Housing Evaluations from 1835

Here is a list of some of the houses in certain townlands, their occupier and their value. This information came from the Hugh Irvine Collection which is available at Newry and Mourne Museum.

Townland       Occupier          Valuation       Remarks

Lurganconary         Robert Davidson                   8.0.0           Large farm

Greencastle              Elizabeth McIlroy                7.12.0

Benagh Upr.             David Moore                          15.16.9

Ballymaderphy       John Moore                            10.12.0

”                                    Arthur Davidson                    5.7.0

Lisnacree                  George Huston                      19.1.3

Mullertown             Henry McNeily                      7.14.11

”                                    Henry Atkinson                     19.9.0

Glassdrummond    Robert Thompson                8.8.10

”                                     Isaac McNeely                       17.9.3

”                                     Leonard Watson                   12.18.3

Moneydarraghmore    Lt. Henry McNeilly              8.16.0

Ballyveamore                Charles Moore                      4.15.0

Moneydarraghbeg       Richard McNeilly

George McNeilly                  4.18.11

Robert McNeilly                   7.4.8

Ballymartin                   Arthur Atkinson

Richard Atkinson                 2.12.3

Maghereagh                   Mrs. Matthews                      13.4.10

Drumcrow                       Christopher Marmion        11.2.1

Dunavan                           John Moore                           22.0.4                             New house

Drummondoney            Anne Thomspon                   9.17.0

Leitrim                               William Walmsley

Margaret Walmsley

Ballymageough              James Moore

Aughnahoory                  John Walmsley                     11.1.0

Mrs Hayden                           10.12.2

Aughnaloopy                  John Moore                            3.15.11

Ballymagart                     Eliza Walmsley

Magheramurphy           Thomas Gibson Henry       25.9.0

Derryogue                        John Walmsley                      7.1.11

William Nicholson

Thomas Nicholson               6.2.7

John Moore                            13.10.7

Joseph Nicholson                4.1.9

Dunavil                            James Irwin                            3.17.7

Ballynahatten                David Moore                          5.10.1

Rev. J. F. Close                      76.10.10

Cranfield                          John Chesney

Robert Davidson                   4.13.1

Joseph Moore                         8.8.8                              About 15 acres

Robert Moore Small            9.1.2

Rev. John McIlwain             14.6.9

Glassdrumman            Catherine Hamilton              5.14.0

Moneydarraghbeg      John McKibben                      3.14.0

Ballykeel                         Thomas Stevenson               3.10.0

William Boyd & Bros            4.15.0

Francis Orr                               4.3.0

Robert Trimble                       3.17.0

John Walmsley                       16.7.0

William Fitzpatrick                3.10.0

Maghareagh                   James Trimble                        4.0.0

Kilkeel                              James Walmsley                    11.13.0

Dunavan                          Bernard McCullagh              6.15.0

Rev. Gustavus Warner       10.13.0

John Doyle                               3.18.0

Drumindony                  Bernard McCullagh              4.17.0

Ballyardle                        Captain Chesney                   12.3.0

James Marmion                     7.3.0                              Two houses and offices


Aughnahoory                Hugh Stephenson                 4.0.0

William Hanna                       3.8.0

Ballymagart                 George Nesbitt                      5.2.0

Mrs McDonnell                     13.8.0

Derryogue                    Thomas McKee                     6.0.0

Dunavil                           Henry Reilly                           4.0.0

Ballymageough            Samuel Wilson                       3.8.0

Mourne Park                Viscount Kilmorey               82.0.0

Grange                             John Patterson                      6.0.0

Housing in the 1800s

The vast majority of the people in Mourne would have lived in small rural cottages or houses situated along the main street in the town. Hanna’s Close is a good way to get feel for what life was like living in small rural cottages. This cluster of cottages were built in the 1600s by the Hanna’s who came to Ireland from Scotland around 1640. The dwellings were all built close together with only one door facing into the close and a few small windows at the back. This was to protect them from attacks. The Close is situated in the townland of Aughnahoory and in 1860 there were eight families of Hanna’s living in the Close.


