St. John’s Ballymaghery

The newer church built 1850; St. John the Evangelist- near Hilltown on the Kilcoo/Castlewellan Road in Ballymaghery townland

Ballymaghery means ‘ townland of the plain’. This church was built near the site of the ancient pre- Penal times Catholic Parish church. The gable of this ancient church still remains and there is an old graveyard surrounding it. These ruins form part of the district crest.
The ancient church (see above) was destroyed by the raiders of General Munroe who plundered Newry in 1642 but burials continued on the site. Nearby the the largest fairy thorn bush in Ulster. According to a local legend called ‘Old Bull and Bush’, it grew from a stick planted by a priest who had used it to drive off a bull , which had knocked over the church wall several times during construction.

The present church site was given free by Mr. Robert Narcissus Batt of Purdysburn (landlord). Designed by architect Thomas Duff in 1842, building was commenced in 1844 but suspended during the Famine Years. It was completed in 1850 by Very Rev. John McVeigh, parish priest. It didn’t replace the other chapel but they needed more ground for burials. The Dedication was performed by Most Rev. Dr. Blake on 6 Oct 1850. The sermon was preached by Father Ignatius Spencer, the noted English convert. The Very Rev. Archdeacon Kearns D.D. P.P. added the handsome tower and campanille in 1900 at a cost of £1600. Extensively renovated in 1998.

For a list of parish priests see above, under the old chapel

Newspaper article in Down Recorder:
new chapel built near Hilltown 12 Oct 1850
Graveyard attached; graves from 1844; UHF has baptisms & marriages 1850-1900