Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle is set on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland, in a prominent position 400 feet (120 m) above sea level. Its location provides unobstructed views of the city of Belfast and Belfast Lough.[1][2]

History

Medieval and Early Modern Castle

A castle had been erected at Béal Feirste (Belfast) by the 1220s, probably to guard the important ford across the River Lagan.[3] This mediaeval castle may have been built by the Normans, who invaded East Ulster in the late twelfth-century.[4] By 1333, a small settlement is thought to have developed around this castle.[5] This original 'Belfast Castle' was probably located in the area now bounded by Donegall Place, Castle Place, Cornmarket, and Castle Lane in the centre of what is now the City of Belfast.[6] Although originally built in either the late twelfth-century or the early thirteenth-century, this castle was rebuilt on several occasions between the 1220s and the 1550s.[7]

This original castle site was on the southern bank of the River Farset (which now flows beneath High Street), being located on a sliver of land that was bounded by the Farset to the north and the River Owenvara (Blackstaff River) to the south.[8] Both the River Farset and the River Owenvara (Irish: Abhainn Bheara, meaning 'River of the Staff', usually known nowadays in English as the Blackstaff River[9]) emptied into the River Lagan just to the east of this castle site.

The mediaeval Belfast Castle was eventually seized by a branch of the powerful Uí Néill (O'Neill) dynasty of the Cénel nEógain, probably at the end of the fourteenth-century or the beginning of the fifteenth-century.[10][11][12] This branch of the Uí Néill carved out a túath or Gaelic territory for themselves in South Antrim and North Down which became known as Clann Aedha Buídhe (Clandeboye).[13] The Uí Néill of Clandeboye maintained Belfast Castle as one of their main residences.[14][15] The castle and its surrounding túath remained in the hands of the Uí Néill of Clandeboye throughout the fifteenth- and sixteenth-centuries, with the exception of a few years in the 1570s, when the castle was briefly seized by English forces, initially under the command of The 1st Earl of Essex, during the Enterprise of Ulster.[16][17]

Clandeboye Massacre

In October 1574, The 1st Earl of Essex and his retinue were invited to a feast at Belfast Castle by Sir Brian mac Feidhlimidh Ó Néill (Sir Brian McPhelim O'Neill), Lord of Lower Clandeboye.[18][19] The feast was to celebrate a newly signed peace agreement between the English Crown and Sir Brian.[20] After the feast was over, the English soldiers accompanying Lord Essex suddenly set upon and murdered most of the family and retainers of Sir Brian inside Belfast Castle.[21][22] It seems this massacre was ordered by Essex himself.[23] This event is usually known as the Clandeboye Massacre. The castle was then seized by Essex and his English forces. Sir Brian mac Feidhlimidh Ó Néill wasn't killed during this massacre. Instead, Sir Brian, along with his wife and his brother, were arrested by Lord Essex and, later in 1574, all three were executed in Dublin.[24][25]

Plantation Castle

By 1603, Belfast Castle, which was probably a Gaelic towerhouse by this time, was in ruins, largely as a result of the Nine Years War.[26] In July of 1603, Sir Arthur Chichester (later created, in 1613, The 1st Baron Chichester), then Governor of Carrickfergus Castle, offered to rebuild Belfast Castle if he was 'granted' Belfast and its surrounding lands by the Crown. This was done in August 1603, when the Crown 'granted' Belfast Castle and its surrounding estate to Chichester, who was to serve as the Lord Deputy of Ireland between 1605 and 1616.[27] This grant of the castle and its surrounding lands was reconfirmed by the Crown the following year, in May 1604.[28]

Sir Arthur Chichester was also 'granted' a vast estate in Inishowen in County Donegal, over in the north-west of Ulster, in 1608 or 1609.[29] This huge estate covered almost all of Inishowen,[30][31] and had been seized by the Crown from the Ó Dochartaigh (O'Doherty) clan in the aftermath of the rebellion of Sir Cathaoir Ruadh Ó Dochartaigh (Sir Cahir Rua O'Doherty), Lord of Inishowen, in 1608. Chichester, as Lord Deputy of Ireland, ensured that the huge Ó Dochartaigh lands in Inishowen were granted to himself.[32][33][34] Most of the huge Inishowen estate was sold off by the Chichester family via the Encumbered Estates Court in the 1850s and later in the nineteenth-century.[35][36]

When the head of the Chichester family was advanced in the Peerage of Ireland to being an earl in 1647, they took the title Earl of Donegall due to the family's ownership of this vast estate in Inishowen. The head of the family was further advanced in the Peerage of Ireland to being Marquess of Donegall in July 1791.

