Thursday, 8 April 2021

Glenarm

EDITED EXTRACTS FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY GAZETTEER OF IRELAND, PUBLISHED IN 1846


GLENARM, a small market and post town, in the parish of Tickmacrevan, barony of Lower Glenarm, County Antrim.

It stands at the influx of the Glenarm rivulet to Glenarm Bay, eight miles north-west of Larne, ten east-north-east of Broughshane, and 25½ north of Belfast.

Its site is the lowest ground in the deep and sequestered glen, almost overhung on each side by the glen's lofty hill-screens, and naturally all but inaccessible, except by the sea, or by the narrow pass along the glen.

The rivulet is spanned by a handsome stone bridge of several arches; and on one bank stands the village, with its whitened cottages, its salt-works, and its lime quarries; on the other, the imposing though fanciful form of GLENARM CASTLE, and the parish church, with its modest but gracefully rising spire.

The village presents in its inn, its neat church, its chapel, its prettily situated meeting-house, its clean and prosperous appearance, and the romantic character of its situation, a very pleasing object to the eye; and has been compared to the Welsh villages of Beddgelert and Tremadog, but out-rivalling the former with its bold, sea-beaten shore, and the latter with its closely impending hills.

"Glenarm, the most interesting of all the little towns on the northern coast," says Mr Fraser, "is picturesquely situated at the foot of a lovely glen, which separates the mountains connected with Collin Top and Slemish."

"It is washed by the mountain wave on the north, protected on the west from boisterous winds by the hills of Nachore, which blend with the beetling promontory of Garron Point; and beautifully on the south, by the trees which adorn the residence of the Earls of Antrim."

The town is a very eligible and rather favourite retreat of sea-bathers; and it does considerable business in the shipping of provisions, corn, salt, flint, and chalk - the last locally miscalled lime - to Scotland.

St Patrick's Parish Church, Glenarm (Image: William Alfred Green)

The parish church stands on the beach, near one of the entrances to Lord Antrim's demesne; and is surrounded with a small enclosed cemetery, whose tombstones make an ostentatious display of armorial sculpturing, and record an unusually large proportion of instances of longevity.

The living was a rectory and vicarage, the former annexed in 1609 to the chancellorship of Connor, and the latter episcopally united in 1768 to the rectory of Templeoughter (which is completely enclosed with Tickmacrevan); but on the death of Dr Trail, the late chancellor, in 1830, the two parishes were consolidated under the provisions of Dr Mant's act, into a single rectory, in the diocese of Connor, and placed under the patronage of the Bishop.

The church, which occupies the site of an ancient monastery close to the shore near the town, was built in 1768, at the expense of the noble family of McDonnell, and was enlarged in 1822.

It is a plain building with a tower and spire.

Within the cemetery stand some insignificant remains of a cruciform building, formerly a Franciscan friary, founded in 1465 by the Scotsman Robert Bissett, who was expatriated for taking part in the murder of the Duke of Atholl. 

This monastery appears to have been retained for a time by the Crown, and granted in 1557 to Alexander MacDonnell, of the family of the Lords of the Isles.

The Castle and the Barbican, Glenarm: an Engraving by J P Neale

GLENARM CASTLE, the modern mansion of the Earls of Antrim, occupies the site of the proud feudal castellated stronghold of the MacDonnells of Antrim; and is a stately, spacious, ancient-looking pile, on a rising ground in the glen, and presenting an exterior somewhat similar to that of a baronial castle of the 15th century.

"The approach to the castle," says the Guide to the Giant's Causeway, "is by a lofty barbican, standing on the northern extremity of the bridge."

"passing through this, a long terrace, overhanging the river, and confined on the opposite side by a lofty embattled curtain-wall, leads through an avenue of ancient lime trees to the principal front of the castle; the appearance of which, from this approach, is very impressive."

"Lofty towers, terminated with cupolas and gilded vanes, occupy the angles of the building; the parapets are crowned with gables, decorated with carved pinnacles, and exhibiting various heraldic ornaments."

"The hall is a noble apartment, 44 feet in length by 20 in breadth, and 30 feet high; in the centre of which stands a handsome billiards-table."

"Across one end passes a gallery, communicating with the bedchambers, and supported by richly ornamented columns, from the grotesque ornaments of which springs a beautiful groined ceiling."

"On the principal floor are several noble apartments; the dining parlour 40 feet by 24, and the drawing-room 44 by 22, are the most spacious; the small drawing-room, library etc, though of considerably less dimensions, are most commodious apartments."

"The demesne of Glenarm is very extensive, and beautifully wooded: it has latterly been much improved, and many obstructions to the view removed."

"There is also an enclosure in the glen, called the Great Deer Park, which is generally supposed to be the most comprehensive park in the kingdom, and the venison fed there the choicest."

The Little Deer Park on the south side of the bay, east of the foot of the glen, consists of a large natural platform, partly girt by sea-washed and cavern-perforated cliffs, and partly bounded by high mural precipices of basalt, and diversified athwart its verdant surface with boulders and huge debris, scattered in irregular and wild magnificence.

Area of the town, 29 acres. Population in 1831, 880; in 1841, 881. Houses, 111.

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