World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Scots: Doonpetèrick[1] or Doonpetherick[2]
Irish: Dún Pádraig
Downpatrick is located in Northern Ireland
 Downpatrick shown within Northern Ireland
Population 10,737 (2011 Census)
District Newry, Mourne and Down
County County Down
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT30 6
Dialling code 02844
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament South Down
NI Assembly South Down
List of places
Northern Ireland
Downpatrick, October 2009
Reputed grave of St. Patrick

Downpatrick (from Irish: Dún Pádraig, meaning "Patrick's stronghold")[3] is a medium-sized town about 33 km (21 mi) south of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. It has been an important site since ancient times and its cathedral is said to be the burial place of Saint Patrick. Today it is the county town of Down and the joint headquarters of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. It had a population of 10,737 at the 2011 Census.


  • Overview 1
  • Geography 2
  • History 3
    • Pre-history 3.1
    • Early history 3.2
    • 18th century 3.3
    • 19th century 3.4
    • The Troubles 3.5
  • Places of interest 4
  • Demography 5
  • Transport 6
  • Education 7
    • Primary schools 7.1
    • Post-primary schools 7.2
    • Further and higher education 7.3
  • Media 8
  • People 9
  • Sport & Clubs 10
    • Gaelic games 10.1
    • Cricket 10.2
    • Rugby union 10.3
    • Association football 10.4
    • Snooker and billiards 10.5
    • Bowls 10.6
    • Other sports 10.7
    • Youth clubs 10.8
  • Annalistic references 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


As the largest town in the Lecale area, Downpatrick is a commercial, recreational and administrative centre for the locality and serves as a hub for the nearby towns and villages. Within an hour drive of Belfast, the location serves as a commuter town for a large number of people. The town has a number of primary and post-primary schools educating students from all over the east Down area.


Downpatrick is characterised by the rolling drumlins that are a feature of the Lecale area and a legacy of glaciation during the Pleistocene, the Down drumlins themselves are underlaid by Ordovician and Silurian shales and grits. It also has the distinction of being the lowest place on the island of Ireland, with the marsh surrounding the north east of the town recorded as being 1.3 ft (0 m) below sea level. Downpatrick is approximately 22 miles (35 km) from Belfast with a regular bus service.



An early Bronze Age site was excavated in Downpatrick on the Meadowlands housing estate, revealing two round houses. One measured over 4 metres in diameter and contained a hearth in the centre, while the other round house was over seven metres across.[4]

There is some archaeological evidence of Neolithic settlement at the Cathedral Hill site which otherwise appears to have been unoccupied until the late Bronze Age when there was an undefended settlement at least on the south west of the hill top.[5]

Early history

Downpatrick or Duno [6] is one of Ireland's most ancient and historic towns. It takes its name from a dún (fort), which once stood on the hill that dominates the town and on which Down Cathedral stands. Ptolemy, about the year AD 130, includes it (in Latin) as Dunum in his list of towns of Ireland. The old name of the town was Rath Celtair named after the mythological warrior of Ulster called Celtchar (in modern Irish: Cealtachair) who resided there and who fought alongside Ulster King Conchobar mac Neasa (anglicised Conor Mac Nessa) and is mentioned in the Ulster Cycle and, in particular, the Táin Bó Cuailgne. The name was superseded by the name Dún Lethglaise then Dún Dá Lethglas which in turn gave way, in the 13th century, to the present name of Dún Phádraig (anglicised as Downpatrick) – from the town's connection with the patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick was reputedly buried here in 461 on Cathedral Hill, together with Saint Bridget an Saint Colomban, within the grounds of Down Cathedral (before its construction).[7] His grave is still a place of pilgrimage on St Patricks Day (17 March each year). The Saint Patrick Visitor Centre in Downpatrick is purpose-built to tell the story of St Patrick.

From the seventh century the dominant power in Ulster were the Dál Fiatach so much so that the title "Rí Uladh" could simultaneously mean "King of Ulster" and "King of the Dál Fiatach". County Down was the ancient centre of the Dál Fiatach lands, and the chief royal site and religious centre of the Dál Fiatach was at Downpatrick from where they ruled Ulster for centuries.

