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

The Parish of Ardkeen

St. Mary's old Church of Ireland & Ardkeen Church of Ireland Ballycran Catholic Church Lisbane Catholic Church
  Kirkistown Castle Pub at Saltwater Bridge in Nunsquater townland


St. Mary's old Church of Ireland, Ardkeen

St. Mary's old Church of Ireland
on Castle Hill, Ardkeen

Castle Hill was formally an ancient Celtic hill fort. On the south side of the hill lies the ruins of St. Mary's old church, now roofless, but the walls still standing to roof height. An older church was believed to have been there before the Savages arrived, possibly from the 6th century. Around the ruins is an ancient burying ground enclosed by later stone walls. An old Norman headstone, depicting a knight because of the sword carved on it, can still be seen.

The old church was a small simple building, in Ardkeen townland on Castle Hill which juts out into Strangford Lough. An old church was built by the Savage family in late 13th century but was in ruins by 1621 then fully retored in 1761. In 1836 it was described as being 60 feet by 27 feet and capable of holding 160 people. It was unroofed by a severe storm 6 Jan 1839 so the congregation then had the decision to make; build a new Church or repair an ancient one.
On 27th May 1847 the new Christ Church [The Quarter] Ardkeen was consecrated.
Gifts detonated by the Savage family to St. Mary's were moved to the new church. This site was abandoned for the new site near Kirkistown. (see below)


Ardkeen Rectors
1345/6 Thomas De Bredon
1385 Thomas Cuthbert
1386 William De Eldon
1440 Robert McGowne
1455 John Macassyn
1524 John McAgoyn
1524 Rodolph McAgoyn

1661 Bishop Robert Echlin

Church registers from 1745; UHF ( ) has baptisms 1746-1871 & burials 1746-1875 ; have burials 1746-1875 ; graveyard attached, gravestones UHF Vol 13; email me for a gravestone look-up

These photos were kindly sent to me by Lena McVea.

  References; Lena McVea; V7 p2 OSM; MIs

Christ Church, Kirkistown

Christ Church, Church of Ireland near Kirkistown

the 'new' church

The new church was built in 1847 in a more convenient situation for most parishioners and consecrated 27 May 1847 when the Rev. Alexander Bullick was rector. (He was rector for 40 years).The old church was left to ruin. The Glebe House was a small plain house in Ardkeen townland. The tower was completed in 1891 when Rev. Hugh Stowell was rector and paid for by public subscirption. Rev. Joseph H. Scott was rector 1911-1930.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
new church 22 May 1847 in Kirkistown; Sunday School soiree 1 Sep 1860; soiree 16 Nov 1861; death of rector Rev Alexander Bullick 2 Jun 1877

Church registers from 1745; graveyard attached, gravestones UHF Vol 13; email me for a gravestone look-up
The above photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References; V7 p2 OSM; MIs; DR; GIC; Dianne Scott

Ballycranmore Catholic Church- Mount St. Joseph's

This chapel is well situated on a hill with 280 degree views & has a high spire. It was rebuilt in 1876 to replace the chapel in Lisbane townland. There is an old Celtic cross in the graveyard - see right photo. The parish priest in 2005 was Rev. Patrick O'Neill. (shared with Nunsquarter)

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
new church near Kircubbin 14 Oct 1876 has registers to view 1828-1882; PRONI & NLI have baptisms 1828-1838 & 1852- 1882, marriages 1828-1839 & 1852- 1889; UHF has baptisms & marriages 1828-1900; graveyard attached; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 13

References; NC; TIA; MIs: O'L V1 p 447










This lovely old photo was kindly sent by Vernon Moore.


Lisbane Catholic Church, Ardkeen

Lisbane Catholic Church- St. Patrick's
on the Strangford coast near Saltwater bridge on the Newtownards to Portaferry road

This chapel was erected in 1777 by parish priest Daniel O'Doran, on the site of the mass rock from penal times and paid for by general subscription. The ancient chapel of Moyndele is nearby. In 1836 it was described as being 62 feet by 24 feet and capable of holding 400 people. It was an attractive building with a roof of old Tullycavey slates.The parish priest in 1835 was Rev. Bernard Dorrian. It was reduced to the status of mortuary house after the building of the new church in Ballycran in 1876. The front of the graveyard is kept in good order but brambles have been allowed to grow behind the church making access difficult. (2002) has registers to view 1828-1839; PRONI & NLI have baptisms 1828-1838 & 1852- 1882, marriages 1828-1839 & 1852- 1889; graveyard ; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 13 ; email me for a gravestone look-up

References; V7 p 2 OSM; GIC; MIs; O'L V1 p 421,424, 447 , 448


Kirkistown Castle

Kirkistown Castle

Kirkistown Castle is near Cloghy. You can see the remains of the 9th century Round Tower on the left. The Tower House and bawn (on the right) were built by Roland Savage in 1622 and occupied untiol 1731 when it was deserted. There are three floors in the tower-house and it was restored in 1800 by Col. Johnston in the Gothic Revival style. In 1836 there had been some attempt and expense made to repair it but it was left with a half-finished roof and broken windows and the weather taking it back to a state of ruin. The cause of this was because the present owner, Master Montgomery, of Grey Abbey, was a minor.

Today it is in private hands and visitors aren't welcome. The buildings are used as farm sheds. See

References;V17 p125,126 & V7 p1, 2, 3, 18 OSM; SP; DR:HMNI p112; GIPR; GIC; PNNI V2 p 15, 16; JUAHS p15


Saltwater Bridge Pub in Nunsquarter townland

Saltwater Bridge Pub

by Ros Davies