Church History

This document is an adaptation of a paper pamphlet entitled “A Place for God’s Glory since 510AD” by Stephen Lowry.

Dromore Cathedral Church of Christ the Redeemer

A Place for God’s Glory since 510AD

Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Christ the Redeemer, a Seventeenth Century Church, built on a site used for Christian worship for almost 1500 years.

St Colman of Dromore set up a small ‘daub and wattle’ church on this site in 510 AD. Probably thatched with reeds from the River Lagan which flows beside it, this church site has been, for the fifteen centuries since, a location for the worship of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all humanity.

The Cathedral stands in the centre of the historic, yet rapidly growing market town of Dromore in the heart of County Down, on the North bank of the River Lagan and serves as one of two Diocesan Cathedrals for the united Church of Ireland (Anglican) Diocese of Down and Dromore. Some 570 families make up the Parish of Dromore and the pattern of worship in the Cathedral reflects the wide range of ages and tastes across the parish. The Church serves mainly as a Parish church for the developing community but is also a centre of Diocesan life.

Little evidence is available for the first 700 years of St Colman’s Church. There is no indication of either its size or style.

In the twelfth century, the English King Henry II revised a system of dioceses and bishops which covered the entire island of Ireland. One of those dioceses, named Dromore, took as its base this Cathedral Church. There had been bishops and abbots before then, but from this time the history becomes more complete.

A medieval church, about which no record exists, was destroyed in the late 1500’s. it was King James I who, in 1609, issued letters Patent giving the Church of St Colman a new title and a new status: The Cathedral Church of Christ the Redeemer, Dromore (known as Dromore Cathedral). That building was destroyed in 1641 by Irish Insurgents. A new structure, of which small portions are still visible, was built by Bishop Jeremy Taylor some twenty years later in 1661.

A narrow structure of around twenty feet wide and one hundred feet long was first built. This forms the base of the current tower aisle. A tower was then built, but soon dismantled. The Percy aisle was added by Bishop Thomas Percy in 1811. This aisle sits at right angles to the Tower aisle, opposite the pulpit. A semi-circular Sanctuary in memory of Jeremy Taylor was designed by Thomas Drew FRSA during the ministry of Canon Beresford Knox in 1870. The Organ aisle and Baptistery were added at the same time creating an ‘L’ shaped building. Finally, the church was made rectangular with the addition of the Harding aisle parallel to the Tower aisle in 1899.

A Virtual Tour

1. The Tower Porch
There are three entrances to the Cathedral. The main entrance is through the Tower Porch. As we look around the tower porch, the key feature is the staircase leading up into the tower. See also, the curious Poor Man’s Box and the disused Font dating from the 1660’s. The current tower was built in 1808 and stands some 55 feet high. It was refurbished in 1989 in memory of Canon R.W. Kilpatrick, Rector of the Cathedral between 1948 and 1958. The North door is used for all services except funerals, when the west door is traditionally used. There are two bells in the tower, which were automated and electrified in 1994.

2. The Tower Aisle
This is the main aisle of the church, along which the Choir and Clergy process and recess during formal services. Until 1899, the first few yards were covered with gallery. The gallery entrance was through a door upstairs in the tower. With the addition of the Harding aisle in that year, the gallery was no longer needed and was removed by Canon Harding. The door into the gallery is no longer visible from the main church, but is still in place on the tower side of the wall.

3. War Memorial Window
The first window in the tower aisle (on the right hand side) and its inscribed marble tablet recall, with great respect, the parishioners who served and died in times of war. These are placed here, mainly as a tribute to those who served in the Great War (1914-1918). A more complete list of those who served is on an illustrated Roll of Honour situated on the wall to the left of the tower door.

4. The Saurin Pulpit
Bishop Saurin (1760-1842) was clearly highly thought of by those who remembered him by presenting the Cathedral with the pulpit of Caen Stone and the plaque on the wall to its right. Its unusual location, being much further down the church than is normal, indicates the centre of the Cathedral during that era.

