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

Comber Parish

Comber town Church of Ireland 1st Presbyterian Church 2nd Presbyterian Church  
Comber Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church Comber Catholic Church     Gransha Presbyterian Church
Moneyreagh Presbyterian Church Andrews Spinning Mill Ballystockart townland . Ballygowan


Comber Square

Comber town

The town was built on the site of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1199 by the Whyte family and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The first monks came from Wales . The poluation of the parish in 1764 was 315 Church of Ireland, 1220 Presbyterians & 165 Catholics. (TMUOP p88) In 1798 the United Irishmen Movement was very strong here.

The population of the town in 1824 was 1000 people. (POD). The census of 1831 gives the following figures about Comber town:- 264 families; 77 families employed in agriculture; 90 in trade, manufacturing and handicrafts; 97 in other occupations; 638 males; 739 females; 4 farmers employing labourers; 8 not employing labourers; 58 employed in agricultural labour; 4 in manufacture or making manufacturing machinery; 130 in retail trade or handicrafts with masters; 35 capitalist, bankers and other educated men; 24 in non agricultural labour; 23 male servants; 46 female servants

In 1836 the proprietor of the town was the Marquis of Londonderry and it was described as consisting of 2 irregular streets, each 2 km long, which intersected one another, forming a cross and leaving an open space in the square in the centre. There were 355 houses which were mainly slated roofed but 35 were thatched. Many of the houses were plastered and whitewashed but mostly they were bare stone. From a distance the town looked rural except for some tall distilleries' chimneys which rise amongst the trees belonging to Mr. Miller & Mr. McCance. No markets were held in the town but a fair was held four times a year. There were four churches, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist and Unitarian and three schools. There was a mendicity institution for the poor, 2 policemen and a manor court held once a month in Barry's inn. The people were described as being sober and industrious and in summer they congregated in the streets for some time chatting. On Saturday night there was some drunkenness and disturbance because the men had received their weekly wages. There was a quarry near the town but spinning was the main occupation of the inhabitants with 250 weavers, as a good deal of flax was grown in the parish.The work was sent to Belfast manufacturers. There were two corn mills, one flax mill, one wash mill,one bleach mill, one saw and wash mill, but only enough water to run then for nine months of the year. There wasn't a public dispensary but there were five doctors in town to dispense medicine.

In 1846 the population of the parish was 9022 with 1964 living in the town. In 27 May 1848 public works program was instigated for famine relief with road upgrades between Lowry's Corner, Comber & Ballyrussell Bridge. (FCD) . The Police Barrackes were in Castle Street & the Gaslight Company in Mill Street & the Dispensary in High Street in 1863 (GV).

The Post Office Directory of 1886 says that there was a mineral water factory; 2 distilleries under one management & a weaving factory. In 1891 the population of the town was 2146 and in 1899 it was 2357.(POD)
Click here for information on schools here in 19th century.

Newspaper articles from Northern Star;
meeting of inhabits chiared by John Andrews Esq. 26 Jan 1793; Comber Coterie held on Wednesday- notice 23 Nov 1795; Comber Cavalry reward for information re murder 17 Mar 1797

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
lecture on education 12 Aug 1843; loyalty demonstration 20 May 1848: cholera outbreak 17 Feb 1849: meeting 'rate in aidí 31 Mar 1849; Gas Light Co 7 Jun 1856; inquest, 'Herrin Sallt' found dead 13 Mar 1880; attack here on manager of CO Down railway 19 Apr 1884

Newspaper article from Newtownards Independent;
Tale of Comber & Ballygowan 14 Sep 1872+

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
search for coal 20 Sep 1873; fatal accident 20 Dec 1873; Cattle & Hiring Fair 24 Oct 1874; new Protestant hall 22 May 1875; foundation stone for Orange Hall 25 Sep 1875; Hiring Fair 23 Oct 1875; flooding in town 26 Jul 1879; Hiring Fair 25 Oct 1879; Great tenant Right meeting at Andrew's Spinning Mill 1 Jan 1881; Musical Society 29 Jan 1881; boycotting distilleries 3 Dec 1881; melee in Comber 20 May 1882; manufacture of aerated waters 18 Aug 1883; remains of Neolithic period found 9 Aug 1884 ; sanitary arrangements 8 Aug 1885; burial ground question 12 Sep 1885 ; rowydism at Hiring Fair 24 Oct 1885; fatal shooting accident 14 Nov 1885; melancholy suicide 12 Jun 1886; lecture at Comber Young Men's Association 25 Feb 1888; district nurse for Comber 22 Apr 1893; inspection of 2nd Comber Boys' Brigade 27 May 1899; address on Agricultural Co-operative Scheme by Hon. H. Plunkett M.P. 28 Dec 1895 Ulster Tenants Defence Assoc. meeting 26 Mar 1898

