1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

Antrim Lewis 1837

ANTRIM (County of), a maritime county in the province of ULSTER, bounded on the north by the Northern Ocean, or Deucaledonian Sea; on the north-east and east, by the North Channel; on the south-east, by the lough or bay of Belfast and the river Lagan, separating it from the county of DOWN, which likewise borders it on the south; on the south-west, by Lough Neagh; on the west, by Lough Beg and the river Bann, which separate it from the county of LONDONDERRY; and on the north-west, by the liberties of Coleraine.

Belfast Lough

A picture of Belfast Lough or Bay that is set on the south-east of County Antrim, Ireland.

River Lagan

A picture of River Lagan that goes to Belfast and enters the Belfast Lough and forms the border between County Antrim and County Down, Ireland.

An old picture of River Lagan that goes to Belfast and enters the Belfast Lough and forms the border between County Antrim and County Down, Ireland.

Lough Beg

A picture of Lough Beg in Northern Ireland. Lough Beg is set on the west of County Antrim, Ireland.

River Bann

A picture of River Bann in Coleraine, Ireland. River Bann is one of the longest rivers in Northern Ireland.

  • It extends from 54° 26' to 55° 12' 16" (N. Lat.), and from 5° 47' to 6° 52' (W. Long.); and, exclusively of the extensive parish of Carrickfergus (which is a County of a town in itself) , comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 761,877 3/4 statute acres, of which 466,564 are cultivated land, 53,487 1/2 are under water, and the remainder unimproved mountain and bog.
  • The population in 1821,was 262,860; and in 1831, 316,909.

In the ancient division of the island the southern and south-western parts of this county were included in the territory called Dalaradiae or Ulidia, the western and north-western were designated Dalrieda, and the name of the whole was Endruim or Andruim, signifying the "habitation upon the waters," and strikingly descriptive of its situation. It was afterwards divided into the three districts of North or Lower Clan-Hugh-Boy, Claneboy, or Clandeboy; the Glynnes; and the Reuta, Route, or Rowte.

  • North or Lower Clandeboy, so called to distinguish it from South or Upper Clandeboy, now included in the adjacent county of Down, extended from Carrickfergus bay and the river Lagan to Lough Neagh, and consisted of the tract now forming the baronies of Belfast, Massareene, and Antrim:
  • the Glynnes, so called from the intersection of its surface by many rocky dells, extended from Larne, northward along the coast, to Ballycastle, being backed by the mountains on the west, and containing the present baronies of Glenarm, and part of that of Carey:
  • the Route included nearly all the rest of the county to the west and north, forming the more ancient Dalrieda, and, in the reign of Elizabeth; occasionally called "Mac Sorley Boy's Country." Within the limits of Clandeboy was a minor division, called "Bryen Carrogh's Country," won from the rest by the Scots.

At what precise period Antrim was erected into a county is uncertain: it was divided into baronies in 1584, by the lord deputy, Sir John Perrot, but this arrangement was not until some time after-wards strictly observed. The earliest inhabitants of this part of Ireland on record were a race of its ancient Celtic possessors, designated by Ptolemy Darnii or Darini; and it deserves notice that Nennius mentions the "regions of Dalrieda" as the ultimate settlement of the Scythian colony in Ireland. According to the Irish annalists, Murdoch Mac Erch, chief of the Hibernian Dalaradians, early in the fourth century, by a series of conquests extended his dominions in the north of Antrim and the adjacent districts, while his brother Fergus succeeded in establishing a colony in North Britain.

Sir John Perrot

A picture of Sir John Perrot who was Lord Deputy to Queen Elizabeth I.

The first intruders upon these earliest settlers were probably the Danish marauders, to whose desolating descents this coast was for several ages peculiarly exposed. Subsequently the northern Scots harassed the inhabitants by numerous plundering inroads, and ultimately accomplished permanent settlements here, maintaining for a long time a constant intercourse with their roving countrymen of the isles. A right of supremacy over the lords of this territory was claimed by the powerful family of the northern O'Nials (now written O'Neill), who were at length deprived of the southern part of this county by the family of Savage and other English adventurers.

Early in the 14th century, Edward Bruce, the Scottish chieftain, gained possession of this district by the reduction of Carrickfergus, which had long resisted the most vigorous assaults of his troops, The English, however, shortly afterwards recovered their dominion; but in 1333, William de Burgho, Earl of Ulster, being, assassinated at Carrickfergus by his own servants, and his countess, with her infant daughter, seeking safety by escaping into England, the sept of O'Nial rose suddenly in arms, and, falling furiously upon the English settlers, succeeded, notwithstanding a brave and obstinate defence, in either totally extirpating them, or reducing them within very narrow hounds. The conquerors then allotted amongst themselves the extensive possessions thus recaptured from the English, and the entire district received the name of the Upper and Lower Clan-Hugh-Boy, from their leader, Hugh-Boy O'Nial.

During the successful operations of Sir John Perrot, lord-deputy in the reign of Elizabeth, to reduce the province of Ulster into allegiance to the English government, he was compelled to lay siege to Dunluce castle, on the northern coast of Antrim, which surrendered on honourable terms: this fortress having been subsequently lost through treachery, in 1585, was again given up to the English by Sorley Boy O'Donnell or Mac Donnell, the proprietor of a great extent of the surrounding country, to whom it was returned in charge.

Dunluce Castle

Pictures of Dunluce Castle in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.

A picture of Dunluce Castle in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland from the west view.

An old picture of Dunluce Castle in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.


