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

Clonduff parish

Hilltown Hilltown Church of Ireland Hilltown Presbyterian Church Clonduff Presbyterian Church
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church Cabra Catholic Church
Leode townland the old Catholic church & graveyard Boley hut




Image supplied courtesy of National Museums Northern Ireland, reference HOYFM.WAG.1706. To purchase this print go to,-CO--DOWN


When the first church was built in Hilltown around 1764 there were only two houses with only a bridle path leading to it. It was originally called Eightmile Bridge as it was 8 miles from Newry. The countryside around the church at that time was covered with heather and furze. It was where the Hill family ( Marquis Downshire) had their hunting lodge and the church was built for them and their guests. The name Hilltown doesn't mean that it is in a hilly part of the country but rather named after the Hill family.

Despite the centre of town being moved up the hill and away from the bridge, the river retained its importance as a source of power for the local beetling mills where raw flax for linen was beaten to breakup the fibres. By 1836 the town contained 44 houses of which only 8 were cabins. The rest were two-storey. There was a church, a meeting house, and excellent inn, and a small market house. The market was held every Tuesday for sheep and cattle.

The town was the property of the Marquis of Downshire and situated in the townland of Carcullion at the foot of the Mourne Mountains adjacent to the Bann river. This photo was taken around 1920 and shows the Downshire Arms Hotel on the left which was built around 1820. The present buildings are either replacements for, or improvements of, the original inn and market house which date from 1765.

In 1836 there was a school here,Church of Ireland & Presbyterian churches & new & old Catholic church & Catholic Parochial House.In 1921 Hilltown had 10 public houses well stocked with smuggled liquer brought over the hills from Kilkeel and 7 Royal Ulster Constabulary men ( police) as residents. In 1870 there were 9 spirit and porter dealers in town also a blacksmith, 4 grocers/dealers ans 2 tailors (POD)

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
scenes of great distress in the parish during the famine 17 Oct 1846*; murder of a wife by her husband 14 Oct 1866

Newspaper article from Newtownards Chronicle;
shocking murder 10 Jan 1880

Members of the Gaelic Football team in 1912 were; goal, John Crilly; full backs, Bernard O'Hagan & Patrick Morgan; 3/4 backs were James Magill & James Brady; forwards were Michael Fegan, Arthur Ronan ,Hugh Doyle, Hugh Morgan, Michael Morgan, James Brown, Frank O'Hare, John O'Hagan.
In 1916, in the team called John Atty's Men were John McAleenan, Larry & Paddy McEvoy
In 1916-1918 The Emerald's Gaelic Football Club members were John Crilly, John O'Hagan ( secretary), Frank O'Hare, Bernard O'Hanag. John Conroy, John Morgan, James Murphy, Hugh Doyle, James McConville, Hugh O'Hare, Dan McConville, James Magill, J. Flanagan, Arthur Ronan, James Cullen, Charles Cullen, Walter Cullen, Leo Cullen, Thomas Brady, Hugh O'Hare, Dan Treanor, Thomas Treanor, Richard White, Lawrence Doyle, Patrick Wilson,James Wilson, John Murphy, Patrick Murray, Matthew Maginn, Michael O'Hanlon,Peter Burns, James McConville, Daniel Fegan, James Burns, Patrick Quinn, John Quinn, John McPolin, James Rafferty, Patrick Morgan, James Brown, Patrick Murphy, Edward McCullagh, Owen Kelly, John O'Hanlon, Bernard Morgan, James McPolin, John O'Flinn, Thomas King, Frank Doyle, Lawrence O'Neill & Patrick Bradley.

References;V12 p 101 OSM; DR;MS WAG p 76; GIC; GIPR; GAA CS p 34,39; NC; PNNI V3 p 11; ORHB p21-31; TC p18


Hilltown Church of Ireland

Hilltown St John's Church of Ireland
in the main street of Hilltown on the southern side

The planning & building of this church started in 1767 with an advertisement in the Belfast Newsletter asking for tenders for carpenters and masons. The Rev William Lucas, vicar of Newry, organised the work but it was paid for by the Marquis of Downshire for his own and his guests use. There were only 2 houses in the town at that time. It was consecrated & opened for worship 7 Aug 1771 by the Bishop of Dromore. The architect was Charles Lilley. Rev. William Lucas remained as vicar. It was repaired in 1836 at a cost of £220. The interior is Roman Doric. The average attendance in 1836 was 100 people when the poor box weekly yield was 3 shillings. The rector in 1857 was Rev. Robert Alexander Parks & Rev. John Bingham 1892-1907. The church closed in 1983 due to a dwindling congregation.

