St John the Evangelist, Killyleagh Parish Church

On Church Hill, at the North East end of Killyleagh.

The first Ulster-Scots settlers in the Killyleagh area worshipped in the old pre-Reformation church here, of which only the east gable now survives. In 1630 Sir James Hamilton built a new church, directly in line with his castle. It was constructed like a Greek cross with arms of equal length. The church was extensively rebuilt in the early 19th century, though the original design was kept. An inscription inside the church records the life of one James Trail, married to a niece of Sir James Hamilton. A tutor to Hamilton’s son he later became a famous soldier.

The first Protestant minister here was the Rev John Bole, who denounced the ‘Black Oath’ that was imposed on all Scots in Ulster in 1639 to ensure religious conformity. Hamilton forced him to relent but he was still imprisoned in Dublin. The minster who replaced him, Thomas Murray, was killed in the 1641 Rising. There are many Hamilton memorials in the church, as well as the 1640 capstone from the original church. You can find several graves of early Ulster-Scots settlers in the surrounding graveyard.


Tours available by prior appointment. Visit or call 028 4482 8231.

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