Armagh Civil Parish
County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Civil Parish Armagh Armagh
Barony Armagh Oneilland West
Poor Law Union Armagh Armagh
Catholic Diocese Armagh Armagh
Catholic Parish Armagh Armagh



ARMAGH, a city, market and post-town and a parish, partly in the barony of O'Neilland West, but chiefly in that of Armagh, county of Armagh (of which it is the capital), and province of Ulster, 31 miles (S.W. by W.) from Belfast, and 65 (N.N.W.) from Dublin; containing 10,518 inhabitants, of which number, 9470 are within the limits of the borough.  The past importance of this ancient city is noticed by several early historians, who describe it as the chief city in Ireland.  St. Fiech, who flourished in the sixth century, calls it the seat of empire; Giraldus Cembrensis, the metropolia; and, even so lately as 1580, Cluverius styles it the head of the kingdom, adding that Dublin was then next in rank to it.  The original name was Druim-sailech, "the hill of sallows," which was afterwards changed to Ard-sailech,   "the height of sallow," and, still later, to Ard-macha, either, from Eamhuin-macha, the regal residence of the kings of Ulster, which stood in its vicinity, or, as is more probable, from its characteristic situation, Ard-macha, signifying "the high place or field."

Armagh is the head of the primacy of all Ireland, and is indebted for its origin, and eccesiastical pre-eminence, to St. Patrick, by whom it was build, in 445.  He also founded, near his own mansion, the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul, for Cannons Regular of the order of St. Augustine, which was rebuilt by Imar O'Hoedegan, and was the most distinguished of the religious establishments which existed here, having materially contributed to the early importance of the place.  This institution received numerous grants of endowment from the native kings, the last of whom, Roderick O'Connor, made a grant to its professors in 1169; insomuch that its landed possessions became very extensive, as appears from an inquisition taken on its suppression.  Attached to it was a school or college, which long continued one of the most celebrated seminaries in Europe, and from which many learned men, not only of the Irish nation, but from all parts of Christendom, were despatched to diffuse knowledge throughout Europe.  It is said that 7000 students were congregated in it, in the pursuit of learning, at one period; and the annuals of Ulster relate that, at a synod held by Gelasius at Claonadh, in 1168, it was decreed that no person should lecture publicly on theology, except such as had studied at Armagh.  The city was destroyed by accidental conflagrations in the year 670, 687, and 770, and also sustained considerable injury in the last-mentioned year by lightning.  In subsequent periods it suffered severely and repeatedly from the Danes, a band of whom having landed at Newry, in 830, penetrated into the interior, and having stormed Armagh established their headquarters in it for one month, and on being driven out, plundered and reduced it to ashes.  In 836, Tergesius or Thorgis, a Danish Chieftain, equally celebrated for his courage and ferocity, after having laid waste Connaught and the great part of Meath and Leinster, turned his arms against Ulster, which he devastated as far as Lough Neagh, and Chen advancing against Armagh, took it with little difficulty.  His first act, after securing possession of the place, was the expulsion of the Bishop Farannan, with all the students of the college, and the whole body of the religious, of whom the bishop and clergy sought refuge in Cashel.  The numerous atrocities perpetrated by the invaders at length excited a combine effort against them.  Nial the Third, collected a large army, and after having defeated the Danes in a pitched battle in Tyrconnel, advanced upon Armagh, where, after a second successful engagement, and while preparing to force his victorious way into the city, the main position of the enemy in these parts, he was drowned in the river Callan, in an attempt to save the life of one of his followers.  Malachy, his successor, obtained possession of the city, in which a public assembly of the princes and chieftains of Ireland was held, in 849, to devise the means of driving their ferocious enemies out of the island.  In their first efforts the Danes suffered several defeats; but, having concentrated their forces, and being supported by a reinforcement of their countrymen, they again marched against Armagh, and took and plundered it about the year 862.

The subsequent annals of Armagh, to the commencement of the 11th century, are little more than a reiteration of invasions and conquests by the Danes, and of successful but brief insurrections of the natives, in all of which this devoted city became in turn the prize of each contending army, and suffered all the horrors of savage warfare.  In 1004, the celebrated Brian Boru entered Armagh, where he presented at the great altar of the church a collar of gold weighing 20 ounces; and after his death at the battle of Clontarf in 1014, his remains were deposited here, according to his dying request, with those of his son Murchard, who fell in the same battle.  From this period to the English invasion the history of Armagh exhibits a series of calamitous incidents either by hostile inroads or accidental fires.  Its annals, however, evince no further relation of the events of that momentous period than the fact of a synod of the Irish clergy having been held in it by Gelasius, in 1170, in which that assembly came to the conclusion that the foreign invasion and internal distractions of the country were a visitation of divine retribution, as a punishment for the inhuman practice of punishment for the inhuman practice of purchasing Englishmen from pirates and selling them as salves; and it was therefore decreed that every English captive should be liberated.  The city suffered severely from the calamities consequent on the invasion of Edward Bruce, in 1815, during which the entire see was lamentably wasted, and the archbishop was reduced to a state of extreme destitution, by the reiterated incursions of the Scottish army.

