LOCAL politicians will today be asked to play their part in helping preserve for future generations the remains of a unique and derelict Ballynahinch church.
Work was carried out several weeks ago to clear overgrown vegetation from the old Magheradroll church at Crabtree Road outside the town which was home to Church of Ireland and Catholic communities in the 18th century. Both congregations also shared the same graveyard.
Catholics and Protestants worshipped at the church, which was built in 1607 before the respective congregations moved to new churches in Ballynahinch. There are also suggestions the church was preceded by an even earlier place of worship, dating back to the very early 13th century.
While little remains of the church built in the 1600s — located along an obscure farm lane — calls for it to be preserved given its significant historical importance have been answered by the Historic Environment Division which operates under the umbrella of the Department of Communities.
Funding was provided to remove the overgrown vegetation to allow a detailed assessment of the remains of the old church to be carried out, while a history of the historic site, the old church and graves will also be compiled.
The history of the site will be carried out by Dr William Roulston, Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation. In addition to his own research, he will draw on detailed records compiled by Ballynahinch historian Horace Reid who has offered to make his extensive knowledge available.
It is hoped researching the history of the site will provide information which can form part of proposed tourism information display boards for visitors and tourists to view at Magheradroll.
The Historic Environment Division is keen to see the Ballynahinch site preserved and members of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Regulatory and Technical Services Committee will today be asked to allow the local authority to extend the grounds maintenance work it carries out at the historic site where there have been several incidents of illegal dumping.
Council staff help maintain the grounds of the old church and graveyard, but politicians will be asked to approve extending the work to periodically cut back ivy and other vegetation which grows on the church ruins in particular, with the work carried out in conjunction with the Historic Environment Division.
A local interest group has signalled its intention to promote the history of the old graveyard and church ruins and while council officials say they will not seek to discourage any work the group wishes to pursue, this will be subject to local authority and Historic Environment Division approval.
Members of the council committee will also be told today that the local authority has responsibility for almost 30 historic graveyards across the district.