September 25th  - Archaeological sites in the Carrickfergus Area

 A good group of members assembled in Carrickfergus under the shadow of the castle and while they were disappointed to find that Andrew Gault had to send his regrets they were happy enough to continue under my guidance. 

First stop was Kilroot Bishop’s Palace near the coast beyond Eden village. Here we mused on the tradition that St Patrick had founded a church here and we tried to imagine what kind of establishment this might have been. A small walled graveyard (see opposite) is well used and raised above the surrounding ground now but in the 19th century burial was known to have extended further out. The low walls of the church were still discernible in the early 19th century and in 2002 an excavation carried out immediately to east found evidence of earlier burials. A replica bullaun stands on a plinth in the graveyard while the original is cared for in nearby St Colman’s Church of Ireland church.

The fine three storey house beside the graveyard is an elaboration of an early 17th century Bishop’s Palace and it gazes along the straight avenue to west which continues towards Castle Dobbs across the county road. A defensive bawn was built around the garden at that time and one circular flanking tower, later converted to a dovecot, remains of an original four. A clear survival of the 17th century formal garden is a stretch of silted up canal.

Jonathan Swift lived nearby while rector of Ballycarry but unfortunately his house was demolished in the 1950s.

We processed to Glynn Church (see opposite) next and admired the relict medieval field system as expressed on the 1857 OS six-inch map. We read that the original foundation here is also attributed to Patrick but there are no clues to this earlier period surviving above ground. The church is under conservation by NIEA at present and we examined the chancel and nave, two quite distinct sections and debated about whether one was an extension of the other as it is unusually long for a church at 23m. 


The east window is relatively intact although needing support and there are other windows in the north and south walls but partly ruined.  All in all the ruin doesn’t seem to have changed much since it was sketched by F. Morewood in 1896 ( UJA, Series 2 (1896) 180-83).

The next stop was Ballycarry to look over the 17th-century ruined church, the last of several at this place where there is evidence of an Early Christian ecclesiastical enclosure of probable 6th or 7th century date which in turn had been built on an area of Neolithic activity.  We agreed that the church was in a reasonable state in spite of family vaults being built within it. Gun loops low down in the west wall attest to its possible defensive use, possibly during the 1640s. The Orr memorial was much admired although it is in need of some careful conservation.

We repaired to Carrickfergus passing Dalway’s Bawn en route and joined a tour of the 17th century walls in the company of expert Ruairi O’Baoill who has spent many years excavating and researching the town.


These are in a good state of preservation, and it is interesting to be able to see the breach (picture below) made in the walls in 1689 when the Jacobite garrison then holding the town was put under siege by General Schomberg - the regular courses of masonry giving way to irregular infill.

Claire Foley

Field Trip Reports 2010Field_Trip_Reports.html

Orr Memorial

Glynn Church

Graveyard at Bishop’s Palace

Carrickfergus walls

17th Century walls

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