Templecorran Church, Antrim, Ireland

Templecorran Church and graveyard is situated on the edge of the village of Ballycarry in county Antrim. It was the site of an early Christian monastery although none of the buildings from that time remain. The original circular boundary ditch that surrounds the site gives us an idea of how large the original ecclesiastical site would have been, measuring 320 metres in diameter it would have been one of the largest sites in early Christian Ireland. Its believed that the monastery closed due to ongoing Viking attacks however it remained the location of a parish church, named ‘Church of Laslaynan’ which is recorded in papal taxation documents from 1306AD.

The church that we see today dates from the early part of the 17th century and is the first Presbyterian church on the island of Ireland. Ballycarry had a large Scottish settler population and in 1613 Rev Edward Brice was appointed as the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland, situated at Templecorran. The design of the church is unusual as it is one of a small number of churches built by Scottish settlers in the early 17th century, it is built on the plan of a Greek cross, with each arm of the cross being equal in length. It has been said that the church possibly absorbed an earlier structure on a rectangular plan. Unusually the church also has twelve musket loops in its walls, showing that the church was designed to be a defensive structure also. The church was only in use for a very short time, less than 50 years in all. In 1661 the then Rev. Robert Cunningham was deposed for refusing to accept the Episcopal form of church government, the church soon fell into a state of disrepair and by 1679 was in ruins. In the 1690s the novelist Jonathan Swift was prebend of Kilroot and would have served the congregation at Ballycarry. Later in his life Swift described his sermons of this period as ‘calculated for a church without company or a roof’, perhaps a nod to the state of Templecorran at this point. The first Reverend Edward Brice is buried in a very ornate tomb, still in a good state of repair against one of the windows of the church.

GPS: 54.77024, -5.75026

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