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Cathedrale d Armagh.jpg
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh (Roman Catholic)
United Kingdom Northern Ireland adm location map.svg
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Location within Northern Ireland
Population14,777 (2011 Census)
Irish grid reference H876455
  Belfast 33 mi (53 km)
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ARMAGH
Postcode district BT60, BT61
Dialling code 028
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°21′00″N6°39′17″W / 54.3499°N 6.6546°W / 54.3499; -6.6546 Coordinates: 54°21′00″N6°39′17″W / 54.3499°N 6.6546°W / 54.3499; -6.6546

Armagh ( /ɑːrˈmɑː/ ar-MAH; Irish : Ard Mhacha, IPA:  [ˌaɾd̪ˠ ˈwaxə] , "Macha's height" [3] ) is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the Primates of All Ireland for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. In ancient times, nearby Navan Fort (Eamhain Mhacha) was a pagan ceremonial site and one of the great royal capitals of Gaelic Ireland. Today, Armagh is home to two cathedrals (both named after Saint Patrick) and the Armagh Observatory, and is known for its Georgian architecture.


Although classed as a medium-sized town, [4] Armagh was given city status in 1994 and Lord Mayoralty status in 2012, both by Queen Elizabeth II. It had a population of 14,777 people in the 2011 Census, [5] making it the least-populated city in Ireland and the fifth smallest in the United Kingdom.


St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh (Church of Ireland), site of the original church ArmaghCICathedral.jpg
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh (Church of Ireland), site of the original church
Scotch Street, c.1900 I love her cathedral and city (27198346843).jpg
Scotch Street, c.1900
Open-air market on Market Street Armagh Library and open air market - - 647704.jpg
Open-air market on Market Street


Eamhain Mhacha (or Navan Fort), at the western edge of Armagh, was an ancient pagan ritual or ceremonial site. According to Irish mythology it was one of the great royal sites of Gaelic Ireland and the capital of Ulster. It appears to have been largely abandoned after the 1st century. In the 3rd century, a ditch and bank was dug around the top of Cathedral Hill, the heart of what is now Armagh. Its circular shape matches the modern street layout. Evidence suggests that it was a pagan sanctuary and the successor to Navan. [6] Like Navan, it too was named after the goddess Macha: Ard Mhacha, meaning "Macha's height". This name was later anglicised as Ardmagh, [7] [8] which eventually became Armagh. Navan and Armagh were linked by an ancient road which passes over Mullacreevie hill. [9]

After Christianity spread to Ireland, the pagan sanctuary was converted into a Christian one, and Armagh became the site of an important church and monastery. According to tradition, Saint Patrick founded his main church there in the year 445, and it eventually became the head church of Ireland. Muirchú writes that a pagan chieftain named Dáire would not let Patrick build a church on the hill of Ard Mhacha, but instead gave him lower ground to the east. One day, Dáire's horses die after grazing on the church land. He tells his men to kill Patrick, but is himself struck down with illness. They beg Patrick to heal him, and Patrick's holy water revives both Dáire and his horses. Dáire rewards Patrick with a great bronze cauldron and gives him the hill of Ard Mhacha to build a church. Dáire has similarities with the Irish god the Dagda. [10]

Medieval era

By the 7th century, Armagh had become the site of the most important church, monastery and monastic school in the north of Ireland. [11] The Book of Armagh was produced in the monastery in the early 9th century and contains some of the oldest surviving specimens of Old Irish.

Armagh was at the heart of the kingdom of the Airthir, a part of the Airgíalla federation. The church at Armagh looked to both the Airthir and neighbouring Uí Néill for patronage. [11] The Uí Néill High King, Niall Caille (Niall of the Callan), was buried at Armagh in 846 after drowning in the River Callan. His son, High King Áed Findliath, had a house at Armagh. [11]

The first Viking raid on Armagh was recorded in 832, and it suffered at least ten Viking raids over the following century. A hoard seemingly lost by Vikings in the River Blackwater shows the high quality of metalwork being made in Armagh at this time. [11]

Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, visited Armagh in 1004, acknowledging it as the head church of Ireland and bestowing it a large sum of gold. Brian was buried at Armagh cathedral after his death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. [12] Armagh's claim to being the head church of Ireland was formally acknowledged at the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111. [11]

