- Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman
castlein Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergusin County Antrim, on the shore of Belfast Lough. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in the whole of Ireland. It was useful as 3/4 of the perimeter is covered by water. Today it is maintained by the Environment and Heritage Serviceas a State Care Historic Monument, at grid ref: J4143 8725. [cite web | title=Carrickfergus Castle | work=Environment and Heritage Service NI - State Care Historic Monuments | url=http://www.ehsni.gov.uk/state_care_monuments_2007.pdf | accessdate=2007-12-03]
Carrickfergus Castle was built by
John de Courcyin 1177 as his headquarters, after he conquered eastern Ulsterin 1177 and ruled as a petty king until 1204, when he was ousted by another Norman adventurer, Hugh de Lacy. Initially de Courcy built the inner ward, a small bailey at the end of the promontory with a high polygonal curtain wall and east gate. It had a number of buildings, including the great hall. From its strategic position on a rocky promontory, originally almost surrounded by sea, the castle commanded Belfast Lough, and the land approaches into the walled town that developed beneath its shadows.
It appears first in the official English records in 1210 when King John laid siege to it and took control of what was then
Ulster’s premier strategic garrison. Following its capture, constables were appointed to command the castle and the surrounding area. In 1217 the new constable, De Serlane, was assigned one hundred pounds to build a new curtain wall so that the approach along the rock could be protected, as well as the eastern approaches over the sand exposed at low tide. The middle-ward curtain wall was later reduced to ground level in the eighteenth century, save along the seaward side, where it survives with a postern gate and the east tower, notable for a fine array of cross-bowloops at basement level.
chamberon the first floor of the east tower is believed to have been the castle's chapelon account of its fine Romanesque-style double window surround, though the original chapel must have been in the inner ward. The ribbed vault over the entrance passage, the murder holeand the massive portcullisat either end of the gatehouseare later insertions, probably part of the remodelling that followed Edward Bruce's long and bitter siege of 1315-1316.
After the collapse of the
Earldom of Ulsterin 1333, the castle remained the Crown's principal residential and administrative centre in the north of Ireland. During the early stages of the Nine Years War (1595-1603), when English influence in the north became tenuous, crown forces were supplied and maintained through the town's port. And in 1597, the surrounding country was the scene for the Battle of Carrickfergus.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a number of improvements were made to accommodate
artillery, notably externally splayed gunports and embrasures for cannon, though these improvements did not prevent the castle from being attacked and captured on many occasions during this time. General Schombergbesieged and took the castle in 1690. This is also the place where Schomberg's leader, King William III first set foot in Ireland on 14 June, 1690.
In 1760, after fierce fighting in the town, it was surrendered to French invaders under the command of
Francois Thurot. They looted the castle and town and then left, only to be caught by the Royal Navy.
In 1778, a small but significant event in the
American War of Independencebegan at Carrickfergus, when John Paul Jones, in the face of reluctance by his crew to approach too close to the Castle, lured a Royal Navyvessel from its moorings into the North Channel, and won an hour-long battle. In 1797 the Castle, which had on various occasions been used to house prisoners of war, became a prisonand it was heavily defended during the Napoleonic Wars; six guns on the east battery remain of the twenty-two that were used in 1811.
For a century it remained a magazine and armory. During the
First World Warit was used as a garrisonand ordnance store and during the Second World Waras an air raid shelter.
It was garrisoned continuously for about 750 years until 1928, when its ownership was transferred to the government for preservation as an ancient
monumentand it is open to the public. The banqueting hall has been fully restored and there are many exhibits to show what life was like in medievaltimes.
Castles in Northern Ireland
* [http://www.ehsni.gov.uk/places/monuments/carrick.shtml Environment and Heritage Service - Carrickfergus Castle]
* [http://www.orangenet.org/carrickfergus.htm Carrickfergus Castle]
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