Moravian Church

The following extract is from "Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland – Parishes of County Antrim VII 1832 – 1838". Thanks to The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen’s University of Belfast for permission to use this extract.

Moravian Chapel

The Moravian Chapel of Ballinderry is situated on a very handsome site adjoining the village of Lower Ballinderry, with a burial ground attached in the rear. The chapel is a very neat oblong edifice, 1- storey high and slated, and situated nearly north and south. Over the south end stands a neat cupola, a bell and vane, and attached to the north end a very handsome 2-storey and slated house for the minister’s dwelling, with other necessary accommodations. The interior of the chapel is spacious and well lit by 3 large arch windows on the west side, entrance by a large arched door on the south gable in front of the adjoining road. It measures 38 and a half by 23 and a half feet inside, walls of stone and lime and 2 feet in thickness.

The pulpit, a modern and neat structure, stands to the north gable elevated some set above the floor, and suspended from the ceiling a handsome brass chandelier, and a communication from the chapel to the minister’s dwelling by a door on the north gable. The floor is of lime and sand. Forms are the only seats as yet erected; total seats in this chapel 33 and each averaging 9 feet 2 inches in length, and will accommodate 6 persons each seat, total 198 persons accommodated with seats in the chapel, allowing 1 and a half feet to each sitting. It is not yet completed inside, but when finished will be a very neat edifice externally and internally.

The garden and grounds in front of the chapel is tastefully laid off in garden-like manner, ornamented with shrubberies and stocked with fruit trees, enclosed by neat quickset and laurel fences and partially sheltered by lofty forest trees. Entrance from the adjoining road by 2 iron gates, one opening to the chapel and the other to the minister’s dwelling. The buildings and place is altogether in neat order and form an ornament to the village in which it is situated.

Divine service in the chapel at 11 o’clock morning and at 6 o’clock evening on Sundays; Reverend John Chambers, minister.

Burial Ground

The burial ground in the rear of the above chapel is enclosed by a quickset fence. The following are amongst the Christian names and surnames on the tombstones in it; Anthony, George, Henry, James, Robert, Vernon, Thomas, William, Anna, Ann, Elizabeth, Eve, Mary, Easter, Margaret, Jean, Sarah.

Surnames: Boyes, Barns, Campbell, Ferriss, Bell, Bates, Fearis, Laughlin, McNees, Hopes, Johnston, Thompson, Maise, Tipping, Spence, Mays, Neilson, Symns, Weathered The oldest stone is not earlier than 1767. The greatest age on any stone is 96 years. Several of the stones are defaced and cannot be read, and many families bury in it who have no stones.

The tombstones in the Moravian burial ground are all short and nearly square, and situated on the top of earthern graves near the head, and unsupported by any other stones, save that the head is a little elevated and looking to the east.

Foundation of Moravian Chapel

The Moravian settlement at Lower Ballinderry was founded by the late Reverend John Cenick about 85 years ago. The chapel grounds, about 2 English acres, was then purchased for an unexpired term of years from a farmer, the late Ben Haddick. The grant was subsequently renewed by the Marquis of Hertford at 1 pound 10s annual rent. The original chapel, built here at the above period, was thatched and constructed at the expense of the English and other foreign Moravian congregations.

However, in 1821, it was rebuilt and slated, furnished with a valuable organ, and various improvements made on and about the place, at an expense of about 700 pounds, to which the Marquis of Hertford subscribed 20 pounds. The Very Reverend Dean Stannus, Captain Watson of Brookhill, Major Houghton of Springfield and many other clergymen and gentlemen of the surrounding neighbourhood gave liberal subscriptions, as did also persons of all religious denominations subscribe according to their means. Their own brethren of other congregations also subscribed. A late Mrs. Bates, of Gracehill, an English lady, also subscribed to the erection and completing of the chapel and other appendages the liberal sum of 325 pounds. However, it is said to have been a very handsome edifice and to be much admired by all for its style and cleanliness.

There was an academy for the education of young ladies attached to it and conducted on the same principle as those at Gracehill or Gracefield. But in 1835, on Easter Sunday morning, the chapel with all its furniture was consumed by accidental fire. The present chapel was subsequently erected and opened for divine service on the 16th June 1836. Cost of erection can only be obtained by applying at Gracehill, the senior Moravian settlement in this county.

Moravian Congregation and Minister

The Moravian settlement at Lower Ballinderry is rather on the decline in latter years. The congregation at present does not exceed 40 members. The average attendance at divine service is from 30 to 40 persons, including strangers.

