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History and Heritage - Discover Saintfield

History and Heritage

Thomas Ledlie Birch was the Presbyterian Minister in Saintfield at the time of the United Irishmen.  He formed the Saintfield United Society of Irishmen in 1793 and was active in the preparations for the 1798 rebellion.

The late Aiken McClelland, a noted local historian, researched and wrote what is probably the definitive pamphlet on the life of Thomas Ledlie Birch and his part in the 1798 rebellion in Saintfield.  This pamphlet was published by the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society  in its sessions between 1961 and 1964.

The pamphlet is published here with the kind permission of Aiken McClelland’s family.

T L Birch AMcC

The late Aiken McClelland was the Schoolmaster at Carricknaveagh Primary School during the 1950s and early 60s.

He was a keen local historian and researched and wrote many articles about Saintfield and its surrounding area during this time.  He became the first librarian at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum when it opened.

The paper below was based on a lecture he gave in Saintfield on 8th October, 1971 and is  given here with the kind permission of his family.

History of Saintfield AMcC

Francis Hutcheson was born in the Manse of Saintfield Presbyterian Church, at Drumalig, in 1694.

He is probably the person from Saintfield who has had most impact on the world, through his philosophical writings in the eighteenth century.  These were highly regarded by the founders of the United States of America and his ideas were incorporated into the Virgina Bill of Rights which was the forerunner of the American Constitution. A list of books by and about Hutcheson can be seen by clicking here.

One of Hutcheson’s propositions was that people did not have to suffer poor government.  This was very controversial in the times when monarchs were believed to be anointed by God.  It gave permission, in turn, for the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the Society of United Irishmen.

The following article was written by Mr Philip Orr, a local historian and expert on Francis Hutcheson.  It was published in the Down Survey in the year 2000 by the Down County Museum


William Spratt worked as a clock and watch maker in Saintfield between 1788 and 1846.  He made notes of events that seemed important to him during these nearly sixty years, which he called “The Annals of Saintfield”  Fifty copies of these were privately printed in 1923.

Annals of Saintfield PDF

The pages below are published with the approval of the Belfast & County Down Museum Trust.

They are from a pamphlet put out by the trust in 1972 to raise money to buy Saintfield Station, which was closed in 1950.

The station has been sensitively and painstakingly maintained and restored by two private owners since 1950.      BCDR Museum Trust

These pages from Volume 7 of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland are reprinted with the approval of The Royal Irish Academy Library.  They are a commentary on Saintfield and its surrounding area made by Messrs Tait and Williams in 1837.

They are taken from the 1991 reprint made by The Institute of Irish Studies of 1991, edited by Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams.

O S Memoirs – Saintfield


Rodgers Dickie grew up in Saintfield between the two World Wars.

He wrote “An illustrated walk down memory lane” about his memories of Saintfield and called it “Saintfield my Saintfield”.  Many of the illustrations show scenes of Saintfield that no longer exist.

Rodgers died in 2010 and his widow, Irene Dickie, has given permission for his memoirs to be published on this website.  As they amount to 100 pages they will be added in instalments.

Click below for the first instalment.

Saintfield my Saintfield