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George Benn, A History of the Town of Belfast from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Eighteenth Century, 1877

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First published in London and Belfast in 1877 and republished here is George Benn's A History of the Town of Belfast from the Earliest times to the Close of the Eighteenth Century. With Maps & Illustrations. Containing some 778 printed pages, Benn's History of the Town of Belfast, written almost exclusively with the use of primary sources, is still regarded as one of the most authoritative works on Belfast down to the period of its publication. Benn (1801-1882) was born in Armagh in 1801 on the day that the Act of Union came into being, which he credited his Unionist sympathies too; the son of a brewer, he was educated at the then recently established Belfast Academical Institution, winning several Gold Medals, one of which was for his essay on the Parish of Belfast, which was published in 1819. Residing for most of his life at Glenravel, the estate purchased and built by his father, John, George began his career by establishing a distilling concern with his elder brother Edward. However, while residing at Glenravel, Benn began corresponding with a number of noted antiquaries such as William Reeves, Bishop of Down & Connor and Classon Porter of Larne, which led him to pursue his interests in the history of county Antrim. Benn's initial interest in the history of Belfast exhibited in his 1819 essay was continued in the 1850s by a number of noteworthy contributions to the Ulster Journal of Archaeology. In 1862 one of Benn's friends and colleagues, William Pinkerton, had been asked by the publisher Marcus Ward to write a history of Belfast. Pinkerton, unfortunately fell ill and in 1868 his research papers were handed over to Benn to complete the publication. It soon became apparent to Benn that Pinkerton's research was not particularly well-advanced and Pinkerton's residence in London meant that few of the most important sources had been consulted, not least the Belfast Corporation Book, which Benn had himself rediscovered in 1864. This was to form the basis for several chapter of the History of Belfast, without which these could not have been written. Writing began in 1871 and with the aid of his friends Reeves and Porter, Benn also enlisted the aid of the historian George Hill and the recently appointed Keeper of Public Records in Dublin, William Hennessey. With the additional aid of Hans Hamilton who was at that time preparing the Calendars of Irish State Papers at the London Public Records Office, Benn brought to fruition one of the most exacting histories of Belfast published to date, which also met with much critical acclaim. Immediately began collecting material for a subsequent volume that would take the history to 1870. This was very different and concentrated on on local reminisces and accounts of the leading Belfast families often from material supplied by the family's living representatives. The enlarged History was published in 1880 shortly before George Benn's death at Belfast in 1882. For those interest in Belfast and its history, George Benn's authoritative and thoroughly readable historical account of City is a must.

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