1750 - 2000


by Violet Best






1901: After having been closed for repairs and alterations for nearly two months, during which time the national school was used for worship (kindly granted by Canon Sayers), the church was re-opened on Friday evening the 21st June. Three of the local ministers were present and spoke words of encouragement. They referred to the great improvement in the appearance of the church, the old benches having been replaced by modern seats. The former pulpit, which one speaker said was of "chum-like form", was done away with and the new one was a handsome platform structure. All the new woodwork was of pitch pine, and the old woodwork was painted to match.

Special services were held on the 23rd June and conducted by Bishop Sutcliffe of Gracehill. The day was wet and stormy but the attendances were good and included many friends from other churches. The collections were satisfactory, amounting to over �10, enabling the expenses of the renovations to be met but not sufficient to undertake the purchase of a new organ: As the old instrument is past repair, this effort must be in the near future.

1914: The diary for 25th May contains the following: At 11 p.m. a motor car with ammunition drew in front of the church gates to distribute guns etc. but when the driver found he had arrived at the wrong place, he quickly turned and went on the Antrim road. A few days before 2 large loads of guns and ammunition were brought to Portmore. Mr - had received orders to distribute them.

1920: The last resident minister at Ballinderry was Br. J. Stinton. During his ministry Kilwarlin and Ballinderry became a unit, he removed to Kilwarlin on 6th April and as a result the Ballinderry manse was rented out. There were now 40 members and 21 adherents at Ballinderry.

1923: The front of the church was cement faced, the interior and exterior (also the manse) were repaired and decorated. A cement path, new door, porch tiles, carpet for platform and pulpit stairs, a petrol lamp and also a lamp for the porch were added.

1926: In January it was agreed to pay the caretaker 8/= per month to attend to the lamps and fires, and the organ blower to be paid 5/= half yearly instead of yearly.

1935: After being closed for a few years the Sunday school restarted under Br. & Sr. W.J. McCoy.

1949: Kilwarlin congregation wished to sell the American organ which they had loaned to Ballinderry over 5 years before and offered it for �25 - the committee felt it was desirable to secure the organ but requested that the price should be reduced. Kilwarlin agreed to sell it for �20 and this was accepted.

In August electricity was brought to part of the village and enquiries were made as to when it would be available in our area. The Electricity Board confirmed that it would probably be early the following year.

1950: Now that electricity was available in the vicinity of the church it was agreed to replace the oil lamps. In May an estimate was received for installing it in the church and vestry:

7 lights and 3 plugs (15amp) �25. 0.0 and 7 light shades �12.10.0. The estimate was accepted and installation took place.

In June the church ceiling was found to be unsafe and needed immediate attention. A subscription list was opened, as there were not adequate funds in hand to meet the repairs, and approximately �90 was raised.

In December it was agreed that a service of thanksgiving should be held in January for the church renovation and the installation of electricity, and that the collection be devoted to the cost of the electricity. Thanks were expressed to the organist and her brother for the use of their home for services during the renovations. Both worshipped here though they belonged to the Church of Ireland.

1952: In August it was decided to have electricity installed in the old manse and agreed that the tenant should contribute to part of the cost. This was �21.10.0, half of which was met by the church and the balance by the tenant.

1954: Discussions took place in February regarding the church stove and the possible danger of fire. It was agreed to provide adequate safeguards and protection for the surrounding woodwork.

1955: Bi-centenary celebrations were held on the 24th and 25th July combined with the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of John Cennick. On the Sunday the church was filled with members and local people, the special preacher was a former minister, Br. R. S. Farrar. A public meeting was held on the Monday evening when the church was packed with friends from the other congregations in the district. Other speakers were the Rev. W.L. McCombe (local Presbyterian), Brn. F.H. Mellowes, and C.F. Smith (Moravian, Belfast) and Br. R.J. Burr the minister of the congregation.

1957: Until now the only means of heating was the stove at the back of the church, situated underneath the gallery, and in the winter everyone tried to sit as near it as possible. As it was getting beyond repair, arrangements were made in May to get quotations to install and maintain electric heating in the church. The Electricity Board quoted �220/�225 for tubular heating and �125/�140 for overhead heating. It was decided to leave the matter until some further quotations were received.

1959: The minister reported that after making numerous enquiries about various methods of heating, it seemed that the Electricity Board's recommendation was the most practicable and in August it was decided to go ahead with tubular heating around the walls.

1960: In April the heating was installed and a fund set up to cover the cost raised �214.00.

1966: In November a request was received from the Antrim County Council for the sale of a portion of our paddock in order to make road improvements at the crossroads. This also meant the cutting down of some lime trees bordering the Crumlin/Portmore roads and removing walls. It was felt that the compensation of �20 was inadequate and the committee requested that a replacement wall be erected on the Portmore road instead of the suggested fence.

