Heritage Lottery Fund supports Priory Church restoration
One of the historic churches on a site linked with early Christian settlements and a monastic order on Devenish Island is currently undergoing a significant restoration project on its stonework to protect it for future generations.
The Priory Church is one of two Church of Ireland parishes in the grouping of Trory and Killadeas in Clogher Diocese. Built in 1881, the church stands on a site with an adjacent churchyard which contains elaborately–carved stones nearing pre–Christian symbolism. Stones from a previous church building known as the Yellow Church, because of the colour of the stonework, were incorporated into the archway which separates the nave from the choir and chancel.
The church also has close connections with the Irvine family who originally came into the Rockfield area of Killadeas in 1660. The Irvine estate was a major employer in the area and bequeathed the estate parish church.
Unfortunately, with age comes problems, and the church building has been suffering from the effects of penetrating damp in both the tower and the main body of the church. Heavy and continuous rain has resulted in water streaming down the inside of the walls in some parts of the building.
Having been awarded a grant of £65,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a contract was awarded, and work has now been ongoing since April.
‘The Priory project’ is now virtually complete and the parishioners are looking forward to the Church re–dedication service. The Priory Church was originally consecrated on 24th November 1881. The Service of Re–Dedication by the Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd John McDowell, is being held on Sunday, 25th November at 3pm.
The restoration project is expected to cost in excess of £120,000.
Mr Ronald Balfour, one of the Glebewardens at the Priory Church, explained: “The work has been extensive and includes repair work to the tower such as repairing and replacing tower floors, repairing lead flashing, plaster repairs to the parapet, removing render to the interior tower walls, re–pointing the east and west walls as well as carrying out drainage work on the outside of the related foundation areas.”
Mr Balfour added: “It was very obvious that only a major project would fix the church building and put it back in a fit state so that the church will be available for generations to come. It is only with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant that made the Priory project possible”
Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, commented: “Heritage Lottery Fund was delighted to offer this funding support to the Priory Church. Places of worship sit at the heart of communities and they are also a key part of our built and cultural heritage. Most rely on the hard work and generosity of local communities and volunteers to keep them in good order but sometimes they need more help. Our funding is an invaluable resource for the repair and reuse of important listed buildings. It is thanks to all the players of the National Lottery that we can fund local projects such as this one.”
The Priory Church has 150 contributors and is well supported by the local community with special services throughout the year such as during Lent with a special open–air sunrise service on the lakeshore nearby on Easter Sunday and on Remembrance Sunday in memory of the airmen who flew sorties from the nearby seaplane bases at RAF Killadeas and Castle Archdale.
The church is surrounded by an ancient graveyard containing pre–reformation graves. The place name of Killadeas is derived from “Culdees,” the Ceili De or Companion of God, a monastic order which was prominent from the eighth century on nearby Devenish Island and other islands on Lower Lough Erne. Also, near the graveyard wall is the Bishop’s Stone, with an ecclesiastic on one side and a human face above the interlace on the front edge. Improvements to and maintenance of the ancient graveyard will have to be undertaken in a separate project.