A painting of the town 19th century available ACOC p-1 & old map c. 1900 p4, photo of The Square c. 1900 p7


References;V17 p 120 & V 7 p 28-44 OSM; DR; NS;OSM map 1901; POD ; TOOC p33, 51 (old maps),50, 54, 58, 70, 78, 83, 93, 108; DR 22/8/2012 (old photos)


St. Marys Comber

Comber Church of Ireland- St Mary's
in The Square

This very small, old, oblong building is near the centre of town and was built on the site of the old Cistercian abbey (St.Marys, 1199) which was burnt down in 1572, nothing of the old abbey remains. A church was built in 1623 like a common house (called Mount Alexander House ) with merely a small arch on the south gable. The rector in 1724 was Rev. Edmund Bennett. The bell was purchased and installed by the parish in 1840 and the clock was a gift from the Viscount Castlereagh in 1841. The rector in 1798 was Rev. Robert Mortimer who died during United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798. The perpetual curate in 1799- 1828 was Rev. George Birch who was suceeded by his son, Rev. George W. Birch 1828-1830. In 1836 there was no tower or steeple and the average attendance was 100 people. The clergyman then was Rev. Blake (also in 1846). The present church was built in 1840 by Rev. Robert Ferrier Jex-Blake. The rector 1911-1918 was Rev. Charles Campbell Manning & in 1927 and for a long period was Canon Houston (TOOC p91)

Some old monuments/ gravestones read, "I Elder 1634 & John & Margrat Steine 1686" ;

Records PRONI MIC583/37; UHF ( ) has baptisms 1684-1877 & marriages 1683-1845 & burials 1683-1881 with gaps ; have baptisms 1684 -1877 & marriages 1683-1845 & burials 1683-1881 (with gaps) ; graveyard attached; gravestone inscriptions UHF Vol 2 ,5 & 13; email me for a gravestone look-up. Try & try
The above photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References;V7 p28, 29,32,36,44 OSM ; FR; OFB p124; V5 MIs;TOOC p30, 36, 60; MOA; p142 ; TOOC p32, 86; GIPR; GIC; ACOC p10

1st Presbyterian Church,  Comber

1st Presbyterian Church
in High St, Comber

The congregation was founded in 1645. They used the Church of Ireland building in the Square until they were put out. Its first minister was Rev James Gordon who arrived with the Scots Army in 1642. He was deposed for nonconformity in 1661 but later conformed.

The lease of the present church site dates from 1686 during the ministry of Rev. John Hamilton (who left for Scotland during the troubles of 1689). Next was Rev. Thomas Orr in 1695 until his death in 1722. He was succeeded by Rev. John Orr (probably his son) in 1724 . He joined the non subscribers so the next minister on 22 Oct 1728 was Rev. Robert Cunningham until his death in Feb 1776 . The present building dates back to 1740. The minister 1776 until his death in 1789 was Rev William Henry. He was succeeded by Rev. John McCance on 15 Jun 1790 but he became ill and Rev. Isaac Nelson took over as assistant in 1837.

Considerable repairs were carried out in 1836 at a cost of £300. It was described then as a plain, whitewashed building in the form of a cross. It could hold 1,000 people with an average attendance in 1836 of 1,800 people. The next minister was Rev. J.M. Killen from 9 May 1832 until his death in 3 Sep 1879 . He was suceeded by Rev. John McKeown 23 Mar 1880 & Rev. Robert Hanna briefly in 1887 who refurbished the church . Next was Rev. Thomas Graham from 1888. There was a National School next door in 1863.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
new meeting house 26 Aug 1837; special meeting & dinner 25 Jul 1885

Records available from 1847; no graveyard

References; HCPCI p97-98; V7 p28,29,32 ,44 OSM; TCOTH; TOOC p30,31,60 , 79, ,80; SG; DR; GIPR; GIC; GV; LR 2010 p52; ACOC p27,63,81(photos); Sandra Gilpin


