|Fermanagh and Omagh
|Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Belleek is a village on the western edge of Fermanagh and indeed it is the westernmost village in the United Kingdom. While the greater part of the village lies within Fermanagh, part of it crosses the border into County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. The village had a population of 836 people in the 2001 Census.
Belleek is a thriving market town with a variety of pubs, shops, restaurants and a hotel. It is most famous for the fine parian china produced there at the Belleek Pottery, the oldest pottery in Ireland. The china is valued by collectors from all over the world. It is also a noted location for angling and other recreational activities and is now linked to the River Shannon by canal.
The village's name is derived from the Gaelic Béal Leice, meaning "mouth of the flagstones".)
The highest temperature in Northern Ireland recorded by the Met Office, 30.8°C, occurred at Knockarevan (near Belleek) in County Fermanagh on June 30, 1976.
In earlier times Neolithic settlers appeared around the town and legend has it that Fionn mac Cumhail's men sharpened their swords on the big limestone rock at Belleek Falls.
A royal castle was built at Caol Uisce near Belleek at the entrance to Lower Lough Erne by Gilbert Costello in 1212. Belleek Town in its present layout was founded on the Blennerhassett estate during the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century.
The establishment of the pottery in 1857 saw the start of growth and the town developed further with the founding of a cooperative creamery in 1899, a police station, a courthouse, post office and dispensary.
Places of interest
- The internationally renowned Belleek Pottery in the centre of the village is currently owned by George Moore (resident in the United States but born in Dundalk). The pottery was founded in 1857 by John Caldwell Bloomfield, who declared that any piece with the slightest flaw would be destroyed; a policy still held to today. The first examples of this fine Parian china were made using kaolin and feldspar deposits found in the lands surrounding Castle Caldwell. With the establishment of the pottery new houses were built for workers in Rathmore Terrace and in Hawthorn Terrace. There is a visitors' centre at the pottery.
- A stained glass window featuring a potter's hands is located above the altar in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic church. This was built in 1903 at a cost of £2,000. In Belleek's Church of Ireland church, three stained glass windows were unveiled in May 2009 to commemorate the founders of Belleek Pottery, John Caldwell Bloomfield, the local landowner, Robert Williams Armstrong, architect, ceramics expert and first manager of Belleek Pottery and David McBirney, Dublin who provided the finance for the project. All were members of the Church of Ireland.
- Castle Caldwell Forest Walk lies four miles outside Belleek at the western end of Lower Lough Erne. Castle Caldwell was originally built in 1612.
- Lower Lough Erne is home to various protected wildlife, including Inland Sandwich Tern, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, and Snipe colonies. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds keeps up-to-date records as to colony numbers and well being.
- Belleek Pottery Ltd has long been a major employer in the region, with its visitor centre hosting 150,000 guests per annum. Fermanagh District Council reports that 70% of Belleek Pottery's product is manufactured for export.
- Belleek also hosts a street mart every third Tuesday of the month, where local crafts and goods can be bought and sold.
- Flanagan, Deirdre & Laurence; Irish Place Names, page 182. Gill & Macmillan, 2002. ISBN 0-7171-3396-6