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

Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only


Killyleagh Parish

Killyleagh town & Castle . Killyleagh Castle Church of Ireland
1st Presbyterian Church 2nd Presbyterian Church Wesleyan Methodist Church Catholic Church
Shrigley . . .


Killyleagh town

Killyleagh Looking from the Castle gates to Strangford Lough View of Killyleagh town Linden Walk, Killyleagh
Killyleagh 2005 looking from the Castle gates to Strangford Lough. This postcard of Killyleagh town dated early 1900s was kindly sent to me by Peggy Isbell of Texas USA. It belonged to her great grandmother Martha Jane Edgar ( nee Shields) of Killyleagh. It shows Strangford Lough in the background with the Castle in the foreground. The spire of the Church of Ireland is visible on top left.

Another lovely postcard from Peggy Isbell of Texas USA. This one shows Linden Walk - a lovely row of Linden trees along the castle boundary wall. .


In April 1689 a battle was fought near the town when Col. Talbot of Cormac O'Neill's Regiment defeated supporters of King William under Henry Hunter. This battle is known as 'The Break of Killyleagh".
The pier was erected in 1763 and rebuilt by Lord Dufferin in 1832 to cater for the growing traffic on the Lough. The harbour was described in 1833 as dry at low tide and at high tide there was about 12 feet of deep water at the pier. Vessels of 120 tons could come up only at high tide and the pier could cater for 12 to 15 vessels at a time. The only vessels using the pier at that time were hauling coal and limestone and in return they loaded butter, corn and potatoes. Their was a store house on the quay, built by Lord Dufferin, for the use of the steam vessels which traded between Killyleagh and Liverpool. Twelve boats were employed in herring,cod, haddock, blocken, lythe and white fishing with about 35 men employed in the trade and a few women and children employed making and mending nets. (The men did not lease land) Oyster were plentiful on the rocks around the shore along with crabs, lobsters, mussels & cockles.

In 1833 the town was described as a small post town with two streets which intersected each other near the centre. There were about 190 two-storey houses, 62 one- storey houses and 14 three-storey houses. About two-thirds were thatched and the three-storey houses were described as unfinished and badly situated. The people kept their cottages clean, with most cottages having 2 to 4 rooms with glass windows. In 1833 the town hada large cotton mill, 3 smithies, 12 public houses and one grain & spirit dealer. The proprietor for the townland of Killyleagh was Mr. Reid. He leased farms to his tenants of 10-60 acres. The rent was 20-25 shillings an acre and their crops were potatoes , wheat & oats. It was poor quality land.
The trade of the port was limited and consisted principally in the exportation of wheat, barley, potatoes, butter, kelp and cotton goods and in the importation of cotton, wool, coal, iron, salt and general merchantise.

There were ladies' baths- hot & cold, shower or plunge. No baths for gentlemen who were obliged to hire a boat and venture out into the lough. Two major fairs were held every year in May and November. Servants were procured and dismissed at these seasons of the year ( a hiring fair). There was a small market every Friday which was not well attended. The court of Petty Sessions was held once a quarter with 2 or 3 magistrates attending. (Arthur Hill Reed Esq., Mr. Johnston Esq. of Hollypark, and Robert Heron Esq. of Ardville.) There were three policemen in town but there were rarely any "quarrels" . The people in the area mainly relied on agriculture with a little spinning sufficient for their own needs. The people were described as industrious, quiet and independent people. In 1871 there were 1089 Catholic and 4821 Protestant families in the parish. In 1886 there were 2 spinning mills here.

There was a Church of Ireland, 2 Presbyterian, 2 Methodist, and a Catholic church & Catholic Parochial House here in 1836, also several schools.