5. The Choir Stalls
The three oak choir stalls are among the newest items of furniture in the Cathedral, being added as a memorial to William Dickson in 1962. From this position the robed four part Choir of 17 members leads worship during formal services on a regular basis. Problems as a result of the distance between the Organ and Choir often see the Choir located in the pews alongside the Organ in the Organ aisle for special occasions.

6. The Sanctuary Reredos and Communion (Holy) Table
The Oak Communion Table with the Reredos immediately behind it were presented in 1951 as a memorial to those who died in the Second World War. The panelling to either side was completed in 1952. Before the days of Archbishop Laud in the 1600’s, Communion Tables were located in the centre of churches. Recently this tradition has been renewed in contemporary places of worship. In the Cathedral, Communion is administered to those wishing to receive it at the Communion rail at the front of the Sanctuary.

7. The Chancel with Bishop’s Throne and Chapter Stalls
Each Cathedral has a ‘chapter’. Dromore Cathedral Chapter consists of Clergy from the Diocese variously appointed by the Bishop as Dean, Archdeacon, Chancellor, Precentor, Treasurer and Prebendary (of Dromara). Their stalls at the rear of each side of the Chancel are marked with their titles in Latin. Careful examination of the miser cords reveals wooden reliefs with scenes from the lives of those they commemorate. Photographs and inscriptions on the vestry wall show the detail.

The Cathedral Chapter consists of:
Dean: The Very Revd Bryan T Kerr
Archdeacon: The Ven T Roderic West
Chancellor: The Revd Canon J Robert Howard
Precentor: The Revd Canon Terence J Cadden
Treasurer: The Revd Canon W Warren Russell
Prebendary of Dromara: The Revd Canon Gareth A Harron

These and the Bishop’s Oak Stall were added in 1894. The Chancel was, as noted above, added in 1870 in memory of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, whose bones are buried along with three other bishops below the sanctuary.

8. The Organ Aisle
Added at the same time as the Sanctuary, the Organ aisle enabled a larger number of people to worship here. On special occasions, the Robed Choir often join the Organist in the pews immediately to the right hand side of the Organ.

9. The Baptistery and Windows
The Baptistery was relocated here from its original position at the rear of the Tower aisle in 1870. The font is also made of Caen Stone, and the four small windows behind it depict four Christian virtues: faith, hope, charity and justice. In Holy Baptism people, usually infants from Christian families are marked out as Christ’s own. The prayer of the Church is that they will grow in grace, becoming more like Jesus as they grow to trust in him themselves. There is also an entrance porch situated alongside the Baptistery.

10. The Old Bible Display Case
Inside this display case are three items of Historic interest. The Bible was given to the Cathedral in 1613. It disappeared during the troubles of 1641 and reappeared in a shop in County Durham in the nineteenth century. In 1916 it was transported back to Dromore. It is bound in oak and leather. Also included in the display are a letter and course of sermons by Bishop Jeremy Taylor and a Prayer book presented by Bishop Thomas Percy.

11. Window above the Organ aisle
Surrounded by a detail of the old exterior wall are two windows of Gresaille work which date from 1870.

12. The Conacher Organ
The Organ dates from 1871, but was probably not installed until 1873. It seems that it was not specifically built for this location, but rather purchased and installed ‘as is’. Built by the Conacher Organ Company of Huddersfield, it is still in use to this day, having received an overhaul in early 2005. For many years early in the twentieth century a fee of a few shillings per annum was paid to the man who operated the hand operated organ blower through the narrow door to the left of the instrument. Today the blower is powered electrically.

13. The Lectern
The lectern was moved to its current location opposite the Choir stalls at the front of the Organ aisle facing down the Church from its original location at the Chancel steps in 1989. This was to give more room at the steps, specifically for those going to partake of Holy Communion. The Brass Eagle is used to symbolise the word of God.

14. The Percy Aisle
Bishop Thomas Percy is buried near this aisle which now bears his name. He was a much valued eighteenth century cleric and is revered in Dromore with several other memorials, including an inscription on the nearby Regent Bridge traversing the River Lagan, a Pillar in Pinnacle Meadow in the town park and as the ‘Percy House’ (one of three ‘houses’ – the others being Ferguson after famous local inventor Harry Ferguson and Cowan Herron after the builder of the town’s Hospital) in Dromore High School. There is a tribute to Bishop Percy on the Harding Aisle Wall.

