HOW THE MORAVIANS CAME TO IRELAND AND LOWER BALLINDERRY
The Moravian work in Ireland owes its origins to the
Moravian evangelist and hymn writer John Cennick who was born in Reading
on 12th December 1718 and baptised in St Lawrence Church of England. In
his 39 Village Discourses he tells that his family became Quakers when
George Fox and William Penn began preaching. When John was 17 his life was
dramatically changed whilst attending a service in the Anglican Church at
Reading where he had been brought up. He met George Whitefield and John
Wesley in 1739 and became a member of the Fetter Lane Society (which was
not yet Moravian). John Wesley invited him to be a teacher in his school
for the children of coal miners at Kingswood, Bristol. Doctrinal
differences separated Cennick from the Wesleys in 1740, but he continued
evangelistic work in the West of England and at the end of 1745 the
societies he formed agreed to be put under the care of the Moravians.
Cennick visited Moravian centres on the Continent and in 1746 joined the
Moravian Church. He was a dynamic preacher and visitors from Dublin, who
heard him preach in London, were so impressed that they invited him to
visit their city. After much persuasion, he eventually complied and landed
in Dublin on Tuesday the 3rd June 1746 and on the next day preached to a
congregation of about 150 people in a Baptist meeting house in Skinners
Alley. So, at the age of 27 the main work of this young man's life began.
In August 1746 John Cennick first visited Ballymena at the
invitation of a Mr Deane. Crowds welcomed his preaching, but his reception
by some church elders and Captain Adair, the Lord of the Manor, was
hostile, so he returned to Dublin. He came to Ballymena again at the
invitation of Mr Deane in June 1748 and after initial difficulties
Moravian work began.
Cennick and his helpers evangelised in Counties Antrim,
Londonderry, Tyrone, Down, Cavan, Monaghan and Armagh. In the autumn of
1750 Cennick visited Glenavy for the first time, then preached at Ballyclan, south of Ardmore Point on Lough Neagh, and Crosshill. In his
journal he records:
October 16th -1750 accompanied with Brn: Syms, Caries,
and Patrick Spence, at the invitation of Mr. James Brady, who wrote in the
name of many of the inhabitants, I went to Ballinderry, where I preached
the first time in a large cockpit. In the first meeting our Saviour gave
us a sure conviction of his blessing, and before we left Mr. J. Whyte
desired me to come again, which I promised at my return from Dublin.
On Monday 19th I and Br. Caries left the North and
walked to Dublin, and returned to Ballinderry according to appointment on
Thursday 29th and now I preached the 2nd time at Mr. Whyte's, in a court
before the door with a blessed effusion of grace from the Lord Christ.
The Dublin diaries reveal that Cennick frequently made the
journey north from Dublin, and after a preaching tour returned south
again. Such a journey of 100 miles each way in those days would probably
have been made on foot or horseback and on rough roads. We can appreciate
that it probably affected his health as he was out in all weathers. The
Dublin diary states that the journey took 2 days each way.
On the 1st December Mr. Moore, who resided at the Manor
House of Lord Conway (Earl of Hertford) at Portmore, showed Cennick, after
hospitable entertainment: a large hall 90' long and 20' wide which
would hold 800 people, another, larger still, capable of containing nearly
2000 persons, also a third, all of which he placed at his disposal.
(Portmore Castle was famed for its ivory tables and marble halls, and even
the extensive stables had marble fittings). Here he preached on the 2nd
December, and the throng was so great that fears were entertained about
the was giving way. He remarks: I never remember such a thirst for the
Word of Life, though the country is not very populous yet we have
astonishingly large congregations, people crowding in from Moira and
1751: On the 7th February Cennick preached in
Portmore stables to about 1000 people in spite of the dreadful snow. On
the 7th March, a Sunday, there was preaching at Crumlin and in the
afternoon at Portmore, where about 500 had assembled. Cennick would gladly
have remained there, but he had promised to go to Lord Conway's Parks (Deerparks)
to hold a meeting with the gamekeeper's family and servants. He crossed by
boat over Portmore Lough (Lough Beg) in spite of the terrible weather, and
got in before dark. He wrote on his return the next day:
We sang hymns all the way from land to land, and were
so happy and cheerful that we scarcely noticed how the time slipped away.
