This sandstone chair is believed to be the only surviving example of an inauguration chair that was used to coronate new Gaelic chieftains when they inherited their titles, responsibilities and lands in the medieval to the early modern period.
This example is thought to have been used by the O’Neil’s of Lower Clandeboye and the last person to have been inaugurated upon its last chieftain Con O’Neil in 1601.
The chair was found near the old stronghold of the O’Neil’s at Castlereagh and brought to Belfast in 1750 by the Sovereign, or town leader, Stewart Banks.
Banks had it made into a public seat at the Butter Market. In the 1830s, the Butter Market was demolished and the seat was acquired by Sligo antiquarian and lawyer Roger Walker. The seat was acquired by the Ulster Museum in the 1890s.
The practice of using coronation stones was common in Ireland before the Plantation of Ulster that started in the late 17th Century. There is an inauguration stone reputed to have been used by the Clann MacGuiness near Warrenpoint, County Down and one on Cave Hill, near Belfast.