The historic Georgian village of Hillsborough is located just 12 miles south of Belfast on the main A1 road to Dublin. Its outstanding architecture and rich history make it one of the jewels in the crown of Irish tourism.
Early records for the area are very vague but we know that there was an old Irish or Celtic church in the grounds of the Castle (now under the management of Historic Royal Palaces ) dating back to the 6th century. In the 12th century Bishop O’Morgair re-named this church Saint Malachy’s.
Before the mid-1600s the area was known as Crumlin or Cromlyn (from celtic Cromghlinn, meaning ‘crooked glen’). We also know that by the 1500’s the area was under the control of the Celtic clan called the Magennes’s, which were encamped in stronghold in the area we now know as the Large Park.
In 1573 Moyes Arthur Hill came to Ireland as part of the army sent by the protestant Queen Elizabeth I to quell the Irish uprising. Following a successful campaign Moyses Arthur Hill was awarded considerable amounts of land across Antrim and Down. It was documented that in 1611 Moyes Arthur Hill acquired a further 5000 acres from Bryan McCory Magennes.
By 1661 the townland and the settlement within it had been renamed Hillsborough after Sir Arthur Hill, who built Hillsborough Fort in 1650 to command the road from Dublin to Carrickfergus. For service to Parliament and the Crown the Hill family were awarded the title of the Earls of Hillsborough and more recently the Marquesses of Downshire.
The Modern Village
It was not until the mid 18th century that Hillsborough as we know it today was constructed with its streets of Georgian houses under the guidance of Wills Hill who would become the first Marquis of Downshire. Like many villages throughout Northern Ireland, Hillsborough is rapidly growing in both size and population and most of the old structure of the village is now protected as a conservation area.