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Bible Encyclopedias
Armagh, Ireland (County)

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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Armagh, Ireland
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An inland county of Ireland, in the province of Ulster, bounded N. by Lough Neagh, E. by Co. Down, S. by Louth and W. by Monaghan and Tyrone. The area is 327,704 acres, or about 51 2 sq. m. The general surface of the county is gently undulating and pleasantly diversified; but in the northern extremity, on the borders of Lough Neagh, there is a considerable tract of low, marshy land, and the southern border of the county is occupied by a barren range of hills, the highest of which, Slieve Gullion, attains an elevation of 1893 ft. In the western portion of the county are the Few Mountains, a chain of abrupt hills mostly incapable of cultivation. The county is well watered by numerous streams. The principal are the Callan, the Tynan and the Tallwater, flowing into the Blackwater, which, after forming the boundary between this county and Tyrone, empties itself into the south-western angle of Lough Neagh. The Tara and Newtown-Hamilton, the Creggan and the Fleury, flow into the bay of Dundalk. The Cam or Camlin joins the Bann, which, crossing the north-western corner of the county, falls into Lough Neagh to the east of the Blackwater. The Newry Canal, communicating with Carlingford Lough at Warrenpoint, 6 m. below Newry, proceeds northward through Co. Armagh for about 2 r m., joining the Bann at Whitecoat. The Ulster Canal begins at Charlemont on the river Blackwater, near its junction with Lough Neagh, proceeding through the western border of the county, and passing thence to the south-west by Monaghan and Clones into Upper Lough Erne, after a course of 48 m. Part of Lough Neagh is in the county, and there are many small loughs, such as Gullion, Cam and Ross.


The flat shore of Lough Neagh in the north is due to the thick deposit of pale-coloured clays with lignites, which are probably of Pliocene age, and indicate a reduction of the area of the lake in still later times. Between this lowland and Armagh city, the early Cainozoic basalts form slightly higher ground, while on the west a strip of Trias appears, overlying Carboniferous Limestone. A rough conglomerate containing blocks of this latter rock forms the hills on which Armagh itself is built; this outlier is probably Permian. The Carboniferous Limestone beneath it and around it is red-brown instead of grey, and is famous for its richness in fish remains. A hummocky irregular country spreads southward, where the Silurian axis is encountered, in continuation of the southern uplands of Scotland. Slates and fine-grained sandstones appear here freely through the glacial drift. In the south the granite core of this upland is revealed, and is quarried extensively about Bessbrook. It is penetrated by far younger intrusive masses at Slieve Gullion and Forkill. These rocks, which include some highly siliceous lavas, form part of the Eocene series that is so conspicuously displayed above Carlingford in Co. Louth. Lead-veins have been worked in various parts of the county from time to time.


The soil of the northern portion of the county is a rich brown loam, on a substratum of clay or gravel. Towards Charlemont there is much reclaimable bog resting on a limestone substratum. The eastern portion of the county is generally of a light friable soil; the southern portion rocky and barren, with but little bog except in the neighbourhood of Newtown-Hamilton. The climate of Armagh is considered to be one of the most genial in Ireland, and less rain is supposed to fall in this than in any other county. Only about one-twentieth of the land is naturally barren, and Armagh offers a relatively large area of cultivable soil. Agriculture, however, is not far advanced, yet owing to the linen industry the inhabitants are generally in circumstances of comparative comfort. The principal crops are oats and potatoes, but all grain crops are decreasing, and flax, formerly grown to a considerable extent, is now practically neglected. The acreage under pasture slightly exceeds that of tillage. Cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry show a general increase in numbers. The principal manufacture, and that which has given a peculiar tone to the character of the population, is that of linen, though it has somewhat declined in modern times. It is not necessary to the promotion of this manufacture that the spinners and weavers should be congregated in large towns, or united in crowded and unwholesome factories. On the contrary, most of its branches can be carried on in the cottages of the peasantry. The men devote to the loom those hours which are not required for the cultivation of their little farms; the women spin and reel the yarn during the intervals of their other domestic occupations. Smooth lawns, pure springs and the open sky are necessary for perfecting the bleaching process. Hence the numerous bleachers dwell in the country with their assistants and machinery. Such is the effect of this combination of agricultural occupations with domestic manufactures that the farmers are more than competent to supply the resident population of the county with vegetable, though not with animal food; and some of the less crowded and less productive parts of Ulster receive from Armagh a considerable supply of oats, barley and flour. Apples are grown in such quantities as to entitle the county to the title applied to it, the orchard of Ireland.

Communications are monopolized by the Great Northern railway company, whose main line from Belfast divides at Portadown, sending off lines to Omagh, to Clones and to Dublin. A branch from Omagh joins the Dublin line to Goraghwood, and from this line there is a branch to Newry in Co. Down. An electric tramway connects Bessbrook, a town with important linen manufactures and granite quarries, with Newry.

Population and Administration

The population (72,286 in 1891; 65,619 in 1901) shows a heavy decrease, though emigration affects it less seriously than the majority of Irish counties. Of the total about 45% are Roman Catholics, 32% Protestant Episcopalians, and 16% Presbyterians, the Roman Catholic faith prevailing in the mountainous districts and the Protestant in the towns and lowlands. About 74% of the whole constitutes the rural population. The chief towns are Armagh (a city and the county town, pop. 7588), Lurgan (11,782), Portadown (10,092), Tanderagee (1427), Bessbrook (2977) and Keady (1466). Armagh is divided into eight baronies, and contains twenty-five parishes and parts of parishes, the greater number of which are in the Protestant and Roman Catholic dioceses of Armagh, and a few in the Roman Catholic diocese of Dromore. The constabulary has its headquarters at Armagh, the county being divided into five districts. Assizes are held at Armagh, and quarter sessions at Armagh,Ballybot, Lurgan,Markethill and Newtown-Hamilton. The parliamentary divisions are three: mid, north and south, each returning one member.

History and Antiquities

Armagh, together with Louth, Monaghan and some smaller districts, formed part of a territory called Orgial or Urial, which was long subject to the occasional incursions of the Danes. The county was made shire ground in 1586, and called Armagh after the city by Sir John Perrott. When James I. proceeded to plant with English and Scottish colonists the vast tracts escheated to the crown in Ulster, the whole of the arable and pasture land in Armagh, estimated at 77,800 acres, was to have been allotted in sixty-one portions. Nineteen of these, comprising 22,180 acres, were to have been allotted to the church, and forty-two, amounting to 55,620 acres, to English and Scottish colonists, servitors, native Irish and four corporate towns - the swordsmen to be dispersed throughout Connaught and Munster. This project was not strictly adhered to in Co. Armagh, nor were the Irish swordsmen or soldiers transplanted into Connaught and Munster from this and some other counties. The antiquities consist of cairns and tumuli; the remains of the fortress of Emain near the city of Armagh, once the residence of the kings of Ulster; and Danes Cast, an extensive fortification in the south-east of the county, near Poyntzpass, extending into Co. Down. Spears, battle-axes, collars, rings, amulets, medals of gold, ornaments of silver, jet and amber, &c., have also been found in various places. The religious houses were at Armagh, Killevy, Kilmore, Stradhailloyse and Tahenny. Of military antiquities the most remarkable are Tyrone's ditches, near Poyntzpass; and the pass of Moyry, the entry into the county from the south, which was fiercely contested by the Irish in 1595 and 1600, is defended by a castle. The summit of Slieve Gullion is crowned by a large cairn, which forms the roof of a singular cavern of artificial construction, probably an early burial-place.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Armagh, Ireland (County)'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​a/armagh-ireland-county.html. 1910.
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