The Mourne Wall
It may seem strange to include a 20th century structure in an Irish Antiquities site but I feel that the Mourne Wall is such a unique structure, now approaching 100 years old, that it should be included. Such a structure will never be built again. The style of building and the construction materials fitted in well with the existing field walls and dwellings and illustrates a continuity in building styles which is unfortunately now disappearing.
In 1888 the rank of a city was conferred by royal charter upon Belfast. By 1891 it had a population of around 270,000 and was expanding rapidly due to a very high level of industrial activity and the Belfast City and District Water Commissioners were becoming increasingly worried about the level of resource available to service both industry and public.
A number of private Acts of Parliament (1893, 1897 and 1899) allowed the purchase of 36km2 (9000acres) of land located within the Mourne Mountains by the Commissioners following the advice of Mr Luke Livingstone Macassey who recommended that the Mourne area, with its plentiful rainfall could deliver 30million gallons of water a day.
Construction of the wall began in 1904 and was completed in 1922. It was crafted from local granite using traditional dry-stone-walling techniques and is on average about 2.5 metres high and 1 metre thick. It is 35km (22mi) long and crosses no fewer than 15 mountains including 9 summits. It was an invaluable source of employment at the time. It’s main purpose was to delineate and enclose the catchment area and isolate it from the effects of cattle and sheep on the water courses.
In modern times the wall serves as a lasting monument to the skill and determination of the men who crafted it and is an invaluable navigational aid to walkers in an area subject to such changeable weather conditions. It was with this in mind that construction of the wall included three Shelters on or near the summits of three mountains – Slieve’s Donard, Commedagh and Meelmore.
Stone worker's house on Slieve Meelmore
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