We have published the history of both Newtownards and Comber churches in the pages below.
ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH, Newtownards
When Rev. Patrick McConvey became Parish Priest of Newtownards in 1864, he found that the number of Catholics had increased to such an extent that the existing Parish Church in Ann Street was no longer large enough to accommodate all the parishioners. Elizabeth, the Dowager 4th Marchioness of Londonderry, who had converted to Catholicism, approached Fr. McConvey with a proposal to endow the Parish with a new church. Her offer was accepted with enthusiasm and on 31st December 1874, land in Upper North Street was transferred to the Parish from the Londonderry estates.
With the full support of Fr. McConvey and the parishioners, the Dowager Marchioness approached the architects Hansom & Sons of London to design the new Parish Church. The founder of the firm, Joseph Aloysius Hansom, was born in York in 1803. He designed many buildings in England including Birmingham City Hall. He also designed the Hansom Cab, the well known Victorian horse drawn taxi. In 1840 he settled in Preston and began to concentrate on designing churches. In time he became the dedicated Roman Catholic architect of the period with many Gothic revival churches in England and Ireland bearing his stamp. From 1869 until his retirement in 1880, he worked with his son Joseph Stanislaus Hansom and Herbert Gribble and it was this partnership which designed St. Patrick’s.
Work began on the site on 25th May 1875. The builder was Robert Corry of Donegal Place, Belfast. In 1820 he had reached agreement with Lord Londonderry to extract stone from the quarries at Scrabo. It was this material, Scrabo sand stone, which was used in the construction of the church. On Tuesday 3rd August 1875, the foundation stone was laid by the Most Rev. Dr. Dorrian, Bishop of Down and Connor in the presence of a large assemblage composed of persons of various denominations.
Lady Londonderry was unable to attend but the Bishop referred to her generosity in paying for the building of the church. Work progressed rapidly and by June 1876 the main body of the building had been constructed and work began on the internal furnishings. The interior of the church was completed in October 1877 but as reported in “The Building News” of 12th October “the outside ground, wall and railings had not been put in order yet”. Nevertheless, on St. Raphael’s Day, 24th October 1877, the church was solemnly dedicated to the service of God by the Most Rev. Dr. Dorrian in a ceremony attended by many including Lady Elizabeth, the Dowager Marchioness of Londonderry.
In plan the church consisted of a circular Apse and Sanctuary with a small side or Lady Altar to the north. There were also north and south transepts with a Nave and side aisles divided into four bays of substantial and elaborate quatrefoil columns of dressed Dundonald sandstone.
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