1967: A further request was received from the Council in February. As the road alterations were being extended further along the Portmore road, this would involve cutting across the corner of the burial ground. The committee agreed that the burial ground should not be disturbed, but permission was granted to curve the wall at the comer of it as it was felt that this would improve the general appearance of the wall. After several negotiations the Council agreed to construct a replacement wall from the burial ground to the crossroads and in view of this it was agreed to accept the �20 compensation.

1968: On the first Sunday in November at the Communion service, Mrs. Jennie Glover (Church of Ireland) was welcomed as a communicant member after almost 70 years as a regular worshipper. She was also caretaker for most of this time.

1969: As the organ had lain dormant for some time due to serious damage to the soundboard, action and pipework caused by damp, enquiries were made as to the feasibility of having it repaired. A decision was made to have it restored by Peter Conacher of Huddersfield at a cost of �506 (10 times the original purchase price in1851). It is regarded as a prime example of mid 19th century chamber organs in Northern Ireland, with remarkable potentialities for all its slender resources.

On the 18th June there was a service of thanksgiving for the re-dedication of the organ and the offertory was in aid of the organ restoration fund. The preacher was a former minister, Br. G.A. Mitchell, and the congregation thoroughly enjoyed the organ recital of 'Ave Maria' (Burgmuller), `Air from Water Music' (Handel), `Minuet from Overture to Samson' (Handel) and 'Caro Mio Ben' (Giordani) played by the guest organist, Mrs. Anna Wilson.

An electric heater was installed in the back of the organ to try to prevent dampness, a bit of a change from the iron pan of clean turf-coals which was used in the mid 1800's.

1971: Due to a reduction of ministers in the Irish District, the Ballinderry/Kilwarlin unit was separated; Ballinderry was linked with Cliftonville on the Oldpark Road, Belfast, and Kilwarlin with University Road, Belfast.

1972: The very uneven surface in the older part of the burial ground next to the church caused great difficulty in mowing the grass and keeping it tidy. After making enquiries, there seemed to be no legal obstacle to removing the really old gravestones and placing them against the wall in the burial ground next to the church. In August, a group of young people from Cliftonville and University Road congregations in Belfast volunteered to arrange a youth camp to help the Ballinderry young people and adults clear the ground of stones, brambles and as many weeds as possible. They camped in the paddock under the supervision of Br. & Sr. Cooper and on the Saturday evening, after a hard day's work, a very welcome barbecue was held followed by a sing-song round a campfire. A youth service was held on the Sunday morning before the young people left for home.

Weedkiller was then sprayed on this part of the burial ground and after it had taken effect the ground was rotavated, raked and grass-seed sown in order to make the ground look tidier and hopefully more easily managed.

1975: The bi-centenary of the death of Bishop Peter Bohler was celebrated in Gracehill church on the 27th April when the large congregation included many Methodists. Bishop Bohler was a friend of John and Charles Wesley.

1987: Woodworm was discovered in parts of the church pews and floor, and immediate action was taken to have someone inspect it, with the result that it was recommended to have the whole building treated. Unfortunately, due to a colony of brown long eared bats (which are a protected species) in the roof space of the church this work could not be carried out until the bats had vacated the premises. Advice was sought from the D.O.E. (Countryside and Wildlife Branch) and after several checks the treatment was carried out in February 1988.

1988: In September a mahogany door was made to replace a window in the vestry in order to make another exit from the church to comply with safety regulations.

As the roadway in front of the church is narrow and a new private housing estate built opposite restricted parking space, it was decided in September to create a car park at the back entrance to the church. Over the last few years when special services were held it had proved very difficult to find parking space. (No problems like this when the church was originally established!) Donations of �300 were received for this project and the cost was �483.

1992: On the 28th March the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bishop John Amos Comenius was commemorated in Ballinderry when members from the other congregations in the Irish District joined with us. This was just one of many thanksgiving services held around the world to celebrate his birth. Comenius was one of the individuals responsible for saving the Moravian Church from extinction so it was appropriate that he should be remembered in this way.

1996: Again with further reductions in ministers in the Irish District, Ballinderry was linked as a unit with Gracehill.

1997: Due to severe damp in the church and manse, major repairs had to be undertaken, the exterior of the whole building was stripped back to the stonework and replastered, also the inside of the porch and the inside of the south-facing wall. Repairs had also to be carried out to the window frames in the church and manse, as some of the wood was rotten. This was done at a cost of �6348.22 for the church and �3524.88 for the manse. A grant of �500.00 was received from P.E.C. (our Governing Board in London) towards the repairs and also a grant of �2643.71 was received from N.I. Housing Executive towards the repairs to the manse. Through the generosity of members and friends and a number of fundraising efforts (these included table quiz, sales, auctions, and concerts) which were very successful, sufficient funds were available for this extensive work.

