KNOCKBREDA, or KNOCK-with-BREDA, a parish, partly in the barony of LOWER, but chiefly in that of UPPER CASTLEREAGH, county of DOWN, and province of ULSTER, 2 miles (S. S. E.) from Belfast, on the road to Downpatrick ; containing 3900 inhabitants.
The ancient fortress called Castle Reagh, or "the royal castle," which gives name to the barony, was formerly the baronial residence of a branch of the O'Nials. It is said to have been erected in the reign of Edw. III. by Aodh Flann, whose descendants possessed the Great Ardes, Toome, Massereene, Shankill or Belfast, and Carrickfergus. By inquisition in the reign of Elizabeth it appeared that Con O'Nial, the last of that powerful sept, possessed this castle, together with 224 townlauds, which were all freehold, and also many others held by various tenures. In 1602, O'Nial having exhausted his cellars during a grand banquet which he gave here, sent some of his soldiers to Belfast to procure more wine ; and there meeting with a party of the Queen's soldiers, a battle ensued, and O'Nial was sent prisoner to Carrickfergus castle, but was liberated the year following by the master of a Scottish trading vessel and conveyed to Scotland, where Sir Hugh Montgomery, in consequence of a surrender of most of his lands, obtained a pardon for him from Jas. 1., who had just ascended the English throne. After the decease of O'Nial, the castle fell into decay, and with the adjoining lands was purchased by the Hillsborough family ; there are now no vestiges of it.
The parish is bounded on the north and west by the river Lagan, over which are two bridges connecting it with the parish of Belfast, and is intersected by the great Scottish road by way of Donaghadee. It comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 8098 statute acres, of which 6968 are in the Upper and 1129 in the Lower barony ; the lands are chiefly under tillage, and in a high state of cultivation ; there is neither bog nor any wasteland.
Large quantities of tobacco were grown previously to its cultivation being prohibited.
There are extensive quarries of clay-slate for building and for repairing the roads ; and on the townland of Gillinahirk has been opened a fine quarry of basalt, of which a bridge is now being built at Belfast over the river Lagan, which is navigable along the whole boundary of the parish.
The surrounding scenery is richly diversified, and within the parish are
Ormean, the seat of the Marquess of Donegal ;
Belvoir Park, the residence of Sir R. Bateson, Bart. ;
Purdysburn, the splendid mansion of Narcissus Batt, Esq., built after a design by Hopper, in 1825, in the Elizabethan style ;
Orangefield, of J. H. Houston, Esq. ;
Fort Breda, of W. Boyd, Esq. ;
Cherry Vale, of J. Stewart, Esq. ; and
Ravenhill, of H. R. Sneyd, Esq.
Previously to 1658 there were two separate parishes, called respectively Knock and Breda, both rectories ; but the church of the latter being in ruins, they were united into one rectory at the restoration of Chas. II.
The two villages have long since disappeared, and a parish church was, in 1747, built in the village of Newtown-Breda, which see.
The rectory is in the diocese of Down, and in the patronage of Sir R. Bateson, Bart., who purchased the advowson in 1825 ;
the tithes amount to £586. 5. 7.
The glebe-house was built in 1816, by a gift of £100 and a loan of £825 from the late Board of First Fruits:
the glebe comprises nearly 20 statute acres.
The chapel of Ballymacarrett was formerly in this parish, from which that townland was separated by act of parliament in 1825, and made a distinct parish.
There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, Covenanters, and Seceders.
About 130 children are taught in three public schools, of which one is supported by Mrs. Blakeston ; and there are five private schools, in which are about 170 children, and four Sunday schools.
Six almshouses, built by subscription in 1810, are endowed with £100 by the Rev. Mr. Pratt, late rector, who also bequeathed £100 to the poor, to whom Lady Midleton, in 1747, left £50.
On an eminence near the south-eastern extremity of the parish are the picturesque ruins of Knock church ; and near them are the remains of a cromlech, consisting of five large stones, and a Danish rath of conical form.
Of Breda church there are no remains, except the cemetery enclosed with a high stone wall in Belvoir park, in which is a small mausoleum built by Arthur Hill Trevor, who was created Viscount Dungannon in 1765.