Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site
© Rosalind Davies 2001
Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

Ballyculter Parish

Strangford village St. Tassoch's Church, Raholp Churchtown village Ballyculter Church of Ireland
Strangford Presbyterian Church Strangford Methodist Chapel Strangford Catholic Church Cargagh Catholic Church
Old Court House & inside Old Couirt Chapel Audleystown Cairn Castleward Ballyculter School


Strangford village

Strangford is a quaint fishing village at the entrance to Strangford Lough. The Vikings sailed into the lough and noted its strong tidal currents hence the name ' strong fjord'. There was a port her as early as 1205.

As in other parts of Ireland, piratical raids eventually gave way to settlement and Strangford, with its sheltered anchorage for ships, became a port of some importance in the early middle ages. But trade was not always peaceful and the needs for security is illustrated by the building of tower-houses , such as that of 16th century Strangford Castle which dominates the harbour. It was in ruins for a period in the 16th century but was restored and strengthened during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

In 1514 King Henry V111 granted Strangford and Ardglass and the customs duties payable by the merchants who used their ports, to the Earls of Kildare, who already had substantial property in Lecale. This began a period of great prosperity for Strangford during which the village took on its present circular shape at the western side of the entrance to the lough. Valentine Payne, agent to the 16th century Earl of Kildare, was particularly active and wrote to his employer in 1629;" I have builded a chapple from the ground for your Lordship. I have likewise builded a key where there was none before, that the biggest shippe the king hathe may lay her side by it. Besides I have builded a custom house and have bestowed in other buildings above , above 300 pounds."

By the 18th century Strangford had become an outport for Downpatrick for though Edward Southwell, proprietor of the Manor of Down, had built Quoile Quay in 1717, it was inaccessible to large ships. The Collector of Customs resided in Downpatrick, but the close relationship between him and some of the local merchants was believed to deprive the government of revenue, and the office was moved to the Old Quay in Strangford. Things may have improved but the fact that Collector Norris was able to build the elegant Strangford House, aroused suspicions in his day and our own.

This lovely photo was kindly sent by Bill Haggan . It shows the shore & dock at Strangford

Despite its importance as a port, Strangford remained a small village, and Bishop Pococke, who visited it in 1752, described it as consisting of " little more than one small street, the buildings of which are mostly on the upper side." This continued to be so, even in the early 19th century, when its overseas trade exceeded that of Ardglass and Killough combines and it ranked 8th among Irish ports in the tonnage of ships registered. In the 1830s the writer of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs for the parish of Ballyculter, is not impressed by its appearance. "The town is by no means a neat one, but picturesquely situated, if observed from the opposite side of the water. One the one side of the principal street there is a row of good houses, on the opposite a collection of wretched fishermen’s cottages and corn store." There was a corn mill here in 1836 and the town was owned by Lord De Ros . The Poor Law district population was 2778 in 30 Nov 1839 with the town's population under 600 with 119 houses. By 1837 the population was said to be 2221 people. Lord de Ros was concerned about the effects of the Famine and instigated food relief and works programs for the villagers in 1847. (LM 1989 p36) Public works program was instigated 27 May 1848 for famine relief work to upgrade road from Downpatrick to Strangford (FCD p 9). Photo of almshouse in Ballyculter Upper available (LR 2011 p52) Dr. MacLaughlin reported in 1893 that a bad nuisance (he was worried about cholera) existed at the slipway at Strangford in the shape of a latrine. Lord de Ros replied that his father had built in c. 1868 and although it was on his land he denied responsibility for imporving it. The matter was refered to the dispensary.

The corn stores were soon not needed, for, when ships increased in size, Strangford lacked the deep water facilities of other ports, while the absence of a rail link put it at a disadvantage compared to Killough and Ardglass. A measure of the effects of these developments was the fall in population from 620 in 1815 to 338 in 1926.

In recent years the decline of Strangford has been arrested but the port has not revived and the coal and potato boats which for years served Elliott’s and McMullan’s and brought life and colour to the village, are remembered now only by the older residents. The car ferry which links Strangford and Portaferry gives greater access to the Ards and North Down but other shipping at the quays is confined to yachts and small fishing vessels.

