Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site
© Rosalind Davies 2001

Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

Hillsborough Parish

Hillsborough town Church of Ireland- St. Malachy's Church of Ireland- St John's Kilwarlin Church of Ireland- St. James Kilwarlin
  Lisburn Street Presbyterian Hillsborough Fort or Old Castle Hillsborough new Castle/House
Kilwarlin Moravian Church Reilly's Trench Catholic Church St. James schoolhouse, Kilwarlin .


Hillsborough town
These photos were kindly sent by Bill Haggan

The earliest settlement in the Hillsborough area was Fox Fort ,home of the Magennis Clan. Later the Normans built a fort just north of the town at Crommelyn. In 1611 Sir Moyses Hill, an Englishman, bought local land from the Magennis's and his son Peter began the development of the townin 1636. He built a fort, a church and some houses. These were destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion but rebuilt by Col. Arthur Hill around 1652. Wills Hill developed Hillsborough to its present form in 1742. (ODHD p3)

This photo on the left shows the market square with the Courthouse, which was probably built around 1780 to replace an even older building. Court was held every Wednesday by 2 magistrates and a seneschal; they heard cases of breaches of the peace & debt. They were empowered to commit people to prison for 3 months only or to fine of £5. The Sessions were held quarterly by a barrister who was empowered to try cases liable to transportation for 7 years. Court leet money was paid at the following rates, 8 pence to every landholder & 4 pence to every cottier.

In 1831 there was 1 physician & 2 surgeons, 1 brewer,2 haberdashers, 3 milliners, 11 grocers, 5 grocers & spirit dealers, 1 sadllier, 1 farrier, 3 tailors, 3 shoemakers, 1 hotel keeper, 20 spirit dealers, 1 baker, a cabinet maker, 4 carpenters, 1 blacksmith, 2 nailers, 4 masons, 2 butchers and 1 'female quack' . Farms then were from 5-24 acres; rent was 38-30 shillings an acre and there were 2 mills.

In 1836 the town had one public dispensary and three private doctors;200 patients had fever with 175 cured; 25 cases of consumption (TB) with 18 cured;50 patient with Rheumatism, 50 cured; 300 patients with dyspepsia, 300 cured.

Fair were held every quarter and markets every Wednesday.Hillsborough Castle which plays a large part in the life of the town is just to the west side of the demesne adjoining the town. The town was originally called Crumlin but change its name to represent the Hill family.It was founded by the Downshire family in the reign of King James 1st and a Royal charter given in 1663. The old fort was built on the east side of town for the encouragement and security of an English plantation.

There were several charitable organisations in the town then. The Clothing Society was established in 1821 and members paid 1 penny per week so that clothing could be distributed to the poor. The Hillsborough Charitable Society, established in 1836, was to provide lodging, food and clothing for the aged and destitute, to give relief at their own houses so as to discourage travelling mendicants. The committee met every Wednesday at 10 o'clock to review applications for assistance.Two people were appointed to each townland as visitors to the poor and whose duty it was to collect voluntary subscriptions from the other townland inhabitants. The Poor House which gave relief to the poor. The Savings Bank which enabled "working class people to amass the fruits of their industry". Hillsborough dispensary established for the relief of mental and bodily diseases.

The houses in the town were described as mainly one-storey cottages built with stone, thatched roofs and glass windows. The inhabitants are described as being cleaner than neighbouring places. In 1836 there was a Church of Ireland, a Presbyterian and Quaker meeting house. The proprietor of the townland was Lord Downshire whose agent was Mr Reilly . In 1846 the population of the parish was 6474 with those in the town being 1338. By 1852 , it was 1390 people (POD) In 1886 there was a weaving factory in town. The population in 1910 was 671 people.
click here for information on schools and a list of charity subscribers in 1836.

Newspaper articles from Northern Star;
regiment marches on Hillsborough 3 Oct 1792; Hillsborough Fair notice 6 Feb 1793 & 6 Feb 1794;Hillsborough Races notices 9 Jul 1795; subscription ball at Corporation Arms notice 30 Jul 1795; Book Club notice 21 Nov 1796

Newspaper articles from North Herald;
Orange pranks in Hillsborough 2 Aug 1834 ; Conservative Meeting to consider crisis 18 Oct 1834

Newspaper artcils from Down Recorder;
distillery accident 27 May 1843: Sunday and daily schools 6 Oct 1855; distillery for sale 13 Aug 1859; distress among cotton weavers 3 Jan 1863; new woollen factory 16 May 1867; grand ball list of invitations 2 Dec 1871

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
Conservative demonstrations 23 Mar 1878

References;NS; V12 p 82, 85, 86, 87, 87, 93, 99, 105 OSM: DR: HMNI p111,112; NC; ODHD p3,28-39; POD


St. Malachy's Church of Ireland
in Main Street, Hillsborough
These lovely photos were kindly sent by Bill Haggan

