Saturday, 19 September 2020

Kirkistown Castle

KIRKISTOWN CASTLE, near Cloughy, County Down, was built in 1622 by Roland Savage, of Ballygalget, County Down.

It remained in the Savage family until the 1660s, when it was sold by James Savage to Captain James McGill, Ballyministragh, near Killinchy, County Down.

James McGill, son of the Rev David McGill, married Jean Bailie of Inishargy.

They lived at Kirkistown Castle and Ballynester, Greyabbey.

James McGill "improved the place very much", and also erected a nearby windmill, the stump of which still survives.

He died in 1683.

Captain Hugh McGill was recorded as an overseer of Henry Savage’s will, dated 1655.

Hugh McGill’s daughter, Lucy McGill, was born in 1685 at Castle Balfour, Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh.

She married William Savage, of Audleystown and Kirkistown, who died in 1733.

In 1683 William Montgomery, as well as commending McGill for his investment in the area, described the castle as being in good repair and remarked that its "late erected garden walls are washed with a pleasant fresh lough near the sea" (alluding to land on the eastern elevation of the castle now drained).

In 1744 Walter Harris described the castle as "surrounded by a high wall and strongly built."

He also remarked that "contained within the circuit of it" was "a good dwelling house" in which the then owner, Lucy McGill (Captain McGill's granddaughter) was living.

In the early 1800s Kirkistown Castle was the residence Lucy McGill’s granddaughter, Mary, who married William Montgomery, of Greyabbey.

During this period the building was in poor condition, and William Montgomery commenced the refurbishment of the property, enlarging windows, renovating the interior and, possibly, constructing buttresses and the barn.

When Mr Montgomery died, nevertheless, the work was uncompleted, his son and heir was a minor, and work ceased.

In 1837 it was noted that the structure had a "half-finished roof and broken window", and was reverting to its "former state of ruin."

Mr Montgomery’s widow, Mary, granted use of the castle in 1840 to the Cloughey Presbyterian congregation, in order to hold services whilst the church was under construction.

It is unclear what happened the castle after the congregation had left for their new church, but Alexander Knox, writing in 1875, remarked that the castle was in the possession of Hugh Montgomery, and had been restored and returned to its former use as a dwelling house.

Kirkistown Castle continued to be used as a accommodation by the Montgomerys until the beginning of the 20th century.

The castle was subsequently sold to the Brown family, who in turn passed it on to the state.

The castle is now a state care monument and has never been a listed property.

First published in September, 2018.


DJB said...

Thanks so much for this wonderfully clear description of the history of the Castle. It proves a connection with Garrett Byrne of Ballymanus in Co. Wicklow who in "June 1713 leased a Ballymorris property from a Robert Johnson of Kirktown (sp), County Down", husband of Lucy Magill (sp), eldest daughter and devisee of Captain Hugh Magill". This is a more or less verbatim quote from an essay called "The Byrnes of Ballymanus" by N. O'Byrne and available on the internet.

I am interested in connections between Co. Down and the Byrnes of Leinster.

Thanks again.


Anonymous said...

I was born overlooking the castle. I used to play in the castle when I was growing up, catching pigeons etc. I once stood on top of the chimney when I was around 12 years old. Used to find old musket balls in the castle plantation. There was once a tunnel leading from the old windmill stump in Kirkistown Golf Links to the castle. I remember seeing its entrance when I was young