This county is in the diocese of Connor, except part of the parish of Ballyscullion in the diocese of Derry, Lambeg in that of Down, and Aghalee in that of Dromore.

For purposes of civil jurisdiction it is divided into the baronies of Belfast Upper, Lower Belfast, Massereene Upper, Massereene Lower, Antrim Upper, Antrim Lower, Toome Upper, Toome Lower, Glenarm Upper, Glenarm Lower , Upper Dunluce, Dunluce Lower , Kilconway, and Carey (Cary). It contains:

  • the borough, market, and sea-port town of Belfast;
  • the borough and market-town of Lisburn;
  • the ancient disfranchised borough and market-towns of Antrim and Randalstown;
  • the sea-port and market-towns of Ballycastle, Larne, and Portrush;
  • the market and post-towns of Ballymena, Ballymoney, Broughshane, and Glenarm;
  • and the post-towns of Ballinderry, Ballyclare, Bushmills, Crumlin, Cushendall, Dervock, Glenavy, Portglenone, and Toome.
  • Connor, the ancient seat of the diocese, is now merely a village:
  • the largest villages are Ballykennedy, Templepatrick, Whitehouse, Dunmurry, Kells (each of which has a penny post), Doagh, Dunethery, Eden, Massareene, and Parkgate.


Prior to the Union, this county sent ten members to the Irish parliament, - two knights of the shire, and two representatives for each of the boroughs of Antrim, Belfast, Lisburn, and Randalstown: from that period until 1832 it returned four members to the Imperial parliament, - two for the county, and one each for the boroughs of Belfast and Lisburn; but, by the act to amend the representation, passed in that year (2 Wm. IV., c.88), an additional member has been given to Belfast. The county constituency (as registered in October 1836,) consists of 598(£50), 562 (£20), and 2246 (£10) freeholders; 6 (£50) and 19 (£20) rent-chargers; and 59 (£20) and 337 (£10) leaseholders; making a total of 3827 registered voters. The election for the county takes place at Carrickfergus. It is included in the north-east circuit : the assizes are held at Carrickfergus, and the general quarter sessions at Belfast, Antrim, Carrickfergus, Ballymena, and Ballymoney, at which the assistant barrister presides.

  • The county court-house and gaol is situated at Carrickfergus, the house of correction at Belfast, and there are bridewells at Antrim, Ballymena, and Ballymoney. The number of persons charged with criminal offences and committed to these prisons, in the year 1835, was 202; and the commitments under civil bill decrees amounted to 106.
  • The local government is vested in a lieutenant and thirteen deputy-lieutenants, who are all justices of the peace: the entire number of magistrates is 84, including the mayor of the town and county of the town of Carrickfergus, and the "sovereign" of Belfast, who are ex-officio magistrates of the county; besides whom there are the usual county officers, including two coroners. There are 29 constabulary police stations, having a force of a stipendiary magistrate, sub-inspector, pay-master, 6 chief and 33 subordinate constables, and 165 men, with 8 horses, the expense of whose maintenance is defrayed equally by grand jury presentments and by Government.
  • Along the coast are 16 coast-guard stations,- 8 in the district of Ballycastle, having a force of 8 officers and 54 men, and 8 in the district of Carrickfergus, with a force of 8 officers and 51 men; each district is under the control of a resident inspecting commander.
  • The district lunatic asylum and the county fever hospital are at Belfast, the county infirmary is at Lisburn, and there are two dispensaries at Belfast, and others at Crumlin, Ballymoney, Ballymena, Larne, Doagh, Randalstown, Whitehouse, Antrim, Connor, Ahoghill, Loughguile, Bushmills, Ballycastle, Broughshane, and Cushendall, supported by equal grand jury presentments and private subscriptions.

Belfast District Lunatic Asylum

A picture of Belfast District Lunatic Asylum, Ireland.

  • The amount of Grand Jury presentments, for 1835, was £41,002. 16s. 1d, of which £5230.7s.10d. was for the public roads of the county at large; £14,072.4s.4d. for the public roads, being the baronial charge; £7666. 8s. 2d in repayment of loans advanced by Government, £3802.11s.8d., for police, and £10,231. 4s.1d., for public establishments, officers salaries, buildings, &c.
  • In military arrangements this county is included in the north-eastern district: there are barracks for artillery and infantry at Belfast; and Carrickfergus Castle, in which the ordnance stores are deposited, is appropriated as a barrack for detachments from Belfast.

Carrickfergus Castle

A picture of Carrickfergus Castle in Carrickfergus in County Antrim, Ireland. Carrickfergus Castle was built by John de Courcy and it is set on the northern shore of the Belfast Lough.


