Sunday, 11 April 2021

Dromore Palace

THE foundation of this diocese is ascribed to St Colman in the 6th century.

St Colman founded an abbey here for Canons Regular, which afterwards became the head of a see, of which he was made the first bishop.

The abbey had acquired extensive possessions early in the 10th century, and was frequently plundered by the Danes; it also suffered materially from the continued feuds of the powerful septs of the O'Neills, Magennises, and the Macartans.

In the 14th century, Sir John Holt and Sir Robert Belknap, being convicted of treason against RICHARD II, were condemned to death, but on the intercession of the clergy, were banished for life to Dromore, County Down.

At the reformation the cathedral was in ruins, and the town had greatly participated in the devastations of the preceding periods; in this situation it remained till 1610, when JAMES I re-founded the see by letters patent, rebuilt the cathedral, and gave to the bishop extensive landed possessions in this and several adjoining parishes.

An episcopal palace was commenced by Bishop Buckworth, but previously to its completion the war of 1641 broke out, and the cathedral, the unfinished palace, and the town were entirely destroyed by the parliamentarian forces.

From this point the town remained in ruins till the Restoration, when CHARLES II gave the see in commendam to the celebrated Jeremy Taylor, with Down and Connor, by whom the present church, which is also parochial, was built on the site of the ruined cathedral. 

THE SEE of Dromore is extremely compact, and the smallest in extent of any in the island of Ireland, which is not annexed to another see.

It extends only 35 miles from north to south; and 21 from east to west; yet it includes some part of three counties, namely Down, Armagh, and Antrim.

The lordship of Newry claimed the same exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, to which it was entitled when it appertained to a monastery before the Reformation.

The proprietor of the lordship, the EARL OF KILMOREY, exercised the jurisdiction in his peculiar court, granting marriage licences, probates to wills etc under the old monastic seal.

THE PALACE, Dromore, County Down, afterwards called Dromore House or Bishopscourt, was a three-storey, Georgian house built in 1781 by the Rt Rev and Hon William Beresford, Lord Bishop of Dromore, 1780-82.

The palace was enhanced by Bishop Beresford's successor, the Rt Rev Thomas Percy (1729-1811), who laid out plantations, gardens and a glen, adorned with obelisks.

The palace was frequented by a circle of poets and painters during Bishop Percy's time, including Thomas Robinson, a pupil of the portrait painter George Romney.

The last prelate to reside at the palace was the Rt Rev James Saurin, Lord Bishop of Dromore, 1819-42.

It was sold in 1842, when the See of Dromore was merged with Down and Connor.

Dromore House was in use for some years in the late 1800s as a Jesuit school, when it was known as Loyola House.

Thereafter the old episcopal palace remained "untenanted and desolate."

After 1945 the trees and woods were all cut down and the house was left to decay.

First published in January, 2013.


walkers said...

I teach in a school near the site of the old palace, and can confirm that it was demolished in the 1970s. There is a photograph of the palace in its derelict state in the UAHS list for Mid Down. By the way, I visit this blog every day - super!

walkers said...

There is a modern house either on - or near - the site and it is called "Bishopscourt".

Newry Liam said...

The Jesuits bought the palace using it as a school and seminary. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was based there for a while. The Jesuits planted a large cross of trees in the grounds unfortunately this has been cut down in living memory

Demetrius said...

Dr.Jeremy Taylor in the 17th Century? I wonder what he might have made of the Society of Jesus being on site?