Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:
HB25/16/005 A

Extent of Listing:
Church, gate sreen, steps and walling

Date of Construction:
1720 - 1739

Address :
Knockbreda Parish Church Church Road Belfast BT8 7AN


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J3510 7017

Owner Category

Church - C of I

Exterior Description And Setting

Free-standing double-height hall and tower type rendered Church of Ireland church, built c.1737, to the designs of Richard Cassels on an elevated site to the north of Newtownbreda Road (A55). Rectangular on plan facing west with apsidal transepts, an apsidal chancel to the east, added c.1883 to the designs of Thomas Drew with gabled projection (organ chamber). To the south elevation is a gabled vestry, built c.1910 to the designs of R.I. Caldwell and a further flat-roofed accretion to the north elevation. Hipped natural slate roof with rolled lead ridges and lead valleys, semi-conical to chancel and transepts. Cast-iron guttering supported on deeply moulded masonry eaves cornice and cast-iron downpipes. Ruled and lined rendered walling and projecting render plinth course. Generally double-height round-headed window openings (unless otherwise stated) with masonry sills and bipartite geometric tracery windows with leaded stained glazing. Three stage square-plan rendered tower rising from the front elevation and forming a shallow breakfront. Tower surmounted by octagonal plan rendered spire having lead-lined broached base with metal ball and weather-vane finial. Round-headed bell-stage opening to front and both side elevations with timber louvres. Symmetrical three-bay front elevation with a slightly advanced entrance bay defined by a full pediment lined in lead and corresponding to the eaves cornice. Square-headed window openings with painted masonry sills and multi-pane iron swivel windows. Central square-headed door opening with painted masonry Gibbsian surround, pulvinated frieze and full pediment over. Pair of replacement hardwood raised and fielded panelled doors with roundels and lozenges, inserted 1937, opening onto concrete platform and six curved concrete steps with swept iron handrail and universal access ramp. North nave elevation abutted by central apsidal transept, flat-roofed single-storey canted vestry to the west end and a further gabled projection to the north face of the chancel. Apsidal rear elevation with three window openings, as per above. South nave elevation abutted by central apsidal transept and single-storey gabled projection to the south face of the chancel having a flat-roofed porch to either cheek. Projection has round-headed window openings with fixed pane timber frame windows. Setting: Set on an elevated site to the east of Church Road and to the south of Newtownbreda Road approached by a central bitmac footpath opening onto Church Road via flight of stone steps and pair of decorative cast-iron gates on tall square-plan stone piers with pyramidal capstones. Gates flanked by rubblestone quadrant walls. Church surrounded by notable stone grave markers and mausolea dating from the mid eighteenth-century (HB25/16/005B, HB25/16/005C, HB25/16/005D) and enclosed on all four sides by rubblestone walling. Roof Natural slate RWG Cast-iron Walling Ruled and lined render Windows Geometric tracery and leaded stained glass


