The town of Garvagh owes its 17th century origins and subsequent development to the Canning family. George Canning was the first family member to come to Ireland when, in September 1614, he arrived at Agivey on the banks of the Bann as an agent for the Ironmongers' Company of London.
He established the hamlet of Ballinameen to the south of the town in 1620, but this was destroyed during the 1641 rebellion. The hamlet was re-established in subsequent years and is still known as Ballynameen today.
George Canning's son Paul acquired ownership of the lands from the Irish Chief O'Cahan in 1659 and established Garvagh on its present site in 1660. One of the first buildings he erected was St. Paul's Church in 1659, probably as a private chapel for the family.
The family home, Garvagh House, was also erected at this time. It was located in a 670 acre estate, which today largely comprises Garvagh Forest. Having originally been a fairly modest dwelling, Garvagh House was rebuilt in 1813 and continued to be occupied by the family until 1921 when, upon their return to England, the House and estate was sold to Edward Stronge.
The grand old house was demolished in the early 1960s to make way for Garvagh High School, still present today. It is worth noting that the gates beside this panel, although now in a different location, are the original gates from the entrance to Garvagh House, dating from the 1820s.
The Canning family was elevated to the peerage in 1818, taking the title Lord Garvagh. During the early 19th century Lord Garvagh embarked on a Grand Tour of Egypt. Mightily impressed by the pyramids, upon his return he had one built in Garvagh. Known locally as 'The Vault', it was never used, and can still be seen today in Garvagh Forest, a short walk from the forest car park. The entrance to the forest car park is at Ballynameen Bridge, at the southern end of the village, approximately 300m from this panel.
Just over 200 years after arriving in Garvagh, one of George's descendants, also called George Canning, became Prime Minister in 1827. He died a few months after his appointment and was buried alongside his old friend, William Pitt, in Westminster Abbey.
The War Memorial is one of the most prominent landmarks on Garvagh's Main Street. A somber construction, as befits its subject, it was designed by a local man, Thomas Johnston and was unveiled by Captain Charles E. Stronge on 27 March 1924.
Standing 40 feet high and built of local stone, it commemorates the 32 men from the district who lost their lives fighting in the Great War of 1914-1918, as well as those who died in the Second World War, 1939-1945. The men and women who served in these wars are also commemorated.
The Museum houses a unique collection of almost 2000 artefacts, which trace the history of the Bann Valley from 3000 BC through to the 20th Century. It provides a fascinating insight into life in the home, the farm and the town.
Further interpretation panels and local information can be found on Main Street and Bridge Street. For further visitor information please contact Coleraine Tourist Information Centre (Tel: 028 7034 4723)