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

Greyabbey Parish

Greyabbey town Grey Abbey ruins Church of Ireland
1st Presbyterian Non Subscribing Church Trinity or 2nd Presbyterian Church Mount Stewart Estate


Greyabbey town

The town of Greyabbey

near the shores of Strangford Lough

King Charles 1st granted it a port with pilotage & anchorage & the export of all commodities except yarn but by 1834 only infrequent coal vessel moored there. Sir James Hamilton granted the area to Hugh Montgomery in 1618 and by 1659 the population of the parish was only 117 people. In 1764, the parish population was 1550 with 97% Presbyterians (MOA p22)

In 1834 the village consisted of one main street about 500 metres long leading from the shore and two short ones. There were 138 one-storey houses , all slate roofed & 27 two-storey houses,slated. There was a row of new, stone, ground floor houses on either side of the street but even with back doors, the slops and dirt were still flung into the road. There were 7 grocers, 25 spirit shops, 1 bootmaker, 1 doctor, 2 woollen drapers and the fairs were 28th March & 29th October. There was a school for males & females near the church and one policeman but the petty sessions were held in Kircubbin. Most inhabitants were weavers with linen cloth made in large quantities. The village was neither lighted nor paved. It was in a hollow and not visible till approached very close. The woods of Rosemount demesne screen it on the south and east.
In 1836 there was a water mill & 2 windmills in the parish. The 3 commonest surnames in this parish were Brown, Bailie and Hamilton showing Scottish lowlands immigration. (LR2003p6). There was a National School , Police Barracks & Petty sessions House in the villlage in 1863.

In 1910 the district population was 563 people (POD)

Newspaper articles from Northern Star;
meeting of inhabitants 9 Jan 1793

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;

tobacco smuggling 17 Feb 1838; Slate quarry notice 29 May 1858; brawling in church 21 Aug 1858; brawling case 9 Jun 1860; melancholy suicide 11 Jul 1874

Newspaper article from Newtownards Independent;
letter on 12th July celebrations 20 Jul 1872+

Newspaper articles from Newtownards Chronicle;
Spelling Bee 16 Oct 1875; pyrotechnic display 26 Aug 1876; new police barracks 15 Apr 1882; graveyard question 1 Mar 1884; shore bailiff drowned 21 Jul 1888; homicide at Greyabbey 7 Mar 1991; manslaughter case 27 Jun 1891; formation of Unionist Club 11 Mar 1893;amateur concert 22 Apr 1893; grand concert 27 Jan 1894; Athletic sports at Greyabbey 14 Nov 1896.

References; NS; V17 p 123 & V7 p 68 ,70, 72 OSM : DR: HMNI p102 ; NC; O'L V1 p 435+; PNNI V2 p 197, 199;GV


The ruins of Grey Abbey

Grey Abbey ruins
on the southern side of the village

Grey Abbey ( also called Hoare Abbey) was founded in 1193 by Affreca, daughter of the King of Man and wife of John de Courcy, conqueror of Ulster, in thanksgiving for a safe landing after a storm at sea. It was a daughter house of Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumbria, England and like Inch Abbey, daughter abbey of Furness in Lancashire It has early Gothic features. After the Edward Bruce wars (1315-8) and the waning of Anglo-Norman power, the abbey was controlled by the O'Neills of Clandeboye, but at the dissolution in 1541, it was in a poor state. Like so many churches it was burned during the Elizabethan wars (1572) but in 1706, after the flight of the earls, the property was granted to Sir Hugh Montgomery. The church was re-roofed and used for parish worship until 1778 and the tower of the church which replaced it stands above the car park. The present day site has the ruins of the church (seen above), the Cloister, the Chapter House, the long day room, the warming house and the refectory.

The Abbey contains 2 monumental figures in a recumbent position, carved in stone of a man and a woman; the latter is said to be Affreca, wife of John de Courcy. There are some monuments of the Montgomery family who partially retored the abbey in 1842.

Gravestones UHF Vol 12; email me for a gravestone look-up; for gravestone photos try

References; V7 p 68, 72 OSM; V12 MIs; O'L V1 p 435-440


Greyabbey Church of Ireland

Greyabbey Church of Ireland- St Saviours
the church stands on a hill at the eastern side of the town in Ballywalter Road near the old abbey

The earliest mention of this church is Rev David Magill, rector of Greyabbey who died. 1633. There were 50 Church of Ireland people in this parish in 1764. The present church was erected in 1770 The rector in 1830 was Rev. Wills Hill Brett. . In 1836 it was described as a very small building measuring 45 by 21 feet. It held 144 people and there was a small gallery for the use of the Montgomery family. The average attendance then was 25. The rector lived 13 miles away. The curate in 1846 was Rev Francis H. Hall. The church was rebuilt in 1869. The rector in 1910 was Rev. Oliver Goldsmith.