Cassels, Richard Drew, Thomas

Historical Information

Knockbreda parish church was built in 1737 to designs by celebrated architect Richard Cassels and is the oldest church to remain in the Belfast area. Knockbreda parish was formed from the union of the ancient Knock and Breda parishes, both served by churches which were ruinous by 1657. The Hon Arthur Hill, later Viscount Dungannon and grandfather of the Duke of Wellington, purchased land in the townlands of Ballylenaghan, Breda and Galwally in the early 1730s forming an estate which became known as Belvoir. Viscount Dungannon and his family are memorialised in Knockbreda church, together with the subsequent owners of the estates, the Batesons, and the church performed the function of chapel to the estate as well as serving the local parish. Arthur Hill’s mother Lady Middleton proposed the building of the new parish church in 1733 but had to face down some local opposition which wanted the church to be built at the western side of the parish, nearer to the joint parish of Dundonald, but inconveniently far from the Belvoir demesne. The church was eventually approved and built in 1737, with Lady Middleton’s financial backing, on a site overlooking the town of Belfast presented by Viscount Dungannon. The ‘eminence’ on which the church was situated gave a most picturesque aspect to the graveyard, which, added to the closure of St George’s graveyard in 1798, rendered Knockbreda a fashionable last resting place for prominent Belfast citizens. A full list of graveyard inhabitants is to be found in the second volume of Gravestone Inscriptions, published by the Ulster Historical Foundation. (Mackey) Architect Richard Cassels (also known as Castle), a native of Hesse-Cassel (now part of Germany) was appointed to design the new church, probably on the basis of his reputation as a designer of substantial country houses such as Westport House, County Mayo and Powerscourt, County Wicklow. This was one of the first churches in Ireland to be designed by a professional architect, as became more common later in the Georgian era. A prolific designer of domestic architecture in the hinterland of Dublin and elsewhere, and the most important architect of his era, Cassels is known to have designed only five churches. The attribution of two of these is uncertain and another was never built. (Walker; www.dia.ie; Dixon) Knockbreda church was much admired at the time of its construction, being described by Harris in 1744 as “a Building the neatest and most compleat perhaps of this Kind in the Kingdom”. (Harris) The church displays several unusual features including the apsidal transepts, and the chancel, now apsidal but rectangular on plan when the church was first built. Most other churches of this era in Ireland were of a simple nave and tower/bellcote design. The interior volume of the nave, a double cube, was one much favoured by Cassels and other Palladian architects for domestic interiors. It is thought that the transepts allowed for Lady Middleton and her family to set themselves apart from the rest of the congregation, as it was common for prominent families to do in the Georgian period, but that the inspiration for the design itself came from Cassell’s grounding in European baroque. (Dixon) The church is shown on the first edition OS map of 1834 captioned ‘Church’ and is listed in the Townland Valuation (1828-40) as a church and yard valued at £13.6s and £1.3s.6d for the church yard. Dimensions are given for the church, semi-circular apses and chancel. In Griffith’s Valaution the church is valued at £20 and £3 for the graveyard and this valuation did not change in the period up to 1935, save for a slight increase to £3.10s when a rood of land was added to the graveyard. Some repairs and alterations were carried out to the church in 1855 to the designs of William Turney Fullerton. These included a new pulpit and reading table and the remodelling of the chancel. (www.dia.ie) The chancel was, however, completely replaced in 1883 as part of alterations carried out by Sir Thomas Drew in his capacity as diocesan architect. Drew added an apsidal chancel with boiler room off and a west gallery. The stained glass windows of the nave are a Victorian addition and may have been added at the same time, replacing the clear glass windows of the original building. According to Brett, the tracery of the nave windows may also have been altered to match the new windows in the chancel. The mosaic pavement in the chancel was a gift from Thomas Bateson, Lord Deramore in memory of his brother Samuel. (Walker; Dixon; Clergy of Down and Dromore) In 1910 a vestry was added to the north elevation to the designs of Robert Inkerman Calwell. (Brett; www.dia.ie) References: Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/3/9/1 – First Edition OS Map 1834 2. PRONI OS/6/3/9/2 – Second Edition OS map 1858 3. PRONI OS/6/3/9/3 – Third Edition OS Map 1901-2 4. PRONI OS/6/3/9/4 – Fourth Edition OS Map 1920-21 5. PRONI OS/6/3/9/5 – Fifth Edition OS Map 1920-31 6. PRONI VAL/1/B/332 – Townland Valuation (1828-40) 7. PRONI VAL/2/B/3/29 – Griffith’s Valuation (1861) 8. PRONI VAL/12/B/20/7A-F – Annual Revisions (1864-1929) 9. PRONI VAL/12/F/4/9/3 – Annual Revisions (1930-35) Secondary Sources 1. Brett, C.E.B. “Buildings of North County Down” Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 2002 2. Harris, W. and Smith, C. “The Antient and Present State of the County of Down” Dublin: A. Reilly, 1744 (Reprinted Ballynahinch: Davidson, 1977) 3. Mackey, B; Dixon, H; McCormick, F ‘Knockbreda, Its Monuments and People’ The Follies Trust, Belfast 4. Rankin, F., Leslie, Canon, J.B., Swanzy, Dean H.B. “Clergy of Down and Dromore” Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 1996 5. Walker, S “Historic Ulster Churches” Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, 2000 6. www.dia.ie – Dictionary of Ulster architects online

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H+. Alterations enhancing the building H-. Alterations detracting from building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

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


Free-standing double-height hall and tower type rendered Church of Ireland church, built c.1737, to the designs of Richard Cassels on an elevated site to the north of Newtownbreda Road . A fine example of an early Georgian parish church employing many of the neo-classical architectural devices in fashion at the time. Retaining a wealth of original external and internal fabric, the church was sensitively embellished by Sir Thomas Drew in the late nineteenth-century adding further interest to the building. Set on an elevated site, now encroached a little by a large commercial development, it also has group value with thre impressive mausolea (HB25/16/005B, HB25/16/005C, HB25/16/005D) and its intererst is enhanced by its entrance gate screen, steps and walling.

General Comments

Listing criteria R - Age; S - Authenticity and U - Historic Associations also apply to this building.

Date of Survey

Wednesday, March 30, 2011