15. The Balcony, Windows and Tapestry
The current balcony was used by the Cathedral Choir until the 1960’s when a Robed Choir was placed in the current Choir Stalls at the front of the Church.

Nobody now sits in the Balcony, except for on two occasions in the year when the Cathedral is full (Harvest and Christmas services held by Dromore High School). The tapestry in the Balcony can be reached by the stairs in the middle porch (situated at the rear of the Percy aisle). This tapestry and one which compliments it in The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity (Down Cathedral) depict the parishes of the United Diocese of Down and Dromore. It was made by the members of the Mothers’ Union Branches of each parish in the Diocese.

The window in the Balcony depicts the Coat of Arms of John Meade, First Earl of Clanwillian, born in 1744.

16. The Double windows of 1869
The central windows of four in the Harding aisle are strangely older than the aisle itself! These windows, given to the Cathedral by the Stott family, and dated 1869, were part of the Cathedral before the aisle was added. They were removed from their original position on the north wall of the original narrow structure which now forms the Tower aisle and placed here by kind permission of their donors when the Harding aisle was added in 1899.

17. The Lazarus Window
The last window at the rear of the Harding aisle portrays the story of Lazarus whose last journey to heaven was interrupted by Jesus calling him from the tomb. The dead man heard Jesus’ voice and walked back into the light of life. The same event occurs spiritually when we respond to the call of Jesus Christ to leave a life of sin and follow Him. For Lazarus it meant escape from physical death for a time. For us it means a guarantee of eternal life and the assurance of peace with God. Why not take a step today?

Underlying this great edifice is the belief that there is a God who made himself known to people through Jesus Christ. This Jesus said to the people of his day ‘follow me’. He issues the same invitation today. May each visitor to this website and our Cathedral Church know that God is real, that He is worth the best that this generation has to offer, and that He wants men and women to follow Him today.

18. Sound Desk and PowerPoint
Note also in the Cathedral how modern technology and styles of worship compliment the formal and traditional as well as the history of this building in the Glorification of Christ the Redeemer of all humanity. The installation of a new sound system and PowerPoint facility completed in early 2005 ensures the Cathedral can continue to glorify God well into the twenty-first century. The continued development of both formal and traditional worship to compliment each other ensures that Dromore Cathedral can continue to give its best to God.

Church Halls

Two modern halls serve the organisations of the Parish of Dromore. The purpose built Cathedral Hall was completed in 1999 and houses a state of the art kitchen for parish catering as well as a large main hall and two small meeting rooms. It replaced the original Parish Hall which stood on the same site, but in a different position. The Cathedral Hall is used on a daily basis by the Rainbow Pre-school play group and also sees use by the main Sunday Club, Bowling Club and Girls’ Brigade 6th Northern Ireland Company (see Organisations section).

The Clayton Memorial Hall (completed in 1994) is situated directly opposite the Cathedral, beside the Rectory. It is also used on a daily basis by a number of organisations, including PATCH (Parents at the Clayton Hall) on Mondays, the Craft Class and Piece makers Embroidery and Patchwork group, the Evergreens (group for over fifty year olds), The Junior Sunday Club, The Crèche during Church and the Sunday Night Youth Fellowship (SNYF) (also see Organisations section).

Upstairs there is a purpose built Choir room for robing and rehearsals as well as the Vestry room for meetings to be held and the Parish Office (Mon-Wed, Fri 9am – 12 noon). Mothers’ Union Meetings are also held in the main Clayton Hall room once a month. This is also the location for parish meetings. A modern kitchen facility is also available in this hall. Both halls have been recently refurbished.

Car Park

A large flat car park is available at the Cathedral Hall site with capacity for around 80 cars (there are also six dedicated disabled parking spaces). This car park was provided following the repositioning of the Cathedral Hall on the old Parish Hall site in 1999.