Bangor, County Down

Bangor, County Down

Infobox UK place
official_name= Bangor
irish_name= Beannchor

map_type= Northern Ireland
latitude= 54.66
longitude= -5.67
population= 58,388 (2001 Census)
unitary_northern_ireland= North Down Borough
country= Northern Ireland
post_town= BANGOR
postcode_area= BT
postcode_district= BT19
dial_code= 028
constituency_westminster= North Down
constituency_ni_assembly= North Down
lieutenancy_northern_ireland= County Down
website= []

Bangor ( _ga. Beannchor) is a large town in County Down, Northern Ireland, with a population of 76,403 people in the 2001 Census, making it the most populous town in Northern Ireland and the third most populous settlement in Northern Ireland. It is a seaside resort situated on the southern side of Belfast Lough and is situated in the Belfast Metropolitan Area. Bangor Marina is one of the largest in Ireland, and holds Blue Flag status. [ [ Bangor Marina ] ] In 2007, and again in 2008, the town was voted by UTV viewers as the most desirable place to live in Northern Ireland. [ [ Bangor voted most desirable place to live] , UTV News, 3 August 2007] .

It is primarily residential and can be viewed as a commuter town for the Greater Belfast area, from which it is linked by the A2 road and a direct railway line. Bangor is situated 13.6 miles (22 km) from the heart of Belfast and thirty minutes by train or bus with George Best Belfast City Airport even closer.

Bangor is part of the North Down Borough Council area and is twinned with the Austrian city of Bregenz, and the US city of Virginia Beach. The Mayor of Bangor is Leslie Cree. It is also host to the Royal Ulster and Ballyholme Yacht clubs. Tourism is important, particularly in the summer months, and plans are being made for the redevelopment of the seafront; a notable building in the town is Bangor Old Custom House. The largest remaining individual land owner in the area is the Clandeboye Estate, located a few miles from the town centre.


The name "Bangor" is derived from the Irish word "Beannchor" meaning a staked enclosure. It may also be linked to "Beanna", the Irish for cliffs. The area was also known as "The Vale of Angels", after Saint Patrick once rested there and had a vision filled with angels. [ [ The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York] ]

Coat of Arms

The shield is emblazoned with two ships, which feature the Red Hand of Ulster on their sails, denoting that Bangor is in the Irish province of Ulster. The blue and white stripes on the shield show that Bangor is a seaside town. Supporting the shield are two dolphins, signifying Bangor's links with the sea. Each is charged with a gold roundle; the left featuring a Shamrock to represent Ireland, and the right featuring a bull's head, possibly in reference to the derivation of the town's name. The arms are crested by a haloed St Comgall, founder of the town's Abbey, who was an important figure in the spread of Christianity. The motto reads "Beannchor", the town's name in Irish.


Bangor has a long and varied history, from the Bronze Age people whose swords were discovered in 1949 or the Viking burial found on Ballyholme beach, to the Victorian pleasure seekers who travelled on the new railway from Belfast to take in the sea air. The town has been the site of a monastery renowned throughout Europe for its learning and scholarship, the victim of violent Viking raids in the 8th and 9th centuries, and the new home of Scottish and English planters during the Plantation of Ulster. The town has prospered as an important port, a centre of cotton production, and a Victorian and Edwardian holiday resort. Today it is a large retail centre and a commuter town for Belfast, though the remnants of the town's varied past still shape its modern form.

Bangor Abbey

The Annals of Ulster tells us that the monastery of Bangor was founded by Saint Comgall in approximately 555 [ [ "Eclesia Bennchuir fundata est."] ] and was where the "Antiphonarium Benchorense" was written, a copy of which can be seen in the town's heritage centre. The monastery had such widespread influence that the town is one of only four places in Ireland to be named in the Hereford Mappa Mundi in 1300. The monastery, situated roughly where the Church of Ireland Bangor Abbey currently stands at the head of the town, became a centre of great learning and was among the most eminent of Europe’s missionary institutions in the Early Middle Ages, although it also suffered greatly at the hands of Viking raiders in the 8th century and the 9th century. Saint Malachy was elected Abbot of the monastery in 1123, a year before being consecrated Bishop of Connor. His extensive travels around Europe inspired him to rejuvenate the monasteries in Ireland, and he replaced the existing wooden huts with stone buildings; all that remains today of these is a solitary wall beside the current Bangor Abbey, supposed to be part of the monastery's refectory. Despite the decline of the monastery, its influence can still be observed in the modern town; streets names such as Abbots Close and Abbots Walk in the area of the Abbey give clues as to the town's illustrious ecclesiastical past.Bangor’s founder, Comgall, was born in Antrim in 517. Originally a soldier, he soon took monastic vows and was educated for his new life. He is next seen in the Irish annals as a hermit on Lough Erne, however his rule was so severe that seven of his fellow monks died. He was persuaded to leave and establish a house at Bangor (or Beannchar, from the Irish “Horned Curve,” probably in reference to the bay) in the famed Vale of the Angels. The earliest Irish annals give 558 as the date of Bangor’s commencement.

