Ballynahinch is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. Along with Newcastle and Downpatrick, it is one of the three largest towns of the Down District Council area. It had a population of 5,364 people in the 2001 Census.
Ballynahinch was traditionally a market town, although the market still takes place in the square every Thursday. The town lies on the main A24 Belfast to Newcastle road 15 miles south of Belfast. Facilities in the town include a leisure centre. In recent years a regeneration committee has been formed for the development of the town and the surrounding Spa and Drumaness areas.
Until the 17th century, the area was controlled by the McCartan clan. Around the mid-1600s, Patrick McCartan sold lands around Ballynahinch to Sir George Rawdon, agent to Viscount Conway, and Sir William Petty, a surveyor from Hampshire. Before his death in 1687, Petty leased his interest in the land leaving Sir George in sole possession. He built two corn mills and founded the town with a market square. In 1683 Charles II of England granted the town a patent to hold a Thursday market and two fairs every 1 February and 29 June. Settlers from lowland Scotland increased the population and Ballynahinch grew as a market town with the sale of livestock, corn, potatoes and increasingly, flax was being cultivated. Sir John Rawdon, descendant of Sir George and now the Earl of Moira took up residence in Montalto house in Ballynahinch. He made significant improvements to the estate and to the town by promoting the linen market and causing the market house to be built. By the end of the eighteenth century sales in the market were grossing around £300 per week and the town was prospering. Unfortunately it was about to suffer a setback.
The Society of United Irishmen launched a rebellion in 1798. It began in Leinster and quickly spread to Ulster. The United Irishmen had been founded in 1791 by liberal Protestants in Belfast. Its goal was to unite Catholics and Protestants and make Ireland an independent republic. Although its membership was mainly Catholic, many of its leaders and members in northeast Ulster were Protestant. The Battle of Ballynahinch began on 12 June 1798, when about 4000 United Irishmen camped at Ballynahinch were besieged by the British Army. The British bombarded the town with cannon for a full day until the United Irishmen retreated. Following this, the British burnt sixty-three houses in Ballynahinch and its hinterland. The commander of the United Irishmen, Henry Munro, was betrayed, captured and executed shortly after.
Montalto and Ballynahinch was sold in 1802 to David Ker Esq. who took advantage of the rising fashion for 'taking the waters' amongst tourists with money and developed the medicinal spa wells just over two miles outside the town. The village continued to expand and is today a popular and convenient place to live with a population of around 7000.
Then British Prime Minister John Major visited Ballynahinch in December 1996.