Newspaper article from the Northern Star;
Volunteers address to Archibald Hamilton Rowan 28 Apr- 1 May 1794 page 2 ; political meeting 14-17 Oct 1796 page 4

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
establishment of fair 28 Jan 1837 page 2 ; medical establishment to let 18 Mar 1837; page 3 ;Cattle show 12 Aug 1837 page 3 ; big wind 6 Jan 1839 (3/1/1939) *; Poor Law district population was 4079 in 30 Nov 1839 page 3; great failure of potato crop in this area 1 Nov 1845*; mills give children a soiree 28 Feb 1846 page 2; Famine relief meeting 10 Apr 1847 page 2 ; flax & cotton mills burnt 8 Dec 1849 page 2; cholera 16 Sep 1854 page page 2; Cholera in town. Letter from the Medical Officer 4 Nov 1854 page 4; Reminiscences of the last century 13 Dec 1856 page 4 ; new Orange Hall 15 Jul 1871 page 2 ; opening of Orange Hall 6 Apr 1872 page 4; description of the town 17 May 1879 page 3 ;Killyleagh spinning mill machine boys strike for better wages 19 Feb 1924*; Killyleagh Health Committee meeting 9 Apr 1928*; town takes in Belfast evacuees 25 Sep 1939*

Newspaper article from Newtownards Independent;
new Orange Hall 6 Apr 1872 page 3

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
Farming Society annual show 24 Jul 1875 page 3 ; liquidation of flax spinning company 21 Aug 1875 page 3 ; Plymouth Brethren activities 8 Apr 1876 page 4 ; annual regatta 1 Sep 1877 page 3 ; Killyleagh to Comber tramway 8 Mar 1884 page 3 ; man shot 25 Jun 1887 page 3 ; farmers and the depressed state of agriculture in Killyleagh 15 Oct 1887page 4 ; strike of mill workers 11 May 1889 page 3 ; meeting of Dufferin Tenant Farmers Association, compulsary land purchase 23 Apr 1892 page 3 ; tenant farmers meeting 8 Dec 1894 page 3 ; Tenant Right meeting 21 Nov 1896 page 3

I have indexed the information from the Griffiths Valuations of 1863 for Shore Street, Corporation & 1891-1899 Police Census of the parish into the Surnames Index. There is a DVD for sale "Where Legends are Born" about the history of Killyleagh £10 from

References;NS; V17 p 80, 82, 83, 120 & V7 p 95 OSM; OFD p xi; DR & DR* 7/11/2001, 5/11/03; NC; O'L V1 p 409 & B p 492; POD;LR 2005 p20


Killyleagh Castle 1999 Killyleagh Castle c. 1900

Killyleagh Castle

Killyleagh Castle stands at the north western end of the town is still owned and lived in by the Hamilton family.

It was originally built by the Norman, John de Courcy in 1180. De Courcy had established himself at Downpatrick and built earthwork fortresses with wood stockades and arching towers. Part of the great earth mound is still near the castle. It was added to in the 14th and 17th centuries and restored in 1850. The Mandeville family owned it in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st. About 1552 it was in the possession of the Whyte family. Mr Whyte was said to have had 120 footmen & 20 horses but was too weak to defend the castle against General Monk whose troops bombarded the castle and partially destroyed it. In 1606 it was in the possession of James Hamilton ( Lord Viscount Claneboye) who added a tower and made more repairs. In 1836 the proprietor was Archibald Rowan Hamilton Esquire who was brother to Captain Hamilton, Governor of Down Jail.

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
accident at castle 25 Aug 1849

The photo on the left was taken in 1998 This old postcard c. 1905 was kindly sent to me by Peggy Isbell of Texas USA. It belonged to her g grandmother Martha Jane Edgar (nee Shields) of Killyleagh.  
References;V17 p 81, 83 OSM; DR : O'L V1 p 337; SFSOK p42


Killyleagh Parish Church

Church of Ireland, Killyleagh- St John the Evangelist
in Church Hill St, Killyleagh town at the NE end

This parish church , which is situated on a hill in the north east end of town, was built in 1640 . The rector c. 1660 was Rev. William Richardson. There is a inscription stating that Rev Mr. Clewls built & paid for the church; he died in 1699. The rector in 1824 was Rev. Peter Carleton & the curate, Rev. Charles Campbell. It was repaired by Lord Dufferin in 1828 which was paid for by a grant of £2,000 from the Board of First Fruit but the cost of repairs was about £3500. The exterior of the church was described in 1833 as a plain, substantial building. The interior only held 180 people comfortably but an average attendance in 1836 was 70. The woodwork then was not properly painted and it had a general unfinished appearance. The rector from 1825 until his death in 1866 was Rev. Dr Edward Hincks the famous Egyptoligist & Assyriologist on a salary of £795 per annum.
There are three monuments inside with a striking one to Lord Dufferin.