The parish church of Hillsborough is clearly the focal point of the area. It is a most magnificent church, thanks to Hill family patronage over many centuries. However, although it is the oldest church in the district, it is not medieval, the foundation dating only from 1662. The only ecclesiastical ruin in the three parishes with any pretensions to antiquity is the 'Chapel of Cromlyn' in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle. The chapel was dedicated to St. Malachy and was attached to the church of Drumbo at the time of the taxation of Pope Nicholas (1306). It was a ruin in 1622 and is also mentioned in a visitation of 1633. The site continued to be used as a burial ground until the enclosure of Hillsborough demesne prevented this. A church was built in 1663. On 6 January 1839 an ancient willow beside the chapel blew down, revealing several human bones as evidence for a burying ground and a habit-clad skeleton, clutching a silver chalice, leads us to suspect that an earlier ecclesiastical establishment existed in this area.
(Reeves, Ecclesiastical Antiquities, p.45).

The new church was built by Arthur Hill, Peter's brother and it flourished for over 100 years until Wills Hill, first Marquis of Downshire decided to enlarge and rebuild it to the present size.

St. Malachy's was rebuilt between 1760-74 and was paid for by Wills Hill, 1st Marquis of Downshire. The original 17th century church was invery bad repair and the new church, although large, used some of the old foundations. The architects for the spire c. 1770 was James & David McBlain.

The church is on the east side of Hillsborough and is of Gothic architecture. In 1836 it was described was 111 feet by 90 feet in a cruciform shape with projections. It is built of whinstone, corniced and buttressed with freestone. The spire,which is lofty, is also made of freestone. The inside of the church is handsomely fitted up with pews and there is a small gallery for the organ and choir. The windows are of stained glass. It holds 600 people with an average attendance then of 500. The church was finished and opened for divine service in August 1773. There is a clock and a peal of 8 bells in the tower. The rector in 1824 was Very Rev. Robert Alexander; the curate Rev Mr. Hill; the organist Mr. James Stephenson & parish clerk, Alexander McConnell & in 1836 , the rector was Rev. Mr. Lett. In 1846 & 1852 the rector was Rev. Walter E.Mant with the curate, Rev. Evan Davis. In 1910 the rector was Rev. Canon Kernon with curate Rev. F.J. Bannan .

Inside the church are several monuments. One to Rev. John Dickson, Archdeacon of Down who died 1814 aged 65; another to Henrietta, youngest daughter of Francis Hartwell Esq. who died in 1814 aged 22; another to Rev. John Leaths who died 1737 aged 79; another in Latin to Henry Leslie who died 1774.

The monument at the front of the photo was erected by public subscription in 1920/1 and commemorates those fallen in the 1st World War. This photo was taken around 1930.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
parish meeting Puseyites 22 Mar 1845: font moved 29 Mar 1845: comment on church 29 Mar 1845

Records available; baptisms from 1777, marriages from 1782; graveyard attached; gravestones Vol 18 UHF, oldest stone 1686; email me for a gravestone look-up; graveyard on Culcavy Hill; for gravestone photos try

References;V12 p 86,87,89, 90 OSM: MS WAG p 13; GIC: GIPR; V18 MIs; POD


St. John's Church of Ireland, Kilwarlin
in Corcreeny townland St. John's Rd, Hillsborough, 6km SW of Hillsborough

This Chapel of Ease built 1840 by Rev. Walter B. Mant, Arch-deacon of Down. During the nineteenth century the rural population began to feel cut off from their church and wanted a place of worship nearer at hand. Kilwarlin was carved out of Hillsborough, Dromore & Moira parishes. Rev John Charles Walker was minister until his death in 1843. In 1846 the vicar was Rev. William Moore & in 1852 & 1869 it was Rev. Howard B. St. George then Rev William Robinson was rector 1876- 1892 and Rev Charles Walter Harkness was rector in 1910 & 1920.

There is a small grass plot outside the church but Hillsborough remains the parish graveyard ; graveyard attached, gravestones UHF Vol 18; email me for a gravestone look-up; burial register up to 1877 destroyed in Dublin in 1922

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
incumbent Rev. St George who preached at Dundrum 2 Oct 1869*

This photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References;V18 MIs; GIC; POD


St James Church of Ireland, Kilwarlin

in Ballykeel Artifinny townland, Lony Rd, Hillsborough

On 4 May 1839 the foundation stone of a new church, St. James's Chapel of Ease, was laid. It was consecrated in 1842 and has had minor modifications since then including a modernisation in 1958, no graveyard

This photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References; GIC; DR; V18 MIs


Hillsborough Presbyterian

Hillsborough Presbyterian
in Lisburn Street

The Meetinghouse was erected in 1833 at a cost of £700 which was raised by subscription on land given by the Marquis of Downshire. It was a plain , stone building; which seated 500 with the average attendance of 400 in 1834. Their minister was Rev. Mr. Henry Jackson Dobbin 1833- 1837, whose salary was £100 (Irish) and £60 (British). The next minister was Rev. Samuel Marcus Dill from 1837-1853 followed by Rev. Alexander Montgomery 28 Mar 1854- 27 Aug 1854 . He was succeeded by Rev. Robert Templeton from 1855- 1857 then Rev. Galbraith Hamilton Johnston from 1857 to at least 1868 . The minister by 1893 was Rev. J. Rentoul until at least 1909 & in 1910 the minister was Rev. W.C. Steele.