In 1137, St. Malachy after resigning as Archbishop of Armagh, separating the two dioceses and appointing another as Bishop of Connor, became the Bishop of Down. He administered the diocese of Dún dá leth glas (Down) from Bangor and introduced a community of Augustinians (canons) to Dún dá leth glas dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and repaired and enlarged Down Cathedral.

After having received a grant of Ulster from King Henry II of England, Norman Knight, John de Courcy set out from Dublin in early 1177 to take possession of it. He marched north to with a force of 20 knights and 300 men and reached Downpatrick four days later. Downpatrick was an open ecclesiastical town of the old type and the invaders rode in and surprised it in the small hours of 2 February. De Courcy attacked the fortress and administrative centre of Rath Celtair (the Mound of Down), defeating and driving off Rory MacDonlevy (Ruaidhri Mac Duinnshleibhe), King of the Dál Fiatach and Ulster (Ulaid).

In 1183, John de Courcy brought in some Benedictines from the abbey of St. Werburgh in Chester (today Chester Cathedral) in England and built a cathedral friary for them at Downpatrick. This building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1245.[8] De Courcy reputedly found not only the bones of St. Patrick on Cathedral Hill but also the bones of St. Brigid and St. Colmcille (St.Columba) and in the presence of the Papal Legate, Vivian, Cardinal-priest of Santo Stefano Rotondo (also Santo Stefano al Monte Celio), the relics were reburied on 9 June 1186.

In 1260 Brian O'Neill (Brian Ua Néill), King of Tír Eoghain (Tyrone) and who had been acknowledged as High King of Ireland by Hugh O'Conor of Connacht and Tadhg O'Brien of Thomond marched to Downpatrick, a centre of English settlement, and, allied with a Connacht force under Hugh O'Conor, fought the foreigners in the Battle of Down. The battle took place outside the city of Down and O'Neill, 8 Connacht lords and many others died. The death of Brian O'Neill and the defeat of the Irish was lamented by the Cenél nEógain bard Gilbride MacNamee (Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe)(1210–1272) in a poem.

Following the rebellion of Shane O'Neill in 1567, Downpatrick fell briefly into Irish hands before being re-taken by Sir Richard Morrison (Moryson).

Great scholar, poet, bishop and Franciscan theologian Aodh Mac Aingil (real name Aodh Mac Cathmhaoil) was born outside Dún (Downpatrick) in 1571.

On 21 January 1575, three Franciscans John Lochran, Donagh O'Rorke, and Edmund Fitzsimon were hanged at Downpatrick.

18th century

Four main thoroughfares are shown converging on a town plan of 1724, namely, English Street, Scotch (now Saul) Street, Barrack (now Scotch) Street, and Irish Street. Topography limited expansion of the town and so the basic early-18th-century street plan continued largely unchanged until 1838 when Church Street was built, followed by Market Street in 1846.

The condition of the town was greatly improved in the 18th century by a land-owning family named Southwell. The first Edward Southwell was responsible for building a almshouse, Southwell School, Downpatrick.

Down County Infirmary was established in a house in Saul Street in October 1767, and remained there for seven years until it was moved to Barrack Lane (now Fountain Street) where the former Horse Barracks, was purchased, in 1774, for £150 for use as the Infirmary. It was used until the new Infirmary (now the Downe Hospital) was opened in 1834.

In June 1778, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism famously preached both in the new preaching house in Downpatrick and in The Grove beside the ruins of Down Cathedral which he called a "noble ruin".

19th century

On 21 October 1803, co-founder and leader of the United Irishmen, Thomas Russell, "the man from God knows where", was hanged outside Downpatrick Gaol for his part in Robert Emmet's failed rebellion of the same year. Thomas Russell is buried in the graveyard of the Anglican parish Church of Downpatrick, St Margaret's, in a grave paid for by his great friend, Mary Ann McCracken sister of leading Belfast United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken.

