United Irishmen Gravestones

Saintfield was the scene of one of two main military engagements in County Down during the 1798 Rebellion.

The Society of United Irishmen was founded in 1791 by liberal Protestants in Belfast - their goal to unite Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter in equality, fraternity and liberty.  Having failed to achieve their goals through peaceful reform, the United Irishmen went underground and prepared for armed insurrection.

On 9 June 1798, the first military clash occurred when a force comprising the York Fencible Infantry supported by the Newtownards Yeomen Cavalry and Infantry was ambushed in a wood near Saintfield.  It is believed that as many as 100 men were killed altogether: it was the United Irishmen who emerged victorious.  

That battle is commemorated in this peaceful site, known as York Island from the burial of York Fencibles killed in the fight.