Our friends had made a great fire to warm us, and welcomed us cordially as
we landed near the little island where Jeremy Taylor used to sit and write
his "Holy Living and Dying"*. It is no small pleasure to me that I
often sleep in what was once his chamber. (*Other sources state that
Bishop Jeremy Taylor wrote these whilst in Wales and not in his cabin on
March 25th. A meeting was held at Portmore, in
which the nature of a society in connection with the Brethren's Church was
explained, and our sole aim in labouring as we are doing in the north of
Ireland set forth.
March 26th. The Ballinderry Society was :settled' and
the first society meeting was held in the great room of the Manor House at
3 o'clock in the afternoon, when about 230 names were taken down, whilst
about 200 more were present as spectators, many of them Quakers. Mary, the
daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Hill of the Crew was baptised. This was
the first baptism performed by the Brethren in this neighbourhood. After
separating for an hour, the people met again for the preaching which
lasted until 8 in the evening.
On 28th March a large company met at Portmore and the
society increased to 900.
Those who had been inspired by Cennick expressed the wish
to establish a Moravian Church in the village. In May, a waste piece of
land, on Lord Conway's estate near the cockpit previously mentioned, was
sub-let by Mr. Benjamin Haddock. The original lease speaks of That spot
of ground called the Bleaching Green, being about an English acre, to Rev.
John Cennick and the Brethren's Church, except the water course, mill
race, and minerals, for a preaching house for 40 years from the 1st of May
past, and for two lives or the longest, at the clear rent of 10/- half
yearly. (The paperwork for the land was completed on August 10th).
The Brn. Syms and Caries were informed by Mr. Moore on the
8th June that Lord Conway's steward had sent word from Lisburn that the
Moravians were not to preach any more at the Manor House at Portmore,
until his Lordship's pleasure was known. This caused great concern, but
Mr. Haddock promised to call on the agent and ask his reason.
Maybe it was this setback that prompted the following
entry in Cennick's Journal: Monday August 2nd. After I had been persuaded
to it by our Brethren at Gloonen, I began to receive subscriptions for a
chapel in Ballinderry. The same evening was a time never to be forgotten
at Mr. Hope's barn where was certainly an extraordinary effusion of the
Holy Spirit and presence of our Saviour.
On the 3rd August the people began clearing the ground for
the foundation of the chapel, as many as fifty men and about 40 horses at
times working at the task. On 6th September John Cennick and Peter Syms
laid the foundation stone, in the presence of 150 society members and a
large crowd of visitors: During the singing of some verses, many tears of
joy were shed. Kneeling on the stone Cennick dedicated the building to the
Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, and in a fervent prayer
commended the work to the care and blessing of the Almighty.
Bishop Johannes von Watteville (son-in-law of Count
Zinzendorf) visited Ballinderry on the 16th October and delivered short
addresses, first to the single sisters of the society and then to the
single brethren in the old malt kiln. This indicates that the society was
already organised on a Moravian pattern, with choirs (groups) for the
single members. Von Watteville noted in his diary that the chapel, which
he saw in process of construction, was to be 63' long and 22' broad.
On the 24th October Peter Syms was ordained in Dublin by
Bishop Johannes von Watteville assisted by William Horne and John Cennick.
John Cennick, along with his colleague Peter Syms, helped
as much as possible with the building of the chapel in order to speed up
the work, and was able to announce to the other Moravian societies in the
North that the new chapel would be opened on Christmas Day 1751.
Many of the country people supplied the straw for thatching the building.
An entry on Christmas Eve reads: December 24th. Br.
Cennick rose at 5 a.m. and continued yesterday's occupation, viz.
superintending the glaziers, who were putting in the window frames of the
chapel, as also in other respects preparing for the morrow...
Members from the Irish societies began to assemble in the
village on Christmas Eve and were heartily welcomed in the houses of
members and friends so that at the morning service there was a large
attendance. A diary extract reads:
December 25th (old style) Being Christmas Day we
solemnly opened our new chapel at Ballinderry. Already before five o'clock
the church was prettily lighted up with candles. We sang different hymns
with a particular joy, and filled with thankfulness to our Incarnate God.
Br. Cennick preached and many persons from different denominations were
melted into tears. After the sermon, Br Cennick poured out his soul in
fervent prayer... At eight o'clock he held the first general lovefeast for
all the congregations, and at two in the afternoon preached in a powerful
manner on the second man, the Lord from heaven. After which, in a meeting
of the society members, he baptised Ann Gawley, the daughter of Thomas and
Mary Gawley of Aghalee...