Click here for information on schools here in 19th century.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
corn stores & kilns to let 12 Dec 1840: dispensary 30 Jan 1847; death notice of Lord de Ros of Old Court 10 Jan 1847;
local Ribbonmen marched to Crossgar on St. Patrick's Day 1849 & rioted 10/3/28R*
; history of manor house 2 Dec 1882; moves to replace the cattle boat to Portaferry with a ferry 7 May 1928*

The de Ros Estate records for 1874 , Strangford are on & PRONI Ref T1588 -Strangford Estate Book

For reminiscences of life in Strangford see the local history website

References; V17 p 25, 26, 30, 31 OSM; Inv 2006 p47; DR*; 5/11/03; DR; LWAG p36; GIC; TIA; Inv 2001 p 47; LR 2005 p27 & 54-62 (1901 census) ; LM 1990 p10-11; LR 2008 p27-32; Inv 2009 42-44 (Flute Band) ; LM 1993 p5-13 (town history & photo of castle); DR 4/1/2012 p24 (photo of Castle St, Strangford c. 1912)

Churchtown in Ballyculter parish


This is the main street of Churchtown. The parish church and graveyard is on the corner behind me.

Ancient concentric circles pattern carved in rock found here in 1948

References; Inv 2006 p34


Ballyculter parish church

Ballyculter Church of Ireland- Christ Church
postal address Drumroe Rd, Downpatrick

This church is in the townland of Ballyculter Upper which is in the present-day village of Churchtown. The first mention of the Ballyculter parish is in 1306 (Catholic). There had been a church on this site in medieval times, dedicated to St. Malachy and called Kilmalock, which united with Saul parish in 1622 then became a ruin. The original church was built in 1629 by Valentine Payne and there is an inscription on the bell to Elizabeth Payne, wife of Valentine .

By 1657 it had been repaired, possibly by the Ward family who had established themselves at Castleward and felt obliged to provide a church for their visitors and employees on the estate. A lease for the ground was issued by Cromwell Ward of Downpatrick in 1663. The old graveyard of St. Malachy's would have been used for some time after its ruination.

In 1710 Rudolf Lambert, Dean of Down, donated a silver chalice. A tower was added to the church in 1723 and a steeple, at Lord Bangor's expense in 1777, he also placed a ornamental wainscot around the communion table. In 1723 it was described as as spacious and handsome structure. Redmond Morris donated two copper collecting pans in 1754. The curate in 1773 was Rev. Edward Smyth who astonished everyone by becoming a Methodist minister.

In 1814 the gallery held only 12 pews and in 1819 a bell was purchased at a cost of £70.1.7 . This proved unsatisfactory and another was bought by Edward Ward Esq. A new font was erected in 1825 made by William Ardiss of Strangford, at a cost of £5.10.0. The roof was slated by 1825 and the church was whitewashed inside and out. In 1835 £ 450 was spent on repairs with some of the money granted by Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

In 1836 the average attendance was 170 for the evening service. The Rev. Charles Wolsley was paid by Lord De Ros £20 per year and £5 for every evening service .The church is 66 feet by 30 feet. There are 6 double seats which would contain 12 people each; Lord Bangor's seat would hold 20 people. There are 21 seats which would hold 6 people each. In the gallery there are 8 single seats containing 8 people each. This church was undergoing repairs in 1836 with the pulpit and a number of seats needing to be renovated. A pew allocation map is available for 1852. The graveyard was extended in 1857 after Lord Bangor donation a portion of land leased by Mr. Hughes for an orchard, he had no say in the matter. In 1870 it was united with Kilclief parish for financial reasons but it was not a success. (Today they share the same rector.) The church was again remodelled in 1882 when the rector was Rev. Edward B. Ryan (see Inv 2014 p54-55) . The parish magazine was edited by Rev. Charles Bullock in 1877. There is an article about the magazine in Lecale Miscellany 2002 p 41- 45 & Inverbrena magazine 2003 p28-42

The lych gate, built in 1888, a gift of Admiral Ward, is a distinctive feature of the church. It's a roofed gateway where the coffin awaits the arrival of the clergyman for the funeral service. Electricty was installed in Oct 1954, a gift from Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Orr.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
presentation by Rev J.F. Gordon 11 May 1844: Puseyite meeting 15 Jan 1845: Lady Bangor & Capt. Nugent quit church 29 Mar 1845: abandonment of innovations 5 Mar 1845; service service to raise funds for Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign parts 17 Oct 1846*; letter about churchyard 11 Jan 1879; refusal to let Presbyterian minister officiate in churchyard 18 Jan 1879; re-opening of church 15 Apr 1882; Canon George Foster, rector of Ballyculter & Kilclief, death notice 29 May 1935*

Baptisms from 1777, marriages & burials from 1812;UHF ( have baptisms 1777-1900 & marriages 1845-1900 & burials 1812-1871; have burials 1812-1871; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 8; email me for a gravestone look-up