2nd Presbyterian Church, Comber

2nd Presbyterian Church
in Market/Killinchy/ Downpatrick St, Comber

In 1836, the Manse & an Erasmus Smith school were within the grounds. The first minister was minister who was ordained 27 Mar 1839. He became Professor of Sacred Rhetoric in the Assembly's College, Belfast and was succeeded on 17 Jun 1873 by Rev. James Niblock. He was transfered to Newark, Port Glasgow 18 Aug 1877. Messrs. Smylie, Ritchie, Withers, McKee, Blackstock , Todd & Cairns spoke of his regard. He was succeeded by Rev. David A. Taylor on 4 Dec 1877. The minister in 1910 was Rev. Semple & in 1911 was Rev. Thomas McConnell & Rev. James E. Jones in 1927 .

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
letters about music in church 27 Sep 1873; Presbytery Meeting, Rev. J. Niblock transfered 18 Aug 1877; jubilee 30 Mar 1889

records from 1849; no graveyard

References; HCPCI p99; NC; SG;TOOC p61, 80 ; GIPR: GIC;GV ; ACOC p25,47,56, 154 (photo)


Comber Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Non Subscribing /Remonstrant

between High & Mill Sts, Comber , behind the 1st Presbyterian

The congregation was formed in 1836 through the efforts of John Miller & John Andrews. Early meetings were held in Barry's barn. Dr. Montgomery preached for 2 hours here in 1837. The site for this Meeting House was given by John's father, Mr. James Andrews in 1838. The Big Wind struck Jan 1839 causing severe damage to the roof. The church finally opened in 1840. There are several Andrews memorial stained glass windows .In 1878a schoolhouse was erected next door.

The ministers were Rev. William Hugh Doherty 1838-1849; Rev. John Orr 1850-1879; Rev. Thomas Dunkerley 27 Jan 1880 -1925 ; Rev. Kenneth Dunbar 1915-1919; Rev. James Glynne Davies 1919-1964; Rev. Robert Islwyn Pritchard 1965- 1969; Rev. William Fairbairn Rown 1970- 1984; Rev. Ian Gilpin 1986--

The postal address "Mill Street" for the Manse and Church was used up until the early 1990s when the original name "Windmill Hill" was re-introduced.

Newspaper Aticles from Newtownards Chronicle;
death of Dr. James Frame one of the founders of the church 17 May 1884

graveyard established in 1863; gravestone inscriptions UHF Vol 5
This photo was kindly sent to me by Sandra Gilpin

References; MIs V5; GV; POD; TOOC p60,61, 80 ; GIC; NC ;ACOC p25,27,28,59,62,63; Sandra Gilpin;


Comber Methodist Church

Comber Methodist Church
in Newtown/ Bridge Street on the E side of town

John Wesley visited Comber in 1758 and a band of followers met in private houses until a plain, stone building was built in 1821 and paid for by general subscription. It was capable of holding 300 people with an average attendance of 100 people in 1836. The minister in 1836 was Rev. McDowell. . Special meetinh held 11 Aug 1905 on the occasion of Rev. Charles Ckayton's tranfer to Enniskillen. The minister in 1916 was Rev. Coulson. The original church was bulldozed in 1995 because the structure was unsound. The congregation now meet in the hall (pictured)


References; V7 p 28, 29, 32, 44 OSM ; TOOC p42 , 107 ; LR 2012 p17; ACOC p128 (photo of interor)


Comber Catholic Church

Comber Catholic Church-
Our Lady of the Visitation
The Crescent, on the east side of Killinchy St., near the bypass road , Comber

Mass was celebrated upstairs in the market house around 1850 by Rev. Close and by 1863 they were using a building in The Crescent. This chapel was built in 1868 and dedicated in 14 Sep 1872. The church was fire bombed during The Troubles in 1993 but refurbished & rededicated.

records from 1864; graveyard nearby; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 5

References; TOOC p77,79, 107; V5 MI; NI; GIC: GIPR;GV ; ACOC p33


Gransha Presbyterian

Gransha Presbyterian Church
54 Gransha Road, Comber

This Seceeding congregation split from the main church in 1800. Their meeting house was built in 1801 & rebuilt in 1830. It measured 73 feet by 30 feet and in 1836 was described as a plain whitewashed and slated building, capable of holding 400 people with an average attendance of 150. The minister at that time was Rev. Mr. McCullogh with Rev. Henry Osborne before 1858 & Rev. Isaac Vance minister in 1877. The church was ebuilt 1878.