The most striking features of the surface of this county are its mountains, which stretch in a regular outline from the southern to the northern extremity, terminating on the shore in abrupt and almost perpendicular declivities: they attain their greatest elevation near the coast, and have a gradual descent inland; so that many of the principal streams have their source near the sea, and run directly thence towards Lough Neagh: exclusively of the valleys embosomed amid them, these mountains are computed to occupy about one-third of the superficial area of the county. Between this range and the shore, in some places, are tracts of very fertile land, especially from Belfast to Carrickfergus, and thence to Larne, near which the mountains project in rugged grandeur so as nearly to overhang the sea. From Glenarm round to Bengore Head this succession of rocky headlands presents numerous striking and picturesque views broken by narrow valleys watered by mountain torrents, which give a diversified character to the romantic scenery by which this part of the coast is distinguished. The most remarkable ranges of cliffs are those of perpendicular basaltic columns, which extend for many miles, and form a coast of surpassing magnificence: their arrangement is most strikingly displayed in Fair Head and the Giant's Causeway, which project several hundred feet into the sea, at the northern extremity of the county. On the western side of the mountain range the valleys expand to a considerable width, and are of great fertility: that of the Six-mile- water, stretching towards the town of Antrim, is particularly distinguished for its beauty and high state of cultivation. The valley of the Lagan merits especial notice for its beautiful undulating surface, its richness, the enlivening aspect of its bleach-greens, and the numerous excellent habitations, with their gardens and plantations, which impart an air of cheerfulness and industry to this interesting vale. The general inclination of the surface of the mountainous region becomes less rapid as it approaches the river Bann: the flattest parts of this elevated tract are composed of turf bogs, which occupy a great space, but are mostly susceptible of improvement. In the southern part of the barony of Toome, along the shore of Lough Neagh to the east of Shane's Castle, the surface consists of numerous detached swells and presents a remarkably pleasing aspect. Thence southward, along the shore of Lough Neagh to the confines of the county, lies the most extensive level tract within its limits, which for fertility and cultivation is nowhere surpassed. Detached basaltic eminences, in some instances attaining a mountainous elevation, are conspicuous in several parts of the county, of which Slemish, to the south-east of Broughshane, and 1437 feet high, is the most remarkable: and in divers places, but generally in the lower tracts, are scattered gravelly knolls, which from Antrim to Kells are particularly striking. Off the northern extremity of the county, nearly seven miles distant from the town of Ballycastle, lies the island of Rathlin, about 6 1/2 miles in length by 1 1/2 in breadth, the shores of which are principally composed of precipitous basaltic and limestone rocks, rearing their heads in sublime grandeur above the waves of a wild and turbulent ocean. Off this part of the coast are some small islets, and a few others lie off the eastern shore, and in Lough Neagh.

Giant's Causeway

Pictures of Giant's Causeway or Honeycomb in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The Giant's Causeway is steps of hexagonal stones in Ireland.

A picture of Giant's Honeycomb in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Lagan Valley

A picture of Lagan valley.

Shane's Castle

A picture of Shane's Castle, County Antrim, Ireland

Lough Neagh, which is the largest lake in the British islands, is chiefly in this county, but extends into several others: - it is traditionally stated to have been formed in the year 62, by an irruption of the sea, but is obviously formed by the confluence of the Blackwater, Upper Bann, and five other rivers.

  • This lake is about 20 British miles in length from north-east to south-west, about 12 miles in extreme breadth from east to west, 80 miles in circumference, and comprises about 154 square miles: its greatest depth in the middle is l45 feet. According to the Ordnance survey, it is 48 feet above the level of the sea at low water, and contains 98,255 1/2 statute acres, of which 50,025 are in this county, 27,355 1/2 in Tyrone, 15,556 3/4 in Armagh, 5160 in Londonderry, and 38 in Down.
  • The only outlet is the Lower Bann, which being obstructed by weirs and rocks prevents the free egress of the waters, and causes the surrounding country to be injuriously inundated in winter.
  • In some places, the waters possess medicinal properties, which they are supposed to derive from the adjacent shore. They have also petrifying powers, but these are supposed to exist in the soil, as petrifactions are only found in the lake near the shore of this county, while they are found at considerable heights and depths and at some distance from the coast inland.
  • Valuable hones are made of the petrified wood, and in the white sand on the shore very hard and beautiful stones, known by the name of Lough Neagh pebbles, are found: they are chiefly chalcedony, generally yellow or veined with red, susceptible of a fine polish, and highly valued for seals and necklaces. Besides the fish usually caught in fresh water lakes, Lough Neagh has the char, a species of trout called the dollaghern, and the pullan or fresh water herring.
  • Swans, teal, widgeon, herons, bitterns, and several other kinds of birds frequent its shores.
  • Canals connect it with Belfast, Newry, and Coal island, and a steam-boat is employed in towing trading vessels across its surface, which, although sometimes violently agitated, is scarcely ever visited by tempests, from the absence of mountains from its borders.
  • This vast expanse of water was "frozen" in 1739 and 1784, and in 1814 the ice was sufficiently thick for Col. Heyland to ride from Crumlin water foot to Ram's Island, which is the only one of any importance in the lake, and contains the remains of a round tower.

Ram's Island Round Tower

A picture of Round Towers of Ireland in Ram Island.

  • Sir Arthur Chichester, in 1604, received from James I. a grant of the fisheries and of the office of Admiral of Lough Neagh, which have been held by his successors and are now vested in the Marquess of Donegal.

James I

A picture of James I, King of England and Scotland.

  • Lough Neagh gives the title of Baron to Viscount Masareene.
  • North of this lake, and connected with it by a narrow channel about a mile long, over which is the handsome bridge of Toome, is Lough Beg, or "the small lake;" containing 8144 3/4 acres, of which 1624 are in this county, and 1520 3/4 in Derry. This lake, which is generally 15 inches lower than Lough Neagh, contains four small islands, and its banks are more diversified and pleasing than those of the larger lake.

The soils are of considerable variety: that of the plains and valleys is a strong loam upon clay, capable of being rendered very fertile, and in many parts interspersed with whinstones lying on or near the surface, the removal of which is necessary preparatory to tillage. On the rising grounds, this kind of soil assumes a different quality, the vegetable mould diminishing in quantity, and being lighter in texture and colour, and the substratum deteriorates into a brown or yellow till. Still, nearer the mountains, this change becomes more apparent from the coarse and scanty produce, rocks and stones in many parts occupying nearly the entire surface, and the soil gradually acquiring a mixture of peat, and thus forming extensive moors.