Following the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, Armagh was attacked by Anglo-Normans led by Philip de Worcester in 1185 and by John de Courcy in 1189. [13] It was also raided by Ruaidrí mac Duinn Sléibe of Ulaid in 1196 and 1199. [14]

Archbishop Máel Patraic Ua Scannail rebuilt Armagh cathedral in 1268 and founded a Franciscan friary, whose remains can still be seen. There was also a small Culdee community in Armagh until the 16th century. [11]

Early modern era

During the 16th century Tudor conquest of Ireland, Armagh suffered greatly in the conflict between the English and the O'Neills. Armagh was strategically important as it lay between the English Pale and the O'Neill heartland of Tyrone, and the town changed hands many times during the wars. [15] In the 1560s, English troops under Thomas Radclyffe occupied and fortified the town, which was then attacked and largely destroyed by Shane O'Neill. After the Battle of the Yellow Ford in 1598, the routed English army took refuge at Armagh before surrendering to Hugh O'Neill. [15] By the end of the Nine Years' War, Armagh lay in ruins, as shown on Richard Bartlett's 1601 map. [11]

Following the Nine Years' War, Armagh came under English dominance and the cathedral came under the control of the Protestant Church of Ireland. The cathedral was rebuilt under Archbishop Christopher Hampton and the town began to be settled by Protestants from Britain, as part of the Plantation of Ulster. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, many British settlers fled to Armagh cathedral for safety. After negotiations with the besieged settlers, Catholic rebels under Felim O'Neill occupied the town. In May 1642, following several rebel defeats and massacres by settlers elsewhere, the rebels in Armagh seized the settlers' property and set fire to the town. [16]

Modern era

Armagh has been an educational centre since the time of Saint Patrick, and thus it has been referred to as "the city of saints and scholars". The educational tradition continued with the foundation of the Royal School in 1608, St Patrick's College in 1834 and the Armagh Observatory in 1790. The Observatory was part of Archbishop Lord Rokeby's plan to have a university in the city. This ambition was finally fulfilled, albeit briefly, in the 1990s when Queen's University of Belfast opened an outreach centre in the former hospital building.

The Catch-my-Pal Protestant Total Abstinence Union was founded in 1909 in Armagh by the minister of 3rd Armagh (now The Mall) Presbyterian Church, Rev. Robert Patterson. Although relatively short-lived it was very successful for that time, attracting many tens of thousands of members. It was influential in the development of a 'two-community' narrative in Ulster which was important in the Ulster Unionist campaign during the Third Home Rule Crisis. A 'blue plaque' historical marker commemorating Rev. Patterson was erected on The Mall in 2019.

Three brothers from Armagh died at the Battle of the Somme during World War I. None of the three has a known grave and all are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. A fourth brother was wounded in the same attack.

On 14 January 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) sergeant was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Armagh. He was attacked with a grenade as he walked along Market Street and later died of his wounds. [17] On 4 September 1921, republican leaders Michael Collins and Eoin O'Duffy addressed a large meeting in Armagh, which was attended by up to 10,000 people. [18]

During the Troubles in Armagh, the violence was substantial enough for the city to be referred to by some as "Murder Mile". [19] Over the span of 36 years, although mainly concentrated in the years from 1969 until 1994, the small city, including some outlying areas, saw 86 deaths in the Troubles, including those of a number of people from the city who lost their lives elsewhere in Troubles-related incidents. Armagh City Hall, which had been built as the Tontine Buildings in 1828 [20] and converted into a municipal building in 1910, [21] was badly damaged in a bomb attack on 27 September 1972. [22]