During the local wars in Ulster, at the close of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries, this city was reduced to a state of great wretchedness; and in the insurrection of Shane O'Nial or O'Neal, Lord Sussex, then lord-lieutenant, marched into Ulster to oppose him; and having attacked him successfully at Dundalk, forced him to retire upon Armagh, which the lord-lieutenant entered in Oct. 1557, and wasted with fire and sword, sparing only the cathedral.  In 1566, O'Nial, to revenge himself on Archbistop Loftus, who had transmitted information of his hostile intentions to Government, even before the Irish chieftains and the lord-deputy had preferred their complaint against him, resolved on a special expedition against this city, and on this occasion committed dreadful havoc, not even sparing the cathedral.  In the year 1575, Sydney, the lord-deputy, marched into Ulster against Turlogh O'Nial, and fixed his head-quarters at Armagh, whither that chieftain, after some ineffectual negociations through the agency of his wife, proceeded, and having surrendered himself, was permitted to return home without molestation.  In the short but sanguinary war carried on between the English Government and Hugh O'Nial, Earl of Tyrone, towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth, the earl obtained possession of this place by stratagem; but unfavourable events in other parts soon obliged him to evacuate the place.  In the course of the same war, Armagh was again invested, in 1598, by this chieftain, who hoped to reduce it a second time by famine, but was baffled by the treachery of his illegitimate son, Con O'Nial, who having deserted to the English, discovered a private road by which Sir Henry Bagnall, the British commander, was enable to send in such a supply of men and provisions as completely frustrated the earl's efforts.  Soon after, the English were utterly defeated, and their commander killed, in a desperate attempt to force O'Nial's entrenchments, the immediate consequence of which was their evacuation of Armagh, which, however, was retaken in 1601, by Lord Mountjoy, who made it one of his principal positions in his Ulster expedition, and occupied it with a garrison of 900 men.  In the early part of the 17th century, a colony of Scottish Presbyterians settled here, from which it is supposed Scotch-street, near the eastern entrance of the town, took its name.

At the commencement of the war in 1641, Armagh fell into the hands of Sir Phelim O'Niel, who, on being soon after forced to evacuate it, set fire to the cathedral, and put to death many of the inhabitants.  On the breaking out of the war between James II. and William, Prince of Orange, the Earl of Tyrconnel, then lord-lieutenant under the former sovereign, took the charter from the corporation, and placed a strong body of troops in the town; but they were surprised and disarmed by the people of the surrounding country, who had risen in favour of the new dynasty; the garrison was permitted to retreat without further injury to Louth, and Lord Blayney, having taken possession of the town, immediately proclaimed King William.  This nobleman, however, was soon afterwards compelled to evacuate it, and retreat with his forces to Londonderry, at that period the last refuge of the Protestants.  James, in his progress through the north to and from the siege of Derry, rested for a few days at Armagh, which he describes as having been pillaged by the enemy, and very inconvenient both for himself and his suite.  In 1690, Duke Schomberg took possession of it, and formed a depot of provisions here.  No important event occurred after the Revolution until the year 1769, when this city furnished a well-appointed troop of cavalry to oppose Thurot at Carrickfergus.  In 1778, on the apprehension of an invasion from France and of civil disturbances, several of the inhabitants again formed themselves into a volunteer company, and offered the command to the Earl of Charlemont, by whom, after some deliberation, it was accepted.  In 1781, an artillery company was formed; and in the following year, a troup of volunteer cavalry, of which the Earl of Charlemont was also captain.  In 1796, this nobleman, in pursuance of the wishes of Government, formed an infantry company and a cavalry troop of yeomanry in the town, whose numbers were afterwards augmented to 200; they were serviceable in performing garrison duty during the temporary absence of the regular troups in the disturbances of 1798, but in 1812 were disbanded by order of the lord-lieutenant.