  • To the north of the Lagan, at a short distance from Belfast, commences a sandy loam which extends, with occasional interruptions, to the Maze-course, and under good management is very productive: on the shores of Lough Neagh are likewise some tracts of a similar soil: and small stripes of sand are found on different parts of the seashore.
  • Gravelly soils prevail on the irregularly disposed swells above mentioned, which are composed of water-worn stones of various dimensions, with a loamy covering.
  • There are several detached tracts of soils of various texture, of superior quality, resting on a substratum of limestone; one of the most extensive lies in the parishes of Maheragall (Magheragall) and Soldierstown (Aghalee).
  • Besides the turf, a prevailing soil upon the mountains is a peculiar loam without either cohesion or strength, which appears to be only a rust or oxyde of the softer parts of the iron-stone, and under tillage yields exceedingly scanty crops of grain, but an abundance of straw, and tolerably good crops of potatoes: its herbage forms excellent pasturage.
  • The main feature in the tillage system of a great part of Antrim is the potato fallow, to which it owes nearly as much as Norfolk does to the turnip fallow.
  • The principal wheat district extends along the shore of Lough Neagh and the course of the Lagan river, stretching as far north as Cairdcastle, in approaching which its extent is greatly reduced by the projection of the mountainous districts. Much barley of the four-rowed or Bere species is grown on the dry and gravelly swells; but the cultivation of oats is most extensive, the straw being used as fodder for cattle, and the meal, together with potatoes, the chief food of the great body of the people.
  • The other crops of common cultivation are potatoes and flax; turnips have been grown by some agriculturists since 1774, and the quantity is yearly increasing.
  • In some districts the grasslands are extensive and productive, although a considerable portion formerly employed as grazing pastures is now under tillage: the mountains and high lands also are constantly stocked with either the cattle of the proprietors, or those taken in from distant owners.
  • Much butter is made through-out the county, and is packed in firkins containing from 60 to 80lb., and sold at Belfast, whence a considerable quantity is exported.
  • Carrickfergus and Antrim have long been celebrated for cheese, some of which rivals in quality that of Cheshire.
  • The principal manure, besides that of the farm-yard, is lime, the produce of the county; but the quarries being situated at its extremities, it requires much labour and expense to convey it into the interior. Near the coast, shells and sea sand are applied; and sea sand is also used even where it contains few shells.
  • Great improvement has of late years been made in the agricultural implements, by introducing the best Scotch and English modes of construction.
  • The soil being particularly favourable to the growth of the whitethorn, the numerous hedges planted with it greatly enrich the appearance of the lower districts: the mountain fences consist either of loose stones collected from the surface of the ground, or of drains (called shoughs) with banks of earth.
  • The breed of cattle has been very much improved within the last few years, particularly in the more fertile districts; the most esteemed English and Scottish breeds have been introduced, and by judicious crosses stock of the most valuable kind are becoming general. In several parts is a Bengal breed, imported by Sir Fras. McNaghten, Bart., from which several crosses have been tried, but they appear too tender to endure the cold of winter.
  • Generally, little attention is paid to the improvement of the breed of sheep, though on the rich lands of Muckamore and Massareene (Ballinderry) it has been very much improved: the old native sheep are principally found in and near the barony of Carey.
  • A very hardy and strong, though small, race of horses, partly bred in the county and partly imported from Scotland, is employed on the northern and north-eastern coast, and among the mountains; and in Rathlin island is a breed similar to these, but still smaller. In other parts of the county the horses are of a good size and valuable kinds, but are chiefly introduced by dealers from other counties.
  • The long-legged flat-sided hogs formerly reared have been superseded by the best English breeds: the bacon and pork of more than 100,000 are annually exported from Belfast.
  • There is but little natural wood in the county, the greater portion being that which surrounds Shane's Castle, and the scattered trees on the steep banks of a few rivers. Numerous, and in some instances extensive, plantations have, however, been made in various parts; and, though there are still many wide naked tracts, there are others well clothed with wood; especially adjoining Lough Neagh, the vicinities of Moneyglass and Drumraymond, the valleys of the Six-mile-water, Kells-water, and the Braid, the whole extent from Lisburn to Carrickfergus, the neighbourhood of Bella hill and Castle Dobbs, of Larne, Glenarm, Benvarden, O'Hara brook, Ballynacre; Leslie hill, and Lisanoure.
  • The greatest tracts of wasteland are the highest portions of the mountain range: even the irreclaimable bogs of these elevated tracts produce a coarse herbage, and many of the bogs which overspread to a considerable extent the plains between the mountains and the Barin are likewise covered with verdure;
  • Towards the southern part of the county most of the bogs have been exhausted. Coal is furnished to the northern and eastern coasts from the mines of Ballycastle (Ramoan), but the chief supply is from England, Wales, and Scotland.


The geology of Antrim presents a great variety of the most interesting features, and its mineral productions are of considerable importance.