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
article on the 'new' church 29 Jun 1878; opening of Gransha Presbyterian 7 Jun 1879; visitation of Comber Presbytery 5 Mar 1887

North of Ireland FHS ( has baptisms 1821-1921 & marriages 1822-1921 & deaths 1820-1846 & burials 1854-2000 ;graveyard attached, gravestones UHF Vol 1; oldest stone 1854; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;V7 p 31, 35 OSM; GIC; HCPCI p225; V1 MIs; NC



Moneyreagh Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church
A congregation was formed in 1703 then a break away group formed in 1719 when a grant of land was made by Captain William Hannyngton "for the use of the inhabitants of some townlands separating themselves into a new congregation in the Western part of the Parish of Comber". This settled a long running dispute that families in the townlands of Munlagh and Tullygarvan had with the Presbytery of Down when efforts had been made to move them from the care of the minister in Comber to the minister of Tonaghnieve (Saintfield).

The first building was completed in November 1719. Records for the period are scanty and some have been lost which means it is unclear who ministered to the congregation in the period 1719-1725 when Rev. Alexander Hamilton settled there.

The church was rebuilt in 1770 and was paid for by subscription. There is a plaque on the side of the church which reads "This house was built 1770 by Rev. James Makain-minister". A clock , made by William Scott, was added 1780/1790 and placed above the plaque. the Church was capable of holding 700 people with an average attendance in 1836 of 250. The minister at that time was Mr. Blakely whose salary was augmented by £100 a year from the government. (Might be the Regium Donum, but this augmented the stipend and applied to all Presbyterian & Remonstrant Presbyterian clergy)

In 1829 Moneyrea, along with the Presbyterian congregation of Dunmurry left the Synod of Ulster and was a founding member of the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster in 1830. The General Synod of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland was set up in 1910 in a general re-organisation of the denomination; today the congregation is known as Moneyreagh Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

There is a book called "A History of the Moneyreagh Congregation 1719-1969" written by William MacMillan (1969) and printed by the Newtownards Chronicle.

List of ministers of Moneyrea:
Rev. Alexander Hamilton, 1725 (?) - 1736; Rev. James Tullis McCulloch , 1736 - 1744; Rev. James McKean 1746 - 1773; Rev. Samuel Patten , 1774 - 1809; Rev. Fletcher Blakely 1809 - 1857; Rev. John Jellie 1859 - 1862; Rev. John Berryhill 1863 - 1864; Rev. David Thompson 1864 - 1874; Rev. Thomas Leyland 1875 - 1878; Rev. Harold Rylett , 1879 - 1884; Rev. George Winslow Bannister 1885 - 1888; Rev. Richard Lyttle, 1889 - 1905.

Rev. George John Slipper 1906 - 1909; Rev. Matthew Watkins 1910 - 1915; Rev. Alfred Whitford 1916 - 1929; Rev. John Dare Davies 1929 - 1959; Rev. Evan Daniel Evans 1960 - 1974; Rev. William Frame 1975 - 1987; Rev. Andrew John Rowley 1990 - 1993; Rev. Samuel John Peden 1996 - 2001; Rev. Chris. J. Wilson since 2009

Records from 1838; graveyard attached, gravestones UHF Vol 1; oldest grave 1756; email me for a gravestone look-up

This photo was kindly sent by Sandra Gilpin References; Sandra Gilpin; V7 p31, 35 OSM; GIC : GIPR; GAA CS p 21; GV; V1 MIs; SG; POD;


Andrews Spinning Mill, Comber

Andrew's Spinning Mill
located directly opposite the Andrews Memorial Hall on the Ballygowan Road

The following entries in the various Post Office Directories state-
-Andrews & Sons- linen & bleachers, corn & flour merchants & millers in 1824; mill built in 1863, for machinery,coal, flax & yarn
- James Andrews & Sons- of Mill St, Comber; linen merchants & bleachers & millers in 1846
- John Miller Andrews- a mill manager in 1899 (brother of Thomas Andrews of 'Titanic" fame
-William Andrews- managing director & chairman of John Andrews & Co., millers in 1906

The building is currently (2007) being developed as a rather exclusive "gated community".

This photo was kindly sent to me by Sandra Gilpin.

References; POD


Joseph's Bridge in Ballystockart townland

Joseph'e Bridge in Ballystockart townland

by Ros Davies