Those families who were better off would have lived in bigger houses of higher value and those who were very wealthy would have lived in ‘Gentleman’s Seats’.

Gentleman’s Seats in Mourne in 1823

Heartsfort : Thomas Pottinger

Jane-Brook : James Marmion

Kilmorey House : Viscount Kilmorey

Loyalty Farm : Lt. Col. G. Matthews

Mournepark : John Moore

Prospect : Alexander Chesney

Summer-Seat : Rev. Lucas Waring

Shannon-Grove : Francis Moore

White Water Mill : W. C. Emerson

Bellhill : John Waring

[Info. on Gentleman’s Seats from the Hugh Irvine Collection]

The Kilmorey Estate

In an 1810 rental the townlands of Mourne in the Kilmorey Estate were as follows;

‘Aghyoghill, Aughnahorry, Ballintur, Ballygowan, Ballykeel Beg, Ballyveagh More, Corcreaghan, Cranfield, Carginagh, Derryogue, Drumcro, Drumindoney, Drummon, Glassdrumman, Greencastle, Leitram, Magheramurphy, Magheragh, Maghery, Moneydoragh Beg, Moneydorragh More, Moyad and Tullyframe.’

The founder of the Kilmorey family’s Irish estates was Sir Nicholas Bagnal. He was granted the lands in Newry and Mourne in the 1500s. In 1673 his heir died leaving no male issue. His lands were transferred to his cousin Robert Needham.

NPG x120120; Francis Charles Adalbert Henry Needham, 4th Earl of Kilmorey by Bassano

The 4th Earl of Kilmorey

The earldom of Kilmorey was created for General Francis Needham in 1822. His son Jack Francis became the 2nd Earl and an absentee landlord when the estate was left in the hands of his three trustees. The 3rd Earl inherited the lands and title in 1880 and made Ireland one of his permanent residences.  He, his wife Ellen Constance Baldock and their family spent a lot of time in Mourne.

outside mourne park scanned mourne park demesne

Mourne Park House and a map of the Mourne Park Demesne

Mourne Park House

Mourne Park House was the family residence of the Needham Family. It was originally built in the early 19th Century as a two story building by Robert Needham, 11th Viscount Kilmorey. A third story was added sometime after 1820 and more extensions followed in 1859. It was listed as a ‘Gentleman’s Seat’ in 1812 and a description of its grounds were as below in 1864;

‘Mourne Park, the beautiful estate of the Earl of Kilmorey, the woods and grounds of which clothe the base of Knockchree (Hill of the Deer), 1013 ft. crowned on the summit with an observatory. Here the White Water is crossed…’ [1]

mourne park house

Mourne Park House.

The earldom of Kilmorey was created in 1822 for General Francis Needham (1748-1832). His son Jack Francis Needham inherited the title and became the 2nd Earl of Kilmorey after his father’s death. He was renowned for being a very eccentric and colourful person and this lead his father to leave the Mourne Park estate to his three trustees. As a result Kilmorey became an absentee landlord, with little interest in spending time in Ireland. The trustees of the estate were all married to three sisters of the 2nd Earl. [2]

people of mourne park house

The staff and servants of Mourne Park House.

In 1860, a son of one of the trustee’s Octavius Newry Knox carried out a detailed report on the estates belonging to Lord Kilmorey. In this report we can get a better picture of what life was like in Mourne at the time. Knox details the conditions of the land, lists the schools present in the area, discusses the use of sea wrack, along with including descriptions of prominent buildings in Mourne at the time. He also details the state of Mourne Park house and its grounds. The Lord Killmorey at the time was an absentee landlord and this is evident as the report suggests that the house is falling into disrepair. The Mourne Park mansion and premises were held by Captain Ramsay. Knox states the internal woodwork of the mansion is in need of painting and there are some signs of dry rot in the house, causing one part of the floor in a bed chamber to have fallen in. The water pipes supplying the house were also unreliable. [3]

