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.

Location within Northern Ireland
Population14,777 (2011 Census)
Irish grid referenceH876455
 Belfast33 mi (53 km)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townARMAGH
Postcode districtBT60, BT61
Dialling code028 37
EU ParliamentNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly

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.



Eamhain Mhacha (or Navan Fort), at the western edge of Armagh, is believed to have been 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 means "Macha's height". This name was later anglicised as Ardmagh,[7][8] which eventually became Armagh.

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 457, and it eventually became the "ecclesiastical capital" of Ireland. Saint Patrick was said to have decreed that only those educated in Armagh could spread the gospel. According to the Annals of the Four Masters:

Ard Mhacha was founded by Saint Patrick, it having been granted to him by Daire, son of Finnchadh, son of Eoghan, son of Niallan. Twelve men were appointed by him for building the town. He ordered them, in the first place, to erect an archbishop's city there, and a church for monks, for nuns, and for the other orders in general, for he perceived that it would be the head and chief of the churches of Ireland in general.

Medieval era

In 839 and 869, the monastery in Armagh was raided by Vikings. As with similar raids, their goal was to acquire valuables such as silver, which could often be found in churches and monasteries.

The Book of Armagh came from the monastery. It is a 9th-century Irish manuscript now held by Trinity College Library in Dublin (ms 52). It contains some of the oldest surviving specimens of Old Irish.

Brian Boru is believed to be buried in the graveyard of the St. Patrick's Church of Ireland cathedral. After having conquered the island during the 990s, he became High King of Ireland in 1002, until his death in 1014.

In 1189, John de Courcy, a Norman knight who had invaded Ulster in 1177, plundered Armagh.[9]

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) Prebyterian 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.[10] 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.[11]

During the Troubles in Armagh, the violence was substantial enough for the city to be referred to by some as "Murder Mile".[12] 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.


Local government

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, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council, also known as the ABC council. In the 2014 Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council election, a total of two Sinn Fein, two SDLP, one DUP and one UUP councillors were elected from Armagh electoral area.

Current council members
District electoral area Name Party
Armagh Garath Keating Sinn Féin
Thomas O'Hanlon SDLP
Darren McNally Sinn Féin
Sam Nicholson UUP
Freda Donnelly DUP
Mealla Campbell SDLP

In 2018 the Lord Mayor of the ABC council was Julie Flaherty (UUP, Portadown) and the Deputy Lord Mayor was Paul Duffy (Sinn Fein, Portadown).[13]

Northern Ireland assembly

Armagh is part of the Newry and Armagh (Assembly constituency). In the 2017 elections, the following were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly: Megan Fearon, Cathal Boylan, Conor Murphy (all members of Sinn Féin), Justin McNulty of the SDLP and William Irwin of the DUP.


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. The Member of Parliament is Mickey Brady of Sinn Féin. He won the seat in the 2015 United Kingdom general election.

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.[14] 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".[15] 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,[16] with several applications to the Home Office being made.[17] The council used the appellation "city" unofficially until 1994, when at Queen Elizabeth's personal request,[17] 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,[14] and also "in recognition of [Armagh's and St Davids'] important Christian heritage and their status as cities in the last century".[18]

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.[19] Following this, it was renamed Armagh City and District Council from 1 October 1995.[20] Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District 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.


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.[21] Of these:

  • 20.90% were aged under 16 years and 15.44% were aged 65 and over;
  • 52.52% of the usually resident population were female and 47.48% were male;
  • 68.85% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic religion and 26.95% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' religion;
  • 44.39% had an Irish national identity, 27.18% indicated that they had a British national identity and 26.43% had a Northern Irish national identity (respondents could indicate more than one national identity);
  • 37 years was the average (median) age of the population;
  • 18.76% had some knowledge of Irish (Gaelic) and 4.08% had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots.


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.[22] The lowest temperature was −15.1 °C (4.8 °F) on 7 February 1895.[23]

Typically, the warmest day of the year will reach 26.1 °C (79.0 °F),[24] and 3.7 days a year should attain a maximum temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above.[25]

Typically the coldest night of the year should fall to −6.8 °C (19.8 °F)[26] and 40.4 nights should register an air frost.[27] All averages refer to the 1981–2010 observation period.