Rectors of this Parish;
1814-1838 Charles Wolseley
1839-1844 William Leahy
1844- 1865 John F. Gordon
1866-1873 John Wilson
1873- 1904 Edward B. Ryan
1904- 1915 George W. Capsey

1916-1918 W.B. Leslie Smith
1918- 1935 George Foster
1935-1946 William F. Frazer

For photos of the church & graveyard try - For a bird's eye view try

References; V17 p25, 26, 27 OSM; DR ; V8 MIs; BB p4,5, 10, 11; O'L V1 p 192; Inv 2002 p 38 & Inv 2006 p20 ; GIC; GIPR; LM 1989 p28; LR 2009 p18-21; Inv 2015 p25


Strangford Presbyterian Church

Strangford Presbyterian Church
on the outskirts of Strangford village

This Trinitarian meeting house was built in 1845 after a suitable site was rented from Lord de Ros at a nominal 10 shillings a year. Dr Henry Cooke officiated. It's first minister was Rev. Thomas Irvine but he resigned in 1864 and was replaced by Rev Aaron Wilkie. He resigned in 1868 and was replaced by Rev Robert Elliott Fleming. The average congregation in 1870 was only about 30 people. In 1878 the minister was Rev Patrick William White, then by 1881 it was Rev Robert Taylor Bailey who enlarged the congregation to 60 and undertook extensive renovations costing £75. Rev Bailey resigned in 1887 and was replaced by Rev Robert Allen Beatty who stayed 34 years. On his retirement in 1923 the church shared a minister with Ardglass, Rev William Moore Cargin until 1932. The church closed in 2003.

Subsequent shared ministers were Rev Walter Entrican 1933- 1947; Rev Adam Colhoun 1947-1950; Rev William Thompson Agnew 1951- 1971; Rev William Trotter 1972-1986; & Rev Tom Long 1987- 1995. The church closed in Dec 2003 when the congregation dwindled to 8. ( DR* 10/12/03) I have indexed the marriages 1848-1900 throughout the Surnames Index (LR 2005 p66-68). This church is now closed.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
opening of church in Strangford 25 Jul 1846; refusal to let Presbyterian minister officiate in the parish churchyard 18 Jan 1879; ordination of R.T. Bailey 7 Apr 1883; reopening service 12 Jul 1884; annual soiree 20 Feb 1886

Records from 1846; graveyard attached

References; DR; GIC; GIPR; BB p33;AG; LR 2005 p66-68 ; LM 1996 p3; LM 1997 p68-82; Inv 2015 p25


Strangford Methodist Church

Strangford Methodist Chapel
in Strangford, Blackcauseway end

There were several Methodist chapels in the parish over the years.
One was erected by Mr. George Moore in 1804 with an itinerant lay preacher Mr Averill attending. Another Meeting House was erected in Strangford in 1812 to handle the large congregation. There is no evidence of these buildings today.

A chapel or Meeting House was erected in 1833 at an expense of £100 which was raised by contributions of the congregation. In 1836 it was described as very plain and out of repair but not enough money to pay for the repairs needed. The money from the collection was barely enough by pay for lighting the church. There was enough seats for 138 people with an average attendance of 30 people. The Primitive Methodist Meetinghouse was next to Constabulary Barracks in 1863 but closed in 1880, changed it name by dropping the "Primitive" and moving to Castle Street.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
soiree in Strangford 18 Mar 1865; annual soiree 29 Nov 1871

No graveyard

References; V17 p 27 OSM; DR ; GIC; Inv 2002 p 13; LM 1984 p6-8; LM 1987 p44- 47; LR 2004 p48; LR 2008 p30, 32; LM 1991 p5


Strangford Catholic Church

Strangford Catholic Church
'Mary Star of the Sea'
on the right of the main square

This chapel was built in 1820 on a site given by Lord Henry Fitzgerald and built at his expense with an extra £10 a year for expenses. Before this Catholics in the area celebrated Mass in a store on Newry Quay in Strangford belonging to Samuel Norris Esq. Lord Henry gave an annual donation of £10 on consideration of being allowed two seats for the use of his visitors and servants. In 1824 he erected the ornamental crosses. In 1836 it was described as a plain building with a slate roof and 5 small windows, 5 seats and a mud floor. It was later described as a fine single-storey building. Rev. MacGowan bought land from de Ros Estate for £120 to build Stella Maris Hall which was opened 27 Dec 1926. This chapel was destroyed by fire in Sept 1930 by a careless altar boy and replaced by the present building in 1932.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
Lord de Ros’ support 10 Nov 1838; has registers to view 1843-1882; PRONI & NLI have baptisms & marriages 1866-1881; UHF has baptisms & marriages 1898-1900; graveyard attached

