1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Carrickfergus

19842681911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Carrickfergus

CARRICKFERGUS, a seaport and watering-place of Co. Antrim, Ireland, in the east parliamentary division; on the northern shore of Belfast Lough, 91/2 m. N.E. of Belfast by the Northern Counties (Midland) railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 4208. It stretches for about 1 m. along the shore of the Lough. The principal building is the castle, originally built by John de Courci towards the close of the 12th century, and subsequently much enlarged. It stands on a projecting rock above the sea, and was formerly a place of much strength. It is still maintained as an arsenal, and mounted with heavy guns. The ancient donjon or keep, 90 ft. in height, is still in good preservation. The town walls, built by Sir Henry Sidney, are still visible on the west and north, and the North Gate remains. The parish church of St Nicholas, an antiquated cruciform structure with curious Elizabethan work in the north transept, and monuments of the Chichester family, was originally a chapel or oratory dependent on a Franciscan monastery. The entrance to a subterranean passage between the two establishments is still visible under the communion-table of the church. The gaol, built on the site of the monastery above mentioned, was formerly the county of Antrim prison. The court-house, which adjoins the gaol, is a modern building. The town has some trade in domestic produce, and in leather and linen manufactures, there being several flax spinning-mills and bleach-works in the immediate neighbourhood. Distilling is carried on. The harbour admits vessels of 500 tons. The fisheries are valuable, especially the oyster fisheries. At Duncrue about 2 m. from the town, rock salt of remarkable purity and in large quantity is found in the Triassic sandstone. The neighbouring country is generally hilly, and Slieve True (1100 ft.) commands a magnificent prospect.

In 1182, John de Courci, to whom Henry II. had granted all the parts of Ulster he could obtain possession of by the sword, fixed a colony in this district. The castle came in the 13th century into possession of the De Lacy family, who, being ejected, invited Edward Bruce to besiege it (1315). After a desperate resistance the garrison surrendered. In 1386, the town was burned by the Scots, and in 1400 was destroyed by the combined Scots and Irish. Subsequently, it suffered much by famine and the occasional assaults of the neighbouring Irish chieftains, whose favour the townsmen were at length forced to secure by the payment of an annual tribute. In the reign of Charles I. many Scottish Covenanters settled in the neighbourhood to avoid the persecution directed against them. In the civil wars, from 1641, Carrickfergus was one of the chief places of refuge for the Protestants of the county of Antrim; and on the 10th of June 1642, the first Presbytery held in Ireland met here. In that year the garrison was commanded by General Robert Munro, who, having afterwards relinquished the cause of the English parliament, was surprised and taken prisoner by Sir Robert Adair in 1648. At a later period Carrickfergus was held by the partisans of James II., but surrendered in 1689 to the forces under King William’s general Schomberg; and in 1690 it was visited by King William, who landed here on his expedition to Ireland. In 1760 it was surprised by a French squadron under Commodore Thurot, who landed with about 1000 men, and, after holding the place for a few days, evacuated it on the approach of the English troops. Eighteen years later Paul Jones, in his ship the “Ranger,” succeeded in capturing the “Drake,” a British sloop-of war, in the neighbouring bay; but he left without molesting the town. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the town obtained a charter, and this was confirmed by James I., who added the privilege of sending two burgesses to the Irish parliament. The corporation, however, was superseded, under the provisions of the Municipal Reform Act of 1840, by a board of municipal commissioners. Carrickfergus was a parliamentary borough until 1885; and a county of a town till 1898, having previously (till 1850) been the county town of county Antrim. But its importance was sapped by the vicinity of Belfast, and its historical associations are now its chief interest.