The 3rd Earl of Kilmorey inherited the title in 1880 following Jack Francis’ death and spent a lot of time in Mourne Park. He married Ellen Constance Baldock in 1881. ‘Nellie’ Kilmorey was reported to have inherited ‘the Teck Emeralds’ from her lover Francis of Teck, the brother of Queen Mary.. The 4th Earl of Kilmorey who died in 1961 was the last Earl to live in the house and it has been passed down through the female line to the current owner Marion Needham Russell. Marion is a cousin of Richard Needham M.P., the 6th Earl of Kilmorey. [4]

lady kilmorey and children scanned enjoying the mourne park sunshine 2

Nellie Kilmorey and the family enjoying Mourne Park and the sunshine.

Over recent years Marion and her family had restored the house to some of its former glory and they used it as their home. Unfortunately a serious fire destroyed this beautiful house in May 2013, gutting it internally and destroying centuries of history.


This is a far cry from days gone by, when the mansion was used for extravagant parties, hare coursings, summer fetes and lavish entertainment for the visiting Earl and his guests. The house is steeped in history and can boast of royal guests such as King Edward VII and movie star Errol Flynn. [5]

inside mourne park house scanned inside mourne park house 2 scanned

Inside Mourne Park House

Photos belong to PRONI.

[1] A Report on a 19th Century Estate in South Down, by Newry and Mourne Museum.

[2] A Report on a 19th Century Estate in South Down, by Newry and Mourne Museum.

[3] A Report on a 19th Century Estate in South Down, by Newry and Mourne Museum.

[4] http://www.templetonrobinson.co.uk/brochure.php?p=TRLTRL60660

[5] http://www.mournepark.co.uk/

A Body Snatcher in Kilkeel: The Story of Burke and Hare

The inmates of the Kilkeel workhouse are buried along the river, with no visible markers indicating their graves. One infamous inmate, a body snatcher, William Hare is said to be buried here.

William Hare is reported to have been born in Newry between 1792 and 1804. He moved to Edinburgh where he met William Burke. Hare helped run a boarding house which catered for vagrants and elderly people.

When an old lodger died still owing money in rent, Burke and Hare decided to sell his body to medicine, making £7.10.0. They sold the bodies, to be dissected, to a Dr. Knox. The money they made spurred them on and they began digging up graves and selling off these bodies. The two men began eventually got sick of digging up corpses, and decided to  prey on the living instead. They mostly chose old or ill people, got them drunk and then strangled them. [1]

The two men became careless and carried away with their gruesome exploits, arousing the suspicion of neighbours. It is estimated that Burke and Hare murdered between 14 and 28 people, a crime spree now known as the ‘West Port Murders’. Hare testified against his accomplice Burke, who as a result was hanged in 1829.


The story goes that Hare decided to ‘lie low’ in Kilkeel, and lived out his last days in the Kilkeel Workhouse. His body is said to be buried in the Burial Banks

Another version of the tale claims that Hare did seek refuge in the workhouse until a Dr. Reid from Edinburgh recognised him, and told the local population of his crimes.

Hare apparently escaped to Carlisle where a lynch mob blinded him and threw him in a lime pit to die. Despite this fate, Hare is said to have escaped again and went to London where he died penniless in 1859.[2]

A rhyme capturing the chilling crimes of Burke and Hare goes as such;

'Up the close and down the stair,
In the house with Burke and Hare.
Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief,
Knox, the boy who buys the beef.'[3]


We had a visit from a Northern Irish historian during the summer who is writing a book on this dreadful duo. This reseacrher has discovered that Hare did in fact escape to Kilkeel and actually had a wife and child who lived in a house on Newry Street. He also told us that Burke and Hare didnt dig up bodies as people widely believe, but simply smothered them. This was their preferred method of murder as they would get more money for an unmarked body (£10) than a marked/damaged one (£7). He claims that William Hare was originally called Thomas O’Hare, born near Scarva, and a very nasty charater. He went on the run and left Ireland after murdering his masters’ horse. He told us that his face was compared to that of a reptile and one of his eyes were positioned higher than the other, conjuring up quite a sinister image!