1752: At the beginning of the year, problems arose
when a message was received from Lord Conway's bailiff forbidding the
Moravians to preach on any part of his estate, and in February bailiffs
were stationed at the chapel door to take the names of those who attended
the services. John Cennick appealed to the Primate of Armagh and, in his
name, to the Bishop of Down and Connor, in whose diocese Ballinderry was
situated, and found not only a friendly hearing, but was earnestly invited
to preach in the south and west of Ireland. Br. Brampton, (one of
Cennick's preachers) calmly continued his regular work, claiming liberty
of conscience and preaching, and he was quite ready to defend the work. By
the 24th March the storm had blown over and a message was received that
the bailiff had received orders to permit the Moravians to preach where
they liked on his Lordship's property.
The Moravian Bishop, Peter Bohler, who was revered alike
by Methodists and Moravians, for he had as great an influence on John
Wesley as he had on John Cennick, visited Ballinderry in November and a
note in his diary reads:
What properly goes under the name of Ballinderry is a
tract of land 6 or 8 miles long, the whole the property of the Earl of
Hertford. The land is very carefully cultivated, the houses are after the
English fashion, and most of the people followers of the Churches of
England or Rome, but all thoroughly our friends and hearers. On this place
Cennick has built a chapel, 63ft. long by 22ft. broad with a pulpit. On
each side he has joined a house, in the taste of that which is joined to
Sharon's Hill near the burial ground at Chelsea [London], which however
are not finished yet. This chapel is about �
mile distant from Portmore Stables which Br. Cennick had once a mind to
hire, as it would be a very fitting place for creating a manufactory and a
single brethren's establishment.
Here is about the greatest awakening in the North worth
the while to preach the Gospel because there is so great an affluence of
people that the chapel, though the largest in the North, and not much
smaller than that at Gracehall (Fulneck, Yorkshire), is too little to
contain the people; the auditories number 500 and fill the adjoining
Members were encouraged to record the main events and
spiritual experiences in their lives, which were later used in their
funeral addresses. The following is an extract from the diaries at
Gracehill from the memoir of a William Walkington:
I was born in the year 1727 near Lisburn in the County
of Antrim. My father, who was a Surveyor of the Excise, left me an orphan
before I was three years old. When Brother Cennick came to this part of
the country 1 was among his hearers. I was soon convinced that I lived in
sin, for my chief pleasure had hitherto consisted of attending cockfights,
horse races, and card tables, and in spending the earnings of the week in
the next public house on Sundays. I therefore resolved to reform, and, to
do this more effectually, to leave my native country and go to England.
But being twice disappointed, not being able to find a vessel for England
when I came to the shore, I began to reflect, and it struck me forcibly
that this was the Lord's doing. With this idea I returned home, gave up my
plan of leaving Ballinderry, and thought of leading a more steady life.
In the year 1752 I entered into the
married state with Margaret Thompson. Though I now lived soberly, and
frequently went to hear the brethren preach, yet I felt little or no
uneasiness on account of my condition till I heard of the sudden death of
one of my neighbours. This awful event made a deep impression upon me, and
I could not help thinking that if 1 should now die so suddenly I should
inevitably be lost. But now a heavy conflict ensued, the enemy of souls on
the one hand suggesting to me that I need not make myself uneasy, that I
was in no danger, and that I stood the same chance of going to heaven as
all my ancestors had done. Whilst on the other hand, a voice spoke louder
and louder within me, telling me that I was in a perishing state... Six
weeks anguish of soul..haunted with frightful images, I could not rest.
One day I ran to the garden, throwing myself on the ground, lifting my
hands to heaven prayed fervently to the Saviour... to save my soul. 1 did
not cry in vain, for the Lord in mercy drew near to me so that I could
rejoice in him as Saviour. ..I now hastened to Br. Syms and told him what
had happened, who joined me in praising the Lord for his great
condecension to me.
It is worth noting that not only was William Walkington
saved by hearing Br. Cennick, but that his descendants provided a number
of ministers and bishops for the Moravian Church!
On the 27th August a lovefeast was held in the chapel with
about 500 members of the three societies of Ballinderry, Glenavy and
Crosshill and again on the 30th Br. Cennick preached to about 1200 in
1753: John Cennick was absent from the North the
whole of this year, and on the 6th March Br. & Sr. Peter Syms with little
Renatus arrived to reside in Ballinderry. Brn. Syms and Cooke assisted by
15 or 20 single men were employed in clearing the ground in front of the
chapel to prepare it for a garden.