City status

As the seat of the Primate of All Ireland, Armagh was historically regarded as a city, and recognisably had the status by 1226. [23] It had no charter granted but claimed the title by prescription; Acts of the Parliament of Ireland in 1773 and 1791 refer to the "City of Armagh". [24] Armagh lost the status with the abolition of its city corporation by the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 after it was deemed ineffective and unrepresentative of its population. From 1953, Armagh began to argue for the restoration of the status lost in 1840, [25] with several applications to the Home Office being made. [26] The council used the appellation "city" unofficially until 1994 when, at Queen Elizabeth's personal request, [26] Armagh along with the Welsh town of St Davids was awarded the status. Charles, Prince of Wales during a visit in July 1994 announced it had been granted to mark the 1,550th anniversary of the traditional date of Armagh's foundation by Saint Patrick, [23] and also "in recognition of [Armagh's and St Davids'] important Christian heritage and their status as cities in the last century". [27]

The award of city status is typically granted to a local authority body, and the letters patent was initially presented to dignitaries and Armagh District Council by Queen Elizabeth during a visit on 9 March 1995. [28] Following this, it was renamed Armagh City and District Council from 1 October 1995. [29] Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council presently holds the status on behalf of the city as there is no localised council body since the aforementioned districts were merged in 2015 as a result of local government reform. Armagh contains the lowest population of all the cities of Northern Ireland, and is fifth smallest in the UK. Its urban area covering 3.97 sq mi (10.3 km2), makes it the smallest city by size in Northern Ireland, however several other cities are smaller when the UK is taken as a whole.

Notable buildings

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh (Roman Catholic) Armagh, St Patricks RC cathedral.jpg
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh (Roman Catholic)

Armagh is the site of two cathedrals, both on hills and both named after Saint Patrick. The Church of Ireland cathedral dates back to around 445. The present-day, post-Reformation, Roman Catholic cathedral was constructed during the latter half of the 19th century and features twin 64m spires, making it the tallest such structure in the county. Armagh is one of the few cities in the world which is home to two cathedrals of the same name.

Armagh has a Georgian area of heritage importance. Perhaps one of the more well known of the buildings is the former women's prison. [30] The construction of Armagh Gaol began in 1780 and was extended in the 1840s and 1850s. The front façade of the prison was built in the Georgian style, while the later development, based on the design of Pentonville (HM Prison), is Victorian. [30] For most of its working life it was a women's prison although not exclusively so. Armagh Gaol was the primary women's prison in Northern Ireland. In 1986 the prison closed and its prisoners were transferred to the new prison at Maghaberry. [30]

The city is home to the Armagh Observatory, founded in 1790, and to the Armagh Planetarium, established in 1968 to complement the research work of the Observatory. The palace of the Archbishop of Armagh is now the local council offices and, along with the archbishop's private chapel, is open to the public. The Palace Stables heritage centre is a reconstructed stable block dating from the 18th century, which was once part of the Archbishop's estate.

Among the city's chief glories is Armagh Public Library on Abbey Street. It was founded in 1771 by Archbishop Richard Robinson (later created The 1st Baron Rokeby in 1777), using his own library as its nucleus. [31] It is especially rich in 17th- and 18th-century books in English, including Dean Jonathan Swift's own copy of the first edition of his Gulliver's Travels with his manuscript corrections.

Armagh Market House was built in 1815 as a two-storey five-bay building, and is currently used as a library.

Armagh County Museum is the oldest county museum in Ireland. [32] The building dates from 1833 and was originally a school house. It was opened as the County Museum in 1937.


Armagh showing townlands
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Corporation townland
Other townlands
Built-up area
Greenfield land Armagh-townlands.jpg
Armagh showing townlands
  Corporation townland
  Other townlands
  Built-up area
  Greenfield land

Armagh is within the civil parish of Armagh. Like the rest of Ireland, this parish is divided into townlands, whose names mostly come from the Irish language. When these townlands were built upon, they lent their names to various streets, roads and housing estates. In 1830, most of Armagh's urban townlands were amalgamated for administration and became known as Corporation Lands or simply Corporation. [33] The surrounding townlands remained as separate units and they were eventually built upon too. They are listed below alongside their likely etymologies. [7] [34]

Some of the former townlands included:


On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 14,777 people living in Armagh (5871 households), accounting for 0.82% of the NI total, [5] representing an increase of 1.3% on the Census 2001 population of 14,590. [39] Of these:


Armagh City and District Council was a single district council until 2015 when it merged with Banbridge District Council and Craigavon Borough Council under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, sometimes colloquially referred to as the ABC council.

