Newtownabbey, County Antrim

Newtownabbey takes its name from the ancient monastery which originally stood in a field near Whiteabbey Hospital. The abbey was built by the Cistercian religious order (Trappist Monks) around 1250 but was damaged by the army of Edward Bruce in 1315. The ruins of the White Abbey survived for centuries but today there are no visible remains.

Carnmoney Hill is one of the greatest landmarks within the Borough. It is the site of many souterrains and raths including Dunnanney Rath or ‘Fort’, which dates back to Celtic times and overlooks Carnmoney Cemetery on the southern face of the hill.

Carngraney (the Cairn of the Sun) in Roughfort is a prehistoric, 10-chambered, wedge-shaped tomb. Roughfort Motte nearby is a medieval mound and was a site of assembly for the United Irishmen under the command of Henry Joy McCracken before the Battle of Antrim in 1798. An oak tree dedicated to the United Irishmen stands in a field opposite the motte.

Carnmoney Parish Church is the site of an early Christian settlement traditionally believed to date to the 5th century during St.Patrick’s time. The old church was demolished in 1856 to make way for the present building. In the churchyard are many graves of local and international interest. For example, Nicholas Grimshaw, founder of Ireland’s first cotton mill at Whitehouse in 1786, and ‘Humpy Joe’ Joesph Gills Biggar, one of the most controversial figures in Irish/British politics.

In Ballynure the ancient graveyard opposite Christ Church is a reminder of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. Ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1665, Swift’s Kilroot parish included Ballynure and he is said to have preached in this graveyard one Sunday when a congregation failed to turn up at the parish church. A blue plaque commemorating Swift’s links with the area has been placed on the church ruin in the graveyard.

Each year the Ballyclare May Fair hosts one of the oldest horse fairs in Ireland. The dealing and haggling is intense and horse dealers from all over Ireland make the pilgrimage to Ballyclare on the Tuesday of the May Fair week.

Several historical societies and groups are active within Newtownabbey, running popular programmes of events throughout the year.

Heritage walking trails leaflets are available through the Council along with the contact details for the societies and general information about local heritage.

The White House is a fine example of a plantation bawn (stone fortified dwelling) dating back to the 16th century. It stands on the foreshore of Belfast Lough and is owned by the Whitehouse Preservation Trust. King William III met with his military officers at the White House in June 1690 prior to the Battle of the Boyne. Following a £1 million restoration the White House is open to the public featuring an exhibition on the Williamite and Jacobite Wars called “A Tale of Three Kings”. (

Mossley was a flax spinning Mill from 1834 up until the 1990s. Newtownabbey is strongly linked with the industrial revolution and old mill buildings are a feature of the area.

Sentry Hill is a 19th century farmhouse in the Parish of Carnmoney, County Antrim. The house and its contents provide a rare insight into life in rural Ulster during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sentry Hill was the home of the Mc Kinney family, who came to Ireland from Scotland in the early 1700s. Remarkably the contents of the house have survived almost intact. This is largely due to William Fee Mc Kinney who was born in 1832 and lived in Sentry Hill for most of his life. William built up a remarkable collection of diaries, family letters and an extensive collection of books and pamphlets. Along with souvenirs from family travels abroad, William collected natural history specimens and items of local historical interest.

Life and Legend

Newtownabbey was created by an Act of Parliament in 1958. It was formed by bringing together the historic villages of Carnmoney, Glengormley, Jordanstown, Monkstown, Whiteabbey, Whitehouse and Whitewell, giving rise to the Council motto ‘Septem In Uno Surgent’ (seven shall rise as one). When Newtownabbey District Council came into being in 1973, Ballyclare, Ballynure, Doagh and Straid were included and a new motto introduced, ‘Multi In Uno Resurgent’ (many shall re-arise as one).

Newtownabbey borders Belfast Lough, lying between the City of Belfast and the historic garrison town of Carrickfergus. Generally the low ground along the Lough shore is composed of soft red sandstones largely covered by boulder clay. The high ground in the west is composed of hard basalt, the remnants of volcanic  lava, dominated by the ancient and extinct volcano which has formed Carnmoney Hill.

