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Downpatrick
  • Scots: Doonpetèrick or Doonpetherick
  • Irish: Dún Phádraig
Downpatrick view (02), August 2009.JPG
Downpatrick shown within Northern Ireland
Population 10,822 (2011 Census)
District
  • Newry, Mourne and Down
County
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town DOWNPATRICK
Postcode district BT30 6
Dialling code 02844
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament
  • South Down
NI Assembly
  • South Down
List of places
UK
Northern Ireland
DownCoordinates: 54°19′19″N 5°42′11″W / 54.322°N 5.703°W / 54.322; -5.703
Strangford Road, road sign (04), October 2009
Downpatrick, October 2009
Down Cathedral
Down Cathedral
Saint Patrick's grave Downpatrick
Reputed grave of St. Patrick

Downpatrick (from Irish: Dún Pádraig, meaning "Patrick's stronghold") is a medium-sized town about 33 km (21 mi) south of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. It has been an important site since ancient times. Its cathedral is said to be the burial place of Saint Patrick. Today it is the county town of Down and the joint headquarters of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. It had a population of 10,822 at the 2011 Census.

Overview

As the largest town in the Lecale area, Downpatrick is a commercial, recreational and administrative centre for the locality and serves as a hub for the nearby towns and villages. Within a 30 minutes drive from Belfast, the location serves as a commuter town for a large number of people. The town has a number of primary and post-primary schools educating students from all over the east Down area. Unfortunately is very behind area not so much shopping there and very bad transportation and weak services as well in this area.

Geography

Downpatrick is characterised by the rolling drumlins that are a feature of the Lecale area and a legacy of glaciation during the Pleistocene, the Down drumlins themselves are underlaid by Ordovician and Silurian shales and grits. Its lowest point lies within the marshland surrounding the north east of the town, recorded as being 1.3 ft (0 m) below sea level. from Belfast and has a regular bus service to the city.

History

Pre-history

An early Bronze Age site was excavated in Downpatrick on the Meadowlands housing estate, revealing two round houses. One measured over 4 metres in diameter and contained a hearth in the centre, while the other round house was over seven metres across.

Some archaeological evidence indicates a Neolithic settlement at the Cathedral Hill site, which otherwise appears to have been unoccupied until the late Bronze Age. It then had an undefended settlement at least on the south west of the hill top.

Early history

Downpatrick or Duno is one of Ireland's most ancient and historic towns. It takes its name from a dún (fort), which once stood on the hill that dominates the town and on which Down Cathedral was later built. Ptolemy, about the year AD 130, includes it (in Latin) as Dunum in his list of towns of Ireland.

The Gaelic name of the town was Rath Celtair, named after the mythological warrior of Ulster called Celtchar (in modern Irish: Cealtachair), who resided there and who fought alongside Ulster King Conchobar mac Neasa (anglicised Conor Mac Nessa). He is mentioned in the Ulster Cycle and, in particular, the Táin Bó Cuailgne. The name was superseded by the name Dún Lethglaise then Dún Dá Lethglas, which in turn gave way, in the 13th century, to the present name of Dún Phádraig (anglicised as Downpatrick) – from the town's connection with the patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick was reputedly buried here in 461 on Cathedral Hill, together with Saint Brigit and Saint Columba. Down Cathedral was later constructed on this spot. His grave is still a place of pilgrimage on St Patricks Day (17 March each year). The Saint Patrick Visitor Centre in Downpatrick is purpose-built to tell the story of St Patrick.

From the seventh century the dominant power in Ulster were the Dál Fiatach so much so that the title "Rí Uladh" could simultaneously mean "King of Ulster" and "King of the Dál Fiatach". County Down was the ancient centre of the Dál Fiatach lands, and the chief royal site and religious centre of the Dál Fiatach was at Downpatrick from where they ruled Ulster for centuries.

In 1137, St. Malachy after resigning as Archbishop of Armagh, separating the two dioceses and appointing another as Bishop of Connor, became the Bishop of Down. He administered the diocese of Dún dá leth glas (Down) from Bangor and introduced a community of Augustinians (canons) to Dún dá leth glas dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. He repaired and enlarged Down Cathedral.