1998: What used to be the great "oak wood" is commemorated in the many local place names ending in "derry" which means "the land of the oak" but our property is surrounded by lime trees. Over the years due to road construction and improvements some of these trees were cut down with the result that there are now 26 in total bordering 2 sides of the property and a Tree Protection Order was granted a few years back. Due to severe storms over Christmas 1997/New Year 1998 there was some damage to local residents' property from fallen branches. To keep our insurance in order we were advised to have the 13 trees pruned which are adjacent to the houses, and the work had to be carried out by an approved tree surgeon. This tree maintenance proved very costly at �4277.00 but as on previous occasions generous donations were received from members and friends which amounted to �1120.00, and a grant of �1000.00 was received from P.E.C. The Lower Ballinderry Primary School children were involved and did a project on the pruning. In order to get information they were given talks by the tree surgeon and environmentalists as to why some branches were cut and others were not.

The late Bishop J.H.Foy commissioned a small round stained glass window with the Church crest for the porch. Bishop J.H.Cooper dedicated it on the 23rd of March.

1999: In June the interior and exterior of the church were re-decorated. This included the outside of the manse and also the burial ground walls, the railings and the gates at a cost of �7180.42. A plaster cornice was put up in the church with donations received from the Stevensons in memory of members of their family, and this has greatly enhanced the appearance.

2000: The new millennium has brought further changes. On the 1st September Ballinderry was linked with University Road and Kilwarlin and for the first time in the history of Ballinderry Moravian Church we have a woman minister.

Early in the year an enquiry form was received from our church governing board in London regarding the state of all church buildings. After viewing the premises, our builder stated that the church and manse roofs were reasonable at present, but would require extensive work within the next five years. After consideration, the committee agreed that as funds were available it would be wiser to go ahead with the necessary repairs rather than wait. Several estimates were received and it was agreed that the most suitable was that of the roofing specialists who worked mainly on repairing historical buildings, though not the cheapest. They powerwashed the slates and then removed the complete roof covering and repaired any damaged timbers. The following were supplied and fixed - nylon breathing felt, treated lathes and flashing, then the slates and ridge tiles were put back with the defective ones being replaced. This work was carried out in September at a cost of �11,000.



GOD'S ACRE or Moravian Burial Ground.

In God's Acre you will notice that some of the headstones are lying flat. These follow the old Moravian custom where the only inscription was name, date of birth and date of death. Headstones were the same size, emphasising that in death all are equal. Another interesting fact is that in some Moravian burial grounds there was an area for married women and widows, one for married men and widowers, one for single men and little boys and one for single women and little girls. Gracehill retains the custom of burial in single graves and men are interred in one half of the burial ground and women in the other.

The headstone (marked No 1) for Mary Ann Syms, born 7th April 1755, died 31 st January 1758, the little daughter of the minister and his wife and the first burial in Ballinderry, can still be seen.

Interior of Church 2002


The five congregations in Northern Ireland, Ballinderry, Kilwarlin (near Hillsborough) Gracehill (Ballymena) Cliftonville and University Road (both Belfast) are currently served by two full time stipendiary ministers who cover (a) Gracehill and Cliftonville and (b) University Road, Kilwarlin and Ballinderry. One retired bishop and two retired ministers, along with a dedicated group of lay preachers, assist them. Lay preachers conduct services but do not officiate at the sacraments. A list of all the ministers who have served in Ballinderry from 1753 appears later in this booklet.

The Ballinderry Moravian Church is very active not only in the local community but also participates in assisting with international projects especially in Central Europe, which has involved all sectors of the church with donations varying from clothes to Christmas parcels for orphans. Assistance has been given to other denominations in the locality for their projects and also with repairs to a church after bomb damage. The church tries to keep alive the Moravian spirit of fellowship and mission awareness. We participate in the European Heritage Weekends, when buildings of historic importance are open to the public. History evenings are now a regular feature when anyone can come and hear about the beliefs, customs, traditions and history of the Moravian Church.

The church and property are fisted as a Grade 2 historic site, and as such is protected BUT does not receive any assistance for maintenance. The paddock was listed by the Ulster Wildlife Society as an area of wildlife interest because of a number of rare plants and gasses.
Ballinderry Moravian Church stands witness to the fight against evil - John Cennick's preaching in the cock-pit led to the building of a House of God; we pray that it will continue as a place of worship for future generations.


