St Mary’s Church stands on the site of a Cistercian Abbey built in 1199.
St Mary’s Church stands on the site of a Cistercian Abbey built in 1199. It was of similar size and architecture to the one in Greyabbey and survived until 1543 when it was closed by order of Henry VIII. The present church dates from 1840.
Study the right-hand pillar of the entrance gates which bears an interesting inscription. The names of Thomas Andrews and James Lemont, eighteenth century churchwardens, are legibly engraved into the upper stone.
Pass through the entrance and on your left you will see the Andrews Mausoleum. It contains no burials but is built over the tomb of the ancestors of Thomas Andrews, Titanic architect. Read the inscriptions on the walls of the Mausoleum. It is in need of restoration and the Andrews family have plans to complete this work, subject to funding.
The interior of the church may be viewed in daylight hours and here you will see exhibited nineteen stones from Comber Abbey under the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Of major importance is a monument to three members of the York Fencibles regiment killed at the Battle of Saintfield in 1798. They are Captain Chetwynd, Lieutenant Unite and Ensign Sparks. The minister of the church at that time, Reverend Robert Mortimer, was also killed at the Battle.