The Borough has a rich heritage dating from prehistoric times. The remains of prehistoric cairns, ancient raths, souterrains and medieval mottes are all visible across the landscape. Churchyards hold a wealth of memorials of both local and international interest.

Carngraney or Carn Greine (The Carn of the Sun), Roughfort

This is a prehistoric, 10 chambered , wedge-shaped tomb of around 3000-4000BC, originally surrounded by a circle of stones. Excavations in 1914 unearthed many traces of cremated human remains in a large urn, now held in the Ulster Museum. The tomb had in fact been plundered , probably by thieves, at some earlier date.

Roughfort Motte

A medieval mound and site of assembly for the United Irishmen under the command of Henry Joy Mc Cracken before the Battle of Antrim on 7th June 1798.

The Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast in 1791 with the aim of ending the sectarian troubles of the time. They wanted to wipe away the old division of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter and find a common identity. It began as a peaceful means of seeking reform but when the French offered to help  any people who rose against their government the society was made illegal and administering its oath became a capital offence. Thousands of Presbyterians from Ballyclare, Ballynure, Ballyeaston, Doagh and the rest of the Six Mile Valley rose up and fought in the Battle of Antrim.

An oak tree dedicated to the United Irishmen stands in a field opposite the motte. This is the only local example of a ‘Liberty Tree’, a custom in America where revolutionary notices were pinned on a tree.

Ballyclare Motte

When John de Courcy invaded Ulster with his Norman army in 1177 he built a castle at Carrickfergus and later established a series of defensive outposts along the Ollar River (which the soldiers were to rename the Six Mile Water). This fine example of a 13th century Norman motte would have had a wooden palisade around the top and would have been manned by a company of soldiers. This was one of a chain of mottes which marked the frontier. There are two at Doagh and another at Antrim.

Ballywalter Motte

A small fortification, probably of Norman origin dating to 1200 AD. The motte is a circular mound on a ridge-top site. It is over 4.5 metres high with a 2 metre wide ditch enclosing it. Overlooking the Six Mile Water valley, the mound is on a farm, formerly owned by the Shaw family, and is commonly known as ‘Shaw’s Fort’.

According to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs ‘there was an old church and graveyard on the farm of Mr George Shaw, near the fort or mound near his house…’. There is no evidence of a bailey but there was probably some sort of hall on the ridge nearby.

Dunanney Rath, Carnmoney

Dunanney rath or Fort stands majestically overlooking Carnmoney Cemetery on the southern face of Carnmoney Hill. This prestigious rath site, where in ancient times fairs and festivals were held, may date to Celtic times (around 500 BC). In 1556 the Earl of Sussex, Lord Deputy to Elizabeth I, camped with his troops at Dunanney where he met with Irish chieftains and tried unsuccessfully to pacify the Irish. The name Dunanney has been translated both as ‘The Fort of the Assemblies’ and ‘The Fort of the watery Place’ (built on rock, it tends to be wet and marshy). A second rath exists to the east of Dunanney.

Two souterrains (man-made underground passages) have been found on the hill, although more likely to have existed in the past. By tradition Carnmoney takes its name from Cairn Monadh ‘the cairn on the boggy mountain’, a burial chamber that originally stood on the summit of Carnmoney Hill.

The White House, Whitehouse

The White House dates to the 16th century and was originally a four- or five-storey fortified dwelling. This stone house was given to a Mr Brunker in 1574 by Elizabeth I in recognition of his military service in the Spanish Wars. It was included in the area granted to Sir Arthur Chichester by the Queen in 1604 and was occupied by George Martin, Sovereign of Belfast, in 1649.

It was said that William III met General Schomberg at the White House as a prelude to his Williamite Wars in Ireland, which included the defeat of James II at the Boyne on 1st July 1690. The remains of an ancient quay at Whitehouse point are described in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, 1839. William landed a portion of his army here, or nearby on an artificial island known as ‘Donald’s Island’, in June 1690.

The quay was destroyed in the late 1970s when the M5 motorway was built.

Following a £1 million restoration the White House is open to the public featuring an exhibition on the Williamite and Jacobite Wars called “A Tale of Three Kings”. (

Video produced by Ambient Light Productions

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