Newspaper artucle from Newtownards Independent;
questions about the graveyard 28 Dec 1872

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder newspaper:
consecration of St Saviour's parish church 9 Oct 1869

Records from 1807; graveyard nearby; gravestones UHF Vol 12; email me for a gravestone look-up; North of Ireland Family History Society holds baptism 1807- 1815 & 1820- 1863; marriages 1807-1844; burials 1808- 1873 & confirmations 1823,1827,1831, 1836, 1841, 1844

References;V7 p 71 OSM; DR; FR; GIPR: GIC; V12 MIs; NI; O'L V1 p 440;GV; POD


1st  Presbyterian Church, Greyabbey

1st Presbyterian Non Subscribing Church, Greyabbey
at the western end of the village

There was a minister here in 1650 (Rev. Fergus Alexander) but he left or died because of the troubles . A Meeting House was built in 1688. Before that Presbyterians from Greyabbey, Ballyhalbert & Ballywalter worshipped at Whitechurch. The minister in 1736 was Rev. James Cochran until 1739. Greyabbey became a separate church in 1731 with Rev. James Cochrane as its minister. He was suceeded by Rev. Hugh Dickson 1742-1771. There were 1500 Presbyterians in this parish in 1764.The next minister was Rev. Samuel Martin Stephenson 1774-1785 then Rev. James Porter 1787 until he was hung during the United Irishmen Rebellion 1798. The church was described in 1787 as T plan & was on the current site. He was followed by Rev. John Watson 1799 but he took part of the congregation to form the 2nd Presbyterian Church in 1827/9.

A new aisle was added in 1810 at a cost of £200. The expenses were mainly met by Capt. Montgomery. The dimensions were 69 by 57 feet in the form of a cross. In 1834 it was described as plain and in need or repair. It was capable of holding 400 people. The clergyman received £50 a year from the government and 2 shillings & 8 pence for each sitting per quarter. The minister was Rev. David Jeffrey in 1831 who then built the Trinity Prrsbyterian Church & moved the Old Light congregation there. The church was rebuilt in 1860 with Rev. James Porter as minister. Rev. Robert Jeffrey succeeded his father as minister in 1873-1878. then they had Rev. John Anderson from 1879. The minister in 1910 was Rev. Thomas Munn & Rev. William Henry Townley Tilson 1914-1945.

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
death of Rev. William Hall, 30 years Unitarian minister 22 Apr 1876

North of Ireland FHS has baptisms1835-1840 then 1848-1919 & marriages 1835-1843 then 1845-1935; the Presbyterian Historical Society, Belfast has Baptisms, 1835–40; marriages, 1835–42; list of families, 1835–54 ( ) ; no graveyard

References; HCPCI p156; church booklet; SBTS p11; V7 p 68, 71 OSM; GIC: GIPR; POE ; NC; O'L V1 p 440; POD; SG


Trinity Presbyterian Church

Trinity or 2nd Presbyterian Church- called Old Light Meeting House in 1830s
at the crossroads in the village

This meeting house was built in 1827 due to a split with the other congregation. It was originally on a small piece of land near Strangford Lough at the jubction of Portaferry Road and The Pound. The cost was paid by subscriptions with Lord Dufferin one of the principal contributors. The first minister was Rev. David Jeffrey, formerly of 1st Presbyterian Church 1832-1872 . The church was described in 1836 as being very plain with dimensions of 57 by 27 feet and capable of holding 288 people. A minor hall was build in 1904. This present church was built in April 1904 on land given by Major General William Edward Montgomery. The old church was given to him. It became an embroidery works then became derelict then became a hatchery & now a cookery place called The Orange Tree.
The minister in 1879-1909 was Rev. John Anderson then Rev. Thomas Patterson 1910- 1950 then Rev. William John Albert Bell 1950-1957 then Rev. Joseph McAteer 1958-1978. A new hall was built in 1977. The minister 1980 -1986 was Rev.Norman McCormick then 1987-1995 was Rev. David Templeton then 1996-2005 Rev. John Murdock then 1006-2013 Rev. Mark Welsh.

North of Ireland FHS has baptisms 1873-1909 & marriages 1845-1936, no graveyard

References; HCPCI p157; church booklet; V7 p71 OSM; GIC: GIPR ; POD; North Irish Roots Vol23, 2012 p17-18 by Elma Wickens


Garden party at Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart Estate
large estate of 708 acres ; 4km NW of Grey Abbey town, close to the shore of Strangford Lough

This newspaper photo was taken in 1933 and shows some of the guests at a Garden Party at Mount Stewart . It was one of many of The Earl of Londonderry's houses and people who visited it reflected the family's wealth and privilege. Among the visitors were ambassadors and statesmen, including the British Prime Minister, Ramsay McDonald. Today is in the hands of the National Trust.

There was an ancient church site here called Templecrone. The estate was purchased by the Stewart family in 1744 and a house was built here by Rt. Hon. Robert Stewart in 1786 which belonged to the Marquis of Londonderry in 1834. The original residence was called Mount Pleasant. It was described as a small, plain house, not as you would expect the house of a nobleman; it had two-storeys, with some bedrooms on the ground floor which had been added to the house; the kitchen and other offices were on the ground floor connected to the house. The gardens were large and kept in good order and had hothouses and forcing houses. In the southern part of the estate there was a small circular stone building having columns of the Ionic style, surrounded by woodland which shuts out the views except top the north west, but by judicious openings, good views were obtained over Lough Strangford. There wasn't a library nor any painting in the house. The present house was built 1840-1850 & incorporates the original house. Owned by Marquis of Londonderry in 1863. The lovely gardens were created by Edith, wife of 7th Marquis of Londonderry , from 1921 . Aerial view available

Articles from Down Recorder newspaper;
for sale 15 Oct 1842: festivities 2 Dec 1848;dinner for Marquis of Londonderry and his tenantry 10 Feb 1855; Ball, list of those attending 10 Nov 1855; Duke & Duchess of York stayed here in 1897 ; houseparty with royal European guests 19 Aug 1939*

Artlicles from Newtownards Chronicle newspaper;
Staghounds meeting here 21 Jan 1888; field sports 25 Jan 1890; 361 head of game bagged at shooting 20 Jan 1894; amateur theatricals 7 Apr 1894

References; DR; NDM p1;GV; MOA p28 ; ON p42( photo)

by Ros Davies