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

Ardglass Parish

Ardglass town Church of Ireland

Presbyterian Church

Methodist Church
Ardglass Catholic Ardtole Church Jordan's Castle King's Castle Moore's Castle Hotel Ardglass c. 1900



Ardglass town

Ardglass was a flourishing port in 1177 when John de Courcey marched up from Dublin. The Jordans were awarded Ardglass where they built their castle. (SSM p94) The Earls of Kildare had a lengthy connection with Lecale, which ended in 1806 when Lord Charles Fitzgerald sold the Manor of Ardglass to William Ogilvie, husband of his mother, the Duchess of Leinster. It is because of this connection that the main thoroughfare of the village is known as Kildare Street.

Ardglass derives its name of the Irish 'ard glas'; the green hill, probably a reference to the conical elevation, now known as The Ward, to the west of the town. It has also been called Portreve. It owed its origins to the Anglo-Normans, but there is little evidence of a settlement there until the early middle ages (Jordan's Castle or Castle Shane & King's Castle- see photos and information below). A trading company from London settled there in the reign of King Henry 8th and built a range of buildings consisting of work-shops and warehouses, that were later reconstructed as Ardglass Castle and are now the headquarters of Ardglass Golf Club. Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, was granted letters of patent to collect all revenue .

The ancient English family of Savages are generally supposed to have been the first colonists of the town and the founders of most of the castles remaining here, to whom a great part of Lecale as well as Ards, belonged. Prior to that the area belonged to the Magennis family.

This photo of Ardglass was kindly send by Eileen Patterson

The town was burnt down in 1433 by the O'Neills and MacDonnels acting together. In 1543, the O'Neills of Clannaboy suffered considerable loss at the battle at Ardglass from the Savages, who were assisted by the English of Dublin. Henry O'Neill was taken prisoner by the English. When the regiment of Sir James Montgomery took possession of Lecale, Ardglass became the scene of many bloody skirmishes. An examination of witness on 7 May 1653 attest to this (O'L V1 p 169+)

Trade decreased and by 1744 the town was described as consisting only of a few ordinary cabins and 4 or 5 old decayed castles, with 29 Protestant and 62 Catholic families living there. The returns of 10 Jun 1764 show there were 60 members of the Church of Ireland, 35 Presbyterians and 106 Catholics . But in 1790, Charles Fitzgerald rebuilt the castle and William Ogilvie rebuilt the town & built a pier and a lighthouse in 1813 which created an excellent port at high tide.

In 1837 it was described as being one of the most fashionable watering places in the north of Ireland. It had hot & cold vapour baths, lodgings and an elegant hotel. There were 41 two-storey houses, 4 three-storey houses and 75 one-storey. Ogilvie's most important contribution was the new harbour, pier and lighthouse because Ardglass then became a centre of the east coast fishing industry (mainly herring).Frequently there were 300-400 vessels in the harbour from several places in Ireland but mainly Penzance in Cornwell. The town and surrounding townland was mainly owned by Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk in 1863.

In 1886 there were about 500 vessels regularly moored there. There wre petty sessions held here & a police station here in 1889 with John Harvey in charge. On 24 Jan 1890 there was a meeting to discuss the proposed railway extension from Downpatrick. The railway finally arrived in 1892. (LM 2002 p 83-85). On 18 May 1922, Ardglass Barracks was under fire between IRA and Sussex Regiment during a period of social unrest. The parish population in 1910 was 784 with 501 people in the town. (POD)

Click here for information on the schools here in 19th century.
Click here for a photo of the Railway Station.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
parish church 2 Sep 1837: Poor Law district population was 3487 in 30 Nov 1839; grain store to let 12 Dec 1840; archery at Castle Park: school appeal 14 Sep 1844: visit to town 23 Aug 1845; local Ribbonmen marched to Crossgar on St. Patrick's Day 1849 & rioted 10/3/28R*; circular to Beauclerk’s tenants 10 Nov 1849: soiree & ball at Assembly Rooms 26 Jan 1856; soiree 7 ball 2 Jan 1858; homicide 25 Aug 1860; brick fields 6 Jul 1861;' in the past' 6 Jul 1872; fisherman lost 26 Sep 1874; suspicious loss of fisherman overboard 31 Jul 1875; historical sketch 10 Feb 1877; meeting of tenant farmers 6 Sep 1879;click here for a story about smugglers in 1800 ( DR 6 Oct 1999); article about the decline of Herring trade 24 Jul 1915*R; poor herring fishing season 29 Sep 1936*; Young Farmers' Club meeting 30 Oct 1936*; manual telephone exchange converted to automatic 28 Aug 1937*;plenty of fish 3 Oct 1939*;herring days remembered (photos) 12/2/59R

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
editorial on Ardglass Light Railway 1 Feb 1890