In his role as barrister, Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator", was called away from London to Downpatrick to attend the County Down Assizes, as counsel in a case heard on 1 April 1829.[9] As the leading proponent campaigning for Catholic Emancipation, he had been in London for the passage in its final legislative stages of the Emancipation Bill from the British House of Commons through to the House of Lords and thence into law. Once passed, the Emancipation Act 1829 allowed Catholics to become members of parliament in the British House of Commons, something which they had been previously barred from doing. Taken along with the highly significant Catholic Relief Act 1829 which O'Connell had also vigorously campaigned for, and which saw amongst other things repeal of the remaining Penal Laws, many of the substantial restrictions on Catholics in the United Kingdom were now lifted.

On 30 March 1829, a meeting of the Catholics of the parish of Down, under the chairmanship of the Rev. Cornelius Denvir, voted an address of gratitude to O'Connell on having achieved Emancipation. A deputation presented this address to O'Connell. On 2 April 1829 O'Connell was present at a public dinner at Downpatrick in his honour attended by ' upwards of eighty gentlemen, of different religious persuasions '.

On 17 March 1848, a crowd of between 2,000 – 3,000 set off from Old Course Road intending to march to the reputed grave of St. Patrick on Cathedral Hill but were attacked en route by Orange protesters at the Irish Street shambles who had heard about the St. Patrick's day parade; a riot ensued.

The Troubles

Downpatrick, throughout the course of The Troubles, had a significant paramilitary presence in the town, mostly through the presence of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) & Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)

Places of interest

Quoile Castle, near Downpatrick
  • Ballyalton Court Cairn is a single court grave situated on a rock outcrop by the roadside 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from Ballyalton village, which is 2.25 miles (3.62 km) east of Downpatrick, at grid ref 531 448.[10]
  • Ballynoe Stone Circle, a large circle of over 50 closely spaced upright stones, surrounding a mound which, when excavated, was found to contain two cists in which cremated bones were found, is only 2.5 miles (4 km) south in the hamlet of Ballynoe. The site is near the disused railway station, reached by a long footpath off the main road, at grid ref: J481404.[11]
  • Down County Museum, is located on the Mall in English Street in Downpatrick and was formerly the old Down County Gaol. It was built between 1789 and 1796 at the behest of the County Grand Jury of Down under the supervision of Marquess of Downshire, the Earl of Hillsborough and the Hon Edward Ward, it was designed by architect Charles Lilly. The building served for a time as a barracks for the South Down Militia. It is famously where, at its gates, United Irishman, Thomas Russell was hanged in 1803.
  • Downpatrick Racecourse, is located on the Ballydugan Road on the outskirts of Downpatrick. Horse racing has been held at Downpatrick under the charter of James II of England.
  • Downpatrick & County Down Railway is Ireland's only full-sized heritage railway. Built on the BCDR's former line to Belfast, it links the town with Inch Abbey and various other places of historical interest. The railway houses Ireland's largest collection of Victorian carriages, eight diesel locomotives, three steam engines, and several railcars.
  • Inch Abbey, a large, ruined Cistercian monastic site featuring early Gothic architecture is 0.75 miles (1.2 km) north-west of Downpatrick on the north bank of the River Quoile off the main road to Belfast, at grid ref: J477455.
  • The Lecale peninsula covers an area of some 78 square miles (200 km2) between Downpatrick and Dundrum. It is an area of historical and geographic significance.
  • The Mound of Down or Rathkeltair is one of the major earthworks of Ulster, situated on the NW edge of Downpatrick it is a good example of an Iron Age defensive earthwork in the middle of which a Norman Motte and Bailey was built by John de Courcy after his defeat of Rory Mac Donlevy in 1177. Some believe that it was the residence of Celtchar mac Ulthechair, the legendary Iron Age hero of the Ulster Cycle. It seems to have become the administrative centre of the Kings of Dál Fiatach by the early Christian period.
  • St. Patrick Center, is the only permanent exhibition in the world dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, and one of the best tourist destinations in Ireland. As a nonprofit educational organisation offers of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, thousands of children each year and the ongoing cross-border and international youth programs.
  • Quoile Castle is a ruined 16th-century tower house, just off the main road from Downpatrick to Strangford, at grid ref: J4963 4701.
  • Struell Wells is a set of four holy wells 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of Downpatrick (grid ref: J513442).[12] The wells date from before the time of Saint Patrick, and even today are used for people seeking cures.[13]
  • As of 2009, an Eclipse Cinema was opened in Downpatrick which is a very popular destination among the community both as a cinema and a venue for events.


