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

Kilclief Parish

Parish Church & Norman Castle Ballywooden Catholic Church Rossglass Catholic Church Rossglass townland


Church of Ireland & Norman Castle
on a hill overlooking the sea and village, near the old castle

postal address Shore Rd, Strangford

The place name is derived from the Irish cill cleithe or wattle or timber church. It is believed that this church occupies the site of a Patrician monastery foundation from ancient Christian times. If that is so then people have met to worship here for more than 1500 years.

The old church on this site was in ruins in 1622, possibly destroyed deliberately, The church shown above is comparatively modern , having been built in 1839 and restored recently. It replaced a very old Catholic church which was a ruin in 1622 and which was described in 1836 as "in greatly need of repair". A portion of the wall still remains.It contained 12 seats which held 10 people each.

Embedded in the southern and western walls of the 'new' church are two antique stones curiously carved. One containing 6 figures much worn by time and the other, which is more completely effaced, containing 2 or 3 of the same kind. The Anglo-Norman grave slabs on display in the porch today provide a link with the past.

The castle is said to date from 1111 AD which is inscribed over a window but from the style of architecture it was probably erected in the early part of the 14th century and known to have been inhabited by a Bishop of Down early in the 15th. It was used as a store and a barn in 1836 and was roofed and floored for that purpose and is still today. The original roof of the lower floor being vaulted, still remains perfect. The castle forms a high square tower. Above the roof and at each of its corners there is a turret which may be surmounted by a staircase. A covered communication formerly existed between the castle and church. In one of the rooms over a window (which is now boarded up) some indistinct carving may be seen, apparently representing armorial bearings.

This photo was kindly sent by Bill Haggan. It shows the Church of Ireland with the old Norman Castle to its rear.

The Glebe House, near Strangford, which was built in 1816 by the Board of First Fruits at a cost of £500, was burnt by IRA in 1916. The rector in 1830 was Rev. Henry Leslie. Electricity was installed in 1954, a gift of Mrs A. Johnston of tully in memory of her father , Alfred.

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
Canon George Foster, rector of Ballyculter & Kilclief, death notice 29 May 1935*

Records available: baptisms from 1880, marriages from 1845 & burials from 1870;UHF have baptisms 1860 -1900 & marriages 1845-1900; graveyard attached, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 8 ;oldest stone 1752; used by all denominations; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;V17 p78 OSM; LWAG p45; GIC; BB p 8; O'L V1 p 207; Inv 2001 p 33, 38 & Inv 2006 p16,49, 40;FR; LM 1988 p17-21; LM 1995 p23 (inside drawing); LR 2009 p78-79


The ruins of St. Malachy's Catholic Church, Kilclief

The ruins of St. Malachy's Catholic Church

south of Kilclief town in Ballywoodan townland near the coast

This chapel was erected in 1785 when the parish priest was Rev. John Fitzsimons. It replaced several small chaples in the area. Mass was also held in houses & fields. It cost £200 and was paid for by subscription. Over the altar there was a painting of the Crucifixion. It was capable of seating 280 people and there was a sundial on one of the walls. A school was held in the chapel then. The parish priest in 1807 was Rev. Robert Denvir & Rev. Richard Teggart in 1818 & Rev. Patrick Maginn in 1842-1892. A gallery was added to increase its capacity in 1830.

This very old chapel was replaced by a newer church in the next field in 1941 . This in turn was abandoned as unsafe in 1970 and another built nearby.

Graveyard , gravestones UHF Vol 8;oldest grave 1808; email me for a gravestone look-up; PRONI & NLI have baptisms & marriages 1866-1881; UHF has baptisms & marriages 1898-1900

References;V17 p78, 112 OSM; LM 1994 p61; GIC; GIPR :V8 MIs; O'L V1 p 215; LM 1994 p59 ,62,71;Inv 2011 p3-6 (photo of old church & new church)


Rossglass Catholic Church

Rossglass Catholic Church- Our Lady Star of the Sea
near the shore; postcade BT30 7RA

This chapel is on the shores of Dundrum Bay with the Mourne Mountains in the background.

There was a church near this site in ancient times that was taxed during Pope Nicholas' time at 2 marks. It belonged to the Bishop of Down. By 1622 it was reported by the Protestant Bishop as a ruin. The parish priest in 1775 was Rev. Patrick McCartan. The present church was built in 1780. The last of the old walls were removed in 1834 and the graveyard ploughed up. The present church was built in 1780 on ground given by the Kildare family & rebuilt 1804 in the shape of a T. It is capable of seating 400 people. The holy water font from the old church at St. John's Point was moved here.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder ;
parish priest , Rev McKenna 10 Dec 1842

baptismal register for Bright, Rossglass & Killough from 1856 & marriages from 1843; UHF has baptisms & marriages 1898-1900; graveyard attached, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 8, oldest stone 1826; email me for a gravestone look-up

Bright Catholic parish web site & email

References;V17 p 36 OSM; DR ; GIC ; V8 MIs; O'L V1 p 151,155; LM 1994 p59 ; LM 1985 p37


Rossglass townland

Rossglass townland

In the Irish language Rossglass means green promontory. It is that part of the coast which stretches along Dundrum Bay from St. John's Point to the Tyrella Strand. With its rock-strewn shore, white cottages, stone walls dividing tiny fields and with the Mourne Mountains closing off the view to the south. The distribution of the other cottages reminds you of the ' clachans' or house clusters of related families, that used to characterise this part of the coast.

This area was owned the Bishops of Down and Connor in 1202 but granted to Sir Janico/John D'Artois in 1427 , (son of Janico D'Artois) , a knight from Flanders , who helped King Richard 2nd in his Irish Wars. They then passed into the hands of the Earls of Kildare through Alison Eustace, the grand-daughter of Sir Janico, who married Gerald, the 8th Earl of Kildare. John Russell leased the townland from the Kildares in 1622. A lawsuit was instituted in 1639 by the Protestant Bishop for the recovery of these lands, but it was interrupted by the Civil Wars and the Fitzgerald family held the lands until the year 1808 when the Right Hon. Charles James Fitzgerald, Baron Lecale, sold them to his father-in-law, William Ogilvie Esq. whose great grandson, Mr. Beauclerk held them in 1836 & 1890.New Lifeboat Station opened here in 1860 but know as Killough Lifeboat Station.

There was a school here in 1836. Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic church is in this townland. Mention of lifeboat crews of 1825 in Lecale Miscellany 2002 p 32 & Sailing Ships of Mourne p133-134.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
Soiree at school 26 Oct 1844: soiree at the school 10 Jul 1847; Rossglass Glaelic Footbal team won East & South Down League 7 Sep 1924, J. Mahon injured; strong Gaelic Athletics club here from 1903 (9/4/29R*); photo of Gaelic Football team of 1922 (DR* 21/6/2006)

References;V17 p 35,36 OSM: Olivier Meert (ancestor of Sir Janois D'Artois) ; L WAG p 77, 79; GIC; O'L V1 p 149, 157 & B p 21, 152, 319 , 322; DR; LM 2002 p 32; SSM p133; LES p1


by Ros Davies