Around 2007 Saintfield Town Regeneration Committee (STRC) decided that there should be somewhere in Saintfield that the story of Saintfield’s involvement in the United Irishmen and the 1798 rebellion should be told, both for new residents and visitors to the town.
The battle of Saintfield, on 9 June 1798, was the opening of the 1798 rebellion in County Down and the rebel forces fought well enough to kill around 60 of the crown forces and force the remainder to retreat to Comber. The dead of both sides in the encounter were buried on an island in the river at the bottom of First Saintfield Presbyterian Church graveyard. This became known as York Island as most of the dead were York Fencibles. There are only two named headstones dating from the battle, both of which are for rebels who were killed in the battle.
Since then the river has been re-routed and the island is now part of the graveyard. The First Presbyterian Church agreed to STRC’s request to use this part of the graveyard for a memorial garden to remember those, on both sides, who were killed in the battle. With the help of funding from Down District Council, a car park, paths and benches were laid out in 2010. Five information panels were created with the help of Saintfield Heritage Society and local historian, Horace Reid. These panels tell the story of Francis Hutcheson, (whose ideas led to the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the United Irishmen), the formation and ideals of the United Irishmen, the 1798 rebellion, the Battle of Saintfield and the outcome from the rebellion.
The Memorial Garden was formally opened in 2010 and is well visited by people interested in the United Irishmen. More detailed information on Francis Hutcheson, the United Irishmen in Saintfield and the Battle of Saintfield can be found elsewhere on this site.