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

Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

Holywood Parish

Church of Ireland -parish church St. Mark's Church of Ireland, Dundela 1st Presbyterian Church 2nd Presbyterian Church
Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church St Columkille's Catholic Church, Ballyhackamore . .


Main St, Holywood Belfast Lough from Holywood Hills

On Belfast Lough

In 1611, Holywood was a village owned by James Hamilton. Land & tithes from the parish were granted to Lord Clandeboy in 1629. In 1764, the parish population was 1771 with 99% Presbyterians (MOA p22).

This photo of the Main Street of Holywood was kindly sent by Brian McCleary. This photo taken from the Holywood Hills looking across Belfast Lough to Slemish in Co. Antrim was kindly sent by Sandra Gilpin.

The name of a town, a townland of 755 acres & a parish ; click here for a map of the townlands.

There were 2 small water mills in the town in 1834 and the townland's proprietor in 1834 was J. Kennedy Esq. whose agent was Mr Jackson of Belfast. There were 226 houses in the town ;39 families employed in agriculture, 71 in trade; 513 males & 775 females ;62 capitalists, 17 unemployed males,121 servants & 83 employed in handicrafts. There was a railway station & Gaslight Company here & a Bath House & Assembly Rooms in Shore Street Police Barracks in Church Street;the Town Commissioners' roons were in Church View in 1863.

Click here for list of Schools in 18th century.

Newspaper article from Northern Star;
politcal meeting 30 Jan 1793

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
potato plague not to any great extent here 1 Nov 1845*; pleasure party 25 Sep 1852; foreshore case 8 Jan 1881

Newspaper articles from Northern Independent;
public works programe for famine relief instigated 27 May 1848; bell for Holywood Bank lighthouse 29 Sep 1860; Dr Sullivan's National School 3 May 1862; homicide, John Thompson killed 8 Feb 1868; Amatuer Rowing Club notice 29 Jul 1871 ; Orange hall foundation stone laid 20 Jul 1872; double murder 4 Jan 1873

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
proposed extensions to Holywood water works 21 Aug 1875 ; a War Camp at Holywood 23 May 1885 ; rioting soldiers v. police 7 Jul 1888; lighthouse destroyed 16 Mar 1889;bailiffs attacked by men with blackened faces 17 May 1990; Conservative meeting 17 Jan 1891; melancholy occurance 2 Jul 1892 ; Palace stables destroyed 6 Jan 1894; proposed tramway 13 May 1897; railway fatality 18 Jun 1898;mussel fishery inquiry 8 Oct 1898

References;MOA p20; NS; V17 p 133 & V7 p 73, 77 ,79 OSM, map ; FCD S2 p 9; DR; NI; NC; NDM p70,118;GV


Holywood Church of Ireland-St. Philip & St. James
at the north end of the town in Church Road

Part of the foundation of an old monastery of St. Francis can still be seen in the graveyard & the church (above left) . The vicar c. 1819 was Rev. Mr. W.A. Holmes. In 1834 was only a wing or part of the old monastery. The rector in 1830 was Rev. Rafe Jebb. The church had the appearance in 1834 of being very old. Its dimensions were 63 by 30 feet with enough seating for 68 people but with an average attendance in 1834 of 150 people. It was re built in 1844. The vicar in 1910 was Rev. Canon Moore with curate Rev. R.H. White

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
a new church built 27 Aug 1842

records from 1806,some showy tombstones in the graveyard; graveyard inscriptions available Vol 4 UHF; email me for a gravestone look-up; for gravestone photos try
Also try &

The above photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary. References; Familia 2010 p127; V7 p 74, 78 ,81 OSM; DR;FR; GIPR: GIC;NDM p7;GV; POD


St Mark's Dundela

St. Mark's Church of Ireland, Dundela- a chapel of ease
Holywood Rd, Holywood at junction of Sydenham Avenue

Many Belfast businessmen were moving out to this area and the population was growing so early services were held in Henry Smyth's adapted coachhouse in Sydenham Park until 1863 when first church built at Gelston's Corner . A new church was built in 1876 and the old church became Strandtown National School in 1881 . The minister in 1880-1900 was Rev. Thomas Hamilton & in 1902 Rev. Gerald Peacock . The Heyn Memorial hall , next to the church, was dedicated in 1929

no graveyard
records from 1864

This photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References;GIPR; SCPC p8 ; SCPC p9 ; OS map 1902; POD ; GIC ; ACS p45 -49



1st Presbyterian Church, Holywood
in Bangor Rd, Holywood

This Meeting House was first built in 1615 on ruins of a old Norman Priory by James Hamilton. The first minister, Rev Robert Cunningham preached there for 21 years. The congregation separated from Dundonald church in 1704 and Rev Thomas Cobham transfered from Dundonald to Holywood. About 1725 some of the congregation left with Rev. Michael Bruce to form the 2nd Unitarian/Seceeders Church. Next minister was Rev. William Smith 1729-1741 then Rev William Rodgers 1743-1751 who built a new Meeting House in Strand Street.The congregation assisted with its building. The minister from 1743-1777 was Rev. John King. He was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Kennedy 1778-1788 then Rev. Joseph Harrison 1788-1816 followed by his son, Rev. William Harrison 1816-1824. next was Rev. Henry Wallace 1826- 1834.

