St. Colman’s chapel

There is presently no Catholic Church in the village. Royalists burnt an old church in 1742 but there are no records of it being within the village. With no building, Mass was held under a tree but in 1812 a church was built at Stoney Batter. The Marquis of Downshire generously granted the land and on 14th September he performed the opening ceremony and laid the first stone. The Marquis was the great grandson of the man who gave the land for St John’s in Moira. A second stone was laid on the former “by the united hands of the Catholic, Protestant and Presbyterian Clergy present.”[1] The chapel was a stone whitewashed building with a painting of a crucifix over the altar.

The building was much smaller than St. John’s parish building but according to one survey, the St. Colman’s chapel held more than twice as many – one thousand in the chapel and four hundred in the church! There were no seats but forms. The building cost was £1,000 but the priest received no salary.[2]

Early in the twentieth century the church was renovated and in 1967 the church was substantially improved but now has lost some of its late Georgian character. It is relatively rare example of an early nineteenth century pre-emancipation catholic church with a T-plan layout.[3]

A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837 lists Moira and Magheralin, saying “in each of which is a chapel.”[4] I suspect that might refer to the church at Kilwarlin. Although known as St. Colman’s Kilwarlin, it could also have been known as Moira Chapel. An advertisement published in the Vindicator, Belfast on 22nd January 1842 announces a meeting in the Catholic Chapel Moira to be held on Sunday 30th January. The preacher was Father Matthew, the Apostle Temperance, preaching a Charity sermon to encourage temperance but also to raise funds to help build the chapel in Magheralin.[5] The service was held just three years after that new chapel was built. The offering must have been substantial for work on the new chapel in Magheralin began later that year and was completed in October 1844 at a cost of about £2,400.[6]

[1] The Protestant Advocate Vol. 1. 1813.

[2] Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Vol 12. Parishes of County Down III 1833-8 Publ.1992 Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen’s University of Belfast in association with The Royal Irish Academy.

[3] Department of the Environment. Historic Building Details. Ref No: HB19/22/057

[4] A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.

[5] British Newspaper Archive ( The Vindicator, Belfast Saturday Morning January 22nd 1842.

[6] Magheralin – an historical notebook by T.N. Hamilton (from Review –Journal of Craigavon Historical Society Vol.2 no.2.)