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Historical Ulster: Shankill Road, from the Belfast Telegraph Archives

The Shankill Road in Belfast, one of the city's oldest and most historic districts, and one which has experienced great change over recent decades.

The Shankill (Sean Kill) which gave this area its unique Gaelic name, meaning 'the old church.' The former graveyard, now landscaped as a Garden of Rest, is located next door to St Matthew's Parish Church on the Shankill Road. Within these walls stood, in medieval times, the ancient church of St Patrick. Shankill was situated on the banks of the River Farset where it cascaded down the mountain from Old Park to enter the Lagan eventually in High Street.

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Up to the 17th century, Shankill was the burial place for herdsmen and farmers of the surrounding foothills of Divis, the Black Mountain and Squire's Hill. But with the foundation of Belfast around 1610, the new English and Scots settlers considered Shankill too remote, they tended to favour burials in High Street around the old medieval 'Church of the ford.'

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Yet the old churchyard at Shankill has a curious link to King William III. On a summer's day in 1690 it witnessed the burial of one of the Williamite soldiers. The event is recorded in the diary by a chaplain in William's army, the reverend Davis.

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