The city, which is large, handsome, and well built, is delightfully situated on the declivity of a lofty eminence, round the western base of which the river Callan winds in its progress to the Blackwater.  It is chiefly indebted for its present height state of improvement to the attention bestowed on it by several primates since the Reformation, especially by Primate Boulter, and, still more so, by Primate Robinson, all of whom have made it their place of residence.  The approaches on every side embrace interesting objects.  On the east are the rural village and post-town of Rich-hill, and the demesne of Castle-Dillon, in which the late proprietor erected an obelisk on a lofty hill in memory of the volunteers of Ireland.  The western approach exhibits the demesnes of Caledon, Glasslough, Woodpark, Elm Park, and Knappagh; those from Dungannon and Loughgall pass through a rich and well-wooded country; that from the south, descending through the fertile, well-cultivated, and busy vale of the Callan, the banks of which are adorned with several seats and extensive plantations, interspersed with numerous bleach-greens and mills, is extremely pleasing; and that from the southeast, though less attractive, is marked by the classical feature of Hamilton's Bawn, immortalised by the sarcastic pen of Swift.  Many of the streets converge towards the cathedral, the most central point and the most conspicuous object in the city, and are connected by cross streets winding around the declivity; they have flagged pathways, are Macadamised, and are lighted with oil gas from works erected in Callan-street, by a joint stock company, in the year 1827, but will shortly be lighted with coal gas, the gasometer for which is now in progress of erection; and since 1833 have been also cleansed and watched under the provisions of the general act of the 9th of Geo. IV., cap. 82, by which a cess is applotted and levied on the inhabitants.  A copious supply of fresh water has been procured under the authority of two general acts passed in 1789 and 1794.  Metal pipes have been carried through all the main streets, by which a plentiful supply of good water is brought from a small lake or basin nearly midway between Armagh and Hamilton's Bawn, in consideration of a small rate on each house; and fountains have also been erected in different parts of the town occupied by the poorer class of the inhabitants.  The city is plentifully supplied with turn, and coal of good quality is brought from the Drumglass and Coal Island collieries, 11 miles distant.  A public walk, called the Mall, has been formed by subscription, out of ground granted on lease to the corporation, originally in 1797, by the primate, being a part of the town commons, which were vested in the latter for useful purposes by an act of the 13th and 14th of Geo. III.; the enclosed area, on the eastern side of which are many superior houses, comprehends nearly eight acres, kept in excellent, condition.  In addition to this, the primate's demesne is open to respectable persons; and his laudable example has been followed by two opulent citizens, who have thrown open their grounds in the vicinity for the recreation of the inhabitants.  The Tontine Buildings, erected as a private speculation by a few individuals, contain a large assembly-room having a suite of apartments connected with it, a public news'-room, and a savings' bank.  Dramatic performances occasionally take place in this edifice, from the want of a special building for their exhibition.  The public library was founded by Primate Robinson, who bequeathed for the free use of the public his valuable collection of books, and endowed it with lands at Knockhamill and houses in Armagh yielding a clear rental of 339.  He also erected the building, which is a handsome edifice in the Grecian style, situated to the north-west of the cathedral, and completed in 1771, as appears by the date in front, above which is the appropriate inscription "TO THΣ ΊΫΧΗΣ ΊΆΤPEION."  The room in which the books are deposited is light, airy and commodious, and has a gallery; there are also apartments for a resident librarian.  In 1820, an additional staircase was erected, as an entrance at the west end, which has in a great measure destroyed the uniformity and impaired the beauty of the building.  The collection consists of about 20,000 volumes, and comprises many valuable works on theology, the classics, and antiquities, to which have been added several modern publications.  In the record-room of the diocesan registry are writings and books bequeathed by Primate Robinson to the governors and librarian, in trust, for the sole use of the primate for the time being.  The primate, and the dean and chapter, by an act of the 13th and 14th of Geo. III., are trustees of the library, with liberal powers.  The observatory, beautifully situated on a gentle eminence a little to the north-east of the city, was also erected by Primate Robinson, about the year 1788, on a plot of 15 acres of land; the building is of hewn limestone, and has on its front the inscription, "The Heavens declare the glory of God;" it comprises two lofty domes for the observatory, and a good house for the residence of the astronomer.  The munificent founder also provided for the maintenance of the astronomer, and gave the impropriate tithes of Carlingford for the support of an assistant astronomer and the maintenance of the observatory, vesting the management in the primate for the time being and twelve governors, of whom the chapter are eight, and the remaining four are elected by them as vacancies occur.  Primate Robinson dying before the internal arrangements were completed, the establishment remained in an unfinished state till 1825, when the Right Hon. and Most Rev. Lord J.G. De La Poer Beresford, D.D., the present primate, furnished the necessary instruments, &c., at a cost of nearly 3000.  This city is usually the station of a regiment of infantry; the barracks occupy an elevated and healthy situation, and are capable of accommodating 800 men.  In the immediate vicinity is the archiepiscopal palace, erected in 1770 by Primate Robinson, who also, in 1781, built a beautiful chapel of Grecian architecture nearly adjacent, and embellished the grounds, which comprise about 800 acres, with plantations tastefully arranged.