The Reverend John Chambers is the present minister and receives average annual income from various sources about 40 pounds; a house and the benefit of 2 good gardens in addition, the ground rent of which is paid by the congregation. Collections are made in the chapel, the proceeds of which go to the poor. Information obtained from the Revd John Chambers, James Johnston and others, 13th March 1838.

Along the way between Lurgan and the town of Antrim

The following is an extract from "Original Poems, sacred, moral elegiac" by William Anderson, English Teacher, 2nd volume MDCCCXLI (1841). Thanks to the staff at The Linenhall Library, Belfast for their assistance in relation to sourcing this book.

On the author travelling along the way between Lurgan and the town of Antrim

From Lurgan town I chanced to go
A journey unto Antrim town:-
Believe me, what I say is so, –
No finer country’s to be found.

For, as I passed along that way,
I had a fine prospective view
Of hill and dale; I now do say,
The country was to me quite new.

I only was a stranger there,
When I along that way did pass,
In summer time, could not forbear
To notice what fine corn and grass

Within the fields of that fine land –
As fine a crop as ever grew,
With plantings fine on every hand,
Appeared quite pleasing to my view.

The pasture- fields were mantled o’er
With grass so green and daisies bright;
Those rural scenes were more and more
Attractive still unto the sight.

But what I now have more to say,
In passing on along that line,
It sometimes caused me to delay,
To view the handsome dwellings fine.

Of farmers’ houses, neat and clean,
Respectable, and very grand,
‘Tis quite a pleasing lovely scene,-
Serve to embellish that fine land.

A land so fertile, and so good,
To equal it ‘tis very rare;
For wheat and oats, ‘tis understood,
That none with it is to compare.

Besides all that, no other place
In Irish ground, that you would see,
Could yet compare – it is the case –
With orchards fine, abundantly.

The fruit it is so good and fine,
Of various kinds that are so nice,
Those at a distance do incline
To buy those fruits at a good price.

And with them, they do cross the sea,
To other parts, as I am told;
They, for their pains, rewarded be,
When their fine fruit they have it sold.

Those fruits I need not mention here,
Nor to describes the various kind,
But what is common, say not dear,
As in that place you there will find.

Oh, what a fine and pleasant view,
To Westward, as I passed along!
To me, indeed, it was quite new –
I to that place did not belong.

Lough Neagh it to the left does lie,
Lough Beg another lake bear to, –
It is but small, it is close by
The larger lake which I did view.

In miles extend ‘bout twenty-four;
Its breadth is twelve, they tell to me;
From Western to the Eastern shore,
Lough Neagh would mind you of the sea.

In it there is an island grand,-
It is renowned for its fame;
Great numbers there they oft do land-
Ram’s Island it is called by name.

‘Tis two miles distant from the shore,
Unto that island of which I speak;
Some go to it health to restore,
And some for pleasure they do seek.

In it there is a building fine,
To ‘commodate those that so call;
Fine walks and flowers do combine
To please the minds of great and small.

The Derry mountains I did spy
Along, as I did pass that way;
Slievegullen, with its summit high,
I saw it plain most of the way.

Some handsome villages I passed through –
Namely, that place called Aughalee;
As I did on my way pursue,
It was quite pleasant unto me.

The next place, then, of any note,
Was Ballinderry – there I came;
‘Tis a fine place, tis’ not remote,-
I found it was of ancient fame.

Fine handsome buildings I saw there,
Fine shops and stores I there did spy;
The people to them do repair,
For every article they do buy.

The finest orchard in that place,
Is close by it, that building rare;
The distance but a little space
From off the building I saw there.

A fine Moravian Chapel there,
And Preacher’s house so neat and grand;
The people thither do repair,
Their duty then to understand.

And hear the Word of God explained –
The Scriptures good that they might know
Religion they have n’er disdained,
Lest it should prove their overthrow.

For we should still to it adhere, –
Be always ready at the call;
Then there is nothing we should fear,
But in peace and love with all.

A School-house, also, in that place,
For male and female children there,
To teach them good, and give them grace,
For which the youth they all repair.

Into Glenavy then did come –
An ancient village on my way;
The buildings few, yet there are some,
But almost are gone to decay.

The church is handsome, steeple grand;
It is adorned with clock and bell –
Low in a valley it does stand –
The hours that pass does truly tell.

Then straight to Crumlin I did go –
A village handsome to the view;
‘Tis most delightful, it is so,
When I my thoughts on it renew.

