"Parish Church of St Georges - Its History" Top 5 Page for this destination St George's Church Tip by suvanki
St George's Church, Belfast: 10 reviews and 36 photos
The present church of St Georges was opened in 1816. This was the 3rd church to be built here. It has the title of being the oldest Anglican Church in use in the city of Belfast. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around this peaceful church. I was particularly attracted to its stunning stained glass windows (which I'll add to a later tip)
The first record of the church is from the 1306 Papal Taxation Roll of the Dioceses of Down, Connnor and Dromore. It was one of a group of six chapeleries, that were part of the main church that served