Chichester, one of the main architects of the Plantation of Ulster, had Belfast Castle largely rebuilt in the early 1610s, mainly in brick.[37] However, when in Ulster, Lord Chichester, as he later became, usually resided at Joymount House in nearby Carrickfergus rather than at the 'Plantation-era' Belfast Castle.[38][39][40] The Chichester family (later also known as the Donegall family) were to own the town of Belfast from around 1603 up until the early 1850s, when their Belfast estate was largely broken up and sold off.[41][42]

Victorian Castle

In 1708, the Plantation castle erected for Lord Chichester burned down.[1] Because the castle's location was changed, the original site was turned into streets named in honour of the previous castles.[40] Rather than rebuilding on the same site, a new castle was eventually built on Cave Hill (then on the northern edge of Belfast) for The 3rd Marquess of Donegall, with construction starting in 1862 and not ending until 1870.[40] Architect Sir Charles Lanyon designed the new building in the then-popular Scottish baronial style. Construction cost well over the £11,000 set aside to pay for the project. Lord Donegall's son-in-law, Lord Ashley (who later became The 8th Earl of Shaftesbury), paid for the reconstruction and later inherited the castle, in October 1883. Lord Shaftesbury, his wife, Harriet Augusta, and their ancestors are honoured and remembered in the form of Belfast street names, much like how the original castles are remembered.[40]

The Shaftesbury family were not only the castle's residents and owners, but they were also generous donors to the City of Belfast and hosted events at their home. The 9th Earl of Shaftesbury even became Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1907. The castle remained a private estate until the entire property was gifted to the city in January 1934,[40] the process of which became a topic of public interest in the years prior to the official presentation to the city. In the years after it was given to the city, there was some debate about what the castle should be used for. The publicity manager that the castle should either be re-purposed into a tea and dance room, or perhaps a museum and art gallery with refreshment rooms.

The castle was just the beginning. The publicity manager also made plans for the grounds to include an open-air theatre, clay pigeon shooting, archery, tennis courts, bowling greens, squash courts, and mini golf. With such an ambitious project, a sub-committee estimated that the minimum possible cost would be £160,000 before considering the cost of employing grounds keepers and the cost of restoring the building.

Since 1945, the castle has been a popular venue for weddings, afternoon teas, and other such events.[40]

Location

Belfast Castle is located 400 feet (121.92 metres) above sea level on Cave Hill, overlooking Belfast in County Antrim, Ulster.[40]

Facilities

Belfast Castle is open to the public daily with a visitor centre, antique shop, restaurant, and a playground. Visitors can see a bedroom, set up in the style of the 1920s, so visitors can see a 'snapshot in time' of what the castle looked like at the end of its life as a private residence.[40]

Outdoor stairs at Belfast Castle.

While it is open to the public daily, reservations can be made for a private room to host weddings, business meetings, and parties.[40]

Structure

Since its construction in the 1860s, the castle's sandstone walls and towers have been restored. The castle is built in the Scottish baronial style, which was born out of rising Gothic styles in the 16th Century as part of the Renaissance in Scotland. Scottish baronial style castles were typically built on asymmetrical plans and included high roofs, towers, and turrets to display the owner's status.

One of the castle's most iconic features is the winding staircase at the entrance, whose greyish-brown colour stands out against the burnt sienna sandstone and brick red detail.[43]

As in the 20th Century, many of the rooms have been turned into public tea rooms or are available to be reserved for private functions.[43]

Restoration

After years of successful business and popularity, the castle was closed in 1978 for a refurbishing effort. The architecture partnership of Hewitt and Haslam oversaw and carried out the over £2 million project, with the estate reopening on 11 November 1988. Since then, it has once again become a popular spot for weddings and other celebrations as well as for business meetings.[1]

Another example of events held at the castle is the 2015 Belfast Castle Hospice walk, held by Northern Ireland Hospice to benefit local charities and those living with terminal illnesses.[44]

The castle underwent another round of refurbishment in May 2003.