1755: On Good Friday, the 28th March, some members
of the societies of Kilwarlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry were formed into a
congregation and Peter Syms was appointed as the full time minister. The
service to recognise Ballinderry as an official congregation was conducted
by Bishop Johannes von Watteville, who is remembered at Christmas for his
introduction of the
Christingle which is used by Moravians around the world and by other
denominations in Britain today. It began at a Moravian Christmas service
in Marienborn, Germarry, in 1747, when the Bishop spoke of Christ
kindling a little blood-red flame in each believing heart and gave a
lighted candle tied with a red ribbon to each child.
It was noted that at the time of the establishment of this
congregation there were 58 communicant members at Ballinderry, and 37 at
Kilwarlin, but there is no record of the numbers at Glenavy. Br. Syms, who
lived at Ballinderry, served the three places.
The occupations of the first members of the congregation
in 1755 were: weavers, labourers, farmers, a tailor, miller, shoemaker,
hosier, reed maker, wigmaker, turner, shopkeeper, wheelwright, dyer,
glazier and bleacher. The congregation was organised on settlement lines
(like Gracehill) although a settlement was never built. Thirteen single
sisters [unmarried women] occupied two small houses near the church.
On the 11th July John Toeltschig brought the sad news of
the death of John Cennick on the 4th in London at the age of 36. He was
buried in the Moravian burial ground in Chelsea. During this visit a
request was made for an adjoining piece of land from Mr. Benjamin Haddock
for a burial ground.
On the 6th August, Kilwarlin, where the society, which up
to now had been counted as part of Ballinderry, was declared an
On the 31st December the first `Watchnight Service' was
1756: On the 1 st January the single sisters got
their own house near the chapel, which was dedicated with great rejoicing
on the 12th January by Sr. Sally Cennick (sister of John) and was occupied
by 13 single women. They celebrated their first choir festival in their
new house on the 4th May.
On the 18th April the congregation celebrated Easter
Sunday with a gathering before sunrise with Communion. This was first held
on Easter Sunday in Herrnhut in 1732 with a singing meeting in the
burial ground at sunrise to celebrate the resurrection, followed by
singing and prayer in the church. This tradition continues in Ballinderry,
not at sunrise but at 10.00 a.m. and after the first part of the Easter
Liturgy in the church, providing the weather is favourable, the
congregation moves to the burial ground for the remainder of the Easter
1758: The negotiations for the burial ground were
protracted and it was not until early this year that the purchase was
completed. On the 3rd February the remains of little Maria (Mary Ann) Syms
(daughter of the minister and his wife) were buried there and the burial
ground was consecrated.
On the 27th May the single sisters set up a school for
little girls in their house. At the end of September Mary Vogelsang
arrived to visit the single sisters in the north. She brought Srs. Ripley
and Healey with her to take charge of the sisters' house in Ballinderry,
which freed Sally Cennick to return to England. At the end of the year the
congregation was especially thankful for the protection of their Heavenly
Father which they had enjoyed during various attacks by antagonistic
people. The number of members was now 205.
1759: On his last visit to Ballinderry, Bishop
Johannes von Watteville wrote in his diary: I held a children's
service, and I must admit that since my last visit the workers have become
more involved with the children and they also have their children's hours
and general meetings, so that things seem quite different...
There were now twenty single sisters living in the house
who were involved in lace making, embroidery etc. Nineteen single brethren
were settled in a house about a quarter of a mile away. They had a room
for weaving, but unfortunately the premises were not large enough to start
a school for boys.
1768: In the months of October and November the
members of Ballinderry were repeatedly exposed to personal danger through
the ill will of some of their neighbours. On several successive nights a
mob collected and attacked houses, breaking doors and windows, throwing
large stones and even firing at them. The congregation was alarmed on more
than one occasion while meeting in the chapel. The minister in particular
was the object of their hatred and it was ascribed to God that neither he
nor anyone else lost their life.
1771: On the 5th July John Wesley paid the first of
three visits to Ballinderry. On this occasion, after dining at Ballinderry
House, which is situated just a short distance from our chapel and can
actually be seen from it, he preached from an upstairs window to a large
crowd that had gathered around the house.
1776: At this time, families included, the
congregation still numbered 205. There was also a Moravian society in
Upper Ballinderry, with separate services, for many years.
Due to lease problems the single brethren moved to
Gracehill. When the lease expired on the house occupied by the single
sisters they moved to Gracefield, near Ballyronan on the other side of the
Lough, and thereby hangs a story. The journey by land was long and
expensive, especially as they were taking all their goods and furniture
with them, so they decided to cross Lough Neagh by boat, a distance of
about 10 miles. On the 10th October they boarded a barge, but when about
half way across it was discovered that it had sprung a leak and was
sinking so fast that neither they nor the boatmen considered it possible
to escape from a watery grave. However, favoured with calm weather, and
lightening the vessel by throwing the heaviest luggage overboard, they
succeeded with the help of God and constant bailing to reach the
nearest shore in safety.