Records from 1782; graveyard attached

References;V3 p 4, 5 OSM; GIPR: GIC; PNNI V3 p 74;ORHB p 29;CP 23/6/2005; RR StJ p12; Lindsay Young; CP 15/5/2014; TC p18,33


Hilltown Presbyterian

Hilltown Presbyterian
in the main street of Hilltown on the northern side

This meeting house was built in 1829 using the stones of the old Catholic Church on the Bryansford Road. It cost £500 which was raised by public subscription. The first minister was Rev. Edward Allen from 5 Jun 1827 who was sacked for immorality in 1828. In 1836 it was described as a plain stone building capable of holding 400 people. The average attendance was 300 but the congregation was increasing. The 2nd minister, Rev. Robert Lockart had a salary of £78. He was minister there from June 1829 until 1884 .The building on the left is the church hall. The minister in 1907 was Rev. John McIlroy. a Social Meering held at the church Mar 1907

Records from 1845; graveyard attached

References;HCPCI p159; V3 p 4 OSM; GIPR: GIC; GIPR; ORHB p 25; RR StJ p12RR St J p12; TC p18,34; CP 29/1/2014; CP 29/1/2014


Clonduff Presbyterian Church
about 5kms from Rathfriland on the Bannfield Road accessed via Ballynagappoge Road, heading towards Castlewellan

A school had been opened at the bottom of Manse Lane and the members met here until this Meeting House was built in 1842 with a subscription of £100 & the site from Marquis of Downshire. The first minister was Rev. Todd then Rev. James Steen in 1842-1881 then Rev. John H. Charleton to 1891. A school was built next door in 1891. Rev William Morrow was minister 1902-1919 then Rev. William Samuel Heron 1912-1926 then Rev. William Templeton Moore 1934- 1937 .

see their site for a photo, history & burial records since 1906

References; RR StJ p12 ; TC p14,34


old Catholi chapel & graveyard

Catholic Churches

The old chapel & graveyard in Ballyaughian townland, on the road to Bryansford

This was the parish church in 16th century but now only the east gable remains as the stone was used to built the Presbyterian Church in Hilltown. It was sometimes called the Eight Mile Church. There is a legend about the building of the church . It says that every evening an ox would push over the construction carried out that day. The priest drove the ox off with a stick then stuck the stick in the ground defying the ox to come back . He never did and the church was finally completed.

List of parish priests; Rev. Eoghan O'Hagan; Rev. Dominic McAvoy; Rev. Patrick Byrne in 1704; Rev. James Pulleine c. 1744; Rev. Edmund Derry c. 1790; Rev. William Fegan 1796-1804; Rev. James Gilmore 1804- 1808; Rev. Bernard Murphy 1808-1833; Rev. John McLeigh 1931- 1872; Rev. Patrick McKay 1872-1876; Rev. John Mooney 1876-1888; Rev. Thomas McGivern 1888-; Rev. Joseph Kearns 1888- 1923; Rev. Daniel Grant 1923; Rev. John Rooney 1923- 1930; Rev. Thomas McGrath 1930-1941; Rev. Patrick Keenan 1936- 1951; Rev. Michael O'Hare 1951- 1952; Rev. James Murney 1952- 1960; Rev. James Burke 1960-1967; Rev. Michael McConville 1968- 1987; Rev. Edward Hamill 1981- 1984; Rev. Matthew O'Hare 1984- 1988;Rev. Malachy Finegan 1988- 1995; Rev. Anthony Davies 1995-



  References;GIC; IPP p 114; PNNI V3 p75, 76;ORHB p 38 ; RR St J p9, 10; CP 26/7/ 2012


St. Joh the Baptist Catholic Church, Hilltown

The older Catholic church- St. John the Baptist, in Hilltown on the Rathfriland Road

The site was given by the Earl of Annesley. The inscription on the church reads; Aided by the liberal contributions of Christians of all denominations, the Revd. James Gilmer built this chapel A.D. 1805. It was built from funds subscribed by people of all denominatuons. The parish priest in 1833 was Rev. Bernard Murphy & in in 1887 was Father Joseph Kearns. The church is still functioning today.

