BENBURB or BINBURB, a small village in the parish of CLONFEACLE, barony of DUNGANNON, county of TYRONE, and province of ULSTER, 5.75 miles (N. N. W.) from Armagh city: the population is returned with the parish.
- The first notice of this place under its present name occurs during the rebellion of the Earl of Tyrone, when the Lord Deputy Boroughs crossed the river Blackwater at 'Bean-Bhorb', at the head of the English forces, in June 1597; and being seized with a sickness of which he died a few days later at Newry, was succeeded in the command of the army by the Earl of Kildare, between whom and the Earl of Tyrone a severe engagement took place, in which the English were defeated, the Earl of Kildare mortally wounded, and his two foster brothers slain; many of the English were killed in battle and numbers perished in the river.
- Sir Henry Bagnall, with 4500 foot and 400 horse, marched against the Earl of Tyrone's army, with which he had a severe conflict; many of the English cavalry were dreadfully mangled by falling into pits dug by the enemy and covered with branches of trees; but after surmounting these and other obstacles, Bagnall made a vigorous attack upon the right-wing of the Irish army commanded by the Earl himself, and on the left under O'Donnell of Tyrconnell; a dreadful carnage ensued, the two armies being wholly engaged; but, just when victory seemed to incline towards the English forces, Bagnall was shot in the head by a musket-ball and fell dead in the field. The English, thrown into confusion by the loss of their leader, were defeated, and in their retreat to Armagh, were trodden down by the Irish cavalry.
- The triumph of Tyrone (Earl of), was but of short duration; the Lord-Deputy Mountjoy defeated him in several battles, and had him driven back to the camp at 'Bean-Bhorb,' where on the 15th of July, 1601, a battle was fought and Tyrone, totally defeated, and his army compelled to retreat in confusion to his chief fortress at Dungannon.
On the plantation of Ulster, Sir Robert Wingfield received from James I., a grant of 1000 acres of land at Benburb, by a deed dated Dec 3rd, in the 8th year of that monarch's reign; and previously to the year 1619 he had erected a castle on these lands, built the present church and founded a village, which at that time contained 20 houses. This new establishment continued to flourish till the breaking out of the war in 1641, when the castle was surprised by the order of Sir Phelim O'Nial, on the night of 22nd of October, and the whole of the inmates put to death.
On the 5th of June 1646, this place became the scene of a battle between Sir Phelim O'Nial and General Munroe; the former with a large body of men, took up a position between two hills with a wood in his rear and the river Blackwater, at that time, difficult to pass, on his right. Monroe, with 6000 foot and 800 horse, marched from Armagh, and approached by the opposite bank of the river, where finding a ford, now called Battleford Bridge, he crossed and advanced to meet O'Nial. Both armies were drawn up in order of battle, but instead of coming to a general engagement, the day was spent in skirmishing, till the sun, which had been favourable to the British, was declining, when, just as Monroe was beginning to retreat, he was attacked by the Irish, who made a furious onset. An English regiment commanded by Lord Blayney fought with undaunted resolution till they were cut to pieces and their leader slain; the Scottish horse next gave way, and the infantry being thrown into disorder, a general rout ensued. More than 3000 of the British forces were slain and their artillery and stores taken, while, on the part of O'Nial, not more than 70 were killed.
The castle was soon after dismantled, and has ever since remained in ruins; it was the largest in the county, and, though weakly built, occupies a remarkably strong position on the summit of a limestone rock rising perpendicularly from the river Blackwater to the height of 120 feet. In the village is a small ancient out-post strongly built and probably forming an entrance to the castle, which on every other side was defended by natural barriers.
Near the village are
- Tullydoey, the seat of J. Eyre Jackson, Esq., where also is the residence of T. Eyre, Esq.; and
- Castle Cottage, of Captain Cranfield.
There were formerly very extensive bleach-greens near the village, and the mills and engines are still remaining; but the principal part of the business is carried on at Tullydoey, where large quantities of linen are finished for the English markets; the weaving of linen is also carried on to some extent.
The Ulster canal, now in progress, passes on the eastern side of the river and village and is here carried through a hill of limestone, which has been excavated to the depth of 80 feet and is conducted longitudinally over the mill race by an aqueduct of considerable length.
A court is held on the first Friday of every month for the manor of Benburb, which extends over 47 townlands and comprises 2310 acres, for the recovery of debts not exceeding £2.
The parish church is situated close to the village, in which is also a place of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster.
The ruins of the castle are extensive and highly picturesque; and near the walls was found a signet ring bearing the arms and initials of Turlough O'Nial, which is now in the possession of Mr. Bell of Dungannon. The O'Nials had a stronghold here of greater antiquity than the castle erected by Sir. R. Wingfield.