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Built 1795 in the village of Ballykelly,

Fishmonger's plantation town



Both Ballykelly and Limavady were Plantation towns, founded by English and Scots settlers in the 17th century. Ballykelly was owned by the London guild of Fishmongers, who developed it as a ‘model’ village, to show how even this wild part of Ireland could be transformed into a civilised corner of dear old England. Of course, it didn`t always work out quite that way; Walworth bawn at Ballykelly is a rare, surviving example of a fortified farmhouse which would have been typical of that time, constructed with a high wall around it, to protect the inhabitants. The ruins of Ballykelly`s original church can be found near Walworth bawn – it was burned during a rebellion in 1641.

The Earl Bishop commissioned the elegant, upright church that still proudly stands by the roadside in Ballykelly. Its first rector was Harry Bruce, a cousin once removed and the brother of Frideswide Mussenden, whose name graces Frederick`s temple at Downhill. Harry was very loyal to Frederick through difficult times and was well-rewarded, not just with this church and the rector`s job that went with it, but eventually with the entire Downhill estate, which Frederick left to him because he had fallen out with his own, more immediate family. Tamlaghtfinlagan is still in use to this day.

Tamlaghtfinlagan Church was built between 1791-1795 at the joint expense of the Earl Bishop and a landlord, John Beresford. When the church was being built the Bishop counselled Beresford against making it too large. 'A small congregation in a large building,' he said, 'would be as uncomfortable as ridiculous. The building should decorate the country if it cannot receive it, and at least be a monument and an example to posterity how well the Squire and the Bishop could draw together’.

The churchyard contains the grave of Blind Jimmy McCurry, a fiddler, who played the 'Londonderry Air 'in Main Street, Limavady one market day in 1851, when Jane Ross annotated the melody for the first time. Nearby is the grave of Tom Nicholl, a ploughman who discovered the Broighter Gold Hoard in 1896. There is also the grave of the Hamiltons, who were the ancestors, on the maternal side of Nobel Prize winner for Literature, John Steinbeck.

When the Bishop died in 1803 he left all his Irish possessions to his nephew Rev Harry Bruce, who ran his estates during his absence abroad. Harry was in love with the daughter of the Barnards, who refused to let the young couple marry as Harry had no career prospects. The Bishop intervened, making Harry Rector of Tamlaghtfinlagan and thus giving him a regular income and the prospect of marriage.

The Fishmongers, who received an estate at Ballykelly during the Plantation of Ulster (1609) constructed many fine buildings in the village such as the Presbyterian Church.


Interesting Places Nearby

Whilst these locations are not specifically linked to the Earl Bishop, they are close to Ballykelly and you might also find them interesting.

Walworth Church

St Colmcille allegedly founded a monastery in the sixth century at Tully Road, about a mile to the east of the village of Ballykelly. In the early 14th century, it became the Tamlaghtfinlagan Parish Church. It was abandoned in the early 17th century after the building of a church constructed by the Fishmongers’ Company. It was dedicated to St Peter but known as the Garrison Church. This church was constructed at the headquarters of the Company in Ballykelly, near their castle for security purposes.

The Garrison Church was burnt down in the 1641 Rebellion, restored in 1664, destroyed again in 1689 in the aftermath of the Siege of Derry and restored by order of William III in 1692. After the restoration, a monument was erected by Lieutenant General Hamilton to commemorate his wife Jane. This monument was moved to the present Church of Tamlaghtfinlagan, which was built at the expense of the Earl Bishop and John Beresford a local landlord in 1795. The monument, which shows Mrs Hamilton kneeling on a hassock, is regarded as one of the most important of the early 18th century.

Outside the Garrison Church stands the Cather mausoleum built in 1849. David Cather, who owned a distillery and brewery in Limavady, contributed to its construction.

Minearny tower - courtesy J Leug

Major Thomas Colby was appointed as head of Ordnance Survey Office by Duke of Wellington.

He arrived in Magilligan in 1824 to supervise the mapping of Ireland, to update land valuation for tax purposes.  He raised 3 companies of sappers and miners to assist.   Baseline towers were established between Ballykelly and Magilligan Point  – this 8 miles stretch became known as the Lough Foyle Baseline.


He devised the compensation bimetallic bar, a measuring device which was accurate over long distances in all conditions, and  by a process of triangulation produced outline maps for the whole of Ireland.  Then it was a huge advancement in surveying practices. The survey was completed in 1846. The success led to it being used in South Africa and India.

This method of measuring, which was found to be less than one inch out when measured by1960  technology. 


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