Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down

A military installation has stood at the site of Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down since around 1886. It was a hive of activity in wartime.

Palace Barracks

172 Jackson's Road


Co. Down

BT18 9RA

Northern Ireland

Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down is a military establishment dating back several hundred years. Its name comes from the former Bishop's Palace of Ardtullagh, once the residence of the Lord Bishop of Down, Conor, and Dromore. In 1886, Bishop William Reeves made the decision to move to Dunmurry, Co. Antrim and the military began to take over the Holywood site.

During the 1880s, the British Army had a well-established training ground and camp at Kinnegar Camp, Holywood, Co. Down. Around this time, authorities took the decision to upscale and take over the site of the former Bishop’s Palace.

Attempts to privately sell the Palace and grounds came to nothing until the War Office but forward a bid of £1,000 in 1890. Demolition of the old Ardtullagh Residence took place and building works began.

Construction of the military barracks took place between 1894 and 1898. The building project was one of 2 phases; the first completed by the firm of Lowry, Belfast, and the second by Campbell, Belfast. The Officers’ Mess building bears the date 1899.

Events during the Second World War

At around 1900hrs on 8th November 1939, a fatal accident took place outside the Married Quarters at Palace Barracks. 68 year old Alexander Vance of 10 Crumlin Road, Belfast died as a result of being struck by a car. Court records suggest that Vance was quite deaf and blackout conditions would have made approaching traffic difficult to see.

On 29th May 1940, the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn visited Palace Barracks to inspect a detachment of the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Commander Henderson attended the Governor of Northern Ireland and his wife on the short visit.

Sentries at Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down, fired shots at several suspicious figures on Saturday night. Later, police stopped motor cars and carried out a search of houses. No official statement has been issued.

Belfast Newsletter – Monday 6th January 1941.

Several amateur football matches took place at Palace Barracks during the Second World War. One such match on 7th August 1942, saw Distillery Football Club’s goalkeeper M. Redmond and Linfield Football Club left-back Feeney take the field. Playing close season football was a breach of the rules. The presence of these players led to both Distillery and Linfield’s disqualification from the Irish Cup in 1943.

American Forces

The following American Forces were based at Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down during the Second World War.

Start Date End Date Unit
August 1942 28th September 1942 E Company, 53rd Quartermaster Regiment
28th September 1942 4th October 1943 E Company, 53rd Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Battalion
4th October 1943 314th Ordnance Depot Company

No.4 Mobile Bacteriological Laboratory

During the Second World War, Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down was the site of No. 4 Mobile Bacteriological Laboratory. War Office Photographer Lieutenant J.R. Bainbridge photographed staff at work.

As well as a base and training facility during the Second World War, Palace Barracks also included a detention centre for American troops. A Prisoner of War Camp for German internees stood on the opposite side of Jackson’s Road. British troops, the Ulster Home Guard, and the Auxiliary Territorial Service also made use of the Co. Down Barracks.

Some of the original Barracks buildings remain on the site including the aforementioned Officers’ Mess. There is also a Clock Tower designed by the architect Vincent Craig, a brother of Lord Craigavon.

Army Dental Laboratory

On 29th September 1942, Lieutenant J.R. Bainbridge took a series of photos of technicians and mechanics at work preparing dentures for soldiers. The laboratory was at Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down.

Princess Royal visits Holywood

On 14th October 1942, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal inspected members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down.

Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down remains a military base in use by elements of the British Army. Since 2008, the Barracks has been Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment. Since 2014, it has also been the base of the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The site is also a Headquarters for MI5.