"COUNTY ANTRIM, a maritime county in the province of Ulster, bounded on the E. by the Irish Channel, on the N. by the Northern Ocean, on the S. by Lough Neagh and the counties of Armagh and Down, and on the W. by the counties of Derry and Tyrone. It has a coast line of 90 miles. It extends in length, N. and S., 56 miles, and its greatest breadth is 25 miles. It comprises an area of above 760,000 acres. It is situated between 54° 28' and 55° 13' north latitude; and between 5° 40' and 6° 37' west longitude. It is divided for civil purposes into fourteen baronies, which are the following-Upper Antrim, Lower Antrim, Upper Belfast, Lower Belfast, Upper Massereene, Lower Massereene, Upper Glenarm, Lower Glenarm Upper Toome Lower Toome, Kilconway, Upper Dunluce Lower Dunluce, and Carey. It contains 74 parishes, of which twelve are market towns and three are boroughs. The latter are Belfast, recently made the county town; Carrickfergus, which was formerly the county town; and Lisburn. Before the union, Antrim returned ten representatives to parliament; it now returns six, two for the county, two for Belfast, one for Carrickfergus, and one for Lisburn. The government of the county is entrusted to a lieutenant and custos, a high sheriff, twenty-two deputy lieutenants, and above a hundred magistrates. In the earliest times, this part of Ireland was the seat of a Celtic tribe called the Darini. "
It was frequently subject to the desolating descents of the Danes upon its coasts, and at a later period to those of the Scots, who at last fixed themselves there. The O'Neills were for a time lords of the district, and after them, some English adventurers. Antrim was made a county in the reign of King John, by whom also the castle of Carrickfergus was built in 1210. For a short time it fell into the hands of the Scottish chief Edward Bruce, from whom it was retaken by the English. But the O'Neills, on a sudden provocation, rose in 1333, against the English, and regained the whole district except Carrickfergus and part of the Glynnes. Dunluce Castle was besieged by Sir John Perrot, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the garrison surrendered. The MacDonnells, the greatest proprietors at that period, and who came into possession of the district in the 15th century, again gave up the castle to the English, after it had been lost by treachery. The country was at one time divided into the three districts of Lower Clan-Hugh-Boy, the Glynnes, and the Route; the first name being formed from that of a chief of the O'Neills, Hugh Boy O'Neill, the second indicating the natural character of the surface, abounding in glens, and the third being a corruption of the more ancient name Dalriada. The surface of this county is mostly hilly, rising gradually from the southern and western sides in parallel ridges towards the north-east. The mountains attain their greatest elevation near the coast, where they terminate in bold cliffs and headlands. The predominant formation is the trap, which forms nearly the entire surface of the county. Beneath the trap there lie in succession beds of chalk, indurated and incapable of being worked, green sand, red sandstone, and mica slate. These beds, with their various colours, give to the cliffs and headlands a singular and striking effect. Their highest beauty and grandeur are attained on the northern coast, at the well-known Giant's Causeway, which consists of a mass of basalt in the columnar form, dipping perpendicularly into the sea. Beds of coal and red ochre are occasionally observed, mixed with the other strata. Coal was at one time obtained near the basaltic rock, at the north-east point of the county, called Benmore or Fair Head. Porphyry is found in a small district north of the town of Antrim, and in some other places. The principal mountains in the interior are Divis, to the west of Belfast, which has an elevation of 1,567 feet; Agnew's Hill to the west of Larne, 1,558 feet; Slemish, to the east of Ballymena, 1,437 feet; Tristan, the loftiest in the county, and situated to the south-west of Cushendall, 1,810 feet; and Knocklayd, to the south of Ballycastle, 1,685 feet. As the greatest elevation of the county is near the coast, most of the principal rivers flow westward and discharge themselves into Lough Neagh. Those streams which fall into the Irish Channel are very inconsiderable. The largest river is the Bann, which flows along the western border of the county from Lough Neagh, as far north as Ballymoney, and then through a part of Londonderry to the Atlantic ocean. The Main rises among the mountains of the north and east, and falls into Lough Neagh below Randalstown. The Six-Mile Water flows across the county from Larne, and falls into the Lough near Antrim. The Lagan flows through a rich fertile valley, on the southern border, and unites Belfast with Lough Neagh. The Bush runs northward and falls into the Atlantic below Bushmills. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the British islands. It is about 20 miles in length and 12 miles in breadth, and has an area of 150 square miles. Its surface is estimated to be 48 feet above the level of the sea at low water. [See Neagh, Lough.] Lough Beg, the only other lake of importance, lies a little north of Lough Neagh, and is connected with it by a channel a mile in length. There are large tracts of bog in the county, and very little wooded country. The principal features of interest along the coast, which is mostly abrupt and rocky, are on the northern line, the three rocks called the Skerries about a mile to the north of Portrush; the Giant's Causeway; the promontory next to it, Bengore Head; the island of Rathlin, opposite to Ballycastle Bay; and Benmore, or Fair Head, the eastern point of the same bay. Along the eastern coast, Red Bay, so called from the red sandstone which is conspicuous there; Glenarm Bay, off which are the Maiden rocks and lighthouse; Larne Lough, enclosed on the east by the peninsula called Island