20th century priests:
Rev. Joseph O'Kane until 1907; Rev. James O'Boyle 1907- 1909; Rev. Richard O'Rawe 1909- 1924; Rev. Andrew Tully 1924- 1925; Rev. Thomas MacGowan 1925- 1940; Rev. Edward J. Crossan 1940- 1959; Rev. Patrick McClean 1959- 1966; Rev. James McCloskey 1966- 1976; Rev. Michael Kelly 1976- 1987; Rev. Gerard Park 1987- 1993; Rev. Aidan Denny 1993- 1995; Rev. Noel Conway 1995+

References;V17 p 26, 30 OSM: DR ; TIA; GIC; BB p 33; O'L V1 p 216; Inv 2001 p 38 & 2002 p 48, Inv 2006 p3-9; LR 2004 p72; LM 1988 p26-31


Cargaghy Catholic Chapel, Ballyculter

Cargagh Catholic Church

This chapel is in Cargagh townland and is known as Drumroe. It was one of the five Old Mass Houses reported in 1731. It was originally built of mud, packed with stone and with a mud floor. It was thatched with reeds & sprigs from the bog. It was described as a square building with no vestry attached. The priest put his robes on behind a screen and when it rained the roof leaked and made puddles on the earthen floor. People sat on wooden forms. It was replaced with stone in 1743. Rev Patrick Starkey then rebuilt it in 1854. The outside porch at the roadside was built sometime later and a gallery erected after that, as the congregation grew. The gallery and three windows in the west side of the church were made by James McConville of Drumroe. The seats were made by Tommy Curran and the earthen floor was replaced with wood.

Throughout the years following 1800 Cargagh had Sunday Masses on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday and evening devotions in May and October and Holy days. The parishioners would have walked to attend Mass. The Pads of footpaths around Cargagh are many e.g. Ballynarry, Drumroe, Ballylena and Cargagh lane.

A new altar was donated by Michael Little in 1902 when Rev. O'Kane was parish priest. The altar was made by Joe and James Murnin of Cloughy. In 1947 Cargagh had some renovations done. Father Edward Crossin was parish priest and Father Joseph Campbell was curate. The ceiling was raised, a new sacristy replaced the old lean-to with its fire and tall red brick chimney. The builder was William Teggart of Saul. The stained glass window in the altar gable wall was brought from Dublin. The window depicts the Crucifixion as centrepiece. Extra seating became available by the removal of the old confessional box at the back of the chapel which had a door on one side and a curtain on the other side. It was replaced by one at the altar side of the church. The later was set back and its ornamental back removed to give more depth to the window. Electric lighting and heating was installed in 1954 replacing a brass paraffin lamp hanging from the ceiling. (from the recollections of Isabel Magee)

There isn't a graveyard attached as burials are still in the grounds of the old ruined St. Malachy's in Kilclief parish.

PRONI & NLI have baptisms 1844- 1864 & 1870- 1880, marriages 1843- 1880; no graveyard attached.

References;V17 p30 OSM: TIA; GIC ; O'L V1 p 198; Inv 2000 p 23+; LM 1994 p71


St. Tassoch's Church, Raholp

Raholp church, less than 3 km from Saul is one of the oldest ecclesiastical buildings in Ireland and was dedicated to Bishop & St. Tassoch, a metal-worker and bishop, who administered the last communion to the dying St. Patrick. It was referred to in a document written in 1210 and again in papal taxation rolls of 1306. It was locally called Church Moyley. By the early 17th century it was recorded as a ruin. Basic restoration work was carried out in 1915 and again in 1990s. This photo was taken after the building was restored.

It was a very small church, built of rough stones held together with clay instead of mortar and the eastern window is surmounted by a lintel and not an arch. There was a graveyard nearby and an ancient well. It was the archetypal early Christian church in Ireland for several centuries. It is now easily reached from the Banaghan Road, just outside the village of Raholp.

References;V17 p 112, 115 OSM; DCPH p 54;LWAG p 26,29;O'L V1 p 220



Old Court House Old Court Chapel

Old Court
There isn't a public road to the chapel only a footpath running from the front gate of the de Ros Estate

The photo on the left of the house was taken around 1920 before the old house was burnt down during the Troubles 20 May 1922. The photo on the right was taken recently by Tom Harper. ( Photo of outside of chapel available LR 2004 p70 & Inv 2006 p32.)