SANDY BAY - LOUGH NEAGH. It is not recorded when the first meetings took place in this area. The diary for 1848 records a lovefeast held there in the afternoon of Sunday the 24th September. It was a festal occasion and Moravians were present from many places including Gracehill, Dublin, Bristol and Cootehill, also Sr. Zula from Kilwarlin. The local people turned up in force, 30-40 children and 70-80 men and women. Br. John Birtill, the sixth speaker, spoke of his first visit to the Bay and the purchase of the Store House (described in one account as an unfinished mansion). Br. William Ellis of Ballinderry preached the first sermon in this building on July 22nd 1842. The pulpit came from the Baptist Academy in Bristol and the benches were those on which Cennick's hearers sat, having survived the fire in Ballinderry in 1835. Br. Birtill furnished the house, took up residence the next year and held regular services. A Sunday school was started with an average attendance of 50.

In 1845 Br. Birtill moved to Ballinderry and a Scripture Reader was appointed who held a Sunday school and evening service attended by fishermen and farmers who came in boats over the Lough and in carts from the country around. Various references appear in the diary:

Sept. 8th 1863: Lovefeast at Sandy Bay. In spite of a tremendous storm about 60 persons assembled and though our fare was only dry bread and indifferent tea we found attentive hearers and an open door for preaching the glad tidings, the meeting lasted from 6.15 till 8.00p.m.

May 14th 1867: The preaching place at the Bay has been discontinued since Br. Cousins has given up his connection with the society. The other preaching places are very encouraging.

March 8th 1870: Visited at Sandy Bay ... It is sad that after the long labours at this place there should now only remain one person connected with our Church.

When the work declined the Sandy Bay property was sold, however in 1884 there are records of cottage meetings being held.

GLENAVY: On the 27th September 1750 Cennick preached there for the first time to thousands in a large field. His preaching continued, sometimes in the fields but also in a large stable, a spacious barn and a cloth mill. On the 11th March 1751 work was started on converting a building, belonging to Mr. Gorman, to a chapel at a rent of �4.16.0 per annum. When completed it consisted of a chapel and a dwelling place with a small garden. When the building was dedicated the report says that more than 800 were present, many who could not get in being clustered around the windows and doors. Just over 100 joined the society, it prospered for a few years but when Cennick was no longer about, the work tailed off and was eventually incorporated with Ballinderry. Glenavy remained a preaching place for many years until the Church of Ireland commenced evangelistic work in the district in which a Moravian Scripture Reader joined. The Protestant Hall was built on the spot where the church originally stood.

CROSS HILLS: Cennick first preached here on the 5th October 1750 and services continued intermittently until a society was formed. On the 24th August 1752 the foundation stone of a chapel was laid but it was not opened for worship until the 2nd June 1754, as money was tight. Bishop Peter Bohler wrote in his diary after a visit in November 1752: We took a view of the new chapel, which is a building of stone, but not yet roofed, tho' they are busy at work. This chapel is in our hands for 5/= a year, tho' it hath an acre of land, and is let to us for 41 years.

When completed the property was described as consisting of a church, with a school on one side, a two-storied house on the other, and a burial ground. In 1797 Gracehill diary records that the attendance had fallen, and the place had gone into the hands of strangers. There was a slight revival during 1799 but it must have been short lived because a visitor in 1805 found that the roof had fallen in.

Other preaching places mentioned in the diaries were at Crew Hill and Tunny Point. Cottage meetings are recorded over many years at Derryarnish (Barnes family) Folly Hill (homes of Mrs Elliott and Charles Totten), Hillhead (James Green Sen.) and Legaterriff (Bell's). The ministers also took part in services in the Union Hall, Aghagallon, the National School at Legaterriff and in a barn belonging to Wm. Totten at Folly Hill.



P. Syms   1902 P.H. Smith


J. Steinhauer   1903 J. Ellis


J. Brown   1908 A. Asboe


W. Home   1916 A.E. Brewer


J. Smith   1919 J. Stinton


J. Wilson (Joint Congregation with Kilwarlin)


G. Schirmer   1921 E.W. Porter


J. Willey   1925 L. Taylor


J. Shawe   1928 R.S. Farrar


G.A. Cunow   1937 T. McQuillan


T. Slater   1943 H.R. Williamson


J. Chambers   1948 G.A. Mitchell


W. Ellis   1954 R.J. Burr


F. Scholefield   1962  G. Harp


J. Birtill   1965 D. Quaite


J. Lang   1969 T. Auty


G. Clemens (Joint Congregation with Cliftonville)


W. Taylor   1971 J.H. Cooper


W. Humberstone   1990 J. Wilkinson


W.L.G. Badham (Joint Congregation with Gracehill)


J.J. Shawe   1996 V.D. Launder


J.W. Scandrett (Joint with Univ. Road & Kilwarlin)


W. Eggleton   2000 K. Woolford


J. Elliott (Jun.)      


J. Miller      


R. Hutton      


 G.B. McLeavy      


J.G. Ward      


R. Willey      


H.R. Mumford      


W.E. Sutcliffe