Bangor Mor and Perpetual Psalmody

At Bangor, Comgall instituted a rigid monastic rule of incessant prayer and fasting. Far from turning people away, this ascetic rule attracted thousands. When Comgall died in 602, the annals report that three thousand monks looked to him for guidance. Bangor Mor, named “the great Bangor” to distinguish it from its British contemporaries, became the greatest monastic school in Ulster as well as one of the three leading lights of Celtic Christianity. The others were Iona, the great missionary center founded by Colomba, and Bangor on the Dee, founded by Dinooth; the ancient Welsh Triads also confirm the “Perpetual Harmonies” at this great house.

Throughout the sixth century, Bangor became famous for its choral psalmody. “It was this music which was carried to the Continent by the Bangor Missionaries in the following century” (Hamilton, Rector of Bangor Abbey). Divine services of the seven hours of prayer were carried out throughout Bangor’s existence, however the monks went further and carried out the practice of laus perennis. In the twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of Comgall and Bangor, stating, “the solemnization of divine offices was kept up by companies, who relieved each other in succession, so that not for one moment day and night was there an intermission of their devotions.” This continuous singing was antiphonal in nature, based on the call and response reminiscent of Patrick’s vision, but also practiced by St. Martin’s houses in Gaul. Many of these psalms and hymns were later written down in the Antiphonary of Bangor which came to reside in Colombanus’ monastery at Bobbio, Italy.

The Bangor Missionaries

The ascetic life of prayer and fasting were the attractions of Bangor. However, as time progressed, Bangor also became a famed seat of learning and education. There was a saying in Europe at the time that if a man knew Greek he was bound to be an Irishman, largely due to the influence of Bangor. The monastery further became a missions-sending community. Even to this day missionary societies are based in the town. Bangor Monks appear throughout medieval literature as a force for good.

In 580, a Bangor monk named Mirin took Christianity to Paisley, where he died “full of miracles and holiness.” In 590, the fiery Colombanus, one of Comgall’s leaders, set out from Bangor with twelve other brothers, including Gall who planted monasteries throughout Switzerland. In Burgundy he established a severe monastic rule at Luxeil which mirrored that of Bangor. From there he went to Bobbio in Italy and established the house which became one of the largest and finest monasteries in Europe. Colombanus died in 615, but by 700 AD, one hundred additional monasteries had been planted throughout France, Germany and Switzerland. Other famed missionary monks who went out from Bangor include Molua, Findchua and Luanus.

The End of Greatness

The greatness of Bangor came to a close in 824 with raids from the marauding Vikings. In one raid alone, nine hundred monks were slaughtered. Although the twelfth century saw a resurrection of the fire of Comgall initiated by Malachy (a close friend of Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote The Life of St. Malachy), it unfortunately never had the same impact as the early Celtic firebrands who held back the tide of darkness and societal collapse by bringing God to a broken generation.

17th and 18th centuries

The modern town has its roots in the early 17th century when the Scot, Sir James Hamilton, arrived in Bangor, having been granted lands in north Down by King James I in 1605. The Old Custom House which was completed in 1637 after James I granted Bangor the status of a port in 1620, is a visible reminder of the new order introduced by Hamilton and his Scots settlers, and is one of the oldest buildings in Ireland to have been in continual use. The town was an important source of customs revenue for the crown and in the 1780s Colonel Robert Ward improved the harbour and promoted the cotton industries; today's picturesque seafront was the location of several large steam-powered cotton mills, which employed over three hundred people. The construction of a large stone market house around this time, now used by the Northern Bank, is a testament to the increasing prosperity of the town.