Armagh is part of the Newry and Armagh (Assembly constituency).

Together with part of the district of Newry and Mourne, it forms the Newry & Armagh constituency for elections to the Westminster Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.


Former houses on Charlemont Place, beside The Mall, now occupied by Education Authority (Southern) Charlemont Place, Armagh - - 720902.jpg
Former houses on Charlemont Place, beside The Mall, now occupied by Education Authority (Southern)

The Education Authority (Southern) and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust [40] have their headquarters in the city, which has a long reputation as an administrative centre.

The secretariat of the North/South Ministerial Council is based in Armagh, and consists jointly of members of the civil services of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Armagh is the seat of both the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, both of whom hold the position of Primate of All Ireland for their respective denominations.





The Ulster Railway linked Armagh with Belfast in 1848 and Monaghan in 1858. [42] The Newry and Armagh Railway (N&A) opened in 1864 and the Castleblayney, Keady and Armagh Railway (CK&A) was completed in 1910. [42] In 1876 the Ulster Railway became part of the new Great Northern Railway (GNR), which took over the N&A in 1879 and the CK&A in 1911. [43]

The Armagh rail disaster, which killed 80 people, occurred on 12 June 1889 on the N&A line near Armagh. [44] [45]

The partition of Ireland in 1922 hastened the railways' decline, and the GNR closed the Keady  Castleblayney section of the CKA in 1923. [46] The GNR withdrew passenger trains from the Armagh – Keady section of the CKA in 1922 and closed the Armagh Markethill section of the N&A in 1933. [46] The Government of Northern Ireland forced the GNR Board to close all remaining lines serving Armagh railway station on 1 October 1957: the goods branch from Armagh to Keady and the main line through Armagh from Portadown as far as the border at Glaslough on the way to Monaghan. [46] [47]

Northern Ireland Railways train services run from Portadown to Belfast Great Victoria Street and the cross-border Enterprise service runs via Newry to Dublin Connolly. Poyntzpass also has a limited service.

When he was Minister for the Department for Regional Development, then MLA Danny Kennedy had indicated plans to restore the railway from Armagh station to Portadown. [48]


Armagh's Mall is home to the Armagh Cricket Club, and has also staged international matches. Cricket on the Mall, Armagh - - 589172.jpg
Armagh's Mall is home to the Armagh Cricket Club, and has also staged international matches.

Armagh City Football Club, which plays in the NIFL Championship is the main association football club, and the City of Armagh Rugby Club is the local rugby club. Lisanally Rangers F.C. is another football team, playing in the Mid-Ulster Football League. Gaelic football is represented by Armagh Harps and Pearse Ógs. The local GAA handball club is Eugene Quinn's, named after a player from the Armagh area who died on an attempted swim from Tory Island to the coast of Donegal. The local hurling club is Armagh Cúchulainns.

In 2004 the Royal School, Armagh became only the second team in history to win both the schools' rugby and hockey cups in the same year.

The Mall in Armagh has a long association with cricket, and is the location of the Armagh Cricket Club clubhouse.

Armagh Athletics Club was founded in 1969. The club organises the Armagh International 5k Road Race annually. The race was first organised in 1980 and takes place every February with athletes coming from England, Scotland, Wales, continental Europe and the United States.

Notable people

Only people who are sufficiently notable to have individual entries on Wikipedia have been included in the list and, in each instance, their birth or residence has been verified by citations.


Armagh, like most of Ireland, has a temperate maritime climate (Cfb) according to the Köppen climate classification system. The nearest Met Office standard weather station, at Armagh Observatory, provides long term weather data back to 1844. During that time, the highest temperature to be recorded was 30.4 °C (86.7 °F) on 27 June 2018. [63] The lowest temperature was −15.1 °C (4.8 °F) on 7 February 1895. [64] Armagh also holds the record for highest daily minimum temperature in Northern Ireland, at 20.6 °C (69.1 °F) on 31 July 1868. [65] The lowest daily maximum temperature on record is −8.0 °C (17.6 °F) which occurred on 20 December 2010. [66]

Typically, the warmest day of the year will reach 26.1 °C (79.0 °F), [67] and 3.7 days a year should attain a maximum temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above. [68]

Typically the coldest night of the year should fall to −6.8 °C (19.8 °F) [69] and 40.4 nights should register an air frost. [70] All averages refer to the 1981–2010 observation period.