  • With the exception of a diversified district on the eastern coast and the entire vale of the Lagan, nearly the whole is occupied by basaltic beds, presenting abrupt declivities on the eastern and northern coasts, which are truly magnificent.
  • These secondary beds consist of enormous unstratified masses, the average depth of which is about 300 feet, though in the north, at Knock-laid, it is 980 feet; the base of that mountain is composed of mica-slate.
  • The island of Rathlin is principally occupied by these basaltic beds, which are classified by Dr Berger under the following heads: - tabular basalt, columnar basalt, green-stone, grey-stone, porphyry, bole or red ochre, wacke, amygdaloidal wacke, and wood coal: and imbedded in them are granular olivine augite, calcareous spar, steatite, zeolite, iron pyrites, glassy feldspar, and chalcedony.
  • The beds of columnar basalt occur almost exclusively towards the northern extremity of the county, and form an amazing display of natural grandeur along the shore. Besides the well-known columnar strata composing the Giant's Causeway and the adjacent cliffs, similar strata are seen in diverse parts of the county, particularly near Antrim and Kilroot: the pillars composing the Giant's Causeway (which is minutely described in the article on Billy), are irregular prisms standing in the closest contact, and of various forms, from three to nine sides, the hexagonal equalling in number all the rest. Slievemish, or Slemish, mountain is an enormous mass-of greenstone, which likewise occurs in other situations.
  • Porphyry occupies a considerable district to the south of Connor and Kells, and is met with in several other places, particularly near Cushendall. The remarkable substance called wood coal occurs in thin strata at Portnoffer, Kiltymorris, Ballintoy, and elsewhere.

All the other rocks of Antrim are beneath the basaltic beds in geological position.

  • The first is hard chalk, sometimes called white limestone, which does not average more than 200 feet in thickness, and occurs on the eastern and southern sides of the county, and on the southern coast of Rathlin Island.
  • Mulattoe or green sandstone next occurs in the neighbourhood of Belfast, to the north of Carrickfergus, near Larne, at Garron Point, &c. ; and under this are found lias beds on the coast between Garron Point and Larne, and in other places. These, together with the chalk and basalt, are based upon beds of reddish and reddish-brown sandstone of various textures, which are found under the entire south-eastern border of the county, in several detached spots along the eastern coast, and in considerable tracts from Red bay to Ballycastle : the upper strata form a marl, in which are veins of gypsum.
  • The coal district of Ballycastle comprises an extent of about two miles along the coast; the beds crop out above the level of the sea, dipping to the south-east about one foot in nine, and alternate with others of sandstone and slate clay, being themselves of a slaty quality. The only rocks lying under the strata of the great coal district, besides the primitive rocks of mica-slate, &c., already mentioned, are those "of old red sandstone," between the bays of Cushendall and Cushendun. All the above-mentioned strata are occasionally intersected and dislocated by remarkable dykes of basalt or whinstone, varying from three inches to sixteen feet in width.
  • Sometimes very minute dykes or veins of greenstone penetrate these enormous beds of basalt and are particularly observable near Portrush, where they are seen in the face of the cliff not more than an inch broad. Chert is also found in abundance and variety at Portrush. Fullers' earth exists in the basaltic district, in which also a rough tripoli is found at Agnew's Hill and a vein of steatite or French chalk in the path to the Gobbins.

Agnew's Hill

A picture of Agnew's Hill in County Antrim, Ireland.

  • In Belfast Lough, lying under the level of the ordinary tides, but generally left bare at the ebb, is a stratum of submarine peat and timber, in which nuts are singularly petrified on the east and west sides of the Lough.
  • Numerous organic remains are also found in the beds of chalk, &c.; large and beautiful crystals in the basaltic region, particularly near the Giant's Cause-way, where agates, opal, and chalcedony are met with in different situations. Of all this variety of subterranean productions, the coal has been procured to the greatest extent.
  • The collieries of Ballycastle, once flourishing, are now but little worked; they were formerly twelve in number, and exported from 10,000 to 15,000 tons annually.
  • Gypsum or alabaster is dug in different places, and the various species of stone are quarried in spots convenient for building and other purposes.


As this county is situated in the centre of the district in which the linen and cotton manufactures are most vigorously carried on, a brief historical view of the progress of these branches of industry, the most valuable in the island, may here be introduced.

