Downpatrick
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Downpatrick

Downpatrick, October 2009
Reputed grave of St. Patrick

Downpatrick (from Irish: Dún Pádraig, meaning "Patrick's stronghold")[4] is a small-sized town about 33 km (21 mi) south of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. It has been an important site since ancient times. Its cathedral is said to be the burial place of Saint Patrick. Today it is the county town of Down and the joint headquarters of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. Downpatrick area has currently shown to have a population of 19,817 according to the 2011 Census, although it is likely to have increased in recent years.[5]

Overview

As the largest town in the Lecale area, Downpatrick is a commercial, recreational and administrative center for the locality and serves as a hub for the nearby towns and villages. Within a 30 minutes drive from Belfast, the location serves as a commuter town for a large number of people. The town has a number of primary and post-primary schools educating students from all over the east Down area.

Downpatrick is also famous because its history of St Patrick, even though the town had been named after him, it is believed during the 5th century he had lived in Downpatrick and is currently buried in Down Cathedral.[6]

Geography

Downpatrick is characterised by the rolling drumlins that are a feature of the Lecale area and a legacy of glaciation during the Pleistocene, the Down drumlins themselves are underlaid by Ordovician and Silurian shales and grits. Its lowest point lies within the marshland surrounding the north east of the town, recorded as being 1.3 ft (0.40 m) below sea level.[7] Downpatrick is approximately 22 miles (35 km) from Belfast and has a regular bus service to the city.

History

Pre-history

An early Bronze Age site was excavated in Downpatrick on the Meadowlands housing estate, revealing two round houses. One measured over 4 metres in diameter and contained a hearth in the centre, while the other round house was over seven metres across.[8]

Some archaeological evidence indicates a Neolithic settlement at the Cathedral Hill site, which otherwise appears to have been unoccupied until the late Bronze Age. It then had an undefended settlement at least on the south west of the hill top.[9]

Early history

Downpatrick or Duno[10] is one of Ireland's most ancient and historic towns. It takes its name from a dún (fort), which once stood on the hill that dominates the town and on which Down Cathedral was later built. Ptolemy, about the year AD 130, includes it (in Latin) as Dunum in his list of towns of Ireland.

The Gaelic name of the town was Rath Celtair, named after the mythological warrior of Ulster called