For more information on this contact the researcher Shaun P. Cheyne on shaunpcheyne@btinternet.com

[1] Ireland, edited by Mark Connolly, p. 726

[2] Ireland, edited by Mark Connolly, p. 726 and


[3] (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/NIR-DOWN/2007-11/1195155768)

Life in the Workhouse

Anyone in a workhouse who was capable work was under no circumstances allowed to be idle. Men were employed with breaking stones, grinding corn, working on the land or any other kinds of manual labour. Women were given duties such as mending clothes, looking after children and the sick, washing and taking part in some manual labour.

A day in the workhouse normally started at 7am where everyone had to rise and dress, enter the hall for prayers and inspections, and then were given their breakfast of stirabout and milk. They were then made to work from here on until the afternoon where they had dinner of maybe potatoes or brown bread and soup. Food in the workhouse was not very exciting at all. Below is an example of what the inmates of Kilkeel Workhouse were fed in 1846, when the potatoes ran out;

‘ The following ‘dietary ordered for dinner instead of potatoes; on Sundays and Thursdays: men, women and children above 9 and under 15 got 3/4 lb. bread. Children above 2 and under 9 got 1/2 lb. of bread with soup made of barley as previously. For the remaining 5 days in the week men, women and children above 9 and under 15 got 7 oz.’s of Indian meal made into stirabout with 1/3 of a quarter of buttermilk. Children above 2 and under 9 got 3 and a 1/2 oz. of Indian meal made into stirabout, with 1/6 of a quarter of buttermilk.’[1]

Below is an example of what the Kilkeel Board of Guardians deemed ‘necessaries’ for an ensuing week;

60lb. bread

2lb. butter

34 qts. new milk

18lb. meat

300 qts. buttermilk

1 cwt. salt

5 ton oatmeal

1lb. tea  [2]

Inmates were not allowed back into their dormitories until around eight o’clock at night. Leisure time was not very common in workhouses, and the inmates were forbidden from playing cards, ‘any games of chance’ , smoking and drinking. When visitors came to see inmates, they were accompanied by the Master, Matron or officer.[3]

Some of the Staff of Kilkeel Workhouse

1859: Sarah Henderson matron of the Fever Hospital.[4]

1863: James Donaldson is master of the Kilkeel Workhouse.[5]

1870: Thomas Graham is Clerk to the Union of Kilkeel. Caroline Anderson is the schoolmistress to the workhouse and J. H. Clarke is medical attendant to the Poor Law Union.[6]

1880: Master of Workhouse is Samuel Ormsly and matron is his wife. Mrs Maxwell is matron of Fever Hospital and Relieving Officer is a Mr. J Mackintosh. The medical officer was Dr. Irwin and solicitor was John Hunter Moore. The chaplain for the Church of Ireland was Rev. Edward O’Brien Pratt, Presbyterian chaplain was Rev. George Nesbitt and the Roman Catholic chaplain was George Maguire.[7]

The Grave Diggers of Kilkeel Workhouse

Burying the inmates of the Workhouse might have been a grisly task but someone had to do it. Here are the names and wages of the grave diggers in June 1847;

George McManus           £0.15.0

James Wightman             £0.14.0

Henry McBride                  £0.8.0 [8]

The dead of Kilkeel Workhouse were buried in what is known as the ‘Burial Banks’. These are situated behind the Brethren Church on Mountain Road, along the river. The unmarked graves of the paupers and inmates can be found there.

[1] Board of Guardians Minutes, p.134, PRONI.

[2] Board of Guardians Minutes, p.63, PRONI.