For a list of parish priests see above, under the old chapel .

Graveyard attached; graves from 1805; has registers to view 1850-1881

References;GIC; GAA CS p 23 ; BN; DDPP p106; TC p11,33


St. Jon the Evangelist Catholic Church near Hilltown

The newer Catholic Church built 1850; St. John the Evangelist- near Hilltown on the Kilcoo/Castlewellan Road in Ballymaghery townland

Ballymaghery means ' townland of the plain'. This church was built near the site of the ancient pre- Penal times Catholic Parish church. The gable of this ancient church still remains and there is an old graveyard surrounding it. These ruins form part of the district crest.

The ancient church (see above) was destroyed by the raiders of General Munroe who plundered Newry in 1642 but burials continued on the site. Nearby the the largest fairy thorn bush in Ulster. According to a local legend called 'Old Bull and Bush', it grew from a stick planted by a priest who had used it to drive off a bull , which had knocked over the church wall several times during construction.

The present church site was given free by Mr. Robert Narcissus Batt of Purdysburn (landlord). Designed by architect Thomas Duff in 1842, building was commenced in 1844 but suspended during the Famine Years. It was completed in 1850 by Very Rev. John McVeigh, parish priest. It didn't replace the other chapel but they needed more ground for burials. The Dedication was performed by Most Rev. Dr. Blake on 6 Oct 1850. The sermon was preached by Father Ignatius Spencer, the noted English convert. The Very Rev. Archdeacon Kearns D.D. P.P. added the handsome tower and campanille in 1900 at a cost of £1600. Extensively renovated in 1998.

For a list of parish priests see above, under the old chapel

Newspaper article in Down Recorder:
new chapel built near Hilltown 12 Oct 1850

Graveyard attached; graves from 1844; has registers to view 1850-1882UHF has baptisms & marriages 1850-1900

References;DR; GIC; Perspective p6; NR 30/6/2005 p67; DDPP p104,106; RR St J p11; TC p33


Cabra Chapel, Clonduff

Cabragh Catholic Church- Church of the Blessed Virgin, St. Mary's
4 km E of Rathfriland on the Kilcoo road

A chapel was built here on Magennis land in 1783 and enlarged in 1832. The present chapel replaced it in 1865 and was extensively renovated in 1934.

For a list of parish priests see above, under the old chapel .

List of curates;Rev. M. McClory in 1930; Rev. Michael Gallogly 1930-31; Rev. Patrick Keenan 1931-6; Rev. James Murney 1936-41; Rev. Patrick McCartan 1941; Rev. Peter Campbell 1941-51; Rev. Patrick Francis Boyle 1951-58; Rev. Anthony Owens 1958-62; Rev. John McCauley 1962-67; Rev. Patrick McAnuff 1875-80; Rev. Gerard Conway 1989-81; Rv. Michael McConville 1981-86; Rev. James Masterton 18=986-87; Rev. Joseph O'Hagan 1987 has registers to view 1850-1882; PRONI, NLI & LDS have baptisms & marriages & burials 1850-1880, UHF has baptisms & marriages 1850-1900; graveyard attached; graves from 1783.

References;V3 p XI OSM; GIC; TIA; PNNI V3 p 74; DDPP p105,106; RR St J p11; TC p33


The townland of Leode Hilltown Square

Leode townland

The townland of Leode centres around a hilltop which today is being eroded by the excavation of its gravel . This photo was taken in January and shows a light covering of snow. The view is looking west from the McComiskey's farm. Another old ruined cottage nearby belonged to the Grant family.

Boley Hut

This Boley Hut, made of sods, was erected in Hilltown Square in 2005 as part of the annual Boley Fair. Huts like this were built on the slopes of the Mourne Mountains in Clonduff parish by farmers grazing their sheep there in summer. It was easier to take the whole family to stay for a few months than to travel back home each day.

by Ros Davies