Though an increasing place, Armagh has now no manufactures, and but little trade, except in grain, of which a great quantity is sent to Portadown and Newry for exportation; much of the flour made in the neighbourhood is conveyed to the county of Tyrone.  After the introduction of the linen manufacture into the North of Ireland, Armagh became the grand mart for the sale of cloth produced in the surrounding district.  From a return of six market days in the spring of 1835, the average number of brown webs sold in the open market was 4292, and in private ware houses 3412, making a total of 7704 webs weekly, the value of which, at 1.11. each, amounts to 629m942, 8, per annum.  But this does not afford a just criterion of the present state of the trade, in which a great change has taken place within the last 20 years; the quantity now bleached annually in this neighbourhood is nearly double that of any former period, but only a portion of it is brought into the market of Armagh.  The linen-hall is a large and commodious building, erected by Leonard Dobbin, Esq., M.P. for the borough; it is open for the sale of webs from ten to eleven o'clock every Tuesday.  A yarn market is held, in which the weekly sales amount to 3450, or 179,400 per annum.  There are two extensive distilleries in which upwards of 25,000 tons of grain are annually consumed; an ale brewery, consuming 3800 barrels of malt annually; several extensive tanneries; and numerous flour and corn mills, some of which are worked by steam.  The amount of excise duties collected within the district for the year 1835 was 69,076. 5. 8.  the Blackwater, within four miles of the city, affords a navigable communication with Lough Neagh, from which, by the Lagan canal, the line of navigation is extended to Belfast; and to the east is the navigable river Bann, which is connected with the Newry canal.  A canal is also in progress of formation from the Blackwater, to continue inland navigation from Lough Neagh to Lough Erne, which will pass within one mile of the city.  The markets are abundantly supplied; they are held on Tuesday, for linen cloth and yarn, pigs, horned cattle, provisions of all kinds, vast quantities of flax, and flax-seed during the season; and on Saturday, for grain and provisions.  Fairs are held on the Tuesday after Michaelmas, and a week before Christmas, and a large cattle market has been established on the first Saturday in every month.  By a local act obtained in 1774, a parcel of waste land adjoining the city, and containing about 9 plantation acres, was vested in the archbishop and his successors, to be parcelled into divisions for holding the fairs and markets, but only the fairs are now held on it.  The market-house, an elegant and commodious building of hewn stone, erected by Archbishop Stuart, at an expense of 3000, occupies a central situation at the lower extremity of Market-street; the old shambles, built previously by Primate Robinson, have been taken down, and a more extensive and convenient range, with markets for grain, stores, weigh-house, &c., attached, was erected in 1829 by the committee of tolls; the supply of butchers' meat of very good quality is abundant, and the veal of Armagh is held in high estimation; there is also a plentiful supply of sea and fresh-water fish.  Several of the inhabitants, in 1821, raised a subscription, by shares (on debentures or receipts) of 25 each, amounting to 1700, and purchased the lessee's interest in the tolls, of which a renewal for 21 years was obtained in 1829; eight resident shareholders, elected annually, and called the "Armagh Toll Committee," have now the entire regulation and management of the tolls and customs of the borough, consisting of market-house, street, and shambles' customs, in which they made considerable reductions, and the proceeds of which, after deducting the expenses of management and five percent, interest for the proprietors of the debentures, are applied partly as a sinking fund for liquidating the principal sum of 1700, and partly towards the improvement of the city and the places for holding the fairs and markets.  The Bank of Ireland and the Provincial Bank have each a branch establishment here; and there are also branches of the Northern and Belfast banking companies.  The post is daily; the post-office revenue, according to the last return to Parliament, amount to 1416. 4. 0.