1805: The Jubilee of the congregation was
celebrated by crowded services and the chapel was newly done up. In May it
was recorded: School in Ballinderry be now begun, and Sr. Mary
Brownlees be the teacher.....that the parlour be the schoolroom in summer,
also the chapel. The weekly school money for reading, knitting, sewing and
marking be 6.�d, and if writing,
arithmetic, grammar, ornamental sewing and lace making, an additional 6.�d
That the school money be paid by each child weekly, and brought on Monday
morning to school, if not brought the child to be sent home for it. That
the salary of the schoolmistress be at first 5/5 per week; that turf and
candles be found for her, and in winter application be made to the parents
for contributions towards firing. That the rent of the schoolroom be paid
out of the school money, the amount to be fixed when we see how the school
shall succeed, for the benefit of congregation cash. That Sr. Brownlees
keeps regular accounts and that the direction of the school be in the
Conference of Gracehill. If boarders come in term Br. & Sr. Schirmer have
them and 12 guineas a year be paid for board besides the money paid for
schooling. That Sr. Brownlees at first board herself till the progress of
the school be seen.
1814: It is recorded the boarding school continued
and that various improvements were made in subsequent years, not the least
of which was a new Sunday school which could be used for a day school
1817: On the 7th June Br. John Willey, who was
serving in Dublin, accepted a call to Ballinderry. In those days you
didn't necessarily get to marry the person of your choice as can be seen
by these extracts from the Elders Conference Minutes:
26th July - Br. John Willey, having been informed that
the question about his marriage to Ann Linfoot had been negatived by 'the
lot', writes that he has another proposal to make. He leaves it entirely
to the Conference to choose for him, being confident our Saviour will
direct us to find a suitable person. After some consideration the name of
Rachel Spence was submitted to the lot, but negative No. 2 was drawn. We
then put Sr. Susanna Hutton's name and the affirmative was drawn.
On the 16th August Br. Holmes informs us that Br. John
Willey and Sr. Susanna Hutton (at Cootehill) had both declared their free
acceptance of the marriage proposal made to them, and would soon after the
betrothing proceed to Gracehill to be married there. In consequence of Br.
John Willey's and Sr. Hutton's arrival at Gracehill on the 20th August, it
was settled that the marriage is to take place tomorrow at 11 in the
forenoon. Br. Benade will accompany them to Ballinderry at the beginning
of next week. (No worries about making wedding arrangements!)
In the 18th century, Moravians made frequent use of the
lot in an effort to determine the course of action that the Lord desired
them to follow. Three slips of paper were placed in a box, with one marked
yes, one no and the third left blank. After praying about the situation
someone was appointed to draw one slip. If, as happened on some occasions,
the blank slip was drawn this meant that no decision was made, but it
could be taken up again at a later date. In 1769 the rule was that no
minister could marry unless the lot approved his choice. Over the years
its use gradually lessened and finally disappeared in the 19th century.
On the 16th July William Francis, Anthony William and
Henry Hope who had bought an organ, collected it and put it in the gallery
which was built through special collections. The following day it was
noted: The day was concluded with the singing hour and Mr. Shillington,
who had lent great assistance to the organ, played on it for the first
For the previous few years the numbers attending the
school seem to have dwindled and it must have been closed for a short time
as the Elders Conference minutes record on the 6th December: Read a
letter from Br. Willey in Ballinderry, chiefly relating to the school
which they propose beginning again next spring. Besides the day school
they wish to take a limited number of boarders on higher terms than usual.
The Conference is glad to find that the day school is to be renewed and is
also convinced of the propriety of a number of boarders being taken, to be
under the immediate tuition of Br. & Sr. Willey, but is apprehensive that
parents who can afford to pay high terms for the education of their
children would not like them to be in any connection with day scholars,
some of whom must necessarily be of the lower class.