[3] Researching Down Ancestors: A Practical Guide for the Family And Local Historian, Ian Maxwell p. 178-9

[4] Petty Sessions Records.

[5] Petty Sessions Records.

[6] Slater’s Directory 1870.

[7] B & PU Directory 1880, p.118.

[8] From Board of Guardians Minutes 30 June 1847, from PRONI.

Kilkeel Workhouse

The Irish Poor Law Act of 1838 divided the country into Unions and there was to be a workhouse for each Union. Many types of people could be found here, those too old or ill to support themselves along with those who could have lost their farms or employment and had no means of income. Women who had children outside of marriage were also sent to the workhouse, as unmarried mothers were shunned. People who were mentally ill or disabled were also housed here.[1]

Kilkeel Poor Law Union was declared on 29 July 1839 and covered an area of 127 square miles. The operation of this was overseen by a Board of Guardians.

The population within the chosen Union in the 1831 census was 26,833 altogether. It covered an area of 81,726 acres. The union included town lands of Kilkeel, Killowen, Ballykeel, Bryansford, Fofanny, Greencastle, Maghera, Mourne Park, Mullartown and Rostrevor.

The Kilkeel Workhouse was erected in 1840-1 on a 7.5 acre site on Newry Street, Kilkeel. The land was bought for £462.7.6, and £20 compensation was given to the occupying tenant. It was designed by George Wilkinson, a Poor Law Commissioner’s architect. His building was intended to house 300 inmates. The construction of the building cost £4050 plus £767 for fittings. The workhouse was approved on 16 August 1841 and admitted its first inmates on 1 September.[2]


Below is a map showing the location and layout of the Workhouse, dated 1930.

The building contained a waiting room and a board room for the Guardians on the first floor. The main block had male and female wings on either side of the masters quarters along with rooms at the rear such as a washhouse and bake house, an infirmary, an idiots ward and a chapel and dining room.[3]

During the famine which lasted from the mid 1840s-1851, a forty bed fever hospital was built on the site. This fever hospital survives today as Mourne District Hospital.

Mourne Hosptial

Evidence suggests the famine did not have as big an effect on Mourne as in the rest of Ireland. Looking at the minutes from the Board of Guardians meetings from the period demonstrates little sense of urgency or panic. A meeting in 1846 states that there are ‘no patients in the Fever Hospital’. On 15 July 1846 the Board discuss a letter from a Dr. Coole/Brooke. In this letter he claims it is necessary to provide ‘medicine and nutriment’ to the poor persons at their own homes, as they had a disinclination to enter the hospital. The Board responded by saying, ‘there are very few cases of fever in the District referred to and they are of opinion that there  is no necessity of providing medicine and nutriment at present.’ This suggests that Mourne got off quite lightly. There is no doubt life would have been more difficult, but they did not seem to get hit hard like the rest of the country. However the Board does mention the workhouse’s supply of potatoes ‘running out’ in one instance but simply replaces their food with bread, soup and stirabout.[4]

By 1847 things were maybe worsening. In a meeting on 7 April the board employs an Alexander Robinson ‘to draw patients to Fever Hospital in fever cart as follows: from… Kilkeel, Mourne Park, Greencastle, Ballykeel, Mullartown and Killowen at 3/6 for each journey; from… Fofany, Bryansford, Maghera, and Rostrevor at 7/6 for each journey.’ [5]

Most people believe the reason Mourne survived the famine so well was due to the fact that they had an understanding Landlord. During the famine the Earl of Kilmorey began building what would become known as the ‘famine wall’, to give people employment during the rough times. This is just one example of how he tried to help the people living in his estate.

[1] http://www.youririshroots.com/irishhistory/workhouses.php

[2] Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland 1844-5.

[3] http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Kilkeel/#Records

[4] PRONI BG SVI/A/3 and Minute Book of Kilkeel Board of Guardians, January 1846, p.134.

[5] PRONI BG SVI/A/3 and Minute Book of Kilkeel Board of Guardians, January 1846, p.259.

