Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Church and gatescreen

Date of Construction:
1720 - 1739

Address :
Saint John's Parish Church of Ireland Main Street Moira County Down


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J1540 6059

Owner Category

Church - C of I

Exterior Description And Setting

Rendered Church of Ireland church, built c.1723, with front gable broken by integrated square-plan tower forming a shallow breakfront, rising four stages and surmounted by replacement octagonal copper spire c.1998. Rectangular on plan facing west and located on the east side of Main Street and to the north of Meeting Street, Moira. Extensively repaired 2008. Pitched natural slate roof with black clay ridge tiles and sandstone coping to both gable ends. Replacement metal guttering on brackets to convex moulded sandstone eaves cornice and replacement metal downpipes. Roughcast render over rubble walling with rusticated sandstone ashlar quoins and chamfered sandstone trim to rubblestone plinth course. Segmental-headed window openings formed in sandstone ashlar surrounds with keystone, sill and original multi-pane iron-framed windows with cylinder glass. Symmetrical west front elevation with four-stage square-plan tower forming a shallow breakfront to a two-storey gabled-fronted elevation. Four-stage tower has rusticated sandstone ashlar quoins up to parapet level with lead-lined sandstone ashlar parapet wall with cornice and octagonal-plan copper-clad spire. Diminutive segmental-headed openings to the upper two stages with sandstone surrounds (as above) and timber louvres. Moulded sandstone eaves cornice continues across the front elevation with a plain frieze below. Elaborate carved sandstone doorcase restored c.2008 comprising; segmental-headed door opening with replacement double-leaf hardwood panelled doors and overlight having surround (as per windows) with foliate keystone and foliate spandrels. Door flanked by pair of Doric pilasters on plinth blocks supporting full Doric entablature and segmental pediment above (entablature replaced c.2008). North nave elevation is three windows wide with a segmental-headed door opening to the lower level having rendered surround and replacement double-leaf hardwood panelled doors. East rear gable is abutted by a slender chimney flue and has a single round-headed window opening with rendered surround, sandstone sill and stained glass with storm glazing. Cantilevered sandstone slabs project from the rear. South nave elevation is three windows wide. Setting: Set well back on the east side of Main Street Moira on a slightly elevated site surrounded by stone, marble and iron grave markers and table tombs accessed via long bitmac drive opening onto Main Street via pair of iron gates on square rendered piers with quadrant rendered walls extending along the road with flint coping. Further side entrance to Meeting Street with modern gates to bitmac parking area. Roof Natural slate RWG Replacement metal Walling Roughcast render Windows Original multi-pane iron