After having received a grant of Ulster from King Henry II of England, Norman Knight John de Courcy set out from Dublin in early 1177 to take possession of it. He marched north with a force of 20 knights and 300 men and reached Downpatrick four days later. Downpatrick was an open ecclesiastical town of the old type, and the invaders rode in and surprised it in the small hours of 2 February. De Courcy attacked the fortress and administrative centre of Rath Celtair (the Mound of Down), defeating and driving off Rory MacDonlevy (Ruaidhri Mac Duinnshleibhe), King of the Dál Fiatach and Ulster (Ulaid).

In 1183, John de Courcy brought in some Benedictines from the abbey of St. Werburgh in Chester (today Chester Cathedral) in England; he built a cathedral friary for them at Downpatrick. This building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1245. De Courcy reputedly found not only the bones of St. Patrick on Cathedral Hill but also the bones of St. Brigid and St. Colmcille (St.Columba). In the presence of the Papal Legate, Vivian, Cardinal-priest of Santo Stefano Rotondo (also Santo Stefano al Monte Celio), the relics were reburied on 9 June 1186.

In 1260 Brian O'Neill (Brian Ua Néill), King of Tír Eoghain (Tyrone) and who had been acknowledged as High King of Ireland by Hugh O'Conor of Connacht and Tadhg O'Brien of Thomond) marched to Downpatrick, a centre of English settlement. Allied with a Connacht force under Hugh O'Conor, he fought the foreigners in the Battle of Down. The battle took place outside the city of Down and O'Neill, eight Connacht lords, and many others died. The death of O'Neill and defeat of the Irish was lamented by the Cenél nEógain bard Gilbride MacNamee (Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe)(1210–1272) in a poem.

Following the rebellion of Shane O'Neill in 1567, Downpatrick fell briefly into Irish hands before being re-taken by Sir Richard Morrison (Moryson).

Great scholar, poet, bishop and Franciscan theologian Aodh Mac Aingil (real name Aodh Mac Cathmhaoil) was born outside Dún (Downpatrick) in 1571.

On 21 January 1575, Franciscans John Lochran, Donagh O'Rorke, and Edmund Fitzsimon were hanged by Protestants at Downpatrick.

Cathedral Hill was the subject of an archaeologiocal investigation in Series 5 of the Channel 4 Time Team programme.

18th century

Four main thoroughfares are shown converging on a town plan of 1724, namely, English Street, Scotch (now Saul) Street, Barrack (now Scotch) Street, and Irish Street. Topography limited expansion of the town. The basic early-18th-century street plan continued largely unchanged until 1838 when Church Street was built, followed by Market Street in 1846.

The condition of the town was greatly improved in the 18th century by a land-owning family named Southwell. The first Edward Southwell was responsible for building a shambles in 1719 and paving of the streets, which started in 1727. In 1717 he built a quay and grain store at Quoile Quay, contributing to the economic expansion of the town. The second Edward Southwell was responsible for building Southwell School in 1733, considered one of the most beautiful examples of a Georgian charity school and almshouse.

Down County Infirmary was established in a house in Saul Street in October 1767, were it operated for seven years. It was moved to Barrack Lane (now Fountain Street) where the former Horse Barracks was purchased in 1774 for £150 for use as the Infirmary. It was used until the new Infirmary (now the Downe Hospital) was opened in 1834.

In June 1778, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism famously preached both in the new preaching house in Downpatrick and in The Grove beside the ruins of Down Cathedral which he called a "noble ruin".

19th century

On 21 October 1803, co-founder and leader of the United Irishmen, Thomas Russell, "the man from God knows where", was hanged outside Downpatrick Gaol for his part in Robert Emmet's failed rebellion of the same year. Thomas Russell is buried in the graveyard of the Anglican parish Church of Downpatrick, St Margaret's, in a grave paid for by his great friend, Mary Ann McCracken sister of leading Belfast United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken.