1819: On the 5th January the Elders Conference
Minutes record: As the roof of Ballinderry chapel is much out of
repair, and both ends of the chapel likewise require some improvement, it
was resolved that a subscription list for it should be instituted. A
letter was drafted to be sent to the English congregations requesting
1820: On the 19th May, the Elders Conference
resolved not to send any brother from Gracehill to officiate at services
in Ballinderry unless the people there would pay for both the hire and
keep of the horse. In reply to this Br. John Willey informed Elders
Conference on the 30th June that: Tho' the brethren in Ballinderry have
not yet agreed to pay the horse hire from Gracehill when a brother goes to
officiate there, yet they promise always to take care of the horse. It
was felt that this expense should have been home by Kilwarlin as it
occurred when Br. Willey had to go there to officiate at Communion
1821: A field was added to the property early this
year and noted in Conference Minutes: Br. and Sr. (John) Willey on a
visit from Ballinderry informed us of the purchase of 3 acres and some
perches of excellent land, conveniently situated for the grazing of a cow
and raising a crop of potatoes and corn.
The chapel was renovated and slates replaced the thatch.
The cost of the organ and improvements was covered by subscriptions from
the Marquis of Hertford and clergymen and gentlemen in the neighbourhood,
as well as members of the Moravian Churches and other denominations. Mrs.
Bates, an English lady who was a liberal benefactor of the Moravian
Church, gave a generous amount. The building was admired for its style and
cleanliness. A school for young ladies was attached, similar to that at
1823: The problem regarding the hire and keep of
the horse was resolved in October when it was agreed that the expense
incurred by going to preach in Ballinderry and elsewhere would be borne by
1830: On the 2nd July it was agreed to allow Br.
Shawe �3 per annum for entertainment of visiting ministers at Ballinderry.
1835: Unfortunately the church and the adjoining
dwelling houses were destroyed by fire. Gracehill Diary records the event:
On Easter Sunday 19th April 1835, Ballinderry chapel and the old and
new adjoining houses were burnt. The servant who slept in the old house
discovered the fire and it spread rapidly along the roof of the chapel to
the minister's new house. Nothing was rescued from the old house and
chapel but a few benches, the organ was entirely consumed At the new end
various articles of furniture, books and clothing were saved, and by 6
o'clock nothing remained but the bare walls.
A subscription list was opened and enough money was raised
to start re-building. The present church with one adjoining dwelling house
1836: It is recorded in Elders Conference Minutes
that the chapel was solemnly set apart as a place of worship on the 19th
May and at the 11.00 a.m. service Br. Beck preached from Ps. 89 verses
15-16. After a short interval there was a lovefeast when Br. Beck
mentioned that the foundation stone had been laid on the 14th July 1835 by
Br. Chambers. He gave a brief account of the history of Ballinderry. Br.
Sutcliffe was the preacher at the 5.00p.m. service.
The generosity of Moravians at home and abroad and many
friends of other denominations is recorded, also that the new chapel and
minister's house form a handsome building. Three large arch windows on the
west lighted the interior of the chapel and a handsome chandelier was
suspended from the ceiling. The walls were of stone and lime and the floor
of lime and sand. There were 33 benches for seating. The very comfortable
house had a front and back kitchen and 6 rooms, one of which served as a
schoolroom where Sr. Chambers started a day school.
It was also noted that there were 40 members and the
average attendance at the services was 30-40 including strangers
(visitors). The minister, Br. Chambers, received an annual income from
various sources of about �40, a house and the benefit of 2 good gardens.
1839: On the 20th December the minister, Br. Wm.
Ellis, mentioned to Elders Conference his intention of having windows put
in the back of the chapel and of erecting a small gallery. He suggested
that the expense would be defrayed by subscriptions.
1840: On the 17th January Br. Reichel warned Br.
Ellis about involving the congregation in great expense with the above
improvements, which would put it in debt. He was reminded that grants from
the Mrs Bates Trust Deed would not be forthcoming, so the funds should be
raised before beginning. Br. Ellis collected �52 during his visit to
England in September towards the improvements. He informed Elders
Conference that instead of erecting a gallery he intended to board the
chapel and put a porch on the inside on account of the cold.
On the 4th December, Br. Ellis told the Elders Conference
that he was going to England to be married to the widow Sr. Lees of
Leominster and had made arrangements for supplying his place for the two
Sundays that he would be away.
1847: June 18th C.S. Davis arrived as a Scripture
Reader, but July 31 he suddenly returned to Bristol without telling
anyone: He wrote it was because his heart was almost broken by
witnessing the distress of the poor Irish; he could obtain no comfort or
rest day nor night and felt unequal to the task. It appears that he had
not counted the cost before he came, though the difficulties of the
situation, and the self-denial he would have to exercise, were pointed out
The potato famine took its toll of the population in parts
of Ireland and during that period the population of Ballinderry appears to
have declined - the numbers in the area are certainly less than when John
Cennick first preached in the cock-pit. In December Br. Thompson
(Scripture reader) received 10 barrels of Indian meal from the Central
Relief Committee of Friends in Dublin for distribution among the poor
fishermen and their families about Sandy Bay. He selected 26 of the most
needy families to whom relief was given: Within these families there
were 137 individuals, 60 of whom were Roman Catholics.
