Earliest Photo of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower Church

I recently came across this very old photo of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower church (the one just outside the village of Innisrush).  Among the many photos of this beautiful country church, this appears to be the oldest.   It took a few hours to clean the image up in photoshop. 

Earliest Photo of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower Church

tamlaght church
Innisrush church – early 1900s photo of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower.

It is fascinating to see the old gravestone of the Reverend Mark Bloxham, who had died in 1849, still standing (albeit at an angle).  In modern times, the broken headstone lies flat on the grass.  The church grounds are clearly overgrown.

tyanee chapel greenlough

The original church (called Tyanee Chapel of Ease) was built in 1775.  In April 1838, quotations were invited from builders to repair the church (see the Dublin Evening Post advertisement above). 

The internal parts of the church were refurbished in 1887.  But by the early 1900s, the Innisrush church was in need of some work.

Trying to date the image is not easy.  The plaster on the walls is in bad shape.  But the two major clues are the small glimpse on the right of the main building of the vestry addon, and the stove chimney on the top of the middle of the church roof.

Okay, this is perhaps a good opportunity to look at the renovations of this era. 

In 1894-95, the beautiful muranese plate glass windows were added to the church.  The following people each provided a window: Miss A. Young of Farm Lodge in Ballymena provided the window on the east end;  Mr. A. H. Hume for a window for the side of the church; Mrs Robert Magee of Hill View House, Woodvale Road, for a similar window;  and Misses Helen, Edith, and Carrie Courtenay for a similar window.  George Whiteside of Ballynahinch provided a glacier window for the porch.  The Courtenay sisters also provided funds to purchase a harmonium.  Mr. W. G. Courtenay, the J.P. in Innisrush, funded the purchase of a church door.  Mrs Frackelton, of Glenone Rectory, purchased an altar cover.   Mr H. G. Patterson, Brandrum House in Monaghan, bought Communion linen; R. Alexander, of Killowen and Portglenone House gave a donation; Mr R. H. H. baird (a JP) and Mr William Baird funded prayer books and the church bible (bound in the ‘best morocco’).

Construction of the vestry, an addon to the main church building, was officially proposed at the annual church vestry meeting in April 1898.  By the time of the vestry meeting, a year later in April 1898, the work had been completed.   Thus, we can deduce that the photograph was taken after 1898.

Mrs Frackelton, wife of the church’s preacher, was thanked at the April 1902 vestry meeting for buying a new stove, and related pipes, to help heat the church.  William George Courtenay, owner of the local flax mill, and justice of the peace for the area, provided advice on the purchase.   Apparently his advice helped the preacher’s wife save money when buying the stove.  The stove pipe, in the photograph above, looks relatively new.  Thus the photo was taken after 1902.

In February 1918, Mrs Frackelton funded, as a tribute to her late husband’s 30 years as church rector, a beautiful stained glass window at the front of the church.  This window is visible in the photograph.

In October 1922, the Reverend William George Seymour Connor was installed as preacher in Innisrush.   The most pressing issue facing the new man was the very poor state of the church roof.  After fixing the roof, the Reverend Conner then presided over, what the Ballymena Observer in September 1925 called “remedying it’s dilapidated condition”.  As part of the renovations, a new church bell was added. 

The improvements and repairs, which were overseen by the diocesan architect, Mr. Jury (of the firm of Messrs. Blackwood & Jury, Belfast), were carried out by Mr. Thomas Spiers, builder, Portglenone.  The wonderful workmanship gathered widespread congratulations from among the locals.  The total cost of the renovations “far exceeds the sum of 1,000 pounds”.   The Reverend Conner, with much assistance from his wife, raised the funds.  The congregration enthusiastically helped gather the money, and there were significant contributions from other local churches.

The church was closed for almost seven months, from early 1925.  It was reopened on Sunday 30th August 1925.  The church was overflowing with parishioners that Sunday.

Special seats had to be placed in the aisle of the church to accomodate the worshippers. The rector, Mr. Conner, read the first and second lessons, which were taken from the 6th chapter of the Book of Micah, and the 4th chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, and at their conclusion, Mr. Conner, advancing together with Mr. John Smyth, rector’s churchwarden, and Mr. Kennedy Mulholland, people’s churchwarden, said: “We, the clergyman and churchwardens of this parish, request your lordship to dedicate the following gifts to the glory of God — the church roof, the bell and renovated tower, the organ and music stool, the oak chair, chancel carpets, and aisle linoleum.”  Following the dedication, the Bishop, from the pulpit, gave a short address, taking for his text the 17th verse of the 2nd chapter St. John’s Gospel: “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”

OK. Head on the block time. :3)  I am going to guess that this photograph was taken during 1925, after the new roof had been installed, but before the rest of the renovations that year had been completed.  Cameras were uncommon at the time among the general population. Perhaps the photo was taken by the Belfast architect.

Feedback welcomed.



"I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

4 thoughts on “Earliest Photo of Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower Church

  1. My great grandparents marker appears in front of the tree/bush shown.
    The earliest of them passed away in 1904 – so assuming the picture dates after that time.
    The bush is no longer there.

    1. Hi Andrew. That means your great grandparents and my grandparents (and great grandparents), are laying very near each other! We have two or three graves in that vicinity.

      Indeed the Reverend Mark Bloxham is buried only a few yards from there.


      Good spot regarding the tree and timeline.

  2. My husband’s 2xg grandparents William Clark and Agnes Britton(Britten, Brattan etc etc spell it any way you choose!) were married in Tamlaght in 1845 so I’m guessing this is probably their church. They were from Drumoolish but by 1847 they were in Ayrshire, Scotland where the family remain to this day. I’m hoping the Clark who shot the bridegroom in your other piece was not a relative!

  3. Hello Elizabeth. Yes, let’s hope the accidental bridegroom killer was a different branch of Clark! 🙂

    Interesting to hear of your 2xg grandparents. If they were married in Tamlaght O’Crilly church – then it may have been Tamlaght O’Crilly Upper (the church is in Tamlaght village) or (this one above) Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower (which is some three miles away, near Innisrush village).

    During my lifetime, the two churches employed the one minister. In the past couple of years, the two churches have joined up with Kilrea Church of ireland, and share the one preacher.

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