The end of the 18th century was a time of great political and social turmoil in Ireland, as the United Irishmen, inspired by the American and French Revolutions, sought to achieve a greater degree of independence from Britain. On the morning of 10 June 1798 a force of United Irishmen, mainly from Bangor, Donaghadee, Greyabbey and Ballywalter attempted to occupy the nearby town of Newtownards. They met with musket fire from the market house and were subsequently defeated ("see also Irish Rebellion of 1798").

Victorian Era

By the middle of the 19th century, the cotton mills had declined and the town changed in character once again. The laying of the railway in 1865 meant that inexpensive travel from Belfast was possible, and working class people could afford for the first time to holiday in the town. Bangor soon became a fashionable resort for Victorian holidaymakers, as well as a desirable home to the wealthy. Many of the beautiful houses overlooking Bangor Bay (some of which have now been demolished to make way for modern apartments) date from this period. The belief in the restorative powers of the sea air meant that the town became a popular location for sea bathing and marine sports, and the number of visitors from Great Britain increased during the Edwardian period at the beginning of the 20th century, which also saw the improvement of Ward Park and the Marine Gardens.

20th century to present

The inter-war period of the early 20th century saw the development of the fondly remembered Tonic Cinema, Pickie Pool and Caproni’s ballroom — all three among the foremost of their type in Ireland. Only Pickie Pool exists today, though it is in a different location than it was in the past, due to the rejuvenation of Bangor seafront in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Tonic and Caproni's have both been demolished.

During World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed Allied troops in Bangor, who were departing to take part in the D-Day landings. In 2005, his granddaughter Mary-Jean Eisenhower came to the town to oversee the renaming of the marina's North Pier to the Eisenhower Pier.

With the growing popularity of inexpensive foreign holidays from the 1960s onwards, Bangor declined as a tourist resort and was forced to rethink its future. The second half of the 20th century saw its role as a dormitory town for Belfast become more important. Its population increased dramatically; from around 14,000 in 1930 it had reached 40,000 by 1971 and 58,000 by the end of the century (some council publicity material counting it as high as 70,000), making it one of the ten largest settlements in all of Ireland. The late 1960s also saw work begin on the construction of the Ring Road around the town.

The 1970s saw the building of the Springhill Shopping Centre, an out–of–town development near the A2 road to Belfast and Northern Ireland's first purpose-built shopping centre. It has been demolished to facilitate a modern 24-hour Tesco supermarket. The town expanded rapidly in the 1980s to accommodate many new residents, absorbing much surrounding countryside. This period also saw the construction of the Marina and major light industrial and retail developments. In the early 1990s, Bloomfield Shopping Centre, another out–of–town development, opened beside Bloomfield Estate. In 2007, a major renovation of the centre began, including the construction of a multistorey car park. The trend towards out–of–town shopping centres was somewhat reversed with the construction of the Flagship Centre around 1990 and a large Safeway store in the town centre, which has now become ASDA.

Currently the seafront of the town is awaiting redevelopment and has been for over a decade, with a large part of the frontage already demolished, leaving a patch of derelict ground facing onto the marina. Because of this, a great deal of local controversy surrounds this process and the many plans put forward by the council and developers for the land (see External Links). A state of the art recycling centre is being built in Balloo Industrial Estate, due to be one of the most advanced in Europe. It opened in the summer of 2008. []

On Saturday 12 May 2007, a series of unidentified orange lights appeared in the sky over the town, causing speculation that they were UFOs. [ [ BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Residents spot strange UFO lights ] ] The lights even prompted calls to Belfast International Airport's air traffic control, including one from the coastguard; air traffic control stated they had no record of any aircraft in the area at the time. It has been speculated that the lights were caused by Thai wedding lanterns, released into the sky to celebrate a marriage. [ [ YouTube video of the BBC News report] , 14 May 2007]

The Troubles

Despite escaping much of the sectarian violence during The Troubles, Bangor was the site of some major incidents. During the troubles there were 8 murders in the town including that of the first RUC woman to be killed on duty; 26 year old Mildred Harrison was killed by an explosion while on foot patrol in the High Street [Malcom Sutton. An Index of Deaths from the conflict in Ireland.] On 30 March 1974, terrorists carried out a major incendiary bomb attack on the main shopping centre in Bangor. On 21 October 1992, the Provisional IRA (PIRA) exploded a Unit lb|200|0 bomb in Main Street, causing large amounts of damage to nearby buildings. [ [ CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1992 ] ] Main Street sustained more damage on 7 March 1993, when the PIRA exploded a Unit lb|500|0 car bomb. Four Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were injured in the explosion; the cost of the damage was later estimated at £2 million, as there was extensive damage to retail premises and Trinity Presbyterian Church, as well as minor damage to the local Church of Ireland Parish Church and First Bangor Presbyterian Church.


