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

Ballyphilip Parish

Portaferry town Ballyhilip Church of Ireland- Portaferry Templecranny ruins & graveyard Portaferry Presbyterian Church Portaferry Methodist Church Portaferry Catholic Church Ballygalget Catholic Church Millin Bay ancient site

Portaferry town

Portaferry Market Square
This photo was taken just after getting off the Strangford ferry and looking east along Shore Street. The town is spread out along the shore of Strangford Lough.
This is Portaferry's Market Square.

The area around the town was originally owned by the Anglo- Norman Savage family. In 1659 there were 50 English/ Scots & 25 Catholic families here. It was described in 1683 as having a good creek for boats to lie with a depth of five fathoms at low tide. By 1750 it was described as a market town, irregularly built with a few thatched houses in it. It had a brisk trade with 30-40 ships belonging to the port in the past but many lost in storms and lost to the newer ports of Newry and Belfast. It main function was the export of corn and kelp to Dublin and foreign ports. Portaferry Mill was situated in the south east of the town. It was built by the Savages in 1771 but destroyed by fire in 1878.(JUAHS 1977 p13) The town saw fighting during the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798 (MOA p185+)

In 1836 there were always many vessels tied up at the quay. The population was 2200, the houses were neat and a few gentlemen's houses are also along the shore. There was a small but good hotel in the market square and a market every Saturday where fresh meat could be bought. There was a fair every second Tuesday of the month where cattle were bought & sold. The Market House was erected in 1752 at the expense of Andrew Savage Esq. of Portaferry House. It was a plain building with the Savage arms outside. It had a library for the Literary Society and the Mechanic Institute. The centre served as a ballroom and court was held in this room as well. A temperance society frequently drank tea here. There was a Clothing Fund and a Poor and Mendicity Institution for the relief of the poor.

27 May 1848 public works program was instigated for famine relief with road upgrade from Newtownards to Portaferry. (FCD S2 p 8). The poluation of the town declined so by 1851 there were 2074 people, by 1861 there were 1960 and in 1871 , 1938 people. (JUAHS 1977 p26)

The Savage & Nugent families have been in this area since 1177. On Easter Sunday country people met at Mr. Nugent's Portaferry House and dance and sing.

The Post Office Directory of 1886 says that there was a potato and soup canning factory here.

Click here for information about the 19th century schools in Portaferry.

Newspaper articles from Northern Herald;
new pier at Portaferry 15 Aug 1835

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
monthly fairs 14 Jan 1837 & 11 Mar 1837: Poor Law District population 4262 in 30 Nov 1839; tenements for sale 4 Apr 1840: sale of castle land 28 Nov 1840: meeting re potato crop 8 Nov 1845; Mechanics' Institute 4 Aug 1855; Regatta 18 Aug 1855*; body found may be missing lighthouse keeper from Belfast Lough 21 Dec 1872; sewerage problem , meeting of rate-payers 24 Jan 1880; cholera in town in 1866 (7 Dec 1912); talk of fish curing station 21 Sep 1927*; Portaferry Women's Insitute 18 Oct 1935*; lecture on defence measures 14 Sep 1939 ; Portaferry Castle photo 7 Dec 2005

Newspaper article from Newtownards Independent;
Portaferry Farming Society 10 Feb 1872

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
Proposed tramway from Newtownards 5 Aug 1882+; Portaferry & Strangford Regatta 19 Aug 1882; rent question on Portaferry Estate 8 Jan 1887; fatal accident 11 Jun 1887; fire in Portaferry 28 Apr 1888; fatal accident 2 Mar 1889; proposed railway 20 Jul 1889; loss of Portaferry seaman off Tory Island 15 Nov 1890; Reading Society in 1788, 28 Nov 1896


References;V7 p 8, 12 & V17 p 125 OSM:DR*; 5/11/03* DR; PNNI V2 p 63;JUAHS 1977 p26+;POD ; Inv 2006 p48; LR 2006 p78


Ballyphilip Church of Ireland

Ballyphilip Church of Ireland
in Portaferry

The church was erected in 1787 at a cost of £1,000, £500 of which was granted by the Board of First Fruits, the remainder was collected by subscription and parish assessments; The late Mr Savage's family contributed £72. In 1836 they were about to add a steeple and an organ. The average attendance then was 180 people but it could hold 300.