This old postcard was kindly sent to me by Peggy Isbell of Texas USA. It belonged to her great grandmother Martha Jane Edgar ( nee Shields) of Killyleagh. The photo above was kindly sent to my by Brian McCleary.  

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
parochial meeting 26 Apr 1845; reopening of parish church 14 May 1859; refurbished 18 Jun 1859; improvements 22 Nov 1862; grand bazaar for restoration of parish church 25 Aug 1877; reopening of church 3 Nov 1877; old churchyard discussion 14 May 1881; church choir's annual outing 14 Aug 1926*

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
reopening of parish church 3 Nov 1877

Records for baptisms and marriages are from 1813, graveyard attached, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 6; email me for a look-up in old graveyard as well.

References;V17 p 80, 83 OSM; SFSOK p3; DR ; SFSOK p114,132,136

1st Presbyterian Church, Killyleagh
in Plantation Street

1st Presbyterian Church c. 1900 1st Presbyterian Church in 2002   1st Presbyterian cleared graveyard
This old postcard ( top left) was kindly given to me by Peggy Isbell of Texas USA. It belonged to her great grandmother Martha Jane Edgar (nee Shields) of Killyleagh. The church in 2002.   Walking up the path from the Main Gate- many of the graves have been removed and the headstones placed around the perimeter walls. The sexton says that this helps with maintenance as the site is several acres.

The first minister of the congregation was the blind Rev. Bole in 1639 . The next minister was Rev. William Richardson from 1649 until 1670 then Rev. Alexander Ferguson until 1684 . The earliest Presbyterian church was built on the present site in 1670, and was replaced by a T shaped church in early 1700s. Rev. James Bruce was minister in 1684 until 1730 with some respite in Scotland during the Rebellion. He was suceeded by his son Rev. Patrick Bruce in 1731- 1732. He was succeeded by Rev. Gilbert Kennedy jnr in 1733-1744 then Rev. William Dunn 1745-1765 then Rev. Joseph Little 1768-1813 then Rev. W.H. D. McEwen 1813-1817 then Rev. Henry Cooke 1818-1829.

The earlier church was pulled down and in 1827 the new classical edifice was built at a cost of £2,000 which was raised by subscription & contributions. It is in the usual T shape & held 1,050 people with the average attendance in 1836 of 800. It was described in 1836 as a fine , large building with a plain interior. The minister from 1831 - 1882 was Rev. Andrew Breakey but as he became infirm Rev. William Witherow took charge until 1883 & from 1883 was Rev. John R. McCleery.

The graveyard is unusually extensive for a Presbyterian church, with a few 18th century stones scattered on all sides of the church, the oldest dating from 1754. The area near the gate was levelled during the 1960s and many stones moved to the graveyard wall. Some stones were destroyed and others uncovered.

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
annual meeting held in Cooke Memorial Hall 29 May 1935*

Records available are from 1692; Killyleagh Library holds baptisms 1693-1757 then 1835-1882 & marriages 1692-1760 then 1833-1872; (personal visits only) North of Ireland FHS ( has baptisms 1835-1882 & marriages 1692 -1872; LDS Batch #700311 & M700311
The graveyard surrounds the church on about 2 acres; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 7 . There are a few 18th century graves with oldest being 1754; email me for a gravestone look-up .

References;HCPCI p168-169; V17 p80, 83 OSM; Register of Deeds; DR * 10 Dec 1856; MID p 101: GIC; GIPR; LR 2007 p88; POD; RWN p 53; SFSOK p122,123,129


2nd Presbyterian Church 2nd Presbyterian Church 2002  

2nd Presbyterian Church
in Cow Street
This Meeting House in Cow Street, Killyleagh was officially opened 23 July 1842. The minister in 1846 was Rev Robert Gault. The Rev. Alexander McCreery was ordained in 1852 and retired 1910. The minister in 1936 was Rev. J.C. Boggs.