The Kilmorey Arms Hotel

The Kilmorey Arms Hotel was the main hotel of Kilkeel Town and has provided lodgings since it was built in 1843. An advert promoting the new hotel captures the excitement and expectations that came along with it, people were obviously very proud of it. It was opened and owned by John Shannon;

   ”Kilmorey Arms Hotel Kilkeel: John Shannon, truly grateful to his friends and the public for the very liberal support he has heretofore received, as an innkeeper in Kilkeel, respectfully begs to announce that he has opened the above splendid establishment, which has been recently built and fitted up by the trustees of the Earl of Kilmorey, under the immediate patronage of Viscount, Newry and Mourne M.P.’

The larder of the hotel is described as being ‘well supplied’. It boasts a cellar with the ‘choicest wines, spirits, ales, ports etc. etc.’.  There is a coach house and stables on the premises with an ‘ample supply of carriages, together with post as well as car horses… The mail car leaves Kilkeel every evening at half past six o’clock and arrives in Newry at fifteen minutes before ten. It leaves Newry every morning at five o’clock and returns to Kilkeel fifteen minutes past eight in the morning.’ [1]It has been estimated that the total cost of the building was £2000.[2]

Market Square, above, the Kilmorey ran along the right of here.

By 1899 the hotel was still in fulll swing, undergoing renovations and becoming one of the main lodgings for any visitors. In 1899 a Bazaar and Fete took place in Mourne Park and below is an advertisement for the Kilmorey Arms Hotel which was in the programme for the event;

‘This old established family and commercial hotel and been considerably enlarged and redecorated and entirely refurbished…with every accommodation and comfort for the convenience of guests.

Private rooms, ladies drawing room, spacious coffee room, commercial room and comfortable bedrooms.

The above is the principal hotel in the neighbourhood and the only one in the town fitted up with hot, cold and shower baths and electric bells.

The house is well situated in the centre of the town within ten minutes walk of the sea where there is a good bathing beach and private dressing boxes.

The terminus of Norton and Co.’s Tourist car service immediately adjoins the hotel and public cars are continually running from hence to and from  Greencastle, Rostrevor, Warrenpoint, Newry, Newcastle etc.

Charges moderate: special terms per week for boarding, and for gentlemen from Saturday to Monday.

Arthur Crory, Proprietor.’

561(A) kilmorey arms

[1] From accounts of the Kilmorey Family with Hotel, Nov. 1883 – March 1884, from NIPRO D/2638/1/23. From the rent book of Mourne Estate 1883.

[2] Quote from Dorothea Nicholson in the Hugh Irvine Collection.

Kilkeel Courthouse

The old courthouse in Kilkeel was situated in Kilmorey Square, stretching across what is now the top of Knockchree Avenue. It opened its doors once every three weeks on a Friday to hold court for minor offences and the Petty Sessions were held every 3 weeks on a Wednesday where ‘the number of outrages are very trifling.’[1] According to Samuel Lewis ‘ its jurisdiction extends over the whole of the barony of Mourne, which is included in this parish, and is the property of his lordship [Kilmorey], and pleas to the amount of £10 are determined either by attachment or civil bill.’ However the Courthouse is remembered as being the towns meeting place where dances, concerts and many other gatherings were held. One woman who remembers these functions well is a Betty Fairley (nee Orr) who fondly reminisces about spending her weekends here, socialising and participating in dancing competitions.

Over the years the courthouse underwent many improvements. The cost for putting a new door on the courthouse in 1819 cost £0.10.0 and in 1821 the cost of ‘repairing’ the building was £25. In 1825 lights were added to the courthouse, costing a grand total of £2.6.9. In 1914 the courthouse was enlarged and a new lock up room was built. During this time the statues, books and records were moved and stored in the Petty Sessions Office for safe keeping. The courthouse was much loved by all sides of the community and was a place where they could meet, but it was eventually demolished in 1952.

