~~~ Loving God and Loving our Neighbour ~~~

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The Church of Ireland parishes of Desertlyn and Ballyeglish, Diocese of Armagh

THE HISTORY OF ST JOHN'S CHURCH

 

St John's Church can be found in the centre of the village on Smith Street, Moneymore.  Moneymore (original name being Muine Mor or 'The big thicket'), was designed by the architect William Booth.  The cost of building was paid for by The Drapers Company who also paid for much of the renovation and construction of the village.  These historic buildings include: the old courthouse and Manor House on the main street, and the tiny gaol so easily missed on the side street running towards the 2nd Presbyterian Church.  Work on St John's began in 1829 and then opened in 1832 at a cost of £6,000.

 

It is said that the Church is modelled on Tewkesbury Abbey, England. Its Norman style polished granite pillars, hewn from the quarries of Castlewellan, rise to support a vaulted ceiling and roof, and lead the eye towards the chancel and sanctuary.  In 1868 further improvements were made.  However, some fifty years after its grand opening; disaster struck!

 

Late one night in January 1889 the church's chimney set alight.  The flames then spread to the whole church: the roof was destroyed, as was most of the interior.  Only the stone pulpit and one window survived (see main page on St John's Church).  This was an Early window, which had been located on the south aisle.  During the period of around two and a half years while the church was closed, parishioners met in the Intermediate School (now known as the Church Hall) for worship. On the 10th October, 1891, Archbishop Knox came to St John's and conducted a service of re-hallowing.  Improvements were also made.  A 27 and a half hundred weight bell was installed, inscribed with the latin words: 'Gloria in excelsis Deo', along with the names of the clergy: the Rector, Rev. William Sparrow and his Assistant Curate, Rev. Samuel Fenton; and the Churchwardens: Mr Thomas Pattleton and Mr Henry Byrne.  The Early window, however, was boarded upon, and only uncovered and re-installed in its present position some sixty years later. 

 

 As well as the continued generosity of the parishioners in maintaining the buildings, ministry and events of the parish, a number of donors have provided specific items for the interior of the church.  The chalices and decanter were given by the Drapers Company at the opening of the church in 1832.  These have distinctive lids (see photo, middle right) with solid silver lambs on their tops.  The Cane stone font was given by the Robinson sisters in 1891 - the same year that the carved oak lectern was donated by Miss Mary Knox and Rev. Samuel Fenton.  Two years later, on the 2nd April, the present organ was installed.  Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the marble and mosaic reredos was built into the sanctuary; a gift from Miss Elizabeth Stewart in memory of her grandmother Mrs Gertrude Wright and her great aunts Anne, Gertrude, Mary and Barabara.  Other donations include the oak reading desk and seat.  This was given by the family of Sir W.F. Lennox-Conyngham and his wife Laura on the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1906.  

 

In 1954 stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary depicting Jesus' Ascension.  These were given in memory of those who had died serving their country in the First and Second World Wars.  Other plaques in church are dedicated to the memory of local people who were murdered during The Troubles.  The names of the fallen are commemorated each year on Remembrance Sunday.

 

The burial grounds in Desertlyn and Lawford Street are now closed.  Those around St John's were extended in 1854 and are in the process of being extended again with their consecration expected later this year.

 

 

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