Some buildings there are fine and neat,
But most of them they are but low;
But, at the same time, are complete,-
In them there’s comfort, I do know.

Two Meeting-houses are in that town,
For Presbyterians, so direct;
They’re neatly built, and of renown:
Their Clergy they do much respect.

Beside, a School-house there, most grand-
It is for those of every sect;
Unto the village nigh at hand.
Instruction there is given direct.

There is a fine dispensary
Established in that small town,
Where medicine is got quite free,-
A doctor there to serve it round.

He is a gentleman of skill,
In which, indeed, it is well known;
His patients they do love him still,
Which every one of them do own.

Hard by that village, there does stand
Glenoak, a famous ancient seat;
It does adorn that fertile land –
That building fine, and very neat.

There are other buildings near the place;
But it would trespass on the time:
I find that it would be the case –
I’ll not be guilty of that crime.

Thus to describe them, one and all,
No farther here I will pursue;
Perhaps, again, that I may call,
And write you something that is new.

I straight set off for Antrim town;
The country, as I went along,
Was a fine rich and fertile ground,-
The people there were very throng –

At their employment, what it may:
Their labour was of different kind;
As in this world, where we do stray,
There’s divers work, of divers kind.

I now in Antrim did arrive,
A town both ancient and of fame;
In trade the people there do thrive;-
Industry good will do the same.

An ancient castle in that place –
A noble Lord does in it dwell;
He’s of a noble ancient race,
As many here do know full well.

So, I am at my journey’s end,
No farther here I mean to go;
My mind can hardly comprehend
These true remarks, I find it so.

I now did say my journey’s end,
Which, with man’s life, we may compare,-
We often here have to contend
With sorrow, trouble, anguish, care, –

Until, at once, we’re called away,
And taken out of this world’s din,
No longer in it then to stay –
No longer live in guilt and sin.

220th Anniversary of Ballinderry Church

The following is an extract from the Ulster Star dated 23 05 1975 and appears with permission of the Ulster Star.

Ballinderry church is 220 years old.

Lower Ballinderry Moravian Church has just celebrated its 220th anniversary. And on a recent Sunday they were joined by members of all the other Moravian congregations throughout Northern Ireland to celebrate the occasion.

Cock Fights

In an attractive anniversary booklet, the Rev. J.H. Cooper, the minister of the congregation tells how some Ballinderry people on a visit to Dublin heard the great Moravian Evangelist, John Cennick, preach. They were so impressed that they invited Cennick to come to Ballinderry to preach there. he accepted their invitation and on October 18, 1750, he arrived in Ballinderry and preached in the house of Mr. John Russell. He was well received and soon the house was too small to hold all who wanted to hear him. So in May 1751 a piece of wasteland which had previously been used for staging cock-fights, was leased from Mr. Benjamin Haddock and the work of building a church was begun, a task in which John Cennick assisted. The new church was opened on Christmas Day 1751 and the account of the opening contained in the congregational records says: "Before five o’clock the church was lighted up with candles; we sang different hymns with joy, filled with thankfulness to our Incarnate God. Br. Cennick preached and many persons from different denominations were melted into tears."

But it was not until March 28, 1755, that the three Moravian Societies (Groups of Moravians not yet formed into congregations) at Glenavy, Kilwarlin and Ballinderry were formed into one congregation with its centre at Ballinderry. it was this founding, or "Settling" of the Congregation, as it was called, in 1755 which was celebrated on Sunday.


There are many fascinating incidents recorded in Mr. Cooper’s brief history of the congregation. One of these tells how a group of Moravian women who lived a communal life in Ballinderry and employed their talents in lace making and embroidery for the benefit of the congregation funds, found it necessary to move from Ballinderry to the neighbouring Moravian centre at Gracefield, near Castledawson. To save the expense of a long journey they decided to travel by boat across Lough Neagh, a distance of only 10 miles. But the trip ended in disaster, for half way across the Lough the boat sprung a leak and it was only by throwing overboard their heavier luggage and by constant bailing that they managed to keep the boat afloat and reach the nearest shore in safety.


On Easter Sunday 1835 the church and adjoining minister’s house were completely destroyed by fire, but by June the following year all had been rebuilt. Mr. Cooper quotes some extracts from the congregation diaries which throw an interesting light on contemporary 19th century life:

Christmas 1848: "Ten barrels of Indian meal received from the Central Relief Committee in Dublin for the poor fishermen and their families about Sandy Bay. Relief was afforded to 26 families and 137 individuals."

