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John's Church, Donegore, 1659 A.D.

St John's church

A brief history:

It is not known when the first church was built at Donegore but the present building is one of the oldest in the Diocese of Connor. The earliest record of a church on this site occurs in the taxation role of Pope Nicholas IV in 1306. An entry in the Ulster visitation book in 1622 describes the church as "decayed". Around this time a Scottish colony was established in the area, ministers of Scottish Presbyterian origin were ordained to serve in the Established church, and the Rev. Andrew Stewart of Donegore was one of the first. His son-in-law was incumbent in 1659, the date which is over the doorway of the church. Restoration had obviously been carried out since the church was described as "decayed" in 1622.

Historical records over the 17th and 18th centuries are few. Years of civil unrest culminated in the 1798 rebellion and the battle of Antrim with the resulting retreat of the rebels to Donegore.

Church and other records from the 18th and 19th centuries tell us of a number of changes; the separation in 1864 of Donegore Parish from Kilbride Parish with which which it had been joined since 1622, the Act of Disestablishment came into force in 1871, and there were changes of the fabric of the building. According to the Ordinance Survey Memoir of 1838, the church had in recent years undergone alterations, its length having been shortened by twenty-one feet in 1817. In 1871 the tower and belfry were added, and the East Window in 1875. In the south-west corner of the churchyard is the watch-house, or corpse house, built in 1832 to foil the attempts of the "resurrectionists" at body-snatching.

The churchyard has many interesting old headstones, including that to Sir Samuel Ferguson, Irish scholar and poet who died in 1886. In the porch are memorials to the Adair family, one of whom was killed aboard H.M.S. Victory at Trafalgar.

From 1898 the Rev. C.J Newell , vicar of Templepatrick was priest-in-charge of Donegore Parish and this union was formally recognised in 1922. The United Parish of Templepatrick and Donegore gained parochial status in 1868. Repair works to Donegore church were carried out in 1962 and 1980, and major restoration work was still required on the tower and belfry, the walls and the roof. This work was completed in 2000 with the aid of a lottery grant at a cost of over £200,000.

Donegore Church is a Grade A Listed Building by the Historic Monuments and Buildings Branch of the Department of the Enviroment (N.I.) and the corpse house is also a listed building. As such, restoration and repair must be carried out to the highest standards and in sympathy with the architecture and history of the building.

Here is a link for information on St. Patrick's Church