Wednesday, 17 March 2021



KILCLIEF, a parish, containing a village of the same name, on the east border of the barony of Lecale, County Down.

The surface lies along the west side of the entrance, or lower part of the channel, of Strangford Lough; and almost everywhere consists of good arable land.

The village stands on the shore, 1½ miles north-west of Killard Point, and two miles south of Strangford.

Adjoining the village stands Kilclief Castle, an Anglo-Irish military keep of the early part of the 14th century, in a state of fine preservation, and of a considerable size and height.

Its general form is nearly a square, with the addition of two quadrangular wings in front, in the one of which is a staircase, and in the other a stack of closets: the first floor is vaulted, and the second has a stone chimneypiece, on which is carved the figure of a bird resembling a hawk.

This castle, and a fine circumjacent demesne of some of the richest land in the barony, were an ancient see house and manor of the Bishops of Down.

Kilclief Castle (Image: Robert John Welch)

John Sely, the last Bishop of Down, previous to the annexation of that see to Connor, lived here in open and infamous sin with a married woman, and seems to have plotted here various "treasons, transgressions, and other crimes," for which he was indicted, outlawed, and pardoned; but he was eventually, though not without difficulty, un-mitred and un-frocked.

The original church of Kilclief is alleged by monastic dreamers to have been the chapel of an abbey of regular canons, founded by St Patrick, and presided over by two of his disciples, who were brothers, and named Eugenius and Neill.

Old writers say also that, in a subsequent age, a hospital was founded here for lepers.

This parish was formerly a perpetual curacy, and part of the corps of the Archdeaconry of Down, but, since 1834, has been a rectory, and a separate benefice, in the diocese of Down.

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