Like most places in the British Isles, Bangor has a mild climate with few extremes of weather. It enjoys one of the sunniest climates in Northern Ireland, and receives about 700 mm of rain per year, which is dry by Ireland's standards. Spring and early summer are drier than autumn and winter, and slight drought conditions are usual in spring and early summer, recently occurring in June 2006, April 2007 and May 2008. Snow is rare and frost usually only occurs a few mornings a year. This is due to the mild winters and close proximity to the sea. Winter maximums are about convert|7|°C but can reach as high as convert|17|°C. Average maximums in summer are around convert|20|°C, although the record high is convert|35|°C. The lowest recorded temperature is convert|-5.4|°C. Temperatures above convert|27|°C in Bangor are usually uncomfortable due to the high humidity, and real feels would be in the mid 30s. The climate puts Bangor in plant hardiness zone 9, similar to Tampa, Las Vegas and New Orleans.

Infobox Weather
location = Bangor, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
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source =cite web | title = Belfast, Northern Ireland - Average Conditions | work = BBC Weather Centre | publisher = BBC | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18]
accessdate =2008-02-10


Bangor is classified by the [ NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)] as a Large Town (i.e., with a population between 18,000 and 75,000) within the Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area (BMUA). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 58,388 people living in Bangor. Of these:
*20.2% were aged under 16 years and 20.3% were aged 60 and over
*47.7% of the population were male and 52.3% were female
*82.7% were from a Protestant background and 10.6% were from a Roman Catholic background

For more details see: [ NI Neighbourhood Information Service]


The first section of Belfast and County Down Railway line from Belfast to Holywood opened in 1848 and was extended to Bangor by the Belfast, Holywood and Bangor Railway (BHBR), opening on 1 May 1865, along with Bangor railway station. It was acquired by the BCDR in 1884.cite web | title=Belfast and County Down Railway | work= Irish Railwayana| url= | accessdate=2007-09-01] and closed to goods traffic on 24 April 1950.cite web | title=Bangor stations | work=Railscot - Irish Railways| url= | accessdate=2007-08-28|format=PDF] Bangor West railway station was opened on 1 June 1928 by the Belfast and County Down Railway to serve the rapidly expanding suburbs of Bangor.



In football, the IFA Premier League side Bangor FC play at Clandeboye Park on the Clandeboye Road.

There are a large number of amateur league football teams within the Bangor area playing in the Northern Amateur Football League. The majority of teams play on council run pitches called the Valentine Playing fields which are located behind Castle Park. Other playing fields are located near Bloomfield and Groomsport.


Bangor has a high reputation for sailing, hosting great world events and also has high prestige clubs such as the Royal Ulster Yacht Club and Ballyholme Yacht Club.

Motor sport

Every year Bangor hosts the motorcycle World Trials Championships at the marina. Bangor also will host an off–road karting event on Gransha Road in 2007.


Bangor's basketball team, the Bangor Mariners, has grown in strength and size with the development of its youth team. The team had a successful first season in the 2005/06 Ulster Basketball Association Premier Division.


Bangor Cricket Club runs five teams now in full league competition and has a reputation for providing one of the best wickets to play on anywhere in Ireland. Not traditionally one of the giants of local cricket, they surprised many people by winning the NCU Senior League Section 1 three seasons ago, thanks largely to the exploits of New Zealander Regan West and all rounder Johnny Hewitt, who have now left the club. The club is now mid-table and looking to heavily develop its next generation. It is greatly aided in this regard by their Sri Lankan professional Yasas Tillakaratne.


In 2006 North Down Athletics club won the Hibernian League and became Irish Champions for the first time in their history.


Bangor's hockey club is situated on the Old Belfast Road at Bangor Sportsplex, and comprises six men's teams, two women's teams and a large youth section. The first XI are currently in the Vi-sport Premier league and finished sixth in the 2006/2007 season.