Try &

References;V17 p 7 OSM ; DR; DR*; 5/11/03 & 3 /9/1938 ; LWAG p48-71; NC; O'L B p 153, 322; Inv 2001 p 40;GV; SSM p76-77,94; RICLD p 79; POD ; LR 2011 p64-72( herring fishing)


St. Nicholas Church of Ireland, Ardglass

St. Nicholas, Church of Ireland,
Kildare St, Ardglass

There was a Catholic Church on this site in 1306 but was in ruins in 1622. St. Nicholas was built on the original site in 1813 on high ground in Kildare Street, Ardglass. When the old walls were removed, a hand-bell with an ivory handle and an altar stone were found. The ancient holy water stoup was removed to a part of the graveyard. They also found an oblong stone, which is now inserted into a wall of the porch. It has a shield of arms with some curiously raised letters of Old English characters:- " Live to die, And fer the Lord, Amend yr life, And sin no mor for dethe is Yr rewarde. Mari Janes, Thoams Janes AD 1585."

The curate in 1783 was Rev. Samuel Buydy. In 1839 the north transept was added, as the congregation was increased by the numbers of coastguards and maritime official on duty in the port. It holds about 300 people. The duties of this parish in 1836 were performed by a perpetual curate who received £80 out of £130 which are the tithes of the parish. The remaining £50 goes to the Chancellor of Down. There is an old memorial document dated 1772 .

There is nothing distinctive in its architecture, but built into the wall of the entrance porch is one of the earliest headstones found in Ulster, it reads; "Live to die and for the Lord / Amend yr life and sine no mor / for dethe is your rewarde / Maria Jones, mother to Thomas Jones, gentleman A.D. 1585" . The rector in 1830 was Rev. George Crane & in 1852 Rev Charles Campbell & in 1910 was Rev. William Hanna.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
ordination Rev Burns 4 Jun 1842; transfer of Rev. Burns 12 Oct 1844; abandonment of innovations in parish 5 Apr 1845: storm damage 4 Nov 1848; re opening services 25 Mar 1876;

UHF have baptism 1872-1900 & marriages 1845-1900; graveyard attached, gravestones UHF Vol 8; email me for a gravestone look-up
The above photo was kindly sent to me by Brian McCleary.

References; LM 1989 p42; V17 p2,3,5 OSM; LWAG p51:DR; GIC; V8 MIs; O'L V1 p 172;FR; POD


St. Nicholas parish church, Ardtole

Less than 2km north-east of Ardglass town, on the coast road to Dunsford, overlooking the sea and the Isle of Man, are the ruins of the ancient church of Ardtole, dedicated to St. Nicholas. This was the old parish church. An early cross slab from this site, now built into the church at Chapeltown, and a souterrain recorded south of this church suggest early Christian activity on the hilltop. This was formerly the parish church of Ardglass, but there is a local tradition that the McCartans massacred the congregation at worship there, to avenge an insult offered to their chief by the burgesses of Ardglass, who fastened his long hair to briars while he lay in a drunken sleep. Jonathan Swift used this story in his novel "Gulliver's Travels". The long narrow church seems largely of 15th century date with a huge easterly window and opposed north and south doors, one with a draw-bar hole. The church was abandoned in 15th century after the massacre and the congregation transferred to Ardglass church.

No graveyard

References; LWAG p47; V17 p2 OSM; HMNI p96; V8MIs; O'L V1 p 183; DR*


Ardglass Presbyterian Church

Ardglass Presbyterian Church
in Kildare St., Ardglass

A congregation was formed with Rev. Joseph Burns ordained in 1841. Rev. Thomas MacAfee was minister from 1845- 1910.


Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
the new church built 24 Sep 1842 ; congregation 3 Dec 1842; soiree 12 Nov 1853; soiree 30 Jan 1858; soiree 22 Jan 1859; soiree 30 Jan 1869; Sunday school 27 Aug 1881; annual soiree 24 Mar 1883; social meeting 13 Feb 1915*; helped British Sailors' Society & fisherman 18 Sep 1935*;

modern graveyard


References; DR;DR*; GIC; POD; LM 2002 p 83; HCPCI p18-19


Ardglass Methodist Church

Ardglass Wesleyan Methodist Church
in Hill St., Ardglass town

Missionaries from the "Methodist New Connection" came to Ardglass and formed a Society in 1832. A very small plain building was erected in 1843 at a cost of £150 it had 28 seats which could hold 8 people each.

