Historical references to Ballycastle go back to the 16th century. The town has always had close associations with Scotland and with the Antrim MacDonnells. It has also been associated with the Franciscan friary and in more recent times has developed as a popular resort. The Conservation Area boundary includes the historic upper Town (including the Diamond) and part of the Lower Town. It also includes the tree lined Quay Road with its large villas and the historic landscape setting of the lower Tow Valley. Bonamargy Friary and the motte of Dunrainey are also included within the conservation area.
The development of Ballymoney is associated with the arrival of Scots settlers in the 17th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries a range of public buildings were developed including a Market House, Assembly room and Irish style Georgian housing. Ballymoney Conservation area was created mainly around the vernacular architecture of Charlotte Street. With its quiet intimacy, Charlotte Street must rank as one of the most interesting streets in the north east of the Province. Most of the historic core of Ballymoney has been included within the Conservation Area: High street, Church street, Main street and Victoria street.
Much of Bushmills’ early expansion is associated with the MacNaghten family. It has also been associated with the development of several watermills, the Old Bushmills Distillery and the early development of the Giant’s Causeway as a tourist attraction. The Conservation Area has been drawn up to include the listed buildings and other important heritage features such as the distillery, the remains of the once extensive system of mill races, the Courthouse, a former bank, the Old School (designed by Clough Williams-Ellis), a former station building on the Giant’s Causeway Electric Tramway and several historic pubs.
Carnlough’s distinctive white limestone harbour dates from the 18th century from which grain, limestone and potatoes were exported to Scotland. Improvement works to the harbour were undertaken by the Marchioness of Londonderry who also developed a 1.5 kilometre railway to the quarry. The Conservation Area includes the core of the village centred around the hotel, harbour, railway bridge and former Town Hall which have all been built in the distinctive white limestone of the area.
The name Carrickfergus (‘Rock of Fergus’) traditionally refers to King of Scottish Dalriada, Fergus Mor, who, according to legend, was drowned off the rock when travelling back to Carrick from Scotland. John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight, established the first settlement here in the late 12th century. He also started to build the Castle, which was completed later by Hugh de Lacy.
Carrickfergus developed as an important port and as one of the main towns in Ulster. Its development can be retraced over time in a series of historic maps. In the 16th century, the town played an important role in the reconquest of Ulster. The conservation area includes the seafront, the Norman Castle, St Nicholas Church and the Town Hall formally used as both a prison and a courthouse.
Prior to the development of the Coast Road, access to and from Cushendall was often easier by sea than inland over the Antrim Plateau. Understandably the village has close associations with Scotland. Although the village has a long history of settlement, its real development began in 1813 when the village was purchased by Francis Turnly. One of Cushendalls most prominent landmarks, the Curfew Tower, is associated with this period. Cushendall Conservation Area encloses the heart of the village. The boundary includes the historic core of the village on the west bank of the river, together with the extensive wooded grounds of The Cottage and the older part of the settlement on the east bank of the river.
Cushendun has also close associations with Scotland. Its early development was linked to the growth of tourism in the area and the development of the Antrim Coast Road. The distinctive architecture of the central part of the village was designed by Clough William Ellis. This unique architectural inheritance, together with its picturesque setting, has long attracted artists and poets. The Cushendun Hotel, built in 1925 upon the ruins of a former flax mill, dominates Strandview Park. Cushendun was designated a Conservation Area for the distinctive character of the buildings at the heart of the settlement including the Square and Maud cottages.
Glenarm is one of the oldest villages on the Antrim Coast and the seat of the Antrim McDonnells who are still in residence. The village has a strong association with Scotland and with Limestone extraction. It also has the remains of a Fransiscan Friary dating back to 1465 which can be seen in the graveyard of Saint Patrick’s Church. The Conservation Area includes Glenarm Castle, its open spaces and the Barbican Gate as well as the core of the village including the Vennel, Altmore Street and Toberwine Street with its 19th century shop fronts.
Gracehill was established in 1765 to accommodate a local congregation of the Moravian Church. Gracehill was a close community, self-supporting and functioning to serve the church within the village and beyond (it was not until the 20th century that houses in the village began to be sold to people who were not church members). The settlement was a planned development already established in other Moravian settlements in Europe, Africa and Americas. The survival of the village’s formal street pattern, plot layout, principal buildings and public and private spaces was foremost in determining the form of today’s Conservation Area (the first in Northern Ireland in 1975). The designation encompasses most of the village. The village of Gracehill is now a residential settlement with a population of some 500, situated at the western edge of Ballymena.
As its name implies Merville Garden Village is built on English Garden City lines. Garden Cities represent an attempt to provide high quality social housing in an attractive setting and with complimentary social and community facilities. Merville was built between 1947-49 by Ulster Garden Villages Limited, headed by Thomas Arlow McGrath, a Lurgan-born builder who was inspired by housing developments he had seen in Northern France while serving in the British Army during the First World War. Merville Garden Village has a quality which sets it apart from other suburban estates, such as nearby sprawling Rathcoole, which was built in the course of the 1950s by the former Northern Ireland Housing Trust. In keeping with the principles of the Garden City movementstarted by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the 1880s, it combines architecture and the natural setting of ancient woodland in a way that affords its residents a spacious environment, rich in contrasting form and colour, yet retaining a suburban intimacy. These unique elements led to Merville’s designation as a Conservation Area on the 23 June 1995 by the Department of Environment (NI), the sole official Conservation Area in the borough of Newtownabbey. The distinguished E. Prentice Mawson of Lancashire, England was the consultant architect of Merville and the other Garden Villages (Abbots Cross, Fernagh, Muckamore and Whitehead) constructed in other parts of Northern Ireland in the 1950s.
Whitehead has always had close connections with Scotland. The first telegraph cable connected the village with Scotland in 1854. The village has also has strong connections with the development of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. The Conservation Area includes most of the ‘Edwardian town’ and many of the more prominent buildings reflect its association with the railway such as the many large villas and station buildings.
In addition to the 11 designated conservation areas there are over 2,000 listed buildings and a wealth of historic monuments and archaeological sites. For further information on these see the Environment and Heritage website.