Sir Arthur Chichester

Chichester, Sir Arthur, Baron of Belfast, was born about the middle of the 16th century, at Raleigh, in England.

He was early sent to college, but having to fly the country for robbing one of the Queen’s purveyors (who, as Lodge puts it, “were but little better than robbers themselves”), he removed to Ireland.

He commanded one of Drake’s vessels in his last voyage to the West Indies, and afterwards went to France, where he signalized himself under Henry IV., who knighted him.

He was knighted again in 1595, according to Lodge for “his skill in the wars of this kingdom [Ireland], where his service in the reduction of the Irish to due obedience was so manifest, that he was effectually assistant to plough and break up that barbarous nation by conquest, and then sow it with seeds of civility.”

He commanded at Carrickfergus in 1599, and was actively engaged throughout the war with O’Neill; in 1602 he erected Mountjoy Fort; in 1603–’4 he was made Lord-Deputy, and resolutely set about extending the circuits in Ireland, abolishing the old laws and customs, and endeavouring to make the people Protestant.

In 1608, after the flight of the Earls, the plantation of Ulster was urged on, mainly, it would seem, through the influence of Sir Arthur Chichester, who largely profited thereby.

“Manors of 1,000, 1,500, and 3,000 acres were offered by this project to such English and Scottish as should undertake to plant their lots with British Protestants, and engage to allow no Irish to dwell upon them.”[93]

The old occupiers were, as far as possible, cleared off to waste places in Munster and Connaught.

According to Irish law, the tribal lands were the property of the people, not of the chiefs; and even if O’Neill and O’Donnell had been guilty of treason, it did not forfeit the people’s right to the territory. This plantation was perhaps one of the remote causes of the War of 1641–’52.

For his share, Sir Arthur received the district of Inishowen, and he was created Baron Chichester of Belfast in February 1612. In the same year he summoned the first parliament that had been held in Ireland for twenty-seven years.

James managed to secure a Protestant majority by creating a number of small boroughs; and the Irish Catholics were indignant at being shut out from the Privy Council, the Magistracy, the Bench, and the Bar.

In 1614 Chichester was commissioned to inquire into titles of estates in Wexford, Longford, Leitrim, and other counties, and found a general title for the King to about 350,000 acres.

While he was Lord-Deputy, in 1614, the harp was first marshalled with the arms of England on the coinage.

In 1622 he was sent as ambassador to the Palatinate, and to treat for a peace with the Emperor, and for a time was shut up by Tilly’s besieging army in Mannheim.

Returning home, he died in London, 19th February 1624, and was interred in the Church of Saint Nicholas, at Carrickfergus, under a “stately monument.”

He built for himself a residence at Joymount, near Carrickfergus.

His biographer and personal friend, Sir F. Fortescue, says of him:

“He was one so far from ambition and covetousness that he, neither by friends nor of himself, moved for advancement, military or civil, but still it was conferred on him unsought. … He was not a very good orator, but had a singular good expression with his pen—sublime and succinct, according to the subject whereof he wrote, and the person to whom.”[78]

His brother, Sir John, Governor of Carrickfergus, was taken prisoner and beheaded on 4th November 1597, in an expedition against the MacDonnells. His opponent, James MacDonnell, afterwards Earl of Antrim, viewing the Chichester monument, is said to have asked, “How the de’ell he came to get his head again, for he was sure he had ance ta’en it frae him.”


78. Chichester, Sir Arthur, Memoirs: Sir Faithful Fortescue; Edited by Lord Clermont. London, 1858.

93. Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland: John P. Prendergast. London, 1870.

216. Lodge’s Peerage of Ireland, Revised and Enlarged by Mervyn Archdall. 7 vols. Dublin, 1789.

260. O’Curry, Eugene: Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History. Dublin, 1861.