  • The linen manufacture, of which Belfast is the grand mart, is most extensively carried on at Lisburn and the surrounding country: it is of remote antiquity in Ireland, but appears to have been first particularly encouraged in the north about 1637, by Lord Strafford, who induced the Scottish and English settlers, then recently established in Ulster, to cultivate flax, offering them every facility in exporting the yarn. But this rising trade was for some time entirely destroyed by the civil war which speedily followed, and its revival effectually prevented by the competition of the French and Dutch in the English market.
  • In 1678, an act prohibiting the importation of linen from France was passed, which was soon afterwards disannulled by Jas. II., who afforded great encouragement to the French manufacturers. The first parliament of Wm, III. Declared the importation of French linens highly injurious to the interests of the three kingdoms; and the progress of the woollen trade in Ireland having alarmed the English manufacturers, the king was prevailed upon to suppress it, and re-establish in lieu the manufacture of linen, which was accordingly so much encouraged as to induce many of the Hugonots to emigrate hither from France, several of whom had carried on the trade extensively in their native country. Amongst these emigrants was Mr. Crommelin, who received from Government a grant of £800 per annum, as an equivalent for the interest of capital to be expended by him in establishing the linen manufacture at Lisburn, with a patent for its improvement, and an additional salary of £200, on condition that, with the assistance of three other persons, also remunerated from the public purse, he should instruct the Irish farmers in the cultivation of flax, which had been altogether neglected for upwards of half a century.
  • These and similar efforts, aided by protecting legislative enactments, produced the most important results: a board of trustees of the linen and hempen manufactures was established under an act passed in 1711, at which period the value of the exports did not exceed £6000 per annum. But in the early part of the reign of Geo. I., a linen-hall having been erected in Dublin, and a Board of Management appointed, authorised by parliament annually to employ a large specific sum in the importation and gratuitous distribution of flax seed, and in awarding premiums for the extension and improvement of the trade, the annual imports, before the year 1730, had increased in value to upwards of £400,000; in twenty years more they exceeded one million sterling; and of such importance was the success of this staple manufacture deemed, that £12,000 was annually granted by parliament for its better protection. During this rapid growth, numerous abuses crept in, and the most obnoxious frauds were practised by the weavers in the length and quality of their webs; for the suppression of which several acts were passedin vain, until the provisions of the act of the 33rd of Geo. II. were enforced, on the southern border of this county, by Lord Hillsborough and Mr. Williamson, whose persevering activity rendering it impossible for the weavers any longer to evade the law, while the bleachers and merchants were convinced of the advantages to be derived from its observance, the sealing of brown linen, by deputed responsible officers, to attest its quantity and quality, became general throughout the whole province, and continues to be practised with equal strictness at present.
  • In 1784, the value of brown linens sold in the markets of Ulster was :£1,214,560; and for several years prior and subsequent to the Union, the total exports amounted in value to upwards of £2,600,000, of which nearly one-half was the produce of the county of Antrim. Some conception of the present extent of the manufacture may be derived from the fact that at one only of the numerous bleach-greens about 80,000 pieces of linen are finished annually, and at many others nearly the same number. Prior to the accession of Geo. II., every branch of the manufacture was performed by the same parties. Machinery was first invented and applied in the operation of washing, rubbing and beetling at Ballydrain, in the parish of Belfast, in 1725, and, as the manufacture extended, the process of bleaching became a separate business; the bleacher became merchant, bought the brown linens in the open market, and has made this business one of the most important branches of the trade.
  • Owing to the improvements in machinery, and the aid afforded by the application of chemical preparations, the present number of bleach-greens is not so great as formerly, not-withstanding the vast increase in the production of the manufacture.
  • So late as 1761, the only acid used in bleaching was buttermilk: in 1764, Dr, James Ferguson, of Belfast, received from the Linen Board a premium of £300 for the successful application of lime, and in 1770 he introduced the use of sulphuric acid; ten years subsequently, potash was first used, and, in 1795, chloride of lime was introduced: the articles now generally used are barilla, American ashes, chloride of lime, and vitriol.
  • The fine material which first induced competition and the offer of a bounty was cambrics: the attention of the Board was next directed to the production of damasks and diapers, and many looms were given to the weavers in the counties of Down and Antrim; and so great a degree of perfection has the weaving of damasks attained, that the Lisburn and Ardoyne manufactures adorn the tables of most of the sovereigns of Europe.
  • Every species of fabric, from the coarsest canvas to the finest cambric, is now manufactured here, from flax which is cultivated and prepared in all its stages in the province of Ulster. The cotton trade, which has become of so great importance in the North of Ireland, was introduced in 1711, merely as a source of employment for the children in the poor-house at Belfast, by Mr. Robt. Joy and Thos. M'Cabe, who, unable to secure individual co-operation, offered the machinery, which was then of the most improved description, to the managers of the charitable institution at prime cost. But the latter refusing to embark in a speculation altogether novel in Ireland, Messrs. Joy, M'Cabe, and M'Cracken formed themselves into a company, erected buildings, introduced new machinery, and generously opened their works to the public, at a time when it was endeavoured in England to keep the nature of the improved machinery a secret.
  • In 1779 they commenced the manufacture of calico, dimities, and Marseilles quilting; and introduced the use of the fly shuttle. This branch of the trade soon acquiring considerable celebrity, many persons were induced to embark in it: the first mill for spinning twist by water was erected at Whitehouse, near Belfast, in 1784, from which period may be dated the fixed establishment of the cotton manufacture; and so rapid was thenceforward its progress that, in 1800, in Belfast and the surrounding country within a circuit of ten miles, it furnished employment to upwards of 13,000 individuals, or, including those indirectly connected with it, to 21,000.
  • In 1811, the number of bags of cotton wool imported into Belfast was 14,320, and the number exported, 3007; leaving for home consumption 11,313, worth £226,260, and, when manufactured, worth about one million sterling. The number of spinners in the mills, at the same period, was estimated at 22,000; of weavers, including attendants on looms, 25,000; and engaged in bleaching, embroidery, making looms, reels, &c., about 5000 more. The manufacture has been since still further extended, and every description of cotton fabric is now produced.


In addition to the two above-named important branches of manufacture, there are, in this county, at Belfast, canvas and rope manufactories, and extensive paper-mills in various places.

  • Woollen stockings are woven in several of the towns; soap and candles are made for exportation and home consumption; the manufacture of chloride of lime and vitriol, for which there is a great demand in the bleach-greens, has long been carried on at Lisburn and Belfast; and the manufacture of leather, though not so extensive as formerly, is still considerable throughout the county.
  • At Belfast are several large iron-foundries and glass-manufactories; and at Lisburn are works for turning and fluting iron. Hence the commerce of this county is very extensive: the exports are linens, linen yarn, cotton goods, all kinds of grain, pork, bacon, hams, beef, butter, eggs, lard, potatoes, soap, and candles; and the imports consist of the raw materials for the cotton manufacture, also coal and the various foreign articles of consumption required by the numerous population.
  • There is an extensive salmon fishery along the coast at Carrickarede, between Ballintoy and Kenbane Head, and this fish is also caught at different places along the entire coast north of Glenarm, and also in the rivers Bann and Bush: all the other rivers, except the Lagan, are likewise frequented by salmon; and all abound with eels, which are taken at weirs in the Bann. There is a great variety of other valuable fish off the coast; of testaceous fish this shore affords the lobster and the crab, and oysters of superior size and flavour are found in Carrickfergus bay; the seal is common.