On the 12th December it was noted in the records: The
stove which has just been erected was lit for the first time. It answers
very well. The money for it was collected entirely from friends in
Stove �5-5-0. 36 ft piping @ 6d. 18.0. Fitting & painting
11.0. Total �6.14.0.
Br. Reichel informed the Treasurer's office of its
erection and it was inserted in the policy. On Christmas Day collections
were made after both services for the stove fuel which amounted to 12/-
and this became an annual event.
1848: On the 7th January a further grant of �15 was
received for the poor fishermen and with this 50 pollen nets and 1 drag
net were purchased. The remainder of the money was spent in purchasing
clothing, which was distributed among the most needy on the 29th January.
On the 14th March: By the liberality of Moravians in
Dublin and Ockbrook we were enabled to procure a new mat, matting and oil
cloth for the chapel, also a cover for the table and hangings for the
1849: The following extract is taken from the diary
of 23rd September: We began to use the form of prayer prepared by the
Archbishop of Canterbury for the removal of the cholera. Through the great
mercy of God there have not been any cases of this terrible disease in our
neighbourhood since April. About that time five died of it in Upper
Ballinderry, three in Lower.
1850: In July it was noted that the Sunday schools
had increased to such an extent that they were scarcely able to
superintend and manage them. There were 58 boys and 94 girls on the books.
1851: An extract from the diary on the 12th April:
This morning we were greatly alarmed by our kitchen chimney taking
fire. Fortunately helping hands were near, who under the blessing of God
succeeded in extinguishing the flames before they could do any injury to
the house itself. We spent two hours of intense anxiety and were thankful
when all danger was removed. The next day at the public service we thanked
the Lord for the help vouchsafed to us.
A commencement was made on the 17th May with the
alterations of the small gallery and the fixing of a larger one for the
organ about to be set up in the chapel. On the 1st July Br. G. Clemens,
the minister, and a member of the congregation went to Belfast to fetch
the organ, and on the 3rd Mr. William Brown, the organbuilder of
Molesworth Street, Dublin, arrived and began setting it up. By evening the
following day the work was complete and the first tune played on it. It is
a classical chamber organ with five speaking stops. It is recorded: The
sound of the organ, which combines sweetness of tone with great power,
enlivened our services not a little. It was universally admired and
acknowledged to be a very good instrument, well suited for our place of
The cost of the organ, including Mr Brown's travelling
expenses, was 50 guineas with a freight charge of �2.0.6. Br. & Sr.
Clemens began collecting subscriptions towards the organ when they were
first called to serve in Ballinderry; on their arrival the fund amounted
to about �20 and was increased by collections among Moravians and friends
in England, Germany, Holland and Ireland to �55.14.4.
Three special services were held on the 20th July for the
opening of the organ when, according to the diary: The church was
crowded with hearers from all classes of society and from among all
denominations of Christians in this country. Music sung included a
chorus from Mendelsohn's Oratorio, `St Paul', `The Heaven's are telling'
from Haydn's Creation and `Worthy is the Lamb' from the Messiah. At the
end of the service the congregation dispersed in the most orderly
Collections amounted to �9.1.0, and were allocated towards
the alterations and repairs both to the chapel and the minister's house.
The details are as follows:
Putting up the new gallery and staircase, painting the
chapel windows, gallery, doors, pulpit, etc. and all the windows and doors
in the minister's house. Putting up sun-blinds on the chapel windows (the
calico for these was a gift of Robert Benson, Esq. of Droylsden Mills,
Manchester). The expenses for these alterations and repairs far exceed the
sums already collected, but we trust we shall be enabled to pay all our
debts through a donation we have applied for, and have been encouraged by
Dean Stannus to expect, from the Marquis of Hertford. (A grant of �20 was
On the 16th September it was noted in Elders Conference
Minutes: Br. Clemens continues to be encouraged. The attendance on
Sunday continues to increase, latterly from 70 - 92 hearers so that the
chapel seems to be full. Perhaps this is to be attributed to the new
organ. The attention however is very good.
Unfortunately on Christmas Eve, owing to dampness, the
organ could not be used and the singing was accompanied by piano.
