Battles Bricks and Bridges

Arney is a small rural farming community straddling the parishes of Killesher and Cleenish in County Fermanagh, N. Ireland. For centuries brick was made in the fields along the River Arney and transported on boats to Enniskillen. Arney Bridge is now believed to be the oldest in Ulster, dating from the 1620’s. It carried the main coach road to Dublin and is a unique and rare example of its kind in Ulster. 

The unusually named Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits was fought close by on the banks of the River Arney in 1594 between local Irish chieftains and the English forces marching from Dublin to relieve their garrison at Enniskillen Castle. The Battle was the first engagement of what subsequently became known as the Nine Years War between the Gaelic chieftains and the English, which culminated in the Flight of the Earls in 1607 and the Plantation of Ulster. The rich culture, heritage and folklore of the area was also uniquely documented in the 1970s by the ethnographer Prof. Henry Glassie in his books, including Passing the Time in Ballymenone. 

In 2013 & 2014 Killesher Community Development Association and Cleenish Community Association came together in a bid to rediscover, celebrate and bring back to life some of this rich social, historical and cultural heritage.  Through “Battles, Bricks and Bridges” local people from both communities worked with funders, local government, statutory agencies and other partners to carry out a range of activities linked to the project, including:

  • Carrying out professional community archaeological digs in order to identify and uncover the battle site and to excavate brick makers cottages and a school house in old Arney village
  • Digging, moulding and firing Arney brick again with young people and volunteers using traditional methods and materials
  • Working with agencies to refurbish the old bridge
  • Engaging with local schools and the wider community through a history and heritage education programme

By using community knowledge and folk memory to inform its key activities, and with professional help and support to capture and disseminate the experience and practice, the project successfully:

  • Raised awareness of the rich culture and history of the area by involving people of all ages the community and explored their shared culture, heritage and history through a variety of community development activities including archaeology, arts and crafts, storytelling, reminiscing, music, history talks and arts activities.       
  • Developed quality education materials based on the educational and awareness raising aspects of the project in order to ensure the activities and the learning was captured for future generations.
  • Disseminated widely the findings and experiences of the project
  • Rewrote the history books!

With much appreciation to our common interest partners and funders 
Battles, Bricks and Bridges was supported by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency [NIEA]; Queens University [School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology]; the Department for Regional Development  Roads Service; Fermanagh District Council [Enniskillen Castle Museum Education Support Services and GeoPark]; the Fermanagh Shared Education Programme through support from Fermanagh Trust and the teachers and the children of Mullymesker, Kinawley, Killesher and Florencecourt Primary Schools.

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, NIEA and Fermanagh Trust. The production of educational materials was by Development Media Workshop.