The Braid Museum stands on the site of Ballymena’s town hall - one of Ballymena’s original seven towers - and is named after the River Braid that flows through the town. This is Northern Ireland’s newest museum, but it tells a story as old as Ireland.
Its permanent gallery, “The Distant Past: Pre-Historic Mid-Antrim”, presents remnants of a Stone Age settlement found in the Bann Valley and bronze axe heads. It interprets the meaning of cromlechs and standing stones that dot the landscape. A video traces the story of these early people, who arrived with the retreat of ice age glaciers some 9000 years ago.
Explore the world of early Christian Ireland. Mid and East Antrim is crucial to this story. As a boy, St Patrick was kidnapped from his Romano-British family in the north of England and brought here by Irish raiders.
He worked as a shepherd on the slopes of Slemish Mountain where constant prayer brought him closer to God. After six years in captivity, he escaped back to Britain, only to return to win Ireland for Christ.
Viking raids began as monasteries were sprouting across the country. They ravaged the nearby countryside, razing an early church in Connor to the ground. They also built permanent monuments. They established a castle - Ulfreksfjordr, now known as Olderfleet - at Larne.
From the year 1000, Anglo-Normans began encroaching on Ireland. They were responsible for Carrickfergus castle, built by John de Courcy in 1187. They also built Clough Castle, of which only a ruin remains. You can learn more about it in the Braid’s video exhibition, and the struggles between these newcomers, powerful local clans such as the McDonnells and O’Neills, and the English crown. This was a time of shifting loyalties, savage warfare, brutality and intrigue that left behind great fortifications which still stand guard over the landscape.
Discover the troubled history of the Plantation, when the English crown settled Scottish and English farmers on confiscated Irish land from the early 17th century onward. Learn about the Adairs, who transformed Ballymena from a tiny village into one of Ireland’s most important towns.
In the late 18th century, the Moravian community of Gracehill introduced a new weaving technology. This was the spark that lit the boiler on Antrim’s industrialisation. Flax plantations flourished and the local linen industry boomed. The Braid’s exhibition on this era features an interactive display to help you experience the life of a linen worker.
Explore fascinating collections of photographs and ephemera from the tumultuous twentieth century. There are artefacts from both World Wars and the Troubles, as well as domestic items that demonstrate how life continued even in the darkest times.
There’s simply no better way to get close to the story of Mid & East Antrim than by coming to The Braid and experiencing it for yourself.