List of early rectors ; Rev. William Sturrock in 1781; Rev. W.H.I.Smith in 1830 & Rev James L.M. Scott in 1843; Rev. Canon J. T. Armstrong in 1922 & Rev. Andrew Sturrock before 1928

Newspaper article from Down Recorder; stained glass memorial 16 Nov 1861; enlargements 23 Nov 1861; sustenance fund 13 Nov 1869
Newspaper article from Banner of Ulster; special service to raise funds to liquify their debt; list of major contributors 4 Nov 1842

From Journal of Upper Ards Historical Society;
annual outing of church choir 29 Jul 1911; new stained glass window erected y Co. J.V. Nugent 12 Aug 1911; Thanksgiving Harvest Service 21 Oct 1911; recital of scared music 2 Dec 1911

records from 1745; UHF (ancestryireland ) have burials 1831-1883; have burials 1831-1883; old graveyard nearby; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 13; email me for a gravestone look-up
This photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References;V7 p 8, 10 OSM; JUAHS p31; DR ; GIPR; GIC;FR; DR; JUAHS 2011 p8


Temple Cranny

Templecranny ruined church & old graveyard

The ruins of the church are possibly as old as the sixteenth century but there was an older parish church in the rectory grounds which was accidentally destroyed about 1784. Temple Cranny was dismantled in 1787 when the modern parish church was built across the road;

List of early rectors ; Rev William Somerville n 1430; Rev William Worseley in 1609; Rev Malcolm Hamilton in 1612; Rev John Echlin in 1629; Rev Robert Echlin in 1670; Rev William Sturrock in 1781

gravestone inscriptions available ; email me for a gravestone look-up

This photo, kindly sent to me by Lena McVea shows the ruined church on the right covered by bushes and a few of the old gravestones

References; MIs; O'L V1 p 398


Portaferry Presbyterian Church

Portaferry Presbyterian Church
in the north east of the town

The original meeting house was erected in 1694 and was rebuilt in 1751. The cost was defrayed by public contributions.The first minister was Rev. John Drysdale who had been chaplain to Lord Claneboy's regiment in 1641.Then came Rev Arthur Strayton who fled to Scotland during the Troubles then Rev Samuel Shannon 1697- 1739 . His assistant then minister was Rev James Armstrong 1739-1779 then Rev William Steele Dickson from 1780 & was prominant in the 1798 Rebellion. Rev Moreland filled in for him was he was imprisoned then became the appointed minister in 1800 until 1822. He was succeeded by Rev John Orr 1822-1878.
In 1836 the church was described as a large, plain, T-shaped, unornamental house with 90 seats in the aisle and 14 in the gallery. It was capable of holding 730 people. There were 224 Presbyterian families in this parish at that time and the average that attended on Sunday was 200. Ths newer church was built in 1841 by architect John Miller. Main financial contributors were Rev John Orr , Rev James McAleenan (parish priest) & Andrew Nugent (local landlord). Special services were held to raise the additional money to make the cost of £2540.00. Rev Thomas E.Clouston was appointed as assistant in 1875 then minister until 1880 then Rev John Boyd 1880-1910 then Rev James Kennedy Cronne in 1911 & Rev James Lorimer in 1937 & Rev J.S. Woods & Rev T.A Patterson in 1973.

Newspaper article from Northern Star;
meeting of congregation to discuss political situation 12 Jan 1793

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
new church at Portaferry 28 Aug 1841; new graveyard 26 May 1883; bazaar in Portaferry 20 Dec 1884

Records from 1699; no graveyard; North of Ireland FHS ( has Baptisms 1699-1921; Marriages 1750-1921; Deaths 1836-1993 for church restoration news

References;HCPCI p214-216; NS; V7 p 8, 10 OSM; GIPR: GIC; JUAHS p21-23;DR


Portaferry Wesleyan Methodist Church

The church was erected in 1788 and paid for by the congregation. A new roof was added in 1810. In 1836, there were 6 seats and a few forms and could hold 200 people, with an average attendance of 30. The dimensions were 40 feet by 21 feet. The clergymen were only Bible readers for 3 years after which they are approved of and admitted into full communion, 3 years after that they can get married, receiving for their wife and each child a stated sum until they arrive at a certain age. They were badly paid and had to travel on a circuit, receiving their meals at the houses of Methodists as they go . The minister in 1911 was Rev. Mr. George Robinson.

records ; North of Ireland FHS ( has baptisms 1879-1945 & marriages 1864-1937; no graveyard

References; V7 p 10 OSM; GIC : GIPR ; JUAHS 2012 p33


St. Patrick's Catholic Chapel- Portaferry
13 Church St, Portaferry BT 22 1LS (in Tullyboard townland, east of the town) Tel; 028 4272 8373 Fax 028 4272 8102
Parochial House- 60 Windmill St, Portaferry BT22 1RD Tel: 4272 8234