The new church measured 70 by 33 feet with a gallery and was capable of holding 700 people with the average attendance in 1834 of 275. There was a school attached. The congregation built the next church in 1841 on a site acquired from William Patton. It was designed by Rev William Blackwood in the Gothic Revival style and cost £1500. The minister from 1835-1844 was Rev. William Blackwood followed by Rev. Henry Henderson 1844-1878 (lived Thornbank Manse, Ballykeel when he became infirm ) . He was replaced by Rev. Henry Halliday 1878. The minister in 1910 was Rev. S.W. Chambers.

I have indexed the baptisms and marriages from c. 1845-1930 into the Surname Lists. North of Ireland FH Society Baptisms 1840–1921; Marriages 1845-1921

records from 1840; no graveyard; Try their website-

References; HCPCI p159-160; V7 p 74, 76, 81 OSM ; GIC; GIPR; MIs; GV
This lovely old postcard c. 1907 was kindly sent to me by Mary Robinson. It was sent by the Geddes family  
Holywood 1st Presbyterian Church
This photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.


2nd Presbyterian Church

2nd Presbyterian Church- Seceeders
in High St., Holywood

The congregation split with 1st Presbyterian under Rev Michael Bruce c. 1729 . They first worshipped in thatch cottage in Strand Street with dimensions 42 by 33 feet. The average attendance in 1834 was 150 people. They moved to present site in 1858 when Rev James S. Denham was minister (until 1862) then Rev. Henry Osborne. The minister in 1910 was Rev. William J. Archer

records from 1857; no graveyard

References;GIC:PE; GIPR;V7 p 74,81 OSM; GV; HCPCI p225; DR* 25/1/1862


Holywood Unitarian Church

Non Subscribing Presbyterian Meeting House
in High St, Holywood , opposite 2nd Presbyterian Church

The first congregation was formed in 1704 and in 1834 there were 100 people attending . The present building was completed in 1849. The minister from 1834- 1891 was Rev. Charles James McAlester then Rev Clelent Edwards Pike 1892-1898 & from 1938 was Rev. Charles Montgomery & Rev Ernest Peters from 1954.

Article from Newtownards Chronicle newspaper;
death of Rev C.J. McAlester, minister for 57 years 15 Aug 1891

no graveyard
This photo was kindly sent to me by Aaron Orr.

References;V7 p 74,81 OSM; GV;GIC; POD;


St. Columcille's Catholic Church, Ballyhackamore
in the SW end of town in Church View Street ; Parochial House, 2a Lady's Mile, Holywood BT18 9EW Tel 9042 2167

Holywood is recognised as an early ecclesiastical site with the first church built in the mid-seventh century, probably by St. Laiseran, a second-generation disciple of St. Comgall in nearby Bangor. While Holywood did not appear to have the significance of Bangor, it did merit an overnight stay by the English King John in 1210.
The revived priory church dated back to the turn of the 12th century. In 1572 it was burned, along with monasteries in Newtownards, Movilla and Bangor. The next century brought persecutions, Penal Laws and Cromwell to Ireland. Virtually no Catholics lived in Holywood for 150 years. ‘One reputed Papist’ was recorded in 1744. The novelty of this Catholic, a coachman, apparently brought the local inhabitants to their doors to look in wonder when he first drove through the town. The next recorded celebration of Mass in Holywood was in 1811 by Father Patrick Curran, parish priest of Newtownards and Holywood.

The parish priest in 1817 was Rev Bernard Magee (shared with Newtownards) . Funds were raised for new church in 1822 by Rev. Arthur McGlew. The church was opened on Church View in 1830 & by 1834 the church was attended by 50 people . Rev. James Killen was parish priest here & Knockbreda in 1843-1857. A new chapel was built in 1872 by James O’Laverty overlooking Belfast Lough and Cavehill, in the French Gothic style, the architect was Timothy Heavy.

20th century priests- , Rev. James O'Laverty until 1906; Rev. John McShane 1906- 1907; Rev. Edmund Hasset 1907- 1922; Rev. John O'Brien 1922- 1934; Rev. Thomas Blacker 1934- 1942; Rev. Edward MacGowan 1942- 1950; Rev. Daniel Murphy 1950- 1960; Rev. Patrick Farry 1960- 1975; Rev. John Courtney 1975- 1978; Rev. Patrick McKavanagh 1978- 1985; Rev. John Stewart 1985+

On 24 Aug 1989, the church was itself destroyed by fire. Only the spire was fit to be restored, using some of the stone salvaged from the old church. A new church, dedicated to St. Colmcille, was built on the site and solemnly dedicated by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Patrick Walsh, on Sunday 28th May 1995.

no graveyard ; PRONI & NLI have baptisms 1866-1880; UHF has baptisms 1866-1900 & marriages 1867 -1900;

Article from Newtownards Chronicle newspaper;
consecration of new church 20 Jun 1874

References; Holywood St Columcille's Parish Directory of 2010; GV; V7 p 74 OSM ;LM 1994 p62, 63,74 ; GV; TIA. GIC; DCPH p 128; NC; PE; POD


by Ros Davies