacies. 

In the first half of the 20th century, Warrenpoint and Rostrevor continued to be popular destinations for tourists and day tripppers.  The closure of the Newry to Warrenpoint line in January 1965, coupled with the increased popularity and accessibility of foreign holidays, saw a decline in Warrenpoint as a holiday resort. Its role, however, as a port became more influential with the closure of the Newry Ship Canal in 1974 when all international shipping trade was transferred from Newry to Warrenpoint port which has continued to expand.

Slides from the Garden Cinema in Warrenpoint advertising local businesses, 1930s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Slide from the Garden Cinema in Warrenpoint advertising local businesses, 1930s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Slides from the Garden Cinema in Warrenpoint advertising local businesses, 1930s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Slide from the Garden Cinema in Warrenpoint advertising local businesses, 1930s Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Warrenpoint and Rostrevor today remain popular summer resorts for day trips and have retained much of their original character.

by Noreen Cunningham

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