Ballyclare (historically Bellaclare; ) is a small town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 8,770 people in the 2001 Census. Under the reorganisation of Northern Ireland local government in 1973, Ballyclare lost its urban district status and became part of Newtownabbey Borough.
It sits on the river Six Mile Water with Craig Hill providing a wooded backdrop to the east. Its medieval origins can still be seen in Ballyclare Motte, which is to the south of the town. The broad main street dates from the 18th century. A clock tower is a central focus within the town and the old mill marks the industrial district on the south east developed along the Six Mile Water. It is a local service centre with a significant dormitory role in relation to Belfast. It is the main focus within the rural area for housing, shopping and commerce, industry and employment, education and recreation.
People have lived in Ballyclare for five thousand years. Invaders included Vikings and Normans. The earliest evidence of people in this area is a hoard of flint arrow heads found when houses were being built north of the river in November 1968. There were a total of thirty-nine flints discovered – some perfectly finished and others are blank indicating an 'industry' and trading here near the river crossing over four thousand years ago.
When the Normans built the castle at Carrickfergus they placed a line of outposts along the river which was then called the "Ollar" – River of the Rushes. In time the soldiers making the journey from Carrickfergus to Antrim reached the river at this spot when they had travelled six miles so began to call the Ollar the Six Mile Water. One of these mottes is close by the river in the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare. There are two on opposite sides of the river at Doagh and one at Antrim. The village grew after the Plantation of Ulster and was granted permission by King George II in 1756 to hold two fairs each year making it an important market centre.
At the same time as the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America, Ballyclare was settled by Scots planters. Jonathan Swift preached here and it was from here the families of Mark Twain, Sam Houston and General Alexander Macomb left for America. The people of Ballyclare and the surrounding villages played a part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and fought in the Battle of Antrim. At the beginning of the twentieth century Ballyclare was a growing industrial town with an urban district council and became the largest paper producer in Ireland.