Newspaper articles from the Down Recorder;
soiree 17 Oct 1846*; soiree 8 Feb 1868; fete at Ardigon 23 Aug 1879; opening of new school at the rear 3 Jan 1885;ordination of Rev James Clifford Boggs , a sucessor to Rev Samuel McVicker 1 Jun 1928

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
The Presbyterian Minister of Killyleagh by Alex McCreery 27 Nov 1875

Records available- baptisms 1835-1881, marriages 1835- 1871, no graveyard

References;DR; GIPR: GIC


This lovely old postcard was kindly sent to me by Peggy Isbell of Texas USA. It shows the 2nd Presbyterian church on the outskirts of Killyleagh entering from Downpatrick direction.
This photo (above) was taken in 2002



Wesleyan Methodist Church, Killylleagh

Wesleyan Methodist Church
in Shore Street

This chapel was built in 1835 and was then used as a Youth Hall for the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Killyleagh but was converted around 2011/12 to a private house.

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
new chapel 26 Aug 1837

no graveyard

References;DR; GIC;G. Mark Donald


St. Mary's Catholic Church, Killyleagh

St. Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic Church
at the southern end of Killyleagh town in Irish Street
Parochial House: 4 Irish St, Killyleagh BR30 9QS Tel; 4482 8211


Erected by Rev. Richard Curoe assisted by his curate Rev. James Denvir in 1832. It was described as being small and plain and capable of holding 180 people. Its average attendance then was 120 people. It was 54 feet by 30 feet and its expenses were paid for by the collection on Sunday. It was replaced by Rev. Edward Connor with designs by architect Mr Thomson. Building commenced in 1859 and was opened 22 Oct 1861.The priest c. 1891-1899 was Rev. Patrick Boyle.

Some recent priests: Rev. Sean Cahill 1994-2000; Rev. Paul Strain 2000+

This is a list of some past curates at St. Mary's Church, Killyleagh;
Rev. D. Darragh ( - 1896); Rev A. Neeson (1896-1899); Rev E. Quinn (1899-1909); Rev. P. Mullan (1909-1909); Rev. J.A. McLaverty (1909-1910); Rev. E.V. Magowan (1910-1911); Rev. J. King (1911-1916); Rev. R. Ranaghan (1916-1917)

An interesting letter:
"Clonmona, 8th December 1875 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)- to the Very Rev. Edward Connor P.P. Crossgar

Dear Reverend Sir,
On looking over the Directory, I find your name as parish priest of Kilmore, Inch and Killyleagh. The last of these three induces me to beg leave to ask your reverence two simple questions, and after asking them, I'll give you my reasons for doing so. First question; Is there a Catholic chapel in the town of Killyleagh , and secondly, does there be Mass in that town now of a Sunday.

Now, Rev, Sir, my reason for asking these questions are: I lived in Killyleagh in 1824 and part of 1825. I was a tradesman, a builder and foreman to a building company in Dublin, who had a contract for building a steeple and spire to the Protestant church in that town. I was sent there as director and overseer of the works.

When I first went to Killyleagh I very naturally asked was there a chapel in it. I was told there was not, nor no nearer than Crossgar. Nor was there a Catholic living in the town but five. And one of them a convert. In a few days I found it to be a fact- there was but five, two men and three women, servant girls, in the town. Of course me and my wife had to go to Crossgar every Sunday to Mass. I was not long going there when I got acquainted with the parish priest, a Rev. Father Curoe, am elderly gentleman, who took compassion on my wife to have to walk every Sunday- there being no car for hire in the town at that time. Father Curoe asked me if he sent a priest to Killyleagh, where he could celebrate Mass. I said he could celebrate Mass in the house I lived in, as I had the house to myself. This was in 1825. Fr. Curoe sent a priest, a Father McMullan , a and a boy with the vestments. The first Sunday he came we had but six of a congregation; the nest time more than the house could contain. There was a Mr. Keon in the town, an agent of the Roan family, and I asked him for the use of the coach-house at the Castle to have Mass celebrated in it, which he very kindly and cheerfully gave to me. We then adjourned to the coach-house, where we had Mass every Sunday after 2 o'clock from the landing of the steps at the hall door of the Castle, and a great many Presbyterians used to come and listen to him (but no Protestants) and very respectable they did conduct themselves and said they would like to hear him. He was a splendid preacher. He preached one Sunday on the events of the Blessed Virgin and he done it every justice and the Presbyterians liked it very much.