Newspaper article from Northern Herald;
opening of new church 21 Dec 1833; The church was completely rebuilt in 1885

baptisms from 1833 , marriages from 1845 , no graveyard

References; HCPCI p158-159; V12 p 86, 87, 90, 91, 97 OSM; GIC: GIPR; V18 MIs; NH; MIs; MC; POD


Hillsborough Fort

Hillsborough Fort or Old Castle

The first fort on this site was built by Peter Hill in the 1630s on th site of an early Christian rath and was remodelled and strengthened by his brother Arthur, who was appointed Heredity Constable of the Fort of Hillsborough on 20th December 1660. On 19th Jun 1690 King William stayed at the Fort and it was here that the Regium Donum was signed, which granted money to the ministers of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The Fort was further improved by the 1st Marquis of Downshire in the mid 18th century. In 1921 there were 16 castle warders and a drill instructor, Sgt-Major James H. Crane. In the 19th century they were 'on parade' every Sunday at the Church. Their uniform hadn't change since 1688. They were clothed in blue, turned up with red and trimmed with white lace, white breeches and leggings with a large cocked hat and a red feather. Their arms consisted of a musket, bayonet & sword.

The Fort was given, by the family, to the people of Northern Ireland in 1959. Only one warder now survives.

References;V12 p86, 88, 91; MS WAG p 16, 17; HMNI p111


Hillsborough new Castle or Hillsborough House

This photo was kindly sent by Bill Haggan This old postcard was kindly sent to me by Jeff Hampton & dates from c. 1900

Hillsborough Castle was planned by the 1st Marquis of Downshire, Wills Hill, but was not completed until 1797, four years after his death. It is situated in the demesne a little to the west of the Court House and is described as a pleasant if not imposing,two-storey, rather rambling, ashlar mansion-house. It is beautifully wooded and the walks tastefully laid out. The garden is extensive and in it greenhouses, hothouses and a pinery.

The castle was improved and augmented in the mid 19th century and was bought by the government in 1924 to to used as the the official royal residence in Northern Ireland and the official residence of the governor of Northern Ireland. It still hosts official receptions and is not open to the public. The most notable exterior feature is the elaborate wrought-iron gates dating from 1745 and built by Cornish immigrants.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
meeting of tenantry 31 Jul 1847; festivities at the Castle 6 Jan 1849; Festivities at Hillsborough Castle, list of those attending 29 Oct 1864; ball at the castle, list of those present 14 Dec 1867

References;V12 p 86, 95, 96 OSM: MSWAG p 14; DR

Kilwarlin Moravian Church

Kilwarlin Moravian Church
in Corcreeny townland, on a by-road 1km south of Hillsborough-Moira road

The Moravian Church originated in Bohemia & Moravia c. 1415. The movement arrived in Ireland in 1747 by John Cennick.

The first congregation of about 80 converts was on this site in 1754 with the chapel built 1755 by John Cennick. By 1834 with the removal of the minister from the church to Ballinderry , the church and manse fell into ruins but was still used as a schoolhouse and the congregation stood at 6 elderly people. It was the arrival of a Greek chieftain, Basil Patras Zula who had been converted in Dublin that the church was rebuilt 13 Oct 1835 at the expense of the minister. The new church was a neat, slated, stone, roughcast and whitewashed building with the walls 2 feet thick. It had a small vestry with a gallery over it. There weren't any pews but forms which seated 150 people in 1836 . Rev Zula died in 1844 but his wife Ann continued to live in the Manse and conducted a Boarding School for Select Young Ladies in an additional wing.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
Sabbath school 31 Dec 1836

The attached graveyard was built by the Greek minister , Basil Zula in the shape of the Greek Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC; Kilwarlin Moravian gravestone, UHF Vol 18; email me for a gravestone look-up; church registers from 1837

References; V12 p 95 OSM: DR ; GIC; MIs ; KMC


St. Colman's Catholic Church, Kilwarlin/ Hillsborough
in Reilly's Trench townland just outside town

The original church was burned down between 1742 and 1745 and the parish priest, who lived at Blaris, and serviced other churches in Trummery and Hillsborough, was driven out of his home. From then until the opening of the present church in 1805, worshippers prayed at the Mass Tree where it still stands today. In 1805, the Marchioness of Downshire, touched at the plight of the Catholics, obtained a small portion of land from a family and gave the land with £50 towards the building of the new church. A school, which was built in 1814, was not used until 1829.
In 1836, the church was deascribed as a neat, stone building, roughcast and whitewashed. It was 64 ft long and 34ft wide with walls 2ft thick. There was a neat painting of a crucifixion over the altar. The flolor was partly boarded and partly mud. There were 36 seats which held 300 people, with an average attendance of 250 per week.


References; V 12 p95 OSM ;


by Ros Davies