Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Manor of Florida: III

Kilmood Parish Church (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

ST MARY'S parish church, Kilmood, County Down, was historically the estate church of FLORIDA MANOR.

Samuel Lewis (c1782-1865), in his topographical dictionary, remarked that "in 1819 the present church, an elegant structure, in the later English style, with a handsome tower and spire rising to the height of 120 feet, was erected near the site of the ancient ruins."

Stanley pointed out the armorial plaques on the south and west faces of the tower, representing the Marquesses of Downshire and the family of Gordon, who shared the alternate patronage of the vicarage.

No less than three marquesses had a connection with Kilmood, namely Downshire, Dufferin, and Londonderry.

St Mary's wouldn't look out of place in Suffolk, Surrey, or Kent, with its tall slim pinnacles, battlements, clock, and family arms. Really quite charming.

The original medieval church, after the dissolution of Comber monastery, fell into decay, and the tithes were annexed to those of the parish of Hillsborough, 14 miles away.

The present Georgian church was built at the joint expense of the GORDON family, lords of the manor of Florida, and the Marquess of Londonderry, aided by a gift of £900 [about £100,000 in 2020] from the Board of First Fruits.

The cost was £2,215, equivalent to about £250,000 in 2020.

The interior is fitted up with Riga oak; the east window, of stained-glass, and of large dimensions and very beautiful, appears to have been copied from that of Salisbury Cathedral.

In the centre of the nave is a large, twenty-light, brass chandelier, reputedly of Dutch origin.

There was a private gallery used by the Gordons and their staff, which was at the back of the nave; it had to removed in 1950, however, due to rotten, wooden joists in the west wall.

The Gordons sat at one side of the gallery, and the staff at the other; the former section having a heating-stove.

I'm seeking photographs of the Gordon gallery in the church.

Stanley took me upstairs and pointed out the former entrance to this gallery, through a door from the first landing, on the circular staircase in the tower.

The door has a brass plaque, inscribed PRIVATE.

St Mary's is renowned for its bell-ringing: Stanley informed me that they currently have a team of seventeen bell-ringers - there are six bells.

Memorial to David Gordon (1759-1837) & Mary Gordon
(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

There are several Gordon memorials in the nave, adorned with the family coat-of-arms and motto, Animo Non Astutia.

Memorial to Robert Gordon (1791-1864) (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

In the church-yard is a mausoleum in the crypt belonging to the Gordon family.

Stanley told me that he counted seven coffins, with plaques, belonging to the Gordons.

Kilmood had a royal visitor in 2019: His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent.

HRH The Duke of Kent visits St Mary's (Image: Diocese of Down & Dromore)

HRH visited St Mary's for a service to mark the unveiling and dedication of the church's newly-installed Walker pipe organ, and also the new Peace Bells, which were unveiled in 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice.

Kilmood parish church will celebrate its bicentenary in 2022.

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