Banbridge is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies on the River Bann and the A1 road. It was named after a bridge built over the Bann in 1712. The town grew as a coaching stop on the road from Belfast to Dublin and thrived from Irish linen manufacturing. Its population was 14,744 people in the 2001 Census though is said to have raised in population by a fifth since then, suggesting a population of around 18,000. The town is the headquarters for Banbridge District Council.
The town's main street is very unusual, and rises to a steep hill before levelling out. In 1834 an underpass was made, apparently because horses with heavy loads would faint before reaching the top of the hill. It was built by William Dargan and is officially named 'Downshire Bridge', though it is often called 'The Cut'.
Banbridge, home to the "Star of the County Down", is a relatively young town, first entering recorded history around 1691 during the aftermath of the struggle between William III and James II. An Outlawry Court was set up in the town to deal with the followers of James. The town grew up around the site where the main road from Belfast to Dublin crossed the River Bann over an Old Bridge which was situated where the present bridge now stands.
The town owes its success to flax and the linen industry, becoming by 1772 the principal linen producing district in Ireland with a total of 26 bleachgreens along the Bann. By 1820 the town was the centre of the 'Linen Homelands' and its prominence grew when it became a staging post on the mail coach route between Dublin and Belfast. A gift of £500 from the Marquis of Downshire around this time helped to alleviate some problems with the steepness of the road and paid for significant improvements. This industry has now greatly diminished in prominence, but Banbridge still has three of the major producers in Ulster Weavers, Thomas Ferguson & Co, and John England Irish Linen.