  • The two largest rivers are the Lagan and the Bann, both of which rise in the county of Down: at Belfast the Lagan spreads into the wide estuary called the bay of Belfast, or Belfast Lough, and above it, with the aid of several cuts, has been made navigable to Lisburn, forming part of the navigation between Belfast and Lough Neagh : the Bann flows through Lough Neagh and Lough Beg, and continues its course to Coleraine, below which it falls into the sea.
  • Most of the rivers strictly belonging to the county rise in the mountains on the coast, and owing to the rapidity and shortness of their currents are unnavigable. The Bush runs westward from the mountains of Lisanoure to Benvarden, and then northward to the sea at Port Ballintrae : the Main flows southward into Lough Neagh, and has three copious tributaries, the Ravel, the Braid, and the Glenwherry: the Six-mile-water also falls into Lough Neagh, at Antrim, and the Camlin, or Crumlin, and Glenavy rivers at Sandy-bay. The rapidity of these and the smaller rivers renders their banks peculiarly advantageous sites for bleach-greens, cotton-mills, and flour and corn-mills, of which the last are especially numerous.
  • The only artificial line of navigation is the Belfast Canal, or Lagan Navigation. The Lagan Navigation Company were incorporated by an act of the 27th of Geo. III, empowering them to levy a duty of one penny per gallon on beer, and fourpence per gallon on spirits, in the excise district of Lisburn; but these duties having recently been repealed, an equivalent sum was annually paid to the Company by Government, until the year 1835, when their right ceased: it is navigable for vessels of fifty tons' burden, and the entire length from Lough Neagh to the quays of Belfast is twenty-two miles: its construction was powerfully aided by the noble family of Chichester, and the expense amounted to £62,000, raised by debentures.

The roads of late years have been gradually improved, the materials existing within the county for making and repairing them being of the best quality.

  • An important and very difficult work, called the Antrim Coast Road, from Larne to Ballycastle, has been lately executed under the immediate control of the Board of Public Works, opening an improved communication with a fine tract of country comprehended between the coast and the range of mountains from Carrickfergus to Ballycastle, and hitherto cut off from any reasonable means of intercourse by the badness of the roads over those mountains; some of which were conducted for miles at slopes varying from one yard in six to one in twelve. Many projects had been formed, at different times, for an improved line, but were abandoned on account of the great expense involved in the execution of them; but at length, a plan with a moderate estimate was sanctioned by the Commissioners, and they and the grand jury granted about £18,000 for carrying it into effect. The new road proceeds from Larne close along the shore to Black Cave, where it winds round the promontory of Ballygalley Head, passing by Glenarm, Cairnlough, Garron Head, and Waterfoot, to Cushendall, where it strikes off inland to its northern terminus at Ballycastle, taking in the few portions of the old line that were available. The greatest difficulties encountered in its formation arose from the necessity of conducting the road, in part of its line, under a considerable extent of rock, some hundreds of feet in height, having its base washed by the open sea; and from its passing along portions of very steep hills of moving clay bank. The former obstacle presented itself at the bold headland of Glenarm deer-park, where about 30,000 cubic yards of rock were, by blasting with great care and judgment, hurled in immense masses down upon the shore; and the road, 21 feet in clear width and 10 feet above the highest tides, has been floored partly on the loose and partly on the solid rock. The latter occurred more particularly at the base of the bill of Cloony, and was by far the more serious obstacle, from the slippery nature of the clay banks and their tendency to move over the road. To counteract this inconvenience the engineer proposed, after having thrown down very large masses of detached rock, which were found strewed over the face of the bank (so as to form a sufficient flooring), to construct a revetment wall, from the summit of which any gradual accumulation of the slippery bank might from time to time be removed. Very solid piers of heavy rough blocks were deeply bedded into the bank, 30 feet apart, to be connected by substantial walls having a vertical curvilinear batter combined with an arched horizontal curve, to which the piers form the abutments. The entire distance being also concave, affords a powerful combination of resistance against the pressure. The old road passes over the hill at an elevation of nearly 200 feet above the sea, with slopes of one in six and upwards; while the new line along the coast is nearly level.
  • A new line of road has been opened from Belfast to Lisburn; another from Belfast to Antrim, which is to be immediately continued to Ballymoney, Ballymena, and Coleraine ; and a third recently from Belfast to Crumlin.
  • A new line has been made from Ballymoney to Dervock, crossing a large and valuable tract of bog; and others are in progress leading respectively from Whitewell-brae to Ballyelare and Ballymena, from Belfast to Carrickfergus and Larne, from Glenayy to Moira, from Doagh to Ballymena, and from Ballymena to Cushendall.
  • But the most important and expensive is the mail coach road from Belfast to Derry, now in progress.
  • The lines from Belfast to Carrickfergus and Larne, and from Antrim to Coleraine (the latter being the Derry road), have been undertaken with the sanction of the Commissioners of Public Works.
  • A double line of railway is in progress from Belfast to Cave Hill, which was the first undertaken in Ireland, but for want of funds was abandoned for some years; the operations have, however, been resumed. Railways are also contemplated from Belfast to Carrickfergus, from Belfast to Armagh (being the Dublin line), and from Armagh to Portrush; the last will only pass about two miles through this county.

