Ballyhalbert History

Priory of St. Andrews of the Ards


To find the origin of the name "Parish of St. Andrews" we must visit the village of Stogursey in Somerset.  Originally the area was known as Stokes and was owned by William de Falaise.  Towards the end of the 11th Century a parish church was built in Stokes and was called St. Andrews.  William de Falaise's daughter married William de Courci who inherited the land and from which it became known as Stokes Courci.  Over the years the name has been corrupted to Stogursey as it is known today.

William de Falaise granted the church of St. Andrews and some land to the Benedictine Priory at Lonlay in Normandy, France.  Within a few years, a group of monks were living in Stogursey and had built their own Priory which was known as "The Priory of St. Andrews in Stogursey". 

Following the Norman Invasion of 1177, John de Courcy, a descendant of William de Courci, captured the Counties of Antrim and Down.  Around 1183/84, he granted to the Priory of St. Andrews in Stogursey "Ten Caracutes of land and all it's appurtances in the Country of Lart or The Ardes". 

In 1204 a Benedictine Priory was built and was called "The Priory of St. Andrews of the Ards".  Over the years this Priory became better known as Blackabbey on account of the colour of the clothes worn by the Monks. 

This abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII around 1536 and today virtually nothing remains.

In Bassett's Guide and Directory of County Down for 1886, he writes: "The Black Abbey stood at a distance of about a mile and a half from Greyabbey.  It was founded by John De Courcy in about 1180.  The last fragment of ruin was removed by a farmer some years ago".


Lonlay L'Abbaye in Normandy, France

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