Saturday, 28 July 2012

Christ Church, Castlerock

Castlerock is a seaside resort on the north coast of County Derry. The parish was created out of neighbouring Dunboe as a perpetual curacy in 1867. The church, one of the most beautiful in the Diocese, was built between 1867 and 1870 from endowments granted by Sir Henry Bruce and the Clothworkers Company. The Clothworkers Company had been established in the area at the time of the Plantation of Ulster at the beginning of the 17th century.

The Hervey Bruce family was prominent in the area. They lived at Downhill House, just east of Castlerock, which had been build by their ancestor, the Hon. Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), the Earl Bishop of Derry 1768-1803. Bishop Hervey was a notable traveller, and he built several churches in the Diocese. He was also responsible for the building of Mussenden Temple at Downhill on a cliff overlooking the Foyle.

Christ Church, Castlerock, was consecrated by Bishop (later Primate) William Alexander. For the occasion his wife, Mrs Cecil Francis Alexander, wrote a hymn, which was set to music by Canon James Armstrong, first vicar of Castlerock. The porch in the north-west corner is at the base of the tower. The tiling in the porch is in memory of Robert Nicholl who dies in 1984. The tower is capped by a spire, at the base of which is a clock with four faces. It was built in 1909. The peal of eight bells dates from 1891. They are a memorial to Sir Hervey and Lady Bruce.

The church is cruciform with transepts, chancel and a three sided sanctuary. The interior is of a deep red brick, which creates a warm and solemn atmosphere. Over the entrance door are the words "depart in peace". The west window is of three lights. It commemorates Dame Mary Anne Margaret Bruce, daughter of Sir L. G. Clifton, Bart., of Clifton Hall, Nottingham, and wife of the Rt. Hon. Sir Hervey Bruce, Bart., of Downhill who died in 1891. It depicts scenes from the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. The font is ar rge base of the window.

There are three stained glass windows in the south nave wall. The first, dated 1918, depicts St Patrick and St Columba, and marks the fiftieth anniversary of the incumbency of Canon James Armstrong, first vicar of Castlerock, from 1868.

The middle window depicts Melchizedek and Eilijah and is in memory of William Armstrong who died in 1860, and the third depicts Aaron and Samuel, in memory of Frances Armstrong, who died in 1883.


The three windows in the south transept wall illustrate the theme of Jesus' favour with God, and the Ascension, and they commemorate Col. Robert Bruce who died in 1899.

The three windows in the north transept depict the sower, the Light of the World, and the Good Shepherd, and are in memory of the Rt.Hon. Sir Hervey Bruce, Bart. of Downhill who died in 1907. The north nave wall, the two windows depict Mary and Joseph at the Manger, in memory of Andrew Mitchell who died in 1974, and Jesus with the little children in memory of Robert Stanage who died in 1911, and his family.

There are three windows of two lights each in the sanctuary. The outer ones of finely coloured glass, and the central window depicts the Ascension on the left, and on the right the Empty Tomb. It commemorates General Sir Arthur Benjamin Finton, K.C.H.

The vestry room is to the left of the chancel, and the organ chamber is opposite. The organ, which has two manuals and pedals, was built by the firm of Grey and Davidson in 1870 to a design of Canon Armstrong. The original water pump for the bellows, now restored, is on display in the church. The pulpit was the gift of Sir John Musgrove, Bart., a member of the Clothworkers' Company, 1870. There is a prayer desk on each side of the choir. The lectern on the right was presented by William White in 1870. The wooden cross behind the altar came from the crypt of St Martin-in-the-fields, London. It commemorates the Rev. Charles ffolliott Young, Rector, 1948-1959. The words, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty which was and is to come", are painted over the sanctuary. The stencil work and fleur-de-lys patterns in the south transept are thought to have been painted by Canon Armstrong. There are elaborate brass candelabra.

On the west wall, a brass memorial to Lady Bruce who died in 1891, states that the peal of bells was given in her memory. A plaque records the munificence of Miss E. K. Stinson who died in 1987, and there is a memorial to William George Simpson who died in 1985, in whose memory the entrance doors were errected in 1987. 

A brass memorial on the north wall commemorates Samuel Carson, RN, of Downhill who drowned at Madras, India in 1948. The memorial to those who fell in the Great War is also on the north wall. In the north wall transept, there is a memorial to the Rt.Hon. Sir Hervey Bruce, Bart.

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