There was a priest in the area in 1704 (Rev Patrick O'Prey) and a mass house on the site at least as early as 1744 but the present church was built in 1762 by Rev James Teggart with the stonemasons being Dorrian & carpenter Mr Henry Murland . Other priests were Rev O'Doran then Rev. John Fitzsimmons in 1780 & Rev Patrick McGreevy in 1786 then Rev Edward McQuoid in 1812 & Rev Peter Denvir in 1815-1825 & Rev. James McAleenan. The church was rebuilt in 1831 by Rev James McAleenan. There was a local cholera outbreak in 1832 & 1839. In 1836 it was described as a large chapel with 23 uneven windows. Some of the walls & stones were retained from the old building. The cost was £600 and labour was provided by the congregation for free. There were 500 Catholic families in the parish with the attendance in 1836 at 1,000 people with only 33 seats in bad repair. It could hold 1,500 people .The parish priest then was Mr. McAleenan. The priest 1843-1881 was Rev. James Killen then Rev Richard Killen (his brother) 1881-1898. There were 2 false clocks and a sundial outside and the building was enlargd in 1862.

records from 1823; PRONI has baptisms 1843- 1881, marriages 1843- 1881, burials 1843- 1881, NLI has baptisms 1843-1880, marriages 1843-1880; UHF has baptisms & marriages & burials 1843-1900, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 13 ; oldest readable stone 1847; email me for a gravestone look-up Try or

20th century priests:
Rev. Hugh Magorrian until 1912; Rev George Crolly 1912- 1916; Rev. James Kennedy 1916- 1928; Rev. Patrick McKillop 1929- 1945; Rev. George Watson 1946- 1960; Rev. Patrick McAlea 1960- 1965; Rev. David Morgan 1965- 1985; Rev. Gerard Laverty 1985- 1992; Rev. Brendan McGee 1992-2000; Rev Martin Kelly 2000+

References;V7 p 8, 10 OSM; TIA; MIs; O'L V1 p 396, 408;LM 1994 p56, 60,61,63, 64,70,74 ; PNNI V2 p 41; JUAHS p24


Ballygalget catholic Church

Ballygalget Catholic Church- St.Patrick's
Ballygalget Rd, Portaferry BT22 1NE

This photo shows the church (cream) with the school (brown). A thattched church near this site was formerly known as Temple Cranny which suggests antiquity, with ruins possibly from 16th century. It was rebuilt across the road in 1784 by Rev. Bernard McGarry/ Magarry with the patronage of the savages of Rock Savage. It was enlarged in 1835 and in 1836, it was described as a plain building, capable of holding 700 people with dimensions of 77 by 54 feet in a T shape. It had no regular seats but the floor was strewn with a number of forms. A newer church was erected by Rev. Patrick McCartan 8 Jul 1879.

The parish priest before 1877 was Rev. John McCourt then Rev. Francis McBride until 1909; Rev. James McDonald 1909-1916; Rev. John McAleese 1916-1934; Rev. James King 1934-1942; Rev. James Greene 1942-1955; Rev. Alexander Connolly 1855- 1955; Rev. Bernard Armstrong 1961- 1990; Rev. Andrew McGrattan 1990- 1933; Rev Oliver McStravick 1993+; Rev D. McKay in 2005

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
dedication of the chapel 12 Jul 1879

registers from 1745; PRONI & NLI have baptisms 1828- 1835 & 1852- 1864 & 1866-1881, marriages 1852- 1882, UHF has births 1828-1899, marriages 1852-1899 & deaths 1894-1899, graveyard nearby, oldest stone dates from 1659 but readable ones from 1864; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 13; email me for a gravestone look-up; Parochial House in Ballygalget Rd- Tel:4277 1212

References;V7 p126, 127; NC; O'L V1 p lxx, 390, 410, 419, 420, 443; TIA; GIC; MIs; PE; JUAHS 1977 p2; PR; DDCD 2002; LM 1994 p56


Millin Bay ancient site

Millin Bay- ancient burial site

in Ballytrustan parish

Although just a grassy mound today near someone's farm house in Millin Bay, it was an important site for the ancient people of this land and dates from the Megalithic era. The photo shows the archaeologists digging and plotting the site c. 1930. You can see a stone circle surrounding the site with a long narrow court cist, a slab lined compartment in the centre which contained the bones of 15 people. They were also six other burials inside the stone circle but away from the main grave.

References;V7 p 125 OSM; DR ' PNNI V2 p 136


by Ros Davies