Downpatrick is classified as a medium town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (i.e. with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people).[14] On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 10,316 people living in Downpatrick. Of these:

  • 26.6% were aged under 16 years and 16.0% were aged 60 and over
  • 48.5% of the population were male and 51.5% were female
  • 87.8% were from a Roman Catholic background and 10.9% were from a Protestant background
  • 6.1% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.[15]



Primary schools

  • Downpatrick Primary School – "controlled" Primary School.
  • Bunscoil Naomh Pádraig (St Patrick's Primary School) – Irish Speaking Primary School.
  • Down High School Prep – Department. "controlled" Primary School.
  • St Brigid's Primary School – Roman Catholic Primary School.
  • St Colmcille's Primary School – Roman Catholic Primary School.
  • Our Lady & St Patrick Primary School – Roman Catholic Primary School. (St Patrick's Boys' Primary School & Convent of Mercy Primary School merged to form this school which is situated at the old Convent of Mercy building, with a new school building in the planning stages.)
Irish Street.

Post-primary schools

Further and higher education


The area is served by two weekly newspapers:

  • Down News – established 2009, Online Newspaper providing the County Down Area with the latest news accessible from anywhere.
  • Down Recorder – established 1836

Community Radio:

  • South Eastern Regional College.


  • Ann Breen, a country singer, is from Downpatrick. She is often referred to as "The Star of the County Down".
  • Lynn Doyle, the pseudonym of the humorist and playwright Leslie Alexander Montgomery, was born in Downpatrick on 5 October 1873 (died 18 August 1961). He was part of the Ulster Literary Theatre movement and is most famous for his Ballygullion series of twenty books which fondly caricatured Northern Ireland village life. He chose his pseudonym after seeing a large tin of linseed oil in a paint shop, initially signing "Lynn C. Doyle" but later dropping the "C.".
  • Dr. Maurice Hayes, the former Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Chairman of the Ireland Funds and Taoiseach-appointed Senator in Seanad Éireann, was born and still lives in Downpatrick. He has written a memoir about growing up in the town titled Black Puddings with Slim. He served as town clerk of Downpatrick in the 1960s, succeeding his father in the role.
  • The rock bands Ash, Relish and Rosetta Stone are from Downpatrick.
  • Tim Wheeler, lead singer of rock band Ash is from Downpatrick.
  • Paul Mahon, guitarist of rock band The Answer is from Downpatrick.
  • James Heatley, drummer for rock band The Answer lives in Downpatrick.
  • Ian Mitchell from the band Bay City Rollers was born in Downpatrick.
  • Former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Leader Margaret Richie MLA was born and also lives in Downpatrick.
  • Barry Holland of Cliftonville F.C. is from Downpatrick.
  • Tony Dobbin 1997 winner of the Grand National is from Downpatrick.
  • The comedian Colin Murphy is from Downpatrick.
  • Patrick Kielty attended (St. Patrick's Grammar) school in Downpatrick.
  • Miles Kington journalist, musician and broadcaster born in Downpatrick.
  • Thomas Russell the United Irishman co-founder who took part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and Robert Emmet's failed rebellion of 1803 was gaoled and executed at Down County Gaol by hanging on 21 October 1803. His memory is honoured by the local GAA club being named after him.
  • Robert Scott, recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Folk and Ballad Group "Poteen" are from Downpatrick

Sport & Clubs

Gaelic games

Downpatrick is home to RGU Dún Phádraig GAC. The Russell Gaelic Union was formed by an Englishman a Scotsman and an Irishman: Willie King, Alex McDowell and Willie Byrne respectively, I n the county town in the early 20th century. The team traditionally wears green and white hoops. Downpatrick has had mixed fortunes over the years but has still managed to produce excellent county footballers such as Ray McConville, Conor Deegan, Barry Breen all of whom won All-Irelands with Down. Peter and Damien Turley are current Down players.