It was announced in June 2007 that the town would be the location of Northern Ireland's first Olympic-sized 50-metre swimming pool, intended to replace the town's ageing leisure centre. The 10-lane indoor pool, which is expected to be completed in 2010, will provide facilities for both local and international athletes training for the 2012 London Olympics. [ [ Olympic swimming pool for Bangor] , BBC News, 16 June, 2007]


North Down volleyball club was established in 1997. Previously the team trained at Newtonards leisure centre then moving to Bangor lesiure centre from Ards in 2004. Currently there is a mens' team competing in the NIVA division 1 league in which the mens' first team won in the 2005/2006 season. After the indoor volleyball season is over, the beach volleyball season begins at Ballyholme Beach during the summer months.

Places of interest

*Bangor Marina
*Clandeboye Estate
*Ward Park
*Clandeboye Park

Buildings of note

*Bangor Abbey
*Bangor Castle
*Somme Heritage Centre
* Bangor Market House, which dates from the late 18th century, is a 5 bay 2 story building currently used as a bank
*Bangor Old Custom House
*McKee Clock

Public figures from Bangor

*Christine Bleakley presenter of The One Show
*David Trimble, Nobel Laureate, former Ulster Unionist Party leader and former First Minister of Northern Ireland
*Lembit Öpik, Liberal Democrat MP and Shadow Welsh and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
*The former Formula One racing driver Eddie Irvine (actually from Conlig - a small village just outside Bangor)
*Belle & Sebastian bassist Bobby Kildea
*"Blue Peter" presenter and former Miss Northern Ireland, Zöe Salmon
*Authors Colin Bateman, Ronan Coghlan and Zane Radcliffe
*Four of the members of the band Snow Patrol are from Bangor: Gary Lightbody, Jonny Quinn, Iain Archer, and Mark McClelland, although Mark and Iain have since left the band
*Professional golfer and now broadcaster, David Feherty
*Former Northern Ireland International footballer Billy Hamilton. He now owns an engraving shop in Bangor's Bingham Mall
*Mark McCall, the Ulster Rugby coach is a former pupil of Bangor Grammar School
*Ulster Rugby players Bryn Cunningham, Kieron Dawson, and Jan Cunningham
*Singer/ Songwriter Foy Vance
*BBC Radio 1 presenter, Dr. Mark Hamilton
*Professional footballer Josh Magennis
*Waylander guitarist Gareth Murdock
*News reporter Chris Buckler
*"I'd Do Anything" finalist Niamh Perry
*Former Holby City star, actor Adam Best attended Bangor Grammar School
*Ex-Republic Of Ireland and Middlesbrough FC footballer, Alan Kernaghan grew up in Bangor and attended the town's Towerview Primary School
*News reporter Neil Brittain

Areas of Bangor

Bangor East

* Ballyholme
* Bloomfield
* Towerview
* Whitehill

Bangor West

* Clandeboye
* Silverstream
* Bryansburn
* Springhill
* Kilcooley
* Carnalea

Bangor South

* Breezemount
* Conlig
* Gransha
* Ashbury
* Rathgael
* Rathgill
* Albany
* Primacy
* Bexley
* Ballycrochan

Bangor North

* Town Centre
* Ward Park
* Harbour and Marina
* Pickie Park


Further and Higher Education
*South Eastern Regional College

Secondary/Grammar School:
*Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College
*Bangor Grammar School
*Glenlola Collegiate School
*St. ColumbanusPrimary School:
*Kilmaine Primary School
*Grange Park Primary School
*Bangor Central Primary School
*Connor House
*Cygnet House
*Kilcooley Primary School
*Ballymagee Primary School
*Rathmore Primary School
*St Malachy's Primary School
*St Comgall's Primary School
*Bloomfield Primary School
*Towerview Primary School
*Ballymagee Primary School
*Clandeboye Primary School
*Ballyholme Primary School

Town twinning

* Bregenz, Austria
* Virginia Beach, Virginia


* [ Ballywalter Community online]
* [ Culture Northern Ireland]
* [ Events in Bangor County Down]

See also

* List of towns in Northern Ireland
* List of villages in Northern Ireland
* List of RNLI stations
* Market Houses in Northern Ireland

External links

* [ Bangor Local]
*Kilcooley estate

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