The History of Groomsport Church

The ‘Chapel of Ease‘ as it was when built in 1841, was one of sixteen churches built with funds supplied by the Church Accommodation Society, started by Bishop Richard Mant. The site in Groomsport was a gift from Mr John Waring Maxwell of Finnebrogue, near Downpatrick. The Architect was none other than the famous Belfast designer Sir Charles Lanyon, Architect of the then Queen’s College (which later became Queen’s University), who gave his services free to the Society.

The area allocated to the Parish comprises 3,252 acres. It begins at and includes one side of Ballymaconnel road, Bangor passes around the coastal boundary, taking in the Townlands of Ballymacormick, Groomsport, Lower Baloo, Ballyminetra, Orlock, Portavoe, and, crossing the inland Bangor-Donaghadee  road, also takes in Ballyfotherly.   It also may surprise some that it also includes the Copeland Islands.

When J W Maxwell gave the site, it was on condition that ‘burials are expressly prohibited either in the Church or the Churchyard.  Another condition imposed was ‘That the Church shall be called Groomsport Church’.   It seemed that if at any time in the future the Rector and the Select Vestry wished to call the Church after a Saint, there might be difficulty in doing so.

The Church, as designed by Lanyon, was first built with a nave only, and with an entrance porch in the base of the Tower. It had seating for one hundred and thirty parishioners at this time. In 1909 a chancel was added in memory of Major Robert Percival Maxwell.  On that occasion new pews were installed and the flat ceiling was replaced by the present hammer beam roof.  The East window, which was designed by Mayer of Munich, was installed in memory of Robert and his brother John William Percival Maxwell who had died in 1873 and 1875 respectively.   The total cost of the building in 1841 was £750.  Half of this sum was given by the Church Accommodation Society and along with a generous donation and an endowment of £100 per year from Mr J W Maxwell, with the balance falling to the building fund.  At this time a Church Bell was given as a gift.  It bore the inscription ‘Presented by Mr J W Maxwell, Esq R E of Finnebrogue, to Groomsport Church.  Thomas Mears, Foundry London 1843’.  A Church plate was also presented as a gift from Lady Selina Ker of Portavoe, a daughter of the first Marquis of Londonderry, and a half-sister of Viscount Castlereagh. In 1932 when the transepts, designed by the Architect JA Hanna, were consecrated, her Grandson, Major D A Ker of Portavoe was the People’s Churchwarden.

The window in the South transept includes the arms of the Percival Maxwell family and in the North trancept the arms of the united dioceses of Down and Dromore. The good Shepherd window in the Naeve designed by Kate O’Brien, was installed in memory of  Montague Gordon Weaving in 1959.On November 26th 1842, the Bishop issued a Licence to the Rev Richard Binney. ‘Incumbent of the Parish of Bangor and his Curates publicly to celebrate Divine Service and to Administer Holy Sacraments in Groomsport Church.’  

The first service was held on December 11th 1842.

For some unknown reason the Church was not Consecrated until February 2nd 1850.

From 1842 until 1853 the services in Groomsport Church were conducted by the Clergy of the parish of Bangor.  From 1853 onwards, the Groomsport Incumbents were as follows:-

1853-1880: Abraham  Hilhouse  McCauseland.

1880-1892:  Frederick  John  Hearne.

1892-1894:  William Lawerence  Twist-Whatham.

1894-1913:  Samuel Stephen Holmes.

1913-1938:  Ernest Musgrave Harris

1938-1944:  George Freeman.

1944-1968:  Charles Hay Walsh.

1968 -1975:  James Edward Moore.

1975-2000:  James Derrick Tyney.

2000-Present (2019):  Duncan Pollock.

Groomsport Church one of the most picturesquely sited and significant buildings in the village indeed must hold a significant place in Northern Ireland’s rural architecture.


Groomsport Parish Church Boundary

Walter D Burke 2015

With Reference to;

C.D.Patterson; The parish Church Groomsport, 1842-1934.

R.B.Mowat; Groomsport Parish Church,1842-1992.

U.H.A.S. LIST Bangor and Groomsport; Marcus Patton. 1984

Newtownards Chronicle 24.12.1932