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Bessbrook – The Model Village Living History Archive

Bessbrook – The Model Village Living History Archive

This project is funded through the Heritage Lottery’s Our Heritage small grants programme, it is managed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council through the Ring of Gullion Partnership. The steering group is comprised of: The Bessbrook Development Company; The Bessbrook Heritage Group; and The Friends of Derrymore.

The total budget for this project is £55,000

Bessbrook grew up around the linen industry, and was named after its founders wife, Elizabeth (Bess) Nicholson and the river (brook) that runs though it. In recent times the model villages varied history and the connection with its people has been lost.

Our project aims to engage and better interpret Bessbrook’s heritage and allow people to be proud of their village again. It aims to do this by creating innovative interpretation, developing the local skills, knowledge base and networks and engaging with the local community in a fun way and host intergenerational and cross community workshops.

At the end of this project there will be;

  1. A fun interactive website and a searchable artefact database. Atefact’s images and information will be gathered at community ‘Show and Tell’ events, and from the local primary school’s small private collection.
  2. Six historical docu-dramas – a mix of interviews and scripted historical dramas to interpret the most fascinating historical events of Bessbrook’s history.
  3. Secondary school children and NEETs trained in a combination of the following; Media; Art for community engagement; or Artefact and historical interpretation.
  4. A strong community network that bridges the political, religious and generational divide.

You can follow the project gallery by clicking here.

Project Updates

Local schools enjoy viewing new art

Update published on:


A piece of art titled ‘Now and Then’ has been created as part of the Bessbrook Model Village project and during June local primary school children enjoyed the chance to view it.  The children from St Joesphs, St Peters and Bessbrook Primary school were excited to see the art and had plenty of questions about how it was made and the images featured.

This sensory art is the result of extensive engagement and input from the local community and includes poetry extracts and felting pieces, created by the participants. It is available to view in Bessbrook Library.

Marvellous Model Memories

Update published on:


Memories were kindled and now burn bright within the Bessbrook community following the two recent events held in Bessbrook Townhall, as part of the Bessbrook Model Village Project.

At a launch event held on 6th June 2017, guests were treated to colourful stories from speakers Alf McCreary and Graham McAleer. Both men grew up in Bessbrook and worked in the mill and shared vivid memories of the village that shaped their lives.

A show and tell event took place on 4th July 2017. Local residents were invited to bring items of historical significance along and have them analysed by museum curators. On the night the items were photographed and scanned and will be added to a Living History database, which will be available online.

Click here to read the full news story.


The Bessbrook Model Village Project is now recruiting for media workshops

Update published on:


An exciting opportunity to get involved with ‘Bessbrook: The Model Village Living History Archive’ has become available.  Local video production company SlackPress are hosting a series of workshops to explore the history of Bessbrook in modern ways.

These workshops, hosted in Bessbrook Community Centre every Wednesday will run from 4pm to 6pm starting on the 15th February for six weeks. They will suit secondary school children and young people aged 16-25 not in education, employment or training.   The workshops will introduce the history of Bessbrook, explore themes in video production and allow the participants to write and develop storyboards and scripts. This work will eventually become mini docu-dramas, promoting the history of Bessbrook and its surrounding area.

To sign up to these workshops, please contact [email protected] for an application pack no later than Monday 6th February at 5pm.

Click here to read the full news story.

A poem from one of the creative writing workshops

Update published on: November 16, 2016




Candles flicker in the night, lanterns giving out the light

Clip clop of horses hooves, rustle of thatched rooves

Horse manure on the street, heavy boots on your feet

Boiled, tasteless rabbit stew, big bowl of watery soup

Tough, poverty, harder life, times of worry and of strife


Light comes on in just a flick, traffic lights moving quick

Cars and lorries going fast, engines screeching vrooming past

Manure and slurry still is there filling up the Bessbrook air

Food and drink to take away, ready for us night and day

Life here now is quick and fast, different from our distant past

Workshops launched!

Update published on: September 23, 2016

There are art, creative writing, storytelling and drama workshops open for all in Bessbrook now. We can tailor the workshops for your group, or simply pop into Bessbrook Library on the 14th October for a taster session on Creative Writing.

More details on how to register by clicking here. Full details for groups available on our poster here.

James Boyce’s cautionary tale of two villages

Update published on: September 21, 2016


We hope to find and archive lots of material like this over the next year.

Enjoy James Boyce’s cautionary tale of two villages, one with no pub the other with no newsagents. Hear what the residents of Bessbrook think of their founder John Grubb Richardson’s social experiment. He believed that the absence of a pub would remove the need for both the police and pawn brokers. But are the beautiful surroundings compensation enough for the lack of drink? And would the residents of Camlough be willing to give up their six pubs to find out?

Watch the video by clicking here.

Suppliers appointed to deliver project

Update published on: July 1, 2016


Local media company SlackPress has been appointed to carry out all the digital media for the project. Simon Black from the village says that he is really looking forward t going out in the village and speaking to everyone about the project and videoing the history that’s important to them.

Beam Creative has been appointed to carry out thirty six workshops in Autumn and Winter of 2016. They will be working with all the areas schools in September, and doing public workshops after. Get in contact if your group would like to take part – email [email protected].

And award winning web designers Wibble have been commissioned to design the new Bessbrook website – which should be launched in the summer of 2017. Until then you can find all the updates on this page.

Bessbrook - The Model Village Living History Archive Launched Today

Update published on: April 25, 2016


Today, the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, has received £55,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, ‘The Model Village Living History Archive’, in Bessbrook.  Led by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and volunteers from the local community (Bessbrook Heritage Group, Bessbrook Development Company and Friends of Derrymore), the project focuses on Bessbrook’s heritage and will allow people to be proud of their village again. It aims to do this by creating innovative interpretation, developing the local skills, knowledge base and networks and engaging with the local community in a fun way and hosting intergenerational and cross community workshops.

Read the full news report here.

Lottery Funded
NIEA DoE N&M DC Biodiversity

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