John Street

John Street was originally the road to Toome via Staffordstown prior to the construction of New Market Street (now New Street) in 1828. It was previously known as Tay Lane or Tea Lane. Different explanations have been put forward for these names. One theory is that Tay referred to a regiment from Scotland called the Tay Fencibles, a detachment of which may have been stationed in Randalstown at the time of the 1798 Rebellion. This theory may have arisen, however, for no better reason than because ‘tea’ is often pronounced ‘tay’! The earliest known reference to Tea Lane was in 1847. Griffiths Valuation documents from 1862 to 1906 refer to the street as Market Lane while the Griffiths Valuation Revision Book 1906-1914 shows a name change to Tea Lane. In any case, the lane was later renamed John Street, it is said after local man John Hurrell.

While John Street was the route to Toome via Staffordstown, coaches heading west out of the town towards Cookstown and Londonderry most likely used the Church Road route. The steep hills on the Church Road must have given the horses quite a workout. Perhaps the passengers had to alight.

In December 1828, the Belfast News-Letter reported on the establishment of a new daily coach service between Belfast and Derry. “It is to start from Belfast at 7 o’clock in the morning, and to reach Derry at 6 in the evening, passing through Antrim, Randalstown, Toome, Castledawson, Magherafelt. Maghera, and Dungiven. The extensive communication which will thus be opened up between Belfast and Derry, cannot fail to be reciprocally advantageous. The want of such communication has been hitherto severely felt in consequence of the inconvenient hours at which persons have been obliged to travel, who have gone by the ordinary conveyances. We trust, indeed we are confident, that the respectable proprietors of the new Coach will meet with adequate encouragement.”