Belfast developed rapidly during the Plantation of Ulster under the guidance of Sir Arthur Chichester who became Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1605, he was granted the settlement and lands around Belfast from King James 1st of England. Prior to this appointment he had been governor of Carrickfergus, the main port and administrative centre for Ulster prior to the development of Belfast . Chichester had been instrumental in the development of Carrickfergus.
Prosperity increased through Arthur Chichester's role in the Plantation of Ulster, settlers began arriving from England, Scotland, Wales and Europe, for many Belfast would become their home. Under his directive and guidance a quayside was built to enhance the new settlement for shipping which in turn led to trade being established on a continuous basis. Driven by business interests, the plantation saw markets and commerce develop, new infrastructures were put in place based on the English system, merchants established themselves and within twenty years the small settlement had developed into a thriving town which in 1613 was granted a charter of incorporation by King James I.
By 1660 the area around St. George's Church was a vibrant quayside with houses, stores, lodgings and inns. Skipper Street opposite St George's Church originates from this time when Belfast was home port to twenty nine ships of varying tonnage. In 1663 the first ship to be officially built here was registered and later in 1682 the 'long bridge' was built across the river Lagan, greatly improving access to both sides. The population continued to grow and the settlement established itself as a major trading port, this was helped by the acquisition of the rights to collect customs. Carrickfergus had been the official port with customs facilities, these were transferred to Belfast. From this point Belfast began exporting and importing products from England, Scotland with wine and fruit coming from France and Spain.
In 1685, trade was established with the tobacco industries in America, the port became one of the key locations for tobacco imports into Ireland, Ulster accounting for 20% of Irish tobacco imports. As the trading routes developed luxury goods starting to appear like silk, rice and sugar, the latter as a result of plantations in the colonies. Exports of meat, salted fish, flour and butter would return, records show that in 1685 two hundred and forty seven ships entered Belfast port.
This was the beginning of expansive trading with the colonies and the ports, link to its involvement in slavery. This was normal practice in virtually all developing countries and many local individuals made large sums of money on the enslavement and suffering of others. This inhuman practice continued until the abolishment of slavery in 1833.
Instability has always been a part of Irish life, one such period occurred during the political crisis of James II and the events that led to him being deposed by William III. During this time many merchants took their money and left the country fearing a return to barbaric civil conflict, like that had been experienced in 1641. The 1690 conflict between James II and William III was a relatively short lived event and Belfast quickly recovered to become the second largest trading port in Ireland. The biggest growth for the city came with linen production whose roots lay in the cottage industries scattered throughout the county. New techniques in weaving were brought into Ireland by the Huguenots who settled here from 1687 onward, after fleeing persecution in France. They supported the cause of William III and in return he offered them incentives to settle here after he was declared King.
** The Bounty, photographed bottom right during a visit to Belfast ,unfortunately she sank of North Carolina on 29th October 2012 during Hurricane Sandy.