Climate data for Armagh, elevation: 42 m (138 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1844–present
Record high °C (°F)15.7
Average high °C (°F)7.4
Daily mean °C (°F)4.7
Average low °C (°F)1.9
Record low °C (°F)−14.3
Average rainfall mm (inches)74.5
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)14.311.013.311.611.810.911.713.012.213.713.613.3150.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 46.469.096.6142.6173.5144.2137.0133.3113.990.258.540.31,245.5
Source 1: Met Office [71]
Source 2: AOMD [72]

Annalistic references

The remains of Armagh's Franciscan friary ArmaghFranciscanFriary (2).JPG
The remains of Armagh's Franciscan friary

See Annals of Inisfallen (AI)

See also

Related Research Articles

County Armagh County in Northern Ireland

County Armagh is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland and one of six counties of Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 1,326 km2 and has a population of about 174,792. County Armagh is known as the "Orchard County" because of its many apple orchards. The county is part of the historic province of Ulster.

Navan Fort

Navan Fort is an ancient ceremonial monument near Armagh, Northern Ireland. According to tradition it was one of the great royal sites of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland and the capital of the Ulaidh. It is a large circular hilltop enclosure—marked by a bank and ditch—inside which is a circular mound and the remains of a ring barrow. Archeological investigations show that there were once buildings on the site, including a huge roundhouse-like structure that has been likened to a temple. In a ritual act, this timber structure was filled with stones, deliberately burnt down and then covered with earth to create the mound which stands today. It is believed that Navan was a pagan ceremonial site and was regarded as a sacred space. It features prominently in Irish mythology, especially in the tales of the Ulster Cycle. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, "the [Eamhain Mhacha] of myth and legend is a far grander and mysterious place than archeological excavation supports".

Cellach of Armagh or Celsus or Celestinus (1080–1129) was Archbishop of Armagh and an important contributor to the reform of the Irish church in the twelfth century. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Cellach. Though a member of the laicized ecclesiastical dynasty of Clann Sínaig, he took holy vows and gained priestly ordination. This put an end to the anomalous state of affairs, in effect since 966, whereby the supreme head of the Irish Church had been a layman. Following the Synod of Ráith Bressail, in which a diocesan structure for Ireland was established, he became the first metropolitan primate of all Ireland.

Emly Village in Munster, Ireland

Emly or Emlybeg is a village in County Tipperary, Ireland. It is a civil parish in the historical barony of Clanwilliam. It is also an Ecclesiastical parish in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly.

Saint Carláen was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 578 to 588.

Saint Senach was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 598 to 610.

Eochu macDiarmaid, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 588 to 598.

Saint Fiachra was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 548 to 558.

Saint Mac Laisre mac Luighdeach b. c.560 - d. 12 September 623, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 610 to 12 September 623.

Saint Tómméne b. c.580 - d.10 January 661, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 623 to 10 January 661.

Saint Ségéne b. c. 610 - d. 24 May 688, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 661 to 24 May 688.

Dubthach the First b. c.450 - d. 513, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 497 to 513.

Cormac, Bishop of Armagh and Abbot of Armagh monastery, Ireland from 481 to 17 February 497.

Iarlaithe mac Treno, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 468 to 11 February 481.

Saint Nuadu b. c. 760 - d. 19 February 812, was the Abbot and Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 809 to 19 February 812.

Congus b. c.680 - d.750, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 730 to 750.

Saint Suibne

Saint Suibne b. c.670 – d. 21 June 730, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 715 to 21 June 730. He is notable for his portrait which is possibly the earliest contemporary representation of a bishop of Armagh.

Saint Fer dá Chrích mac Suibni, was the Abbot of Armagh, Ireland from 758 to 18 May 768.

Célé Petair b. c. 700 - d. 758, was the Abbot of Armagh, Ireland from 750 to 758.

Cú Dínaisc mac Conasaig, was the Abbot of Armagh, Ireland from 768 to 772.


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