The Rev. Fr. Curoe told me there was not a Mass celebrated in Killyleagh for upwards of 300 years before it was celebrated in my house. As Father, for the house I lived in, I hope there is a Catholic living in it now; it is the next house to the upper gate going to the church in the back street.

One incident more, Reverend Sir, if you please. When I was going to Crossgar to Mass there were a very respectable little chapel in it, and look rather new, but there was no tabernacle and it looked very bare without one on the altar. I got my carpenter to make one- a good one- and we placed it on the altar. It had one fault to it when it was up- it looked rather large for the altar, but , however, we left it so. I suppose it is there still. If it be, Rev. Sir, when you see it think of me and hope, sir, you'll pray fro me.

I humbly beg your reverence's pardon for troubling you with such much bad writing, but my sight is failing me fats. I am a very old man. I was born on Easter Sunday, 16th April, 1786 and if God spares me life until next Easter Sunday, it will be on the same date which will finish my 90th year. I would be very happy to know if there does be Mass in Killyleagh and that I was instrumental in commencing so good a work.

I remain, Rev. Sir, Your most obedient and humble servant,

Martin Lyons

Clonmona Cottage, Birr, King's County"


Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
late consecration 9 Nov 1861+

References;V17 p80, 83 OSM; PsCIK; DR: KCBp18,19,33; GIC; O'L V1 p 337; LM 1994 p59 , 74

Shrigley Shrigley town square c. 1905   Village of Shrigley
2km NW of Killyleagh in Tullyveery townland

The village of Shrigley grew up in response to the 6 storey cotton factory built in 1826 on the Dibney River by Englishmen John & William Martin and was named after the mansion built by J. Martin junior.
The machinery was partly driven by water and partly by steam. By 1833 there were 300 people employed there- 30 men and 200 girls over 15 years of age; 70 boys and girls under 15 years of age.
The factory produced cotton goods made into cloth which was sent to Manchester in England. At that time, business was thriving. The original mill burnt down in 1845 but was replaced by a larger mill for flax spinning.

These old postcards of Shrigley were kindly sent to me by Peggy Isbell & Ann Chisholm. There were taken around 1905.


The village comprised of 137 houses, all built of dressed blue stone in various sizes. There was River Row, Brick Row, Short Row, Field Row, Model Row and Bank Row. Martin also proved a cricket field, football pitch, cycle track, bath house, recreation hall, school, drapery and grocery store for his employees. He was one of the new breed of 'enlightened' 19th century industrials. The people of the district wanted to commemorate the contribution John Martin had made to their lives and a competition was held in 1870 for designs for a clock tower (see above) and drinking fountain in his honour.
The mill prospered until after the 1st World War then the linen trade declined. It closed its doors on 31 Oct 1930. The Utitz family bought the site and ran United Chrome Tanners on the site for a while. The site is now derelict.
Email me for an artist's impression of Shrigley Mill, showing the old village and Martin's Hall. (16/4/1937R)

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
Shrigley mill chimneys blown down in Big Wind 12 Jan 1839; amateur concert to aid Ragged School 16 Dec 1871 page 3; Choral Union 14 Feb 1874 p2; Shrigley Mills Olympic Games 19 Sept 1874 p2; Tenants Rights meeting, list of those present 27 Jan 1877 p3; social reunion 19 Feb 1924 *; Cricket Club annual reunion 9 Oct 1924*; villagers distressed after spinning mill closure 10 Oct 1935* ; more distress discussed at Board of Guardians meeting 18 Oct 1935*; Relief committee tries to erect new school 27 Feb 1939*; new leather processing mill owned by Utitz Bros opens 30 Sep 1939*; United Chrometanners Ltd of Czechoslavakia open leather tanners 28 Oct 1939*; article on Shrigley tannery 22 Sep 2004R*; old b/w photos 7/11/2012 p16

References;DR; DR*


by Ros Davies