Ballymena: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 54°52′N 6°17′W / 54.86°N 6.28°W / 54.86; -6.28

Irish: an Baile Meánach
Ballymena town hall.jpg
Ballymena town hall
Ballymena coa.JPG
Coat of arms
Ballymena is located in Northern Ireland

 Ballymena shown within Northern Ireland
Population 28,717 (2001 Census)
Irish grid reference D1003
    - Belfast  28 miles (45 km) SE 
District Ballymena
County County Antrim
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT42
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament North Antrim
NI Assembly North Antrim
List of places: UK • Northern Ireland • Antrim
Historical populations
Year Pop.  %±
1821 2,740
1831 4,067 48.4%
1841 5,549 36.4%
1851 6,136 10.6%
1861 6,769 10.3%
1871 7,931 17.2%
1881 8,883 12.0%
1891 8,655 −2.6%
1901 10,886 25.8%
1911 11,381 4.5%
1926 11,873 4.3%
1937 12,928 8.9%
1951 14,173 9.6%
1961 14,734 4.0%
1966 15,907 8.0%
1971 23,386 47.0%
1981 18,166 −22.3%
1991 28,717 58.1%
2001 28,717 0.0%

Ballymena (from the Irish: an Baile Meánach meaning "the middle townland") is a town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and the seat of Ballymena Borough Council. Ballymena had a population of 28,717 people in the 2001 Census.

The town is built on land given to the Adair family by King Charles I in 1626, on the basis that the town hold two annual fairs and a free Saturday market in perpetuity. As of 2010, the Saturday market still runs.

The town used to host Ireland’s largest one-day agricultural show at the Ballymena Showgrounds. There are still many historic buildings in the town. The Town Hall was built in 1924 on the site of the old Market House, and was refurbished in 2007 at a cost of approx £20 million.




Early history

The recorded history of the Ballymena area dates to the Early Christian period from the 5th to the 7th centuries. Ringforts found in the townland of Ballykeel and a site known as Camphill Fort in the townland of Ballee may also have been of this type. There are a number of souterrain sites within a 1¼ mile (2 km) radius of the centre of Ballymena.

Two miles north of Ballymena in the townland of Kirkinriola, the ancient parish church and graveyard possess several indicators of Early Christian settlement including a souterrain. Also in 1868, a gravedigger found a large stone slab on which was carved a cross with the inscription ord do degen. This refers to Bishop Degen, who lived in Ireland during the 7th century. This stone is now in the porch of the Parish Church of St Patrick, in the Parish of Kilconriola, which is found in Castle Street, Ballymena.

At the end of the 5th century, a church was founded in Connor, 5 miles south of Ballymena. This was followed by a monastery at Templemoyle, Kells. In 831, however, the Norse invaded the Ballymena area, burning the church.

In the 12th century, the Normans conquered much of County Antrim and County Down and created the core of the Earldom of Ulster. During this campaign they built great mounds of earth topped by wooden towers, referred to as mottes, as defensive structures. Harryville's motte-and-bailey is one of the best examples of this type of fortification in Northern Ireland. Some sources, however, credit the Uí Fhloinn with building the mid-Antrim mottes and baileys in imitation of the invaders; the Uí Fhloinn defeated and repelled the Earl of Ulster, John de Courcy, in 1177 and 1178.

In 1315, Edward Bruce (brother of King Robert I of Scotland, known as "Robert Bruce") invaded Ireland. On 10 September 1315, at the Battle of Tawnybrack (5 miles south of Ballymena at Kells), Edward conquered the army of Richard De Burgo, the Norman Earl of Ulster.

In 1576, Queen Elizabeth I granted land, including the town of Ballymena, to Sir Thomas Smith. The lands had been forfeited to the crown after Shane O'Neill's resistance in the 1560s. Smith brought English settlers to the area. By 1581, Smith's settlement failed and the lands reverted to the crown.

On 10 May 1607, King James I granted the native Irish chief, Ruairí Óg MacQuillan the Ballymena Estate. The estate passed through several owners, eventually passing into the possession of William Adair, a Scottish laird from Kinhilt in southwestern Scotland. The estate was temporarily renamed "Kinhilstown" after the Adair's lands in Scotland. The original castle of Ballymena was built in the early 17th century, situated to take advantage of an ancient ford over the River Braid. In 1626 Charles I confirmed the grant of the Ballymena Estate to William Adair, giving him the right to hold a market at Ballymena on every Saturday.

In 1641, the local Ballymena garrison fought against the rebels but had to retreat to Carrickfergus. Ballymena's first market house (on the site of the present town hall) was built in 1684.

In 1690, the Duke of Württemberg, a Williamite general, used Galgorm Castle as his headquarters. Sir Robert Adair raised a Regiment of Foot for King William III and fought at the Battle of the Boyne.