Magee, and forming an excellent harbour; Black Head, and Belfast Lough and harbour, at the southernmost point of the coast. There are twenty-three coastguard stations, on which about 140 men are employed. The only canal in the county is the Lagan Navigation or Belfast canal. It was constructed in the reign of George III., and connects Belfast-with Lough Neagh. Its length in county Antrim is 22 miles and it is capable of admitting ships of 50 tons burden. The climate of Antrim is generally dry and healthy. The soil is various in quality: over the greater part of the county it is light; along the river valleys it is better, and fit for wheat crops; the best is perhaps that in the Lagan valley. The farms are usually small. The fishery districts are those of Ballycastle and Carrickfergus, which comprise 121 miles of coast, including the bays. Above 1,000 boats are engaged, and about 3,000 hands. The fish taken are cod, ling, conger, &c. There is a salmon fishery at Carrick-a-Rede, and in several other places. But the chief occupation of the inhabitants is the linen manufacture. It has been carried on from very early times in Ireland, and was especially promoted in the north by Lord Strafford. It was the object of many legislative enactments during the 17th and 18th centuries, and grew so important that parliament granted £12,000 a year for its protection. The division of labour and the aid of machinery appears to have been first applied in the manufacture in 1725. Belfast is the great market, and Lisburn and its district the great seat of the manufacture. There are also cotton and woollen manufactures. The former was introduced in 1777. The first twist mill was erected near Belfast in 1784. Other branches of manufacture are damasks, canvas, and rope; paper, leather, glass, and iron. The influence of manufacturing industry in this county is strongly marked by the progressive increase in the population and wealth of two of its principal towns, Belfast and Carrickfergus, while every other part of Ireland, except the county of Dublin, has been rapidly decreasing. The average population of the county shows a decrease of only 28,774 in the last 20 years, having been returned in 1841 at 276,188, against 247,414 in 1861. This decrease would have been much greater only for the unexampled prosperity of Belfast, which has increased from 75,308 to 119,242 or 33.19 per cent. There are numerous interesting relics of ancient times in the county. They consist chiefly of cairns and cromlechs. The principal cairn is on the Colin Hill, a little to the north of Lisburn. Others are found on Slieve True and Colinward. The most interesting cromlech is at Cairn-graine, near the road from Belfast to Templepatrick. Others are at Mount Druid and Island Magee. The remains of entrenchments are very numerous and in great variety. Two hundred and thirty exist in the two parishes of Killead and Muckamore, besides ten earthworks. There are also similar remains at Donegore, Kilconway, Dunmaul, Dumnacaltar, &c. There are four of the celebrated round towers in the county: at Antrim, Armoy, Trummery, and on Ram's Island in the great lough. Of monastic houses there are ruins at Bonamargy, Kells, Glenarm, Glynn, &c. The castle of Carrickfergus is the only ancient fortress in good preservation; ruins of others exist in various parts of the county: Green Castle, between Belfast and Carrickfergus; Olderfleet Castle, near the entrance to Larne Lough; Castle Chichester, Red Bay Castle, Court Martin near Cushendall; Bruce's Castle in the Island of Rathlin, Dunluce, once the seat of the McDonnell's, in a most striking situation; Shane's Castle, the seat of the O'Neills, &c. The county has several interesting caverns, one under Red Bay Castle, another under Dunluce; one in the Cave Hill, and several others. There are chalybeate springs at Ballycastle and Knocklayd, a nitrous spring at Kilroot, and salt springs near Carrickfergus. Among the mansions and residences of the nobility and gentry are the following: Belfast, the seat of the Marquis of Donegal; Glenarm Castle, the seat of the Earl of Antrim; Antrim Castle, of Viscount Massareene; Brownlow, of Lord Lurgan; Bushmills, of Sir Edmund William W. McNaughten, Bart.; Langford Lodge, of Lieut-Col. Pakenham, M.P.; Garron Towers, of the Marchioness of Londonderry; Moneyglass, Portglenone, Red Hill, New Town, Crommelin, Castle Dobbs, Thornfield, Leslie Hill, Lissanore Castle, &c. A railway now intersects the county, from Belfast in the south to Port Rush at the north-western extremity; passing by Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, and Coleraine. There is a branch line from Belfast to Carrickfergus, and one from Antrim to Randalstown, and round the northern end of Lough Neagh to Cookstown. The Coleraine line is continued to Londonderry; and the Ulster railway from Belfast, passing by Lisburn, Lurgan, and Armagh, is open to Monaghan. The principal roads in the county are the following: 1st. the great coast road from Belfast to Carrickfergus, Larne, Glenarm, Cushendall Ballycastle, Ballintoy, to the Giant's Causeway, a length of 73 miles. This road was formed at a very great expense and in face of great difficulties. At the headland of Glenarm it was necessary to remove by blasting immense masses of the rock dipping perpendicularly into the sea, and at the base of which the road had to be carried. In other parts the difficulty arose from slippery moving clay banks. This road running between the mountains and the sea from Larne to Cushendall, and thence across the hills inland to the northern coast, opens to the traveller a succession of striking and magnificent prospects. 2nd. the road from Belfast to Antrim, continued through Randalstown, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, to Bushmills, near the Causeway, a length of 56 miles. 3rd. the road from Belfast to Lisburn, branching off in several directions into the county of Down.
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018