Downpatrick Cricket Club has won the Irish Senior Cup on two occasions, the NCU Senior League on six occasions and the NCU Challenge Cup on six occasions. The club's Strangford Road ground has hosted Ireland international matches, most recently against Australia "A" and South Africa in 1998.[17]

Rugby union

The community of Downpatrick also features two Rugby Clubs.[18] These clubs are Ballynahinch Rugby Football Club[19] and Dromorer Rugby Football Club.

Association football

Downpatrick's most prominent team is Downpatrick F.C., which competes in the Northern Amateur Football League. There are, however, numerous other clubs associated with the town, and others from surrounding areas. These include Castleabbey F.C, Ballynagross F.C[20] and Rossglass County F.C[21]

There are also many youth teams such as the Celtic Bhoys, Ballynagross Shamrocks, Rossglass and Patrician, who along with many other teams in the area, participate in the Downpatrick Youth League. Downpatrick also has two female clubs in the town Ballyvange Ladies F.C & Downpatrick Ladies F.C who compete in The Northern Ireland Woman's Football Association. Most famous football side out of Downpatrick were Downpatrick Rec who won the Steel & Sons Cup in 1978. Downpatrick is home to one of the biggest Irish branches of the Manchester United Supporters' Club, the Downpatrick Manchester United Supporters' Club, which was founded in 1993.

Snooker and billiards

Downpatrick is also the home of the Downpatrick & District Snooker & Billiard League.[22] Many of the local towns compete in the highly successful leagues. Teams from Downpatrick, Newcastle, Ballynahinch, Crossgar, Drumaness, Ballykinler, Castlewellan, Newtownards and Ballyalton strive to be the best in the local district. The league currently has the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association Billiard Champion Darren Dornan playing in the league.


Downpatrick Bowling Club is situated on the Old Belfast road, Downpatrick. Having been established since the early 1950s it is only over the last several years that they have finally enjoyed a sustained period of success. The club won the Irish Bowling Association Junior Cup for the first time in their history in 2006. The following year they once again reached the final only to be beaten by Cookstown in a close encounter. However the club once again regained the Irish Cup in 2011, with a resounding victory against Kilrea. In 2011 Downpatrick also won the PGL Midweek Division 2 title.

Other sports

Downpatrick Golf Club[23] has its own club grounds. The town also has its own tennis club Downpatrick Tennis Club[24] Downpatrick has several other clubs that use the facilities of the Down Leisure Centre (run by Down District Council) such as the Lecale Amateur Swimming Club, the Downpatrick School of Lifesaving and the East Down Athletics Club.

Youth clubs

  • Youth Initiatives started its third branch in Downpatrick in 2007. It is a cross community youth organisation/charity which aims to awaken hope, inspire initiative, mobilise youth to make a vital contribution to their community and to reconciliation in Northern Ireland through the discovery and renewal of Christian faith in daily life. Their work spans from outreach/detached youth work within local council estates to weekly youth fellowships within local churches.
  • Patrician Youth Centre is a full-time voluntary Catholic Parish Youth Centre, situated centrally in the town of Downpatrick since 1981.

Annalistic references

See Annals of Inisfallen

  • AI1026.5 Mael Petair Ua hAilecáin, lector of Dún dá Lethglas, rested in Christ.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ An Archaeological Survey of the County Down, HMSO, Belfast, 1966, p.98
  6. ^ The Life of Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland
  7. ^ Gerald of Wales, Topography of Ireland
  8. ^
  9. ^ Selected reports from the Belfast Newsletter
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^

External links

  • Newry, Mourne & Down District Council
  • Activ Downpatrick – The Online Guide to Downpatrick[dead link]
  • Armagh and Down Tourism
  • Downpatrick & County Down Railway
  • Down County Museum
  • Down Arts Centre
  • The Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick
  • Downpatrick High Cross and Cathedral at MegalithicIreland
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.