By 1704, the population of Ballymena had reached 800. In 1707, the first Protestant (Church of Ireland) parish church was built. In 1740, the original Ballymena Castle burned down. The Gracehill Moravian settlement was founded in 1765. During the 1798 rebellion, Ballymena was occupied from 7 June to 9 June by a force of around 10,000 United Irishmen, who stormed the Market House (now the Town Hall) killing three of its defenders.

The first modern Roman Catholic Church in Ballymena was consecrated in 1827. By 1834 the population of Ballymena was about 4,000. In 1848 the Belfast and Ballymena Railway was established. In 1865 Robert Alexander Shafto Adair (late Baron Waveney) started building Ballymena Castle, a magnificent family residence, in the Demesne. The castle was not completed until 1887.

In 1870 The People's Park, Ballymena was established, now a mature and beautiful setting, which continues to be a very popular park today.

Twentieth century

In 1900, Ballymena assumed urban status[2]. The Adairs disposed of most of their Ballymena estate to the occupying tenants in 1904, under the provisions of the Irish Land Act of 1903. The “old” town hall building, which also contained the post office and estate office, burned down in 1919. Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) laid the cornerstone to the new town hall on 24 July 1924, and it was officially opened on 20 November 1928. The Urban District Council petitioned for borough status and the Charter was granted in December 1937. The first meeting of councillors as a borough Council was held on 23 May 1939. The population of Ballymena reached 13,000. Ballymena Castle was demolished in the 1950s. In 1973, the Urban and Rural District Councils were merged to create the present Ballymena Borough Council.

During the Second World War, Ballymena was home to a large number of Gibraltarian evacuees. [1]

Like other towns in Northern Ireland, Ballymena was affected by the Troubles. A total of eleven people were killed in or near the town, most of them by various loyalist groups.

During the later half of the 20th century, Ballymena, like many other once prosperous industrial centres in Northern Ireland, experienced economic change with many of its former factories closing. Ballymena is now becoming a centre of information-based, international corporations and major retail outlets. However unlike other towns it retains a very successful manufacturing industry, with major employers such as Michelin and Gallaher, and the extremely successful local firm Wrightbus.

In the 1950s Saint Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena was the Regimental Training Depot of the Royal Ulster Rifles (83rd & 86th). Many young men who had been conscripted on the United Kingdom mainland, along with others who had volunteered for service in the British Army, embarked upon their period of basic training in the Regimental Depot, prior to being posted to the regular regimental battalions. Many of these young men were to serve in Korea, Cyprus and with the British Army of the Rhine. In 1968 due to a series of government austerity measures the remaining three Irish regiments,Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (27th) Royal Ulster Rifles (83rd & 86th) and the Royal Irish Fusiliers (89th)merged to become the Royal Irish Rangers, who were to carry on the traditions of loyal service in HM armed forces.

Early in the 1990s the Royal Irish Regiment whose Regimental Headquarters is at St Patrick's Barracks in the town, was controversially granted the Freedom of the Borough. In March 2000, the actor Liam Neeson, a native of Ballymena, was offered the freedom of the borough by the council, which approved the action by a 12–9 vote. The Democratic Unionist Party objected to the offer and drew attention to his comments from an interview in 1999 with an American political magazine, George.[citation needed] Neeson declined the award, citing tensions, and affirmed he was proud of his connection to the town.[3] Ian Paisley was eventually made a freeman of Ballymena in December 2004 instead.[4]

Ballymena is described by some observers as being at the heart of Northern Ireland's equivalent of the Bible Belt.[5] It should be remembered that this does not necessarily reflect the overall views of the town's population. The town has a large Protestant majority. The majority of the Catholic population is situated around the Broughshane and Cushendall Road areas of the town. Recently there has now been tension in the Dunclug area of the town which now has a Catholic majority. These tensions have been associated with internment bonfires and the flying of republican flags though attempts have been made to reduce tensions.[6]

Drugs have been a major problem in the town, earning the moniker "the drugs capital of the North". However major steps have been taken in recent times to eradicate this.[7][8]

The Troubles

Ballymena throughout the course of The Troubles had a reasonably large paramilitary presence in the town; mostly through the presence of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). See UDA South East Antrim Brigade for further information.

For more information see The Troubles in Ballymena, which includes a list of incidents which have resulted in fatalities in or near Ballymena.

Notable natives


Ballymena is classified as a Large Town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)[9] (ie with population of between 18,000 and 75,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 28,717 people living in Ballymena. Of these:

  • 72.2% were from a Protestant background, 24.2% were from a Roman Catholic background
  • 21.6% were aged under 16 years and 19.6% were aged 60 and over
  • 47.5% of the population were male and 52.5% were female
  • 3.9% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.
  • 7.7% were born outside Northern Ireland

For more details see: Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information ServiceNorthern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service website.