1852: It was decided to place an iron pan of clean
turf-coal near the organ on weekdays during the winter in order to prevent
dampness in the organ.
On the 12th August an extract from the diary reads: The
married man William W... and his family can no longer be considered as
members of our church, they attend the services neither at Ballinderry nor
at Sandy Bay. It is very evident that they applied for church membership
for the sake of the pecuniary aid and other gifts distributed among the
fishermen at the Lough shore at Christmas time.
On the 12th September it was noted that the lease of the
church property had run out about 30 years ago. Br. Miller applied to Sir
R. Wallace who generously granted the land for 999 years free of charge,
which Br. Miller hoped included the adjoining field.
1867: Br. & Sr. Scandrett started a weekly night
school on Wednesdays for boys and girls and a library was also established
where 30-40 families borrowed books.
1871: An extract from the Elders Conference Minutes
of the 10th May states: The stove and belfry have had to be removed
from the church and further repairs will be necessary. Some weeks ago the
attendance was small owing to the arrival of a new curate, but as soon as
the novelty wore off the attendance improved and is now pretty good.
Several have come forward for confirmation and there is a prospect of some
admission to church membership. The Sunday school, in spite of the
endeavours of the curate to draw away some of the scholars, and only too
successfully in some cases, prospers.
Again on the 20th September: A new belfry is to be put
up at the cost of �5, towards which �3 has already been received. The
congregation also proposes having the chapel panelled, the money required
for which is partly in hand.
1872: On the 18th September it was stated that the
women attended both the public services and communion better than the men,
it was thought that the women had more suitable clothing.
1878: On the 3rd April it was noted that the field
was not included in the grant to the congregation but the premises had
been given by Sir R. Wallace to the congregation in perpetuity. (A field
was purchased 16th November 1898 and part used for extending the burial
1879: On the 19th May it was noted: Sir R. Wallace
to Rev. C.E. Sutcliffe, Lease in fee at a peppercorn rent of land and
In December the first marriage in the chapel was
solemnised between Catherine Totton, a communicant single sister, and
Samuel Gibson, a young man from the neighbourhood. The congregation
presented a family Bible to them.
1880: In January it was decided to have a soiree in
March, to raise funds to pay for the whitewashing of the premises which
was done the previous September. It was held on the 17th in the chapel:
The attendance was pretty good but most of those present were farm
servants and young people. They consumed provisions enough to have served
double the number and threw pieces of cake about the chapel. The result
was not encouraging and the pecuniary profit almost nil.
1884: The amount being paid to the caretaker for
the duties of lamp lighter, organ blower, bell ringer and fire-lighter was
5/= every 3 months.
1887: The first occasion that the Communion table
and windows were prettily dressed with fruits, vegetables, flowers and
leaves for the harvest festival.
1888: At the close of this year there were 136 in
1897: A thank-offering received from Mr. Grey of
Belfast in memory of his uncle, Nathan Grey, enabled the congregation to
provide a new stove. The completion of the wall on the south side of the
field adjoining the burial ground proved to be a great improvement.
1899: It was decided this year to hold the
treat for the children of the Sunday school at Sandy Bay on the banks of
Lough Neagh. On Friday 18th August the children assembled at the church
and were joined by members of the Band of Hope and other friends. After a
light lunch they were transported in 8 conveyances of various kinds and
after enjoying the journey were delighted with the beautiful view of Rams
Island and the Derry Mountains in the distance:
Rain came down about teatime but ample shelter was
afforded by the large hall, which in Br. John Birtill's time was used as a
Moravian Church, and is now used at stated times for services conducted by
the Rector of Glenavy. Our party sat round the hall during tea on the very
benches brought from Ballinderry on which Cennick's hearers had sat 150
years before, and which were amongst the few things saved when the church
in Ballinderry was burnt down in 1835. We looked with interest at the
pulpit, from which Robert Hall often addressed the students in Bristol.
(Baptist minister b.1764, 41831).
The same year it is recorded that: A labourer's wage of
9/- and a weaver's from 5/- to 6/- weekly does not hold much inducement to
dwellers in the country to remain. The migration to Belfast, which started
12 - 14 years ago, still continues and we are constantly losing the young.
Our comfort is to know that those who move, for the most part, find a
spiritual home in one or other of our congregations which, in great
measure, have been built up of former members of our country
Permission was obtained from the Elders Conference to
circulate an appeal to other Moravians for the renovation of the church
and also to replace the old fashioned benches with modern seats -
expenditure was likely to be between �50 and �60.