Old Court House
Inside Old Court Chapel

The ancient church was built by Valentine Payne, agent to George,16th Earl of Kildare in 1629 to which a tower and chancel were added by the 23rd Lord de Ros & the chapel repaired in 1740. The church was the private chapel of the de Ros family but a public one in that the local people have always been encouraged to attend it. Strangford people were buried in its graveyard.

At one time all denominations attended it and, for a time it was the only surviving church in the district, Ballyculter and Kilclief both being in ruins. It has never been closed for worship in the 350 years it has been open. Valentine Payne presented a bell to the chapel as a memorial to his wife Elizabeth, in 1629.

William Lennox Fitzgerald, grandson of the Duke of Leinster, became 23rd Baron de Ros in 1839 and inherited the port and village of Strangford, which he decided to make his principal seat in Ireland. In 1844 he built Old Court and surrounded it with pleasant walks and gardens. Lord de Ros also made many improvements, extended Payne's chapel at Old Court and built Katherine Quay as his own private harbour. The family was popular with the people of Strangford and there was genuine sorrow when the house burnt down by the IRA.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
death notice of Lord de Ros of Old Court 10 Jan 1847; sermon 29 Oct 1853*; rejoicings at Strangford, Reception of Hon. Mr.& Mrs. Swinton 16 Sep 1865; alarming carriage accident to Lady Catherine Cooke en route to Old Court, Strangford 14 Sep 1867; history of manor house 2 Dec 1882

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
Death of Lord de Ros 10 Jan 1874

Gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 8, oldest stone 1714; email me for a gravestone look-up ; the gravestones were placed around the sides of the graveyard; North of Ireland FHS hold baptisms 1882- 1892 for Montgomery family

References;V8 MIs ; BB p 8; Inv 2006 p32,48; LM 1989 p36 (photo) LM 1994 p3-5; LM 1987 p13; LM 1989 32-41 ; Inv 2010 p26, 29(photos); MIs; LR 2011 p48 (photo of outside of church) ; Inv 2014 p39


Castleward House


House & estate of 522 acres.
The area around the estate was originally called Carrick na Sheannagh. It was owned by the Ward family in 1602 who bought it from the Earl of Kildare. The Wards came to Lecale in 1570 when Bernard Ward of Cheshire, on being appointed Surveyor- General of Ireland, settled near Strangford and purchased three townlands from the Kildare family. The tower- house in Strangford was built by Bernard's son Nicholas, probably in early 18th century. The family continued to live in it until this modern Castleward house was built c. 1760 by Bernard Ward, later Viscount Bangor .

In 1836 it was still owned by Lord Bangor. There was one corn mill & 1 smithy here. Lead mines here (LM 1988 p4)

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
ploughing match: lead mine 8 Apr 1837; mining company 13 Jul 1861

story about life 'below stairs' in 1945 or a poem written about the estate by J.W. Montgomery of Downpatrick in 1884 available (Inv).

References;V17 p26, 30 OSM; DR ;LWAG p 34; KCL p 11; Inv 2000 p 11-22 (below stairs) & 2002 p45;LR 2003 p 19 ; LM 1985 p9;LM 1999 cover; LM 1983 p44; LR 2008 p18-23; LM 1985 p9; Inv2011 p23 (lead mines) ; LR 2013 p72


Audleystown Cairn

The ancient burial site in

Audleystown townland

This photo shows myself standing inside the one of the dual court burial chambers which are shaped like a boat. The other chamber is to the right of the photo and continues the same line as the first one. This trapezoidal long cairn has its sides revetted with dry-stone walling and has a shallow forecourt at each end opening into the four chambered galleries. The chambers are surrounded by a stone wall.

At this burial site the bones of 34 people, partly burned, have been found in the two chambers. Flints and decorated pottery were enclosed in the grave and also the skull of a horse which precedes any other known hors remains in Ireland by 2000 years.

The first inhabitants of the Lecale district are thought to have arrived around 6000 BC. They colonised the shores of Strangford Lough where games was plentiful and they lived by hunting, fishing and gathering food. The pattern of their settlement and life style is illustrated by the finds of flint tools and kitchen middens of bones and great heaps of shells. Rises in the water level in subsequent years have probably covered much more evidence. Gradually basic agriculture developed and by 3000 BC there is evidence of the domestication of animals and shifting cultivation. These early farmers were attracted to the light soils of the Lecale area. Their distribution is marked by the remains of these stone graves.

References;V17 p 25,26, 28, 30,31; DR: HMNI p88

by Ros Davies