23rd September, 1849: "Began to use the form of prayer prepared by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the removal of the Cholera. Through the great mercy of God there have not been any cases of this terrible disease in our neighbourhood since April. About that time five died of it in Upper Ballinderry, and three in Lower." (Ballinderry)

17th March, 1880: "Soiree held in church, brother Reichel and Brother Kershaw attended. Br. R. took the chair, and Br. K. gave a hearty speech. The attendance was pretty good but most of those present were farm servants and young people. They consumed provisions enough to have served double the number, and threw pieces of cake about the church. The result on the whole was not encouraging and the pecuniary profit was almost nil."


The last resident minister at Ballinderry was the Rev. J. Stinton and in 1921 following the close of his ministry the Ballinderry and Kilwarlin congregations were amalgamated with the minister resident in Kilwarlin. The Ballinderry congregation is at present amalgamated with the Cliftonville Moravian Congregation in Belfast, of which Mr. Cooper is also the minister.

The special preacher at the anniversary service was the Rev. Dr. A.J. Lewis, minister of the Moravian congregation at Gracehill near Ballymena. He tool as the theme for his sermon "The Joy of the Lord," and the whole anniversary was indeed a joyful occasion.
A quarter of an hour before the Service was due to begin every seat in the church was occupied and chairs and benches had to be placed in the aisle to accommodate the “overflow.” Mr. Cooper conducted the service, and the Scripture Lessons were read by Miss C McGinley (University Road Moravian Church, Belfast) and Mr. N. Scarlett (Cliftonville Moravian Church, Belfast.)

Among those who took part in the prayers were the Rev. H.R. Williamson of the University Road Moravian Church, Belfast, and Mr. Thespal Kundan, a Tibetan Moravian from Rajpur in North India where the Moravian Church runs a school and hostel for Tibetan refugee children. Mr. Kundan in studying for a degree at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and is spending his Easter vacation visiting Moravian congregations in Ireland. The children and young people of the congregation sang a special anniversary hymn written for the occasion by Dr. Lewis.

Mrs. E. Hamill and Mr. D. Cooper acted as organists, and following the service, which was attended by Moravians from all the congregations of the Moravian Church in Northern Ireland, the ladies of the Ballinderry congregation served tea in the Lower Ballinderry Orange Hall, kindly lent for the occasion.

As well as being the anniversary the service on Sunday also marked the congregation’s annual gift day, and the financial result was most encouraging. The collection at the anniversary service amounted to £51.80, and members gift day envelopes brought in £174.50. The children and young people held their own special effort – a competition to see who would collect the most halfpennies. Clare Addis was the winner with a collection of 1367 and she was presented with a prize during the service.

Altogether the children and young people raised £18.36. Prior to the anniversary itself a coffee party and bring and buy sale held in the home of Mrs. E. Hamill raised £210.59, so that the total proceeds for the anniversary fund amounted to £455.25.

"Buildings of County Antrim"

The following can be found in the book "Buildings of County Antrim by C.E.B. Brett published in 1996." page 38, no 32. Includes a photograph by M. O’Connell.

Moravian Church and Manse, Lower Ballinderry. Situated off Portmore Road, Lower Ballinderry. Town land – Ballinderry.

The case of the Lisburn Leper

Lisburn Workhouse Memorial

The memorial at the rear of the Lagan Valley Hospital dedicated to the children buried there. It was once the site of Lisburn Workhouse.
"May the winds of love blow gently
On a cold and lonely spot
Where the children we loved lie sleeping
And will never be forgot.

In remembrance of the children buried here from the Old Workhouse in the grounds of the Lagan Valley Hospital."

One of the more sobering sights to be found amongst the headstones and vaults in our local places of rest is the mound in the north-eastern corner of Friar’s Bush graveyard in the Stranmillis area of Belfast. This mound is known locally as "Plaguey Hill" or "Famine Hill" in official graveyard records. This grassy hillock contains the remains of hundreds, if not thousands, of poor souls who succumbed to the diseases of cholera and typhoid that were prevalent in the early to mid-19th century.

In the 18th century the Moravian minister at Ballinderry, by the shores of Lough Neagh, had recorded deaths of infants and children in the area who had "departed in the smallpox," a common cause of death amongst the young during that time. The minister also records in 1849 that prayers were said for "the removal of the cholera" and adds that "through the great Mercy of God there have not been any cases of the terrible disease in our neighbourhood since April." Previously there had been five deaths in Upper Ballinderry and three in Lower Ballinderry.

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