A market was held in the square outside the Courthouse every Wednesday and a fair every Tuesday of each quarter. Horses and cattle of every description were bought and sold at the fairs. Below are some photos of a very busy Kilkeel, presumably on a market or fair day.

[1] Ordnance Survey p.50

Churches in the 1800s

The Old Church of St. Colman’s

This is the 15th Century church from which Kilkeel derives its name; ‘Church of the Narrow Place.’ In 1622 it was described as a ruin.

Between 1836 and 1940 it was used as a school, supported in the beginning by Kildare Street Society and then later by Lord Kilmorey.Under Kilmorey, the schoolmaster was paid £31 and then the Rev. Close added to this a further £9.

St Colmans Church 14th Century Kilkeel

Church of Ireland

Work on the church began in 1815 and cost £7000. This is equivalent to almost £300,000 in present day. A large sum of money was given by Lord Kilmorey to help cover some of the expenses. It was designed by Newry architect Thomas Duff. The transept was added in 1885 and the chancel in 1898.

Interior of Church of Ireland

The rector at this time was the Reverend Close. The fine church was grand and in good repair, but had no organ and was perhaps slightly too big for its congregation.

Clergy of the Church

  • 1826: John Forbes Close
  • 1883: Edward O’Brian Pratt
  • 1887: Thomas Haines Abrahall
  • 1890: Freemann Nathaniel Dudley
  • 1898: Henry McKnight [info. from Hugh Irvine Collection]

St. Colman’s Roman Catholic Church

Before this chapel was built the people worshipped outside at the place called Massfourth. Work on the building began in 1811 and was completed in 1818. It was replaced in 1870 at a cost of £5000. The 2005 equivalent of this amount was roughly £230,000.


Mourne Presbyterian

The date stone of the church is 1720, extant from a meeting house in the upper part of the present graveyard. The church built in 1756 replaced the original in Ballymageough. It was t-shaped and thatched. In 1831 it was replaced costing £800 (equivalent of roughly £40,000) and the church looked like the present building. The first known minister was Rev. Charles Wallace.

Mourne Presbyterian Church

Kilkeel Presbyterian

The congregation was being organised in 1822-23. In 1827 the Rev. John Allen was ‘called’ as its first minister. The church was then in Meeting House Lane.

kilkeel presbyterian church

From 1831 to 1874 the minister was the Rev. George Nesbitt and he was succeeded by the Rev. Robert White from 1875-1910. He lived in ‘Cromlech House’ and had a certain amount of medical knowledge. At this time the congregation did not have a manse. It is thought he got a lease of his house and farm from the Kilmorey Estate. Part of the farm was a field on the opposite corner from Knox’s Shop which was eventually sold by him to Mrs. Rooney, after whom the road was named.

The foundation stone of the new church was laid by the Countess of Kilmorey in 1894 and the building was completed and opened in 1897. The cost was £1006. This was roughly worth £60,000 in 2005. The pitch pine pews cost £45. Mr Eadie came as minister in 1911, staying until 1946.

The church was very poor in Rev. Eadie’s time and the congregation was very small. Mr Eadie had one son who died young, and two daughters. There was a chance of the church being closed in 1946. Money however appeared in the bank, as the Americans had rented the church hall during the war and they persuaded the Church to retain the congregation. They then called the Rev. G. S. McKeown as minister in 1946. He remained until 1954 when he was succeeded by Rev. S. L. S. Fullerton.

[Info. from Hugh Irvine Collection]

Moravian Church

The Moravian church and settlement was situated in Mourne Abbey, Kilkeel. The church was built in 1763 but sold in 1817 and used as a private dwelling.

Mourne Abbey

The minister at the time was Brother James O’Harrill, who died in 1807. In 1832 they moved to Newcastle Street and built the church and manse.

Food in the 1800s

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Why was the potato grown and consumed on such a widespread scale in Ireland?