Cave Hill

A picture of Cave Hill in Northern Ireland.


The remains of antiquity of earliest date consist of cairns or barrows, cromlechs, raths or intrenchments, and mounts differing in magnitude and form.

  • The most remarkable of the cairns is that on Colin mountain, about three miles north of Lisburn; there is also one on Slieve True, to the west of Carrickfergus, and two on Colinward.
  • Near Cairngrainey, to the north-east of the old road from Belfast to Templepatrick, is the cromlech most worthy of especial notice: it has several table stones resting on numerous upright ones; and near it is a large mount, also several fortified posts different from all others in the county. There is likewise a large cromlech at Mount Druid, near Ballintoy; another at the northern extremity of Island Magee; and Hole Stone, to the east of the road from Antrim to Glenavy, appears to be a relic of the druids.
  • Of mounts, forts, and intrenchments, there is every variety which exists in Ireland; and so numerous are they, that the parishes of Killead and Muckamore alone contain two hundred and thirty; defended by one or more ramparts; and ten mounts, two of them containing caves, of which that called Donald's Mount is a fine specimen of this kind of earthwork. Among the most remarkable of the rest are, one at Donegore, one at Kilconway, one at the Clough-water, one at Dunethery, the last of which is planted with trees; one with a square outwork at Duumacaltar, in the parish of Culfeightrin; Dunmaul fort, near Nappan; one at Cushendall, having a castle within its defences, and probably a Danish relic; one at Drumfane on the Braid, one at Camlent-Oldchurch, and another in a bog near Ballykennedy: one near ConDor has outworks exactly resembling that at Dromore, and in another near Carrickfergus have been found several curious Danish trumpets.
  • Stone hatchets of various sizes have been discovered in several places, but in the greatest numbers near Ballintoy; arrowheads of flint, spearheads of brass, and numerous miscellaneous relics have been found.
  • There have also been discovered a Roman torque, a coin of Valentinian, fibulre, and other Roman antiquities, supposed to be relics of the spoil obtained by the Irish Scots in their plunder of South Britain, in alliance with the Picts.
  • Of the singular round towers, the original purpose of which has been a fertile source of almost innumerable conjectures, there are at present four in this county; viz., one at Antrim, one on Ram's Island in Lough Neagh, a fragment of one near the old church at Trummery (between Lisburn and Moira), and one in the churchyard of Armoy.

Antrim's Round Tower

A picture of Antrim's round tower in Ireland.

  • Archdall enumerates forty-eight religious establishments, as having existed in this county, but adds, that twenty of them are now unknown, and scarcely can the existence of half the entire number be now established by positive evidence. There are still interesting remains of those of Bonamargy, Kells, Glenarm, Glynn near Larne, Muckamore, and White Abbey, to the west of the road from Belfast to Carrickfergus ; and extensive ruins of other religious edifices, in the several townlands of Dundesert, Ballykennedy, and Carmavy, in the parish of Killead.
  • Of ancient fortresses, that of Carrickfergus, which has always been the strongest and most important, is the only one in complete preservation: there are interesting ruins of Green Castle, to the west of the road between Belfast and Carrickfergus; Olderfleet Castle, situated at the extremity of the peninsula which forms one side of the harbour of Lame; Castle Chichester, near the entrance to the peninsula of Island Magee; Red Bay Castle; and the Castle of Court Martin, near Cushendall. Near the northern coast are likewise several old castles, some of which are very difficult of access, and must have been fortresses of great strength prior to the use of artillery: of these the principal are Dunluce, remarkable for its amazing extent and romantic situation, also Dunseverick, Kenbane, Doonaninny, and Castle Carey; in Rathlin Island are the remains of Bruce's Castle. Inland there are also many remains of fortified residences, of which Shane's Castle, the venerable seat of the O'Nials, was destroyed by fire in 1816: Castle Upton is the only mansion of this kind at present habitable. Lisanoure, the beautiful Seat of George Macartney, Esq., on the banks of Lough Guile, is so called from an old fort in the vicinity. Near the summit of White Mountain, two miles north of Lisburn, are the extensive remains of Castle Robin, and at Portmore, near the Little Lough in Ballinderty, are similar remains.

Olderfleet Castle

A picture of Olderfleet Castle in Larne, County Antrim, Ireland.

Upton Castle

A picture of Upton Castle in Templepatrick, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Rathlin Island

A picture of Rathlin island, Ireland.

  • Among the mansions of the nobility and gentry, few are splendid, though many are of considerable elegance; they are noticed under the heads of the parishes in which they are respectively situated.
  • There are numerous mineral springs: one near Ballycastle is chalybeate, another aluminous and vitriolic, and a third, on Knocklaid mountain, chalybeate; at Kilroot there is a nitrous water of a purgative quality; and near Carrickfergus are two salt springs, one at Bella hill, and the other in Island Magee.
  • There are also various natural caverns, of which the most remarkable are those of the picturesque mountain called Cave Hill; a curious and extensive cavity at Black-cave-head, to the north of Larne; a cave of larger dimensions under Red Bay Castle; one under Dunluce Castle; the cave at Port Coon, near the Giant's Causeway; and those of Cushendun and the white rocks, near Dunluce; besides which there are numerous artificial caves.

SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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