In his role as barrister, Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator", was called away from London to Downpatrick to attend the County Down Assizes, as counsel in a case heard on 1 April 1829. As the leading proponent campaigning for Catholic Emancipation, he had been in London for the passage in its final legislative stages of the Emancipation Bill from the British House of Commons through to the House of Lords and thence into law. Once passed, the Emancipation Act 1829 allowed Catholics to become members of parliament in the British House of Commons, something which they had been previously barred from doing. Taken along with the highly significant Catholic Relief Act 1829 which O'Connell had also vigorously campaigned for, and which saw amongst other things repeal of the remaining Penal Laws, many of the substantial restrictions on Catholics in the United Kingdom were now lifted.

On 30 March 1829, a meeting of the Catholics of the parish of Down, under the chairmanship of the Rev. Cornelius Denvir, voted an address of gratitude to O'Connell on having achieved Emancipation. A deputation presented this address to O'Connell. On 2 April 1829 O'Connell was present at a public dinner at Downpatrick in his honour attended by ' upwards of eighty gentlemen, of different religious persuasions '.

On 17 March 1848, a crowd of between 2,000 – 3,000 set off from Old Course Road intending to march to the reputed grave of St. Patrick on Cathedral Hill but were attacked en route by Orange protesters at the Irish Street shambles who had heard about the St. Patrick's day parade; a riot ensued.

The Troubles

Downpatrick, throughout the course of The Troubles, had a significant paramilitary presence in the town, mostly through the presence of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) & Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)

Places of interest

Inch abbey near Downpatrick - geograph.org.uk - 740083
Inch Abbey
Quoile Castle, geograph
Quoile Castle, near Downpatrick
O&K No. 1, Downpatrick Station
Steam locomotive O&K No. 1 operating at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway
  • Ballyalton Court Cairn is a single court grave situated on a rock outcrop by the roadside 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from Ballyalton village, which is 2.25 miles (3.62 km) east of Downpatrick, at grid ref 531 448.
  • Ballynoe Stone Circle, a large circle of over 50 closely spaced upright stones, surrounding a mound which, when excavated, was found to contain two cists in which cremated bones were found, is only 2.5 miles (4 km) south in the hamlet of Ballynoe. The site is near the disused railway station, reached by a long footpath off the main road, at grid ref: J481404.
  • Down County Museum, is located on the Mall in English Street in Downpatrick and was formerly the old Down County Gaol. It was built between 1789 and 1796 at the behest of the County Grand Jury of Down under the supervision of Marquess of Downshire, the Earl of Hillsborough and the Hon Edward Ward, it was designed by architect Charles Lilly. The building served for a time as a barracks for the South Down Militia. It is famously where, at its gates, United Irishman, Thomas Russell was hanged in 1803.
  • Downpatrick Racecourse, is located on the Ballydugan Road on the outskirts of Downpatrick. Horse racing has been held at Downpatrick under the charter of James II of England.
  • Downpatrick & County Down Railway is Ireland's only full-sized heritage railway. Built on the BCDR's former line to Belfast, it links the town with Inch Abbey and various other places of historical interest. The railway houses Ireland's largest collection of Victorian carriages, eight diesel locomotives, three steam engines, and several railcars.
  • Inch Abbey, a large, ruined Cistercian monastic site featuring early Gothic architecture is 0.75 miles (1.2 km) north-west of Downpatrick on the north bank of the River Quoile off the main road to Belfast, at grid ref: J477455.
  • The Lecale peninsula covers an area of some 78 square miles (200 km2) between Downpatrick and Dundrum. It is an area of historical and geographic significance.
  • The Mound of Down or Rathkeltair is one of the major earthworks of Ulster, situated on the NW edge of Downpatrick it is a good example of an Iron Age defensive earthwork in the middle of which a Norman Motte and Bailey was built by John de Courcy after his defeat of Rory Mac Donlevy in 1177. Some believe that it was the residence of Celtchar mac Ulthechair, the legendary Iron Age hero of the Ulster Cycle. It seems to have become the administrative centre of the Kings of Dál Fiatach by the early Christian period.
  • St Patricks Centre
    St Patricks Center Downpatrick with the Tara Brooch Statue and Down Cathedral
    St. Patrick Center, is the only permanent exhibition in the world dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, and one of the best tourist destinations in Ireland. As a nonprofit educational organisation offers of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, thousands of children each year and the ongoing cross-border and international youth programs.
  • Quoile Castle is a ruined 16th-century tower house, just off the main road from Downpatrick to Strangford, at grid ref: J4963 4701.
  • Struell Wells is a set of four holy wells 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of Downpatrick (grid ref: J513442). The wells date from before the time of Saint Patrick, and even today are used for people seeking cures.
  • As of 2009, an Eclipse Cinema was opened in Downpatrick which is a very popular destination among the community both as a cinema and a venue for events.
  • Lough Money is about three miles from the town. A rainbow trout fishery is maintained there for anglers.
  • Saul Church is approx. 3 Miles from the town, built in 1932 to commemorate St Patrick's first church in Ireland.