Climate data for Armagh, elevation: 42 m (138 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1844–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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 precipitation mm (inches) 74.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 14.3 11.0 13.3 11.6 11.8 10.9 11.7 13.0 12.2 13.7 13.6 13.3 150.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 46.4 69.0 96.6 142.6 173.5 144.2 137.0 133.3 113.9 90.2 58.5 40.3 1,245.5
Source #1: Met Office[28]
Source #2: AOMD[29]

Notable buildings

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.

City centre regeneration

To combat the problem of a diminishing city centre and to address the concerns of local people, Armagh City and District Council decided to upgrade the surfaces and general appearance of the main shopping areas.

The scheme aims to deal with the many issues raised by the public and businesses over recent years. It will regenerate the centre of Armagh, transforming it into a high-quality pedestrian-friendly environment. The ineffective pedestrian area in Market Street will be opened officially to vehicles. The scheme will provide wider footpaths, pedestrian crossings and disabled parking throughout the city centre to improve safety and accessibility.

As well as these new street layouts the appearance of the city centre will be enhanced by new lighting, paving, seating, bins and greenery. The use of quality stone materials, public art projects and feature lighting will contribute to the overall effect and present the city's famous architecture at its best. A shop frontage scheme will be launched toward the end of the street development project.

The scheme includes eleven streets: Market Street, Thomas Street, Ogle Street, Scotch Street, Dobbin Street, Dobbin Street Lane, Barrack Street, McCrum's Court, Upper English Street, Russell Street, Ogle Street and Linenhall Street.

The £5m Armagh City Centre Regeneration Scheme is funded by Armagh City and District Council, the Department for Social Development, Transport NI and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.


The Education Authority (Southern) and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust[33] 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.



  • Armstrong Primary School
  • Christian Brothers Primary School Armagh
  • The Drelincourt Primary School
  • Dromintee Primary School
  • Drumhillery Primary School
  • Mount St Catherine's Primary School
  • The Royal School Preparatory School
  • Saints and Scholars Integrated Primary School
  • St. Malachy's Primary School
  • St. Patrick's Primary School



The Ulster Railway linked Armagh with Belfast in 1848 and Monaghan in 1858.[35] The Newry and Armagh Railway (N&A) opened in 1864 and the Castleblayney, Keady and Armagh Railway (CK&A) was completed in 1910.[35] 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.[36]

The Armagh rail disaster, which killed 80 people, occurred on 12 June 1889 on the N&A line near Armagh.[37][38]

The partition of Ireland in 1922 hastened the railways' decline, and the GNR closed the Keady Castleblayney section of the CKA in 1923.[39] 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.[39] 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.[39][40]

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.

Government Minister for the Department for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy MLA has indicated plans to restore the railway from Armagh station to Portadown.[41]


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.


Armagh is within the civil parish of Armagh. Like the rest of Ireland, this parish has long been divided into townlands, whose names mostly come from the Irish language. Over time, more townlands have been built upon and they have lent their names to many 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.[42] However, the surrounding townlands remained as separate units and they were eventually built upon too. They are listed below alongside their likely etymologies.[7][43]

  • Aghamoat (from Irish Achadh Mochta, meaning 'Mochta's field')
  • Ballynahone Beg (from Baile [Beag] na hAbhann meaning "[small] townland of the river") – part of Lisnadill parish
  • Ballynahone More (from Baile [Mór] na hAbhann meaning "[large] townland of the river")
  • Cargagh (from Cairgeach meaning "rocky land")
  • Cavanacaw (from Cabhán na Cáithe meaning "hollow of the chaff")
  • Drumadd (from Druim-fhad meaning "long ridge")
  • Drumarg (from Druim Arg meaning "ridge of the chests" or Druim Fhairig meaning "ridge of the feasting/hospitality")
  • Drumman More (from an Drumainn meaning "the ridge")
  • Killuney (from Cill Lughna meaning "Lughna's church")
  • Legarhill or Mullaghcreevie (from Mullach Craoibhe meaning "hilltop of the branch")
  • Lurgyvallen (from Lorg Uí Mhealláin meaning "Ó Mhealláin's track")
  • Mullynure (from Mullach an Iubhair meaning "hilltop of the yew") – part of Grange parish
  • Parkmore (from Páirc Mhór meaning "great field")
  • Tullyelmer (from Tulaigh Giolla Mura meaning "Giolla Mura's mound")
  • Umgola (origin uncertain but probably includes the element -gabhla meaning "forks")

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.

