Clonfeacle Parish Church (St Patrick’s COI)

Location: Benburb

Benburb Clonfeacle Parish Church 1St Patrick’s Church, Clonfeacle – The present building replaces a much older one in the townland of Clonfeacle, near the present village of Blackwatertown (hence the parish name). It was designed and built by Sir Richard Wingfield in 1618. The tower was added in 1892 – a generous donation of the Bruce family.  The church is a Grade A listed building.

The parish hall is in the main street, just a short walk from the church. The rectory is just across from the church in Benburb.

Clonfeacle, a parish, partly in the barony of Armagh, and partly in that of O’Neill and West, County of Armagh, but chiefly in the barony of Dungannon, County  Tyrone, and province of Ulster, 5 ½ miles (N. N. W.) from Armagh; containing, with the districts of Derrygortrevy, Moy, and Blackwatertown, 19,547 inhabitants. This place was distinguished at a very remote period as the seat of a religious establishment of great reputation, of which St. Lugud, or Lugaid, was abbot about the year 580. It was soon after vested in the Culdean monks, whose chief establishment in Ireland was at Armagh, and with it this house became united about the middle of the 10th century. The Culdees kept possession of the church, and several large tracts of land in the parish, till the Reformation, when the whole became forfeited to the Crown, and were granted by James I., on the 13th of May, 1614, to Primate Hampton, and his successors for ever, under the denomination of the “Termon, or Erenach lands of Clonfeicle,” together, with the church and rectory, which latter has since passed from the Primate, and is now vested in the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin. During the Irish wars, and more especially in the rebellion of the Earl of Tyrone, this district was the scene of numerous sanguinary battles.

The parish is intersected by the River Blackwater, over which are several large and handsome stone bridges; and comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 26,218 statute acres, of which 21,582 are in Tyrone, and 4636 in Armagh. The surface is diversified by several small and beautiful lakes, the principal of which is Lough Curran, on an artificial island in which have been discovered the remains of buildings and warlike and domestic implements; and near it is the old camp of the O’Nial’s, now Fort Magarrett. The land is chiefly arable: the soil is light but generally fertile, producing excellent crops; the system of agriculture is improved, and there is no waste land, except a tract of bog or marsh, about 400 acres in extent. Limestone and freestone abound in the parish: there are extensive and valuable limestone quarries at Benburb. The Ulster Canal passes for three miles through the parish, on the Armagh or eastern side of the Blackwater. At Benburb a rock has been excavated to the depth of 86 feet, and the canal carried longitudinally over a mill-race for a very considerable distance, by a handsome aqueduct. The scenery is pleasingly diversified and beautifully picturesque; the glen through which the Blackwater flows is highly romantic, and the canal, when completed will add to the interest of the landscape. The principal seats are Dartrey Lodge, the residence of W. Olpherts, Esq.; the Argory, of W. McGeough Bond, Esq.; and Tullydoey, of J. Eyre Jackson, Esq., at which place is also the residence of T. Eyre, Esq. The weaving of linen is carried on extensively by the farmers and cottiers at their own dwellings; and at Tullydoey is an extensive bleach-green.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin: the tithes amount to £1030. The glebe-house is a good building; the glebe comprises 532a. 3r. 17p. of good arable land. The church was destroyed during the rebellion of Tyrone, since which time the village of Clonfeacle has been neglected and now forms part of Blackwater-town; and, in the same rebellion, the church of Eglish was destroyed, and that parish has ever since been included in the parish of Clonfeacle. The present parish church is situated close to the village of Benburb, on the confines of the counties of Armagh and Tyrone; it was built by Sir R. Wingfield, in 1619, and repaired and enlarged in 1815, by a gift of £800 from the late Board of First Fruits; the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £526. 11. towards its further repair. There are also a church at Moy and one at Derrygortrevy; the latter stands near the site of the old church of Eglish. In the R. C. divisions the parish is called Upper and Lower Clonfeacle, and includes the whole parish of Eglish; there are chapels at Eglish, Moy, and Blackwater-town. There is a place of worship at Benburb for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster of the second class; and one at Crew in connection with the Associate Synod: and at Blackwatertown is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.

The Parochial School, near the church at Benburb, was built in 1832, by the Rev. Henry Griffin, the present rector, by whom it is principally supported; there are also schools at Blackwater-town and Derrycrevy, and near the old churchyard at Clonfeacle is a National School. At Benburb, Gorestown, Drummond, Mullycarnan, and Carrowcolman, schools were built and are supported by funds arising from a bequest, by Lord Powerscourt, of £2000 for charitable uses, and are conducted under the moral agency system. The sum of £4 per annum is paid to the poor of this parish from Drelincourt’s charity, and two children are eligible to the Drelincourt school at Armagh: A bequest of £100 was made to the poor by a person whose name is now unknown. The ruins of Benburb Castle, situated on the summit of a limestone rock overhanging the river, have a very picturesque appearance; and near them was found a silver signet ring, bearing the arms and initials of Turlogh O’Nial, which is now in the possession of Mr. Bell, of Dungannon. Several interesting relics of antiquity have been found in various parts; a large well-formed canoe was found in the bed of the river at Blackwatertown, in 1826, and is now in the garden of C. Magee, Esq.; it is scooped out of an oak tree, and is in good preservation. The same gentleman has also some very perfect querns, an altar of rude construction, several stone hatchets, and the horns of an elk, which were found a few years since at Drumlee. At Tullydoey are some inconsiderable vestiges of an ancient fort.

Address:  Main Street, Benburb, BT71 7JZ  (Located on the left, before the entrance gates to the Servite Priory)

Benburb Clonfeacle Parish Church 3