Castle Espie



Castle Espie is a townland lying on the north-western shore of Strangford Lough.  The name Castle Espie (or in Irish, Baile Caislean an Easpaig - the townland of the Bishop's Castle) takes its name from a castle about which virtually nothing is known and of which there are practically no rmeains.  The remains are reputedly incorporated in a dwelling on a nearby hill.  It is quite likely that the castle was connected to the early Christian monastic settlement on nearby Mahee Island.



On the edge of Strangford Lough at Castle Espie, there is an outcrop of carboniferous limestone opverlaid by 40-50 feet of boulder clay.  The outcrop covers an area of approximately 3,000 acres and is a pinkish red colour.  It weathers well and is fairly easily worked.  It was used as building stone in the 17th Century, as is shown by dated stones still in existance.  For example, the doorway of St. Macarten's Chapel at Loughinisland (1636) and the keystone of an arch (1637) in the house in Killyleagh where Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum and Kew Gardens) was born in 1660.  This latter stone is now built into a wall of a building in Frederick Street, Killyleagh.

The surface of the limestone on which the boulder clay rests is glazed and scratched, illustrating the usual effect of glaciation.  Examples can be seen in the Ulster Museum and Down County Museum.  Slabs were hewn  for table tops, some of which remain in the farmhouses and dairies in the neighbourhood of Castle Espie.  In later years the limestone was polished to resemble marble and two examples of its use for mantlepieces survive in local houses.  The waterfall at the "plumbs" was built in 1996 using Castle Espie limestone - what is most obvious is its pale colour. 

The limestone continued to be quarried well into the 18th Century, as evidenced by dated gravestones found in Counties Down and Antrim.  These quarries were extensively worked and the stone conveyed by land and sea to all parts of the surrounding country.  The quarry was being used to supply limestone for agricultuiral use (being burnt in small local kilns) and for building.



IN 1802 the land, belonging as it had done for a considerable time to the Church of Ireland, was leased by the Waring family of Waringsford. 




Information supplied courteousy of: 

Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, 78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, NEWTOWNARDS, Co. Down.  BT23 6EA.

Tel: 028 9187 4146      Fax: 028 9187 3857

Email: [email protected]




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