Companies and organisations

In April 2013, the Belfast Telegraph released a list of top 100 companies in Northern Ireland. Armagh-based Moy Park topped the list which was generated based on total employment numbers and annual revenues. Other companies in the list include Tesco, J. Sainsbury, HCL Armagh, Marks and Spencer, and Bank of Ireland.[55][56]

Annalistic references

See Annals of Inisfallen (AI)

  • AI715.2 Flann.Febla, abbot of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI729.1 Kl. Repose of Suibne, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI750.1 Kl. Repose of Congus, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI768.3 Repose of Feradach son of Suibne, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI772.2 Suibne, abbot of Ard Macha, [rested].
  • AI791.1 Kl. Cú Dínisc son of Cú Ásaig, abbot of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI793.1 Dub dá Leithe, abbot of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI794.1 Kl. Airechtach, abbot of Ard Macha, [rested].
  • AI795.3 Repose of Faendledach Bec, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI807.1 Kl. Connmach son of Dub dá Leithe, abbot of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI808.1 Kl. Taicthech grandson of Tigernán, lector of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI834.1 Kl. Eógan, bishop of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI845.2 Forannán, abbot of Ard Macha, was carried off by the heathens from Cluain Comarda, and the shrine of Pátraic was broken and carried off by them.
  • AI846.1 Kl. Niall son of Aed, king of Temuir, was drowned in the Calann, i.e. a river beside Ard Macha.
  • AI852.2 Forannan and Diarmait, abbots of Ard Macha, fell asleep.
  • AI852.2 Repose of Cathasach, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI874.1 Kl. The third feria [Tuesday], ninth of the moon. Féthgna, abbot of Ard Macha, rested in Christ.
  • AI883.2 Repose of Cathasach, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI888.3 Repose of Mael Coba son of Crunnmael, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI893.1 First after Bissextile. Kl. Repose of Mochta, bishop of Ard Macha.
  • AI924.2 Muiredach son of Domnall, abbot of Mainister Búiti and tanist-abbot of Ard Macha, rested.
  • AI927.1 Kl. Repose of Mael Brigte son of Tornán, abbot of Ard Macha and abbot of Í Coluim Chille.
  • AI936.1 Kl. Repose of Ioseph, abbot of Ard Macha; and Mael Pátraic succeeded him in the abbacy.
  • AI966.2 Repose of Muiredach son of Fergus, abbot of Ard Macha.
  • AI973.3 Dub dá Leithe, coarb of Patrick, came to Mumu and made his visitation; and he and the coarb of Ailbe quarrelled regarding the levy, and Mathgamain, king of Mumu, made peace between them, and they agreed upon the perpetual right of [the coarb of] Patrick.
  • AI996.4 Ard Macha was set on fire by lightning, which did not leave unburnt a steeple therein, nor a house, nor the house of an elder inside the fort.
  • AI996.5 Dub dá Leithe, coarb of Ard Macha (or, of Patrick) and coarb of Colum Cille, rested in Christ.
  • AI1001.2 Muirecán, abbot of Ard Macha, was expelled from his abbot's seat, and Mael Maire took the abbacy instead.
  • AI1005.5 Repose of Eochaid ua Flannacáin, historian of Ard Macha.
  • AI1020.3 Mael Muire son of Eochaid, coarb of Patrick, rested in Christ.
  • AI1020.4 Ard Macha was burned, both stone-church and bellhouse, and all the buildings.
  • AI1026.3 The coarb of Patrick, accompanied by his venerable clerics, and Donnchadh son of Gilla Pátraic, king of Osraige, [were] in the house of Donnchad, son of Brian, at Cenn Corad at Eastertide.
  • AI1029.8 Flaithbertach Ua Néill, on his pilgrimage to Ard Macha.

See also


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