Not Known

Historical Information

An Indenture replicated in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs tells us that on 9th March 1725 Arthur Hill granted one acre of land opposite Moira Castle to the Reverend Hugh Hill, who was then the Rector of the Parish of Moira, for use in constructing a Parish Church. However, Walter Harris, writing in 1744 states that it was built in 1723 ‘at the expense of the late and present Sir John Rowdon’ (Harris, p. 104). Lewis tells us that ‘the church was erected at the joint expense of Sir John Rowdon and the Earl of Hillsborough’ (Lewis, vol. 2 p. 377). St. John’s Church first appears on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey map in 1833 as an oblong building labelled simply as ‘Church.’ There is no discernible alteration to the church structure during the later editions of the maps; the maps depicting the current general layout of the church. In 1837 the Ordnance Survey Memoirs recorded the Church as a ‘plain whinstone, rectangular building, corniced with cutstone. It is 83 feet long and 36 feet broad. It has a handsomely ornamented doorway of cutstone. At the north-west end is a tower on which is a low, shingled spire. The interior of the Church is plain, the windows are nearly rectangular.’ The writer continues that the Church was built to accommodate 400 people; however the average attendance in 1837 was 250. The Townland Valuation of c. 1835 recorded the Church as a B+ class building worth £28. 12s. 6d. By Griffith’s Valuation (1861) the Church was valued at £24., a value maintained until the end of the Annual Revisions in 1929. The Rev. C. R. J. Rudd, a former Rector of Moira tells us that the Parish of Moira was created in 1721 and that before that time services were held in a nearby school house. The Parish Church was consecrated in 1723; the first Curate-in-charge being the Rev. Hugh Hill and the first Rector was Rev. George Howse. Rudd restates a tradition that St. John’s Church held the first Irish Harvest Thanksgiving service in 1726, over 120 years before the first English services. In 1742 repairs were carried out on the interior and windows to make the building watertight. The adjoining graveyard contains the final resting place for many of St. John’s former Rectors. Dr. Frank Harpur, missionary doctor and founder of the Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf, Egypt is buried here and there is a tradition that a child of the Rev. W. B. Yeats (Grandfather of the Irish poet) is also buried at St. John’s. During a visit to Moira in 1756 by the Methodist preacher John Wesley, the Church became embroiled in a controversy when the Rev. Thomas Waring refused to grant the Earl of Moira the keys to St. John’s where Wesley had hoped to preach. Waring did this as ‘he would not tolerate Methodists,’ however, the Earl of Moira determined that Wesley would be heard and summoned the people to the ground before Moira Castle within eyeshot of the Church (Rudd). In 1996 J. F. Rankin wrote that the Church had changed little since the 1830s. He states that elements of the interior, such as the inner doors and the communion rail, came from Moira Castle which was demolished in the 19th century. In 1871 the Gallery was constructed and in 1877 an additional window was added to allow greater light into the Church. The original slate spire atop the church was blown down in 1884 and was soon after replaced by an octagonal copper coated wooden spire (Rankin, p. 221). A new parochial hall was opened in June 1961, however it was demolished in 1981 after it was damaged by a car bomb. A new Parish Centre has replaced it opening in October 2002 (Kelly, p. 72). The Church was listed category A in 1976; Brett states that the ‘graceless tower’ retracts from the building’s grandeur, however, he concludes that ‘on the whole, the interior is of greater charm than the exterior; and both are of such respectable antiquity as to command proper regard’ (Brett, p. 38). The badly oxidised copper spire was resheeted and cracks in the stone tower were repaired in 1998 (NIEA File). The current rector of St. John’s is the Rev. Roderic West (Kelly, p. 72). References: Primary Sources 1. PRONI VAL/1/A/3/ – Field Map c.1830 2. PRONI VAL/1/B/347 – Townland Valuation c.1830 3. PRONI OS/6/3/13/1 – First Edition OS Map 1833 4. PRONI OS/6/3/13/2 – Second Edition OS Map 1858 5. PRONI OS/6/3/13/3 – Third Edition OS Map 1903 6. PRONI OS/6/3/13/4 – Fourth Edition OS Map 1916 7. PRONI VAL/2/B/1/47 – Griffith’s Valuation 1861 8. PRONI VAL/12/B/21/7 A – Annual Revisions 1866-1878 9. PRONI VAL/12/B/21/7 B – Annual Revisions 1879-1893 10. PRONI VAL/12/B/21/7 C – Annual Revisions 1894-1908 11. PRONI VAL/12/B/21/7 D – Annual Revisions 1909-1920 12. PRONI VAL/12/B/21/7 E – Annual Revisions 1920-1929 Secondary Sources 1. Brett, C. E. B., ‘Historic buildings, groups of buildings, areas of architectural importance in the towns and villages of Mid Down: Hillsborough, Dromore, Dromara, Ballynahinch, the Spa, Drumaness and Saintfield’ Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1974. 2. Kelly, D., ‘Lisburn’s rich church heritage: Churches and places of worship in the Lisburn city area’ Lisburn: Impression Print and Design, 2009. 3. Rankin, J. F., ‘Clergy of Down and Dromore’ Belfast: Ulster Historical Society, 1996. 4. NIEA File – HB19/22/001.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting

Historic Interest

W. Northern Ireland/International Interest Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance Z. Rarity V. Authorship


Rendered Church of Ireland church with integral steeple, built c.1723, located on the east side of Main Street, Moira. Restored during recent years. The interior has a number of noteworthy elements and together with its oddly proportioned front elevation, present a remarkable example of an early classical church blended with rural simplicity on a generous site in a rural town. It constitutes an important element of Moira's architectural heritage and is of national significance as a very early classical church.

General Comments

Date of Survey

Monday, September 27, 2010