The minister in 1910 was Rev. Thomas Orr from Downpatrick. The church was demolished in 1960s.

no graveyard


References; V17 p 9, 10 OSM; GIC;POD ; LM 1997 p52-55


St Nicholas Catholic Church
High Street, Ardglass
Parochial House 19 High St, Ardglass BT30 7TU Tel; 4484 1208

This church was built in 1830 and was capable of holding 300 people. It was simple in design,like a barn chapel, with the altar on a long wall opposite the entrance. 3/5th's of this parish's population were Catholic . There were many alterations over the years to accommodate the growing population. Extensive work was carried out in 2005.
Some priests were - Rev. William McMullin in 1848 & 1852 & Rev. J. Crawford on 1890 & Rev. E. Crawford in 1895; Rev. Joseph J. O'Donnelly/ Donnelly curate in 1884 then priest 1910- 1927; Rev. Bernard McNamee 1927-1942; Rev. John McKee 1942- 1965; Rev. William B. Tumilty 1966-1967; Rev. Patrick White 1967- 1980; Rev. John McAteer 1980- 1985; Rev. Liam Mullan 1985- 1990; Rev. Conleth Byrne 1990-2000; Rev. Robert Fleck 2000+

moderrn graveyard; old burials at Dunsford Catholic church; UHF has baptisms 1880-1900

Articles in Down Recorder newspaper;
Funds to liquidate debt incurred in erecting new schools were also raised,list of subscribers 8 Aug 1863;dedication of church 23 Aug 1879

References; V17 p 2, 3, 5,10 OSM; DR; GIC; V8 MIs; O'L V1 p 188; LM 1994 p75; POD; PE
This photo was kindly sent by Marian Knox. You can see the old church in the middle


Jordan's Castle

Jordan's Castle

The castle is at the junction of Kildare & Quay Streets, Ardglass. On the left , above is an X-ray view of the inside of Jordan's Castle after it was built and shows 5 distinct storeys including a base one. The latter one being arched over and still in perfect condition, forming the floor of the second storey. On the right, above is a recent photo showing that it is in good repair.

This Norman castle was built around the 12th century by the Savage family acted as a citadel. It was the second most important of the English castles built in this area behind King's Castle. Yet it was more elegant than any other building in town but it changed hands frequently. Jordan de Sackville had come to Lecale with John de Courcy. In 1528 Thomas Jordan of Drogheda, a merchant, leased it as a warehouse. In 1578 it was taken from the O'Neills, after a stout resistance by Sir Nicholas Bagenal, Marshall of Ireland, who placed a strong garrison there and it fell again into the possession of the Irish in the rebellion of 1641 .It sustained a siege of 3 years. This was in the reign of King James 1st and was besieged by Con O'Neill ( a chieftain possessed of nearly all the northern part of the country), during the civil wars occasioned by the rebellion of O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. It was successfully defended by the proprietor Mr Simon Jordan. He was relieved by the Lord Deputy Mountjoy on the 17th June 1601, who rewarded him for his gallant conduct.

By 1836 it was not occupied but it wasn't in ruins either. The flooring of the upper storeys had fallen in and there was a winding staircase to the top and a bastion surrounding it with steps up to each turret, there being 4, one at each angle.

In 1911, when the Beauclerk estate was put up for sale, Jordan's Castle was purchased by Francis Joseph Bigger, the Belfast solicitor and antiquary, who had already restored the ancient churches of Raholp and Ardtole. He restored the vanished floors and ceilings, adorned the walls with pictures of Ulster chieftains and put on display a collection of native furniture and antiquities. He changes its name to Castle Shane. He claimed that his objective was to bring the people of Ardglass and Lecale into touch with their Gaelic past and so he furnished the rooms with Irish oak tables and benches and with dressers stacked with pewter plates and old crockery. There was an open hearth and Bigger entertained his friends with traditional music and song.

He lived there for a number of years but on his death in 1926, it was transferred to the Ministry of Finance and its old name restored.

References;V17p 3OSM: LWA p 60, 66, 67:HMNI p103; O'L V1 p 167; DR 5/5/1938; LR 2005 p50; old postcard DR7/11/2007 p44*; LR 2008 p52-53; MO 31/10/2018 p45;


King's Castle

This is an ancient Norman castle built around 12th century by the Savage family. It was the largest and most important of the English castles built in this area. It's built on the highest spot in the village of Ardglass and it changed hands frequently. In 1578 it was taken from the O'Neills, after a stout resistance by Sir Nicholas Bagenal, Marshall of Ireland, who placed a strong garrison there and it fell again into the possession of the Irish in the rebellion of 1641. It was occupied from 1798 until about 1834 as a yeomanry barrack. In 1830 a great part of it fell down whilst workmen were undermining it to make improvements but was since rebuilt on the original plan by Mr Ogilvy. Today it is a nursing home.

King's Castle, Ardglass
This lovely old postcard was kindly sent by Vernon Moore.

References;V17 p 3, 11, 12 OSM; LM 1989 p42-44

modern photo


Moore's Castle Hotel in Castle Place, Ardglass

Alexander Moore was the hotel's proprietor in 1901 & 1910. He bought the lease on Denvir's Hotel in Downpatrick in 1902 as well.







This photo was kindly sent by Craig Moore References; Craig Moore; POD


by Ros Davies