Demography

Downpatrick is classified as a medium town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (i.e. with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 10,316 people living in Downpatrick. Of these:

  • 26.6% were aged under 16 years and 16.0% were aged 60 and over
  • 48.5% of the population were male and 51.5% were female
  • 87.8% were from a Roman Catholic background and 10.9% were from a Protestant background
  • 6.1% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

Transport

  • Downpatrick Station, February 2010 (01)
    The current Downpatrick Railway Station
    Downpatrick is situated at the junction of the A7 (Downpatrick to Saintfield and Belfast) road, the A25 (Downpatrick to Newry and Dublin) road and the A2 coast road. While there are no rail services in Downpatrick, Ulsterbus provides bus services to and from the Downpatrick Bus Station.
  • Downpatrick railway station on the Belfast and County Down Railway, opened on 23 March 1859 and Downpatrick Loop Platform opened on 24 September 1892. Both closed on 16 January 1950. Downpatrick Racecourse Platform had opened on 8 March 1893, but closed in September 1949. The current station, owned by the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, was opened in the early 1990s and serves several sites of historical interest near the town, having originally been a gas manager's office situated elsewhere in Downpatrick.
  • Downpatrick also holds a Translink bus station on the Ballydugan Road providing bus services to Belfast, Bangor and Newry alongside services to local towns and townlands.

People

  • Ann Breen, a country singer, is from Downpatrick. She is often referred to as "The Star of the County Down".
  • Lynn Doyle, the pseudonym of the humorist and playwright Leslie Alexander Montgomery, was born in Downpatrick on 5 October 1873 (died 18 August 1961). He was part of the Ulster Literary Theatre movement and is most famous for his Ballygullion series of twenty books which fondly caricatured Northern Ireland village life. He chose his pseudonym after seeing a large tin of linseed oil in a paint shop, initially signing "Lynn C. Doyle" but later dropping the "C.".
  • Dr. Maurice Hayes, the former Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Chairman of the Ireland Funds and Taoiseach-appointed Senator in Seanad Éireann, was born and still lives in Downpatrick. He has written a memoir about growing up in the town titled Black Puddings with Slim. He served as town clerk of Downpatrick in the 1960s, succeeding his father in the role.
  • The rock bands Ash, Relish and Rosetta Stone are from Downpatrick.
  • Tim Wheeler, lead singer of rock band Ash is from Downpatrick.
  • Paul Mahon, guitarist of rock band The Answer is from Downpatrick.
  • James Heatley, drummer for rock band The Answer lives in Downpatrick.
  • Ian Mitchell from the band Bay City Rollers was born in Downpatrick.
  • Former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Leader Margaret Richie MLA was born and also lives in Downpatrick.
  • Tony Dobbin 1997 winner of the Grand National is from Downpatrick.
  • The comedian Colin Murphy is from Downpatrick.
  • Patrick Kielty attended (St. Patrick's Grammar) school in Downpatrick.
  • Miles Kington journalist, musician and broadcaster born in Downpatrick.
  • Thomas Russell the United Irishman co-founder who took part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and Robert Emmet's failed rebellion of 1803 was gaoled and executed at Down County Gaol by hanging on 21 October 1803. His memory is honoured by the local GAA club being named after him.
  • Robert Scott, recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Folk and Ballad Group "Poteen" are from Downpatrick

Annalistic references

See Annals of Inisfallen

  • AI1026.5 Mael Petair Ua hAilecáin, lector of Dún dá Lethglas, rested in Christ.

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