Ballygowan (from Irish: Baile Mhic Gabhann meaning "MacGabhann's town") is a village and townland in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is within the Borough of Ards. The town of Comber is a short distance to the north-east, the town of Saintfield to the south, and the city of Belfast a further distance to the north-west. It had a population of 2,671 people in the 2001 Census but in the last ten years there has been major development on the outskirts increasing the population to over 3000 people.
Ballygowan is a busy commuter bypass and is said to border the 'Greater Belfast City District' providing excellent travelling distance to Belfast City Centre. Ballygowan is said to be one of the most wealthy areas of the Ards District (based on household income), similar to that of North Down (Northern Ireland's most affluent borough) 2001 Census.
Prior to the Ulster-Scots settlement in the early 17th century, when a great number of Presbyterians moved over from the Scottish Lowlands to settle in North Down on lands granted by King James I to James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery, the area surrounding Ballygowan was sparsely inhabited by subsepts of the great 'Neill clan of Castlereagh. Since the late 17th century the population has been predominantly Presbyterian.
In the late 18th century the village comprised a bridge (over the River Blackwater at the intersection of the Comber/Saintfield and Killyleagh/Belfast roads), a dozen or so small houses and an inn. The surrounding townlands were populated by a great number of small tenant farmers and weavers. The main landlords were Lord Dufferin and Lord Londonderry.
From the mid-19th century through the early 20th century the population of the rural area surrounding Ballygowan declined considerably as many people emigrated to North America or found work in Comber, Saintfield and particularly in Belfast. However, it was during this period, and subsequent to the introduction of the Belfast & County Down Railway in 1850, that the village began to grow. After the railway closed in 1950 the village became an attractive "dormitory" town and the ensuing 50 years have seen rapid growth. Ballygowan railway station opened on 10 September 1858, but finally closed on 16 January 1950.
Ballygowan is classified as an Intermediate Settlement by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (i.e. with population between 2,250 and 4,500 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 2,671 people living in Ballygowan. Of these:
- 69.6% of households in the settlement populated an average household income of £46,300.
- 28.0% were aged under 16 years and 11.7% were aged 60 and over
- 49.1% of the population were male and 50.9% were female
- 9.2% were from a Catholic background and 85.6% were from a Protestant background
- 2.2% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed
Ballygowan has two primary schools:
1. Alexander Dickson, in the centre of Ballygowan
2. Carrickmannon, a smaller school about 1 mile outside Ballygowan
3. St. Mary's Primary School (Closed since 2007)
4 Ballykeigle Primary School about 2 miles outside Ballygowan.