The inhabitants were incorporated under the title of the "Sovereign, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Ardmagh," in 1613, by charter of Jas. I., which was taken from them by Jas. II., who granted one conferring more extensive privileges; but Wm. III. restored the original charter, under which the corporation consists of a sovereign, twelve free burgesses, and an unlimited number of freemen, of whom there are at present only two; a town-clerk and registrar, and two serjeants-at-mace are also appointed.  The sovereign is, by the charter, eligible by the free burgesses from among themselves, annually on the festival of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24th); the power of filling a vacancy in the number of free burgesses is vested in the sovereign and remaining free burgesses, the freemen are admitted by the sovereign and free burgesses; and the appointment of the inferior officers is vested in the corporation at large.  By charter of King James, the borough was empowered to send two representatives to the Irish parliament, but the right of election was confined to the sovereign and twelve burgesses, who continued to return two members till the union, when the number was reduced to one.  The nature of the franchise continued the same until the 2nd of Wm. IV., when the free burgesses not resident within seven miles of the borough were disfranchised, and the privilege of election was extended to the 10 householders; and as the limits of the district called "the corporation" comprehend 1147 statute acres unconnected with the franchise, a new electoral boundary (which is minutely described to the Appendix) was formed close round the town, comprising only 277 acres; the number of voters registered, according to the latest classified general return made to Parliament, amounted to 454, of who 443 were 10 householders and 11 burgesses; the number of electors qualified to vote at the last election was 541, of whom 360 polled; the sovereign is the returning officer.  The seneschal of the manor of Armagh, who is appointed by the primate, holds his court here, and exercises jurisdiction, both by attachment of goods and by civil bill process, in all causes of action arising within the manor and not exceeding 10; the greater part of the city is comprised within this manor, the remainder being in that of Mountnorris adjoining.  The assizes and general quarter sessions are held twice a year; a court for the relief of insolvent debtors is held three times in the year; and the county magistrates resident in the city and its neighbourhood hold a petty session every Saturday.  The corporation grand jury consisted of a foreman and other jurors, usually not exceeding 23 in number, chosen from among the most respectable inhabitants by the sovereign, generally within a month after entering upon his office, and continued to act until the ensuing 29th of September; but its dissolution took place at the close of the year 1832, when a new grand jury having been formed amidst much political excitement, they determined, under an impression that the inhabitants would resist any assessment which they might make, to abrogate their functions, and the system appears to be abandoned.  The inconvenience which resulted from the dissolution of the corporation grand jury induced the inhabitants to adopt measures for carrying into effect the provisions of the act of the 9th of Geo. IV., cap. 82, previously noticed.  The sessions-house, built in 1809, is situated at the northern extremity of the Mall; it has an elegant portico in front, and affords every accommodation necessary for holding the courts, &c.  At the opposite end of the Mall stands the county gaol, a neat and substantial building, with two enclosed yards in which the prisoners may take exercise, and an infirmary containing two wards for males and two for females; there is also a tread-wheel.  It is constructed on the old plan, and does not afford convenience for the classification of prisoners, but is well ventilated, clean, and healthy.  The females are instructed by the matron in spelling and reading.  In 1835, the average daily number of prisoners was 85; and the total net expense amounted to 1564. 14. 6.  Armagh is a chief or baronial constabulary police station, of which the force consists of one chief officer, four constables, and twelve men.

APPENDIX:  Description of Limits of Cities...From Mr. Carroll's Windmill on the West of the City is a straight Line in the Direction of the Spire of Grange Church to the Point at which such straight Line cuts the new Dungannon Road; thence in a straight Line in the Direction of the Eastern Dome of the Observatory to the Point at which such straight Line cuts the Boundary of the Grounds attached to the Observatory; thence, Eastward, along the boundary of the Grounds of the Observatory to the Point at which the same meets the Road to the Deanery; thence in a straight Line to the Magazine near the Infantry Barracks; thence in a straight Line, through a Point on the Rich Hill Road which is distant 25 Yards (measured along the Rich Hill Road) to the East of the South-eastern Corner of the Infantry Barracks, to a point which is One hundred and thirty Yards beyond the said Point on the Rich Hill Road; thence in a straight Line in the Direction of the South-eastern Angle of the Palace to the Point at which such straight Line cuts the Demesne Wall; then, Northward, along the Demesne Wall to the Point at which the same leaves the Boundary of the Corporation Land; thence, Northward, along the Boundary of the Corporation Land to the point at which the same meets the Monaghan Road; thence in a straight line to Mr. Carroll's Windmill.
Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis, 1837


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Armagh Town Demesne Parkmore
Abbey Park Downs Rosebrook
Aghamoat Drumadd Tirnascobe
Annaghboy Drumarg Tullyargle
Ballycrummy Drumcoote Tullyelmer
Ballynahone More Killuney Tullylost
Ballyrath Legagilly Tullymore
Ballyrea Legarhill Tullyworgle
Cargagh Longstone Tyross
Corporation Lurgyrvallen Umgola


LDS Film Numbers

Film Title Film number(s)
Tithe Applotments, 1840 #258444
Griffith's Valuation, 1864 #258750

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Armagh City and Parish, Genuki's website
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last updated January 1, 2006