References

  1. ^ a b c "Irish Castles - Belfast Castle". www.britainirelandcastles.com. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  2. ^ Discover Northern Ireland: Belfast Castle Estate. https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/belfast-castle-estate-p676051
  3. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  4. ^ J.C. Beckett, 'Belfast to the end of the eighteenth century' in J.C. Beckett et al., Belfast: The Making of the City, p. 13. Lagan Books, Belfast, 2003 (originally published by The Appletree Press, Belfast, 1983).
  5. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  6. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 3 (Fig. 2: Late medieval Belfast). Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  7. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  8. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 3 (Fig. 2: Late medieval Belfast). Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  9. ^ Patrick McKay, A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 25. The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, 1999.
  10. ^ Tom McNeill, 'County Down in the Later Middle Ages' in Lindsay Proudfoot (Editor), Down: History and Society, p. 117 and p. 119. Geography Publications, Dublin, 1997.
  11. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  12. ^ Rachel Tracey and Audrey Horning, 'Ulster plantation towns: an archaeology of rhetoric and reality' in Brendan Scott (Editor), Society and Administration in Ulster's Plantation Towns, p. 17. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2019.
  13. ^ Tom McNeill, 'County Down in the Later Middle Ages' in Lindsay Proudfoot (Editor), Down: History and Society, p. 117. Geography Publications, Dublin, 1997.
  14. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  15. ^ Tom McNeill, 'County Down in the Later Middle Ages' in Lindsay Proudfoot (Editor), Down: History and Society, p. 119. Geography Publications, Dublin, 1997.
  16. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  17. ^ Rachel Tracey and Audrey Horning, 'Ulster plantation towns: an archaeology of rhetoric and reality' in Brendan Scott (Editor), Society and Administration in Ulster's Plantation Towns, p. 17. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2019.
  18. ^ Jonathan Bardon, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 3. Gill Books, Dublin, 2012 (paperback edition).
  19. ^ Rachel Tracey and Audrey Horning, 'Ulster plantation towns: an archaeology of rhetoric and reality' in Brendan Scott (Editor), Society and Administration in Ulster's Plantation Towns, p. 17. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2019.
  20. ^ Jonathan Bardon, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 3. Gill Books, Dublin, 2012 (paperback edition).
  21. ^ Jonathan Bardon, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 3. Gill Books, Dublin, 2012 (paperback edition).
  22. ^ Patrick McKay, 'Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Buidhe: Bardic Poetry of the Ó Néills of Clandeboy' in John McGurk (Editor), Dúiche Néill - Journal of the O Neill Country Historical Society: Number 17 (2008), p. 139. The O Neill Country Historical Society, Dungannon, 2008 (printed by R. & S. Printers, Monaghan).
  23. ^ Jonathan Bardon, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 3. Gill Books, Dublin, 2012 (paperback edition).
  24. ^ Jonathan Bardon, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 3. Gill Books, Dublin, 2012 (paperback edition).
  25. ^ Katharine Simms, 'O'Neill of Clandeboye (Clann Aodha Buidhe)' in S.J. Connolly (Editor), The Oxford Companion to Irish History, p. 414. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998 (TSP paperback edition).
  26. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  27. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  28. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 1. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  29. ^ R.J. Hunter, 'Plantation in Donegal' in William Nolan, Liam Ronayne and Mairead Dunlevy (Editors), Donegal: History and Society, p. 289. Geography Publications, Dublin, 1995 (reprinted 2002).
  30. ^ Thomas McErlean, 'Chapter 4: The Archaeology and History of Lough Swilly' in Andrew Cooper (Editor), Lough Swilly: A Living Landscape, p. 88. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2011.
  31. ^ Marina O'Donnell, 'The Estate System of Landholding in County Donegal' in Jim MacLaughlin and Seán Beattie (Editors), An Historical, Environmental and Cultural Atlas of County Donegal, p. 241. Cork University Press, Cork, 2011.
  32. ^ Jonathan Bardon, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 105, p. 157, and p. 245. Gill Books, Dublin, 2012 (paperback edition).
  33. ^ Philip Robinson, The Plantation of Ulster, p. 41, p. 54, and p. 61. The Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 2000 (originally published by Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 1984).
  34. ^ Martina O'Donnell, 'Settlement and Society in the Barony of East Inishowen, c. 1850' in William Nolan, Liam Ronayne and Mairead Dunlevy (Editors), Donegal: History and Society, p. 514. Geography Publications, Dublin, 1995 (reprinted 2002).
  35. ^ The Hon. Mrs. Fionn Morgan, 'Donegal and Antrim Link: O'Neill and Chichester' in Seán Beattie (Editor), Donegal Annual - Journal of the County Donegal Historical Society: Number 59 (2007), p. 23. The County Donegal Historical Society, Ballyshannon, 2007.
  36. ^ Martina O'Donnell, 'The Estate System of Landholding in County Donegal' in Jim MacLaughlin and Seán Beattie (Editors), An Historical, Environmental and Cultural Atlas of County Donegal, p. 239. Cork University Press, Cork, 2013.
  37. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 2. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  38. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, p. 2. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  39. ^ Philip Robinson, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 2: Carrickfergus, pp. 4-5. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1986.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i "History of Belfast Castle". www.belfastcastle.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  41. ^ Raymond Gillespie and Stephen A. Royle, Irish Historic Towns Atlas Number 12: Belfast - Part I, to 1840, pp. 2-7. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2003.
  42. ^ W.A. Maguire, 'Lords and landlords - the Donegall family' in J.C. Beckett et al., Belfast: The Making of the City, pp. 36-37. Lagan Books, Belfast, 2003 (originally published by The Appletree Press, Belfast, 1983).
  43. ^ a b "Belfast Castle | venuedirectory.com". www.venuedirectory.com. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  44. ^ "Ireland: Belfast Castle Hospice Walk". link.galegroup.com. Retrieved 2019-12-05.

Copyright