20 brand new uniforms for Royal Hillsborough’s Fort Guard have arrived at the Castlemen’s headquarters at Sexton House in Royal Hillsborough. 

The arrival of the uniforms, specially crafted by bespoke tailors Samuel Brothers of Aldershot, marks a moment of historical significance for the village of Royal Hillsborough coinciding with reformation of the full complement of 20 Fort Guard Warders since 1890. 

The move is just one of a host of initiatives being put in place as part of a larger £26m Destination Royal Hillsborough tourism masterplan to develop the village into a key visitor destination over the next five years and create a whole village heritage tourism experience.

The new uniforms have been funded by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Tourism NI.

Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Cllr Andrew Gowan, said: “These new uniforms herald a new and exciting chapter for Royal Hillsborough as we continue to develop the village into a world class visitor destination. This colourful ceremonial military troop has a key role to play to keep centuries of tradition alive by promoting historical education through community engagement, walking tours and ceremonial displays. I am very much looking forward to seeing the Fort Warders’ navy tunics, white breeches and black bi-corn hats around the village during a heightened seasonal calendar of events we have planned for the village.”

John Laverty, BEM, Chair of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Regeneration and growth Committee said: “By creating authentic visitor experiences borne out of Royal Hillsborough’s rich past we can help bring the village to life, creating unique experiences that attract greater numbers of tourists and visitors to the village. The Warders will support Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s tourism ambitions by providing an attraction in the form of living history, enhancing and adding value to the Royal Hillsborough visitor experience as well as enhancing community development.”

It is wonderful to have had a rare chance to see the uniforms before the official ceremony in September when the 13 new warders are officially conferred.”

David Roberts, Director of Strategic Development, added: “Tourism NI is pleased to have provided funding towards this superb set of uniforms which can be worn by the Hillsborough Fort Guard at events and ceremonies throughout the year. Culture and heritage is a key attractor for visitors to N.Ireland and the now 20-strong troop will play an important role in further developing the appeal of Royal Hillsborough as a destination. This project will also directly support the delivery of the major ‘Destination Royal Hillsborough’ Belfast Region City Deal project which seeks to create a world class, holistic, heritage experience in the village over the next five years. 

Paddy Shields, Serjeant Major, Fort Guard said: “While implementing the Royal Warrant of 1660, we would like to thank Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Tourism NI as well as the wider community for their continued support. It has enabled period uniforms and equipment to be purchased, thus allowing the Hillsborough Fort Guard to be reinstated back to its full strength of 20 Warders.  We now look forward to enhancing the visitor experience of Royal Hillsborough by linking the guard with educational and historical aspects of the village.”

The Fort Guard Warders or ‘Castlemen’ were first created on 21st December 1660 when Charles II, under Royal Charter made Hillsborough Fort a Royal Fort and Arthur Hill named Hereditary Constable of the Fort of Hillsborough with command of Twenty Warders. They were paid to protect the Fort which commanded a very strategic position on the road from Carrickfergus to Dublin.

The last of the original Fort Guard passed away in 1955 leaving only The Bugler to carry on ceremonial duties.

In 2011 Hillsborough Old Guard historical society, with the permission of the current 9th Marquess of Downshire, set about the reformation of the Fort Guard to work alongside this Bugler and six new Warders were granted official Warrants. 

The Hillsborough Fort Guard are the oldest private Regiment or Guard in continuous existence in the United Kingdom and Ireland and are now in its 364th year.

The arrival of the uniforms is a precursor to a larger investiture event in September when the 13 new warders will be officially conferred at a very special ceremony.