Sunday, 25 October 2015

Old Belfast Castle

THE BUILDING OF BELFAST CASTLE, Ca 1611

When Sir Arthur Chichester, the younger son of Sir John Chichester, was granted by Patent of JAMES I, 8th November, 1603, 
"the Castle of Bealfaste, or Belfast, with the Appurtenants and Hereditaments, Spiritual and Temporal, situate in the Lower Clandeboye"
he did not fully realize the value of the property thereby granted.

Chichester was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in the following year, at a salary of £1,000 per annum, together with £500 for an outfit and some fees attaching to his office.

But on the death of the preceding Lord Deputy, Charles Blount, 5th Baron Mountjoy and Earl of Devonshire, Sir Arthur wrote to Cecil, 25th April, 1606, asking to be transferred to
"some meaner office" giving as his reason that his "fortunes are poor, not having a foot of land or inheritance, but such as his Majesty gave him in the North, of which he makes small benefit, and his expenses last year greatly exceeded his income."
Even three years after he had become the proprietor of the lands upon which that part of the City of Belfast, situated in the County of Antrim, now stands, he apparently failed to realise the potential value of his acquisitions.

In the development of that property, however, he was retarded by the onerous and exacting duties attaching to his high office, and it was not until after 1610 that the project of building a new Castle upon "the ruynes of the decayed Castle" was carried to completion.

The report, undated, but supposed to be about 1611, bears the following signatures:
  • Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy, Baron Chichester 
  • George Carew, Earl of Totnes, Baron Carew 
  • Thomas Ridgeway, Earl of Londonderry 
  • Sir Richard Wingfield, Viscount Powerscourt 
  • Sir Oliver Lambart, Baron Lambart of Cavan
"We came to Belfast where we found many masons, bricklayers, and other labourers working, who had taken down the ruins of the decayed Castle there almost to the vault of the cellars, and had likewise laid the foundation of a brick house 50 foot long which is to be adjoined to the said Castle by no staircase of brick well [sic] is to be 14 foot square.

The house to be made 20 foot wide, and 2 storeys and a half high.

The Castle is to be built two storeys above the cellars, all the rooms thereof to be vaulted, and platforms to be made thereupon.

The staircase is to be made 10 foot higher than the Castle, about which Castle and house there is a strong bawn almost finished which is flanked with four half bulwarks.

The foundation of the wall and bulwarks to the height of the water-table is made with stone, and the rest, being in all 12 foot high above the ground, is made with brick, the bawn is to be composed about with a large and deep ditch or moat which will always stand full of water.

The Castle will defend the passage over the ford at Belfast between the upper and lower Clandeboye, and likewise the bridge over the River of Owenvarra between Malone and Belfast.

This work is in so good forward [sic] that it is like to be finished by the middle of the next summer.

The town of Belfast is plotted out in a good form, wherein are many families of English, Scottish, and some Manxmen already inhabiting, of which some are artificers who have built good timber houses with chimneys after the fashion of the English pale, and one inn with very good lodgings which is a great comfort to the travellers in those parts.

Near which town the said Sir Arthur Chichester has already made above twelve hundred thousand of good bricks, whereof after finishing the said Castle, house, and bawn, there will be a good proportion left for the building of other tenements within the said Town."

First published in July, 2012.   Source: Eddie's Book Extracts.

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