During one of my visits to Armagh I had the opportunity to have a long afternoon walk in Palace Demesne and Friary, one of the places you can’t miss in the city of two cathedrals.
The Palace Demesne is near the centre of the city, you can just walk to it, and it’s a public park so you don’t have to pay a fee to entry. Here is a map (I took it from the Armagh Guide 2015, the official one by the website Visit Armagh, that you can download here) that can help you understand the distances:
Inside the park, 300 acres of green today public but until the ’70s property of the Archbishop of the Church of Ireland, there are some monuments to visit; from its creation in 1770 by the Archbishop Richard Robinson, this place became a flagship of Armagh city. Our path started from the Ice House near the Palace and ended with the ancient Friary.
The Ice House
The Ice House is a little building with a domed roof and an internal hole deep around 4-5 meters; essentially, this is the freezer of the 18° century: here is where the food for the rich meals in the Palace and the meat coming from the Demesne farm were conserved. When the meats were needed, a servant had to descend inside the hole through the ladder and take them.
From a little window on the top of the building, the ice was thrown inside; to mantain the low temperature, sacks of hay and straw were put between the first and the second door that, as you can see in the first photo, were the entrance.
The Sensory Garden
The Archbishop’s Palace and the Ionic Chapel
The Palace, that unluckily the day of our visit was closed, has been from 1770 to the ’70s the official residence of the Church of Ireland Archbishops. Beside it there’s a Chapel built as a Ionic Temple. This monument was closed too, but, for what I read around, inside there’s one of the most beautiful ecclesial interiors of Ireland, dated back to 1770.
Gallow’s Hill and the second Ice House
From this spot you can have a view both on the city of Armagh, as you can see from the photo above, and on a little hill on the north. This hill, called Gallow’s Hill, is sadly famous for being the place where the prisoners of the city Gaol were taken to be executed by hanging. When Gallow’s Hill became part of the Demesne, the Archbishop could see the executions from his library window; consequently he moved the executions site to the new Gaol he built in 1780. Here is also a second Ice House, similar to the first one.
Lady Anne’s Gate
This little gate fascinated me for its story, that mixes past and literature. Lady Anne Beresford was the fevourite sister of Lord John George Beresford, Archbishop of Armagh from 1822 to 1862, and lived with him inside the Demesne during this period. Lady Anne had a cottage inside the park, and a garden. This garden turned on the imagination of one of the Archbishop’s daughters, Miss Eleanor Alexander, whom in 1903 wrote a novel inspired to it and to her aunt. The entrance to the garden was throught the so-called Lady Anne’s Gate, today reproduced and put in place in honour of the book written by Eleanor. Useless to say that this story made me very curious and that I’ll search for Miss Alexander’s novel to read it 😉
Armagh Franciscan Friary is the last monument we find on our path inside the Demesne: it is near the entrance of the park. The building was created in 1263/64 by the Archbishop Patrick O’Scannail and remained in activity until 1542, when it was suppressed under Henry VIII. After that there was still some religious use of the place, but by 1600 it was completely ruined.
Armagh Friary is not only one of the most ancient, but also the longest one in Ireland.