There are a number of educational establishments in the town:




  • Slemish mountain in Ballymena is where St Patrick enslaved as a youth, was brought to tend herds, and that during this time he found God
  • Ballymena is also the location of Northern Irelands only Regional Seat of Government Nuclear Bunker. Built in the late 80's it was ready for use by 1990. With room for nearly 350 Government officials it would have helped to keep the country operating after a Nuclear War. It was put into care & maintenance at the end of the Cold War and still remains one of Northern Irelands best kept secrets.

Town twinning

See also


  1. ^ and for post 1821 figures, 1813 estimate from Mason’s Statistical Survey For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee “On the accuracy of the pre-famine Irish censuses Irish Population, Economy and Society edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p54, in and also New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850 by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov, 1984), pp. 473-488.
  2. ^ Ballymena Borough Council - History & Heritage
  3. ^ Film Guardian website.
  4. ^ Ian Paisley's website.
  5. ^ The Guardian website.
  6. ^ Flags and Tension lowered-Ballymena Times
  7. ^ website, by the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland
  8. ^ The Irish Examiner website.
  9. ^ NI Statistics and Research Agency website.
  10. ^ "Ballymena". Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  11. ^ Baker, Michael HC (1999). Irish Narrow Gauge Railways. A View from the Past. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2680-7. 
  • Ensign Joseph Dyas [3]
  • "Battle Over Ballymena's Heroes." (8 March 2000). Belfast News Letter, p. 1.
  • Judd, Terri. (9 March 2000). "Old hatreds Flare Over Neeson Freedom Award." The Independent (London), p. 7.
  • Watson-Smyth, Kate. (23 March 2000). "Row Over Religion Sours Ballymena's Award to Actor." The Independent (London), p. 12.
  • Ballymena on the Culture Northern Ireland website.
  • Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, Parishes of County Antrim V111, Vol 23, 1831-5,1837-8. The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queens University Belfast. ISBN 0 85389 466 3

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Ballymena is a town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Get in

Ballymena is close to both Belfast and Belfast International Airport. There is a bus and train station, and the M2 runs by the town

Get around

Driving in Ballymena can be confusing as there are many one-way streets and frequent lane changes. However, the town is well signposted. Like anywhere, taxis are expensive. There are frequent buses throughout the area and the town is self is small enough to navigate on foot.


Ballymena's shops rival those of Belfast and Antrim, and there are two large shopping centres, the Tower Centre and the Fairhill. There are many restaurants, take-aways, and pubs open late as well as a cinema and bowling alley. Nightlife in terms of clubs is poor, but Belfast and the North Coast aren't far away.

The Tourist Information is in the Town Hall, Linenhall Street.


As any Western city, there are plenty of the major food chains such as McDonalds, Subway, Burger King and Starbucks, as well as quaint cafes and coffee shops.

  • Nobel's cafe, Church street. Great for a traditional Ulster Fry at excellent prices.
  • The Cabin Bar


Main hotels in the town are Galgorm Manor, Tullyglass, Hotel One and The Adair Arms.

There are no hostels but plenty of medium priced guest houses.

  • The M2 runs by the town so the North Coast and Belfast are easily accessible
  • Only a few miles away is the village of Broughshane, well-known in the summer months for its flowers.
  • Portglenone Forest is famous for the bluebells that carpet it in the spring.
  • For panoramic views of the whole county and the east coast, and if clear enough, Scotland, head out to Slemish Mountain.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BALLYMENA, a town of Co. Antrim, Ireland, in the mid parliamentary division, on the Braid, an affluent of the Maine, 2 m. above their junction. Pop. of urban district (190,) 10,886. It is 33 m. N.N.W. of Belfast on the Northern Counties (Midland) railway. Branch lines run to Larne and to Parkmore on the east coast. The town owes its prosperity chiefly to its linen trade, introduced in 1733, which gives employment to the greater part of the inhabitants. Brown linen is a specialty. Iron ore is raised in the neighbourhood. Antiquities in the neighbourhood are few and the present buildings of Ballymena Castle and Galgorm Castle are modern. Gracehill, however, a Moravian settlement, was founded in 1746.

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Simple English

Irish - An Baile Meánach

Population 28,717 (2001 Census)
Irish grid reference D1003
 - Belfast 28 miles SE
District Ballymena Borough
County County Antrim
Constituent country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT42 or BT43 or BT44
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
UK Parliament North Antrim
NI Assembly North Antrim
European Parliament Northern Ireland
List of places: UKNorthern Ireland • County Antrim
Coordinates: 54°52′N 6°17′W / 54.86°N 6.28°W / 54.86; -6.28

Ballymena is a town in Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom. The actor Liam Neeson used to live in the town.[1]

Population facts

On 29 April 2001 the United Kingdom government had a census and found that there were 28,717 people living in Ballymena. They also found that:

  • 21.6% of people living in Ballymena were over 16 years old and 19.6% were over 60 years old
  • 47.5% were male and 52.5% were female
  • 24.2% were from a Roman Catholic background and 72.2% were from a Protestant background.
  • 3.9% of people aged from 16 to 74 had no job.[2]


  1. The Guardian Film website.
  2. Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service website


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