Religious and Cultural Sites

Templecorran Church and Graveyard

Photograph of Templecorran Church and Graveyard

Situated in next to St. John's Anglican Church in Ballycarry Village, on the site of an early Christain monastery, is the roofless ruins of the medieval Templecorran Church and Graveyard.

Though none of the buildings of this monastery survive, there is an Early Christian cross-inscribed stone in the graveyard. What may be the original boundary ditch that surrounded this site, a massive circular enclosure, can still be traced in surrounding fields.  With a diameter of 320 metres, it is one of the largest enclosures to surround an ecclesiastical site in Ireland.

The monastery closed, possibly due to Viking attacks, but through the medieval period the site was the location of a parish church, possibly the ‘Church of Laslaynan’ as recorded in the papal taxation of 1306.

In 1613, Edward Brice, the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland came from Scotland to serve the Templecorran congregation.

The roofless ruins of the church in which Brice once preached stand reasonably intact, though very little architectural detail is now visible.

The design of this church is important because it is one of a number of churches known to have been built by the Scots in early seventeenth-century Ulster on the plan of a Greek cross, that is, with each arm of the cross of equal length.

What is unclear is whether the church we see today was built in its entirety in the early seventeenth century or whether it was a rebuilding of an earlier rectangular- plan structure to which aisles were added. Cruciform churches were virtually unknown in medieval Ulster and certainly there were no churches, so far as is known, on the plan of a Greek cross.

Another reason that this ruin is of great interest is the twelve musket loops in its walls. It appears the church was more than just a place of worship – it was also designed to provide refuge in case of attack.

In the graveyard there is an impressive memorial to the weaver poet and United Irishman, James Orr (1770 - 1816), who is often referred to as Ulster's Robert Burns.

For a country churchyard, this burial ground has an astonishing array of memorials of interest, dating back over a thousand years. The Ordnance Survey Memoir of the parish of Templecorran of 1840 makes this comment about the churchyard:

The burial ground includes a quadrangular area 176 feet square, enclosed by a double fence and a treble row of young trees…….It is quite occupied with graves and to judge from their number and proximity must, from a very remote period, have been a general place of interment for the people of the surrounding country.

Since then the graveyard has been extended on a number of occasions – 1884, 1900, 1905 and 1913.

The oldest memorial in the churchyard is a stone featuring an incised cross within a circle which almost certainly dates from the Early Christian period. It is thought to have come from an old church site at Redhall.