English Settlement of County Down

The first settlement of the English in this part of Ulster took place in 1177, when John de Courcy, one of the British adventurers who accompanied Strongbow, marched from Dublin with 22 men-at-arms and 300 soldiers, and arrived at Downpatrick in four days without meeting an enemy. But when there he was immediately besieged by Dunleve, the toparch of the country, aided by several of the neighbouring chieftains, at the head of 10,000 men. De Courcy, however did not suffer himself to be blockaded, but sallied out at the head of his little troop, and routed the besiegers. Another army of the Ulidians having been soon after defeated with much slaughter in a great battle, he became undisputed master of the part of the county in the vicinity of Downpatrick, which town he made his chief residence, and founded several religious establishments in its neighbourhood.

In 1200, Roderic Mac Dunleve, toparch of the country, was treacherously killed by De Courcy's servants, who were banished for the act by his order; but in 1203 he himself was seized, while doing penance unarmed in the burial-ground of the cathedral of Down, by order of De Lacy, the chief governor of Ireland, and was sent prisoner to King John in England. The territory then came into the possession of the family of De Lacy, by an heiress of which, about the middle of the same century, it was conveyed in marriage to Walter de Burgo. In 1315, Edward Bruce having landed in the northern part of Ulster, to assert his claim to the throne of Ireland, this part of the province suffered severely in consequence of the military movements attending his progress southwards and his return. Some years after, William de Burgo, the representative of that powerful family, having been killed by his own servants at Carrickfergus, leaving an only daughter, the title and possessions were again transferred by marriage to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, through whom they finally became vested in the kings of England.

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