Potatoes were quite reliable and could produce a very good harvest (when not blighted). It was a vegetable which needed little care or attention when growing, so it was ideal for the majority of the population. The potato formed the basis of the Irish peoples diet, and could be used along with some diary produce such as milk. When the crop failed however, this caused major problems all over Ireland.

Other food stuffs such a oats, poultry and beef were in plentiful supply but these were expensive items and were shipped abroad by English landowners.

According to the report on the Kilmorey Estate by Octavius Knox, the main crops grown in the Mourne district by local farmers were potatoes, flax, oat and wheat. Potatoes would have been the principle meal for most people. An advantage of living in Mourne was it closeness to the sea. People would have benefited from this as they could live off the sea if need be, as well as the land.

Traditional foods such as Irish Stew were popular even in the 1800s. Praise for it was captured in this poem from the 1800s,

Then hurrah for an Irish Stew
That will stick to your belly like glue.’

Irish Soda Bread

In the early and mid 1800’s, rural Ireland did not have a strong tradition of bread made by using yeast. All baking was done in the home and, in addition to having limited baking supplies, time was often at a premium. The use of baking soda as a leavening agent was quick, effective and it produced a much more consistent result than yeast did. It caught on quickly and made soda breads a staple of the Irish diet until commercial bread production began. Irish soda bread is still popular with the Irish, as well as with people of other nationalities from all over the world.

The original soda breads contained nothing more than flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. The buttermilk was leftover from the butter making process and the bread was almost always served with freshly churned butter. Today, the bread often contain additional ingredients such as sugar, butter, currants or caraway seeds, to enhance the flavour of the bread. Soda bread is heartier than most yeast breads and goes very well with soups, stews and meat dishes. Modern soda bread mixes are available for those with a busy schedule and are easy to make with a delicious result.


Stirabout was a mixture, something almost like porridge. According to the Kilkeel Board of Guardians for the workhouse, they gave the inmates stirabout made from Indian meal and butter milk which was left over from the butter making process, therefore it was readily available and meant that nothing would be going to waste. This would have been a cheap meal, something which labourers/peasants would have eaten when potatoes were not available. It would have little flavour but it was still a meal.


Soup was a good, easily accessible and relatively cheap meal for most people. A farmer in Mourne would have had all the necessary ingredients due to being able to grow them himself on whatever land he had; potatoes, vegetables, barley etc. It was simple and easy to make, and if consumed with some homemade bread or soda bread, it would have been a filling and relatively taste meal. If you were lucky, there could have been some scraps of meal thrown in as well.

Shopping for Food

For those who did not have access to ingredients first hand from farming etc. there were many places in Kilkeel they could visit to acquire their daily essentials such as butchers, bakers, grocers etc. These stores would have been small and run by local people, nothing like the chains of supermarkets were are used to visiting today. Many stores would have had multiple uses, being a grocers and perhaps a bakery at the same time.

Below is a list of all the grocers in the Mourne area in 1870;

  • Kilkeel: Thomas Baird, William Boyd, Neale Clarke, Arthur Crory, Robert Crutchley, Sarah Doyle, James Hagan, John Henderson, James McGinn, Moses Hill, George McKnight, Matthew Martin, Mary Minnis, James Morgan, Patrick Morgan, Ross Henry, Samuel Shannon, Maria Sloan, Samuel Woods.
  • Ballymartin: William Annett, John Higgins.
  • Ballygowan: James Cunningham.
  • Annalong: John Gibney, James Robinson.
  • Dunavan: James McCartney.
  • Glassdrummond: Francis McGreevy.[1]

Here is a selection of the bakers present in 1870s Kilkeel;

Daniel Curran, James Doyle, James Hagan (who was also a grocer listed above and a spirit dealer), James McCartan, Thomas McKee, Matthew Martin, James Morgan, Henry Ross and Maria Sloan.

As you can see some of the bakers above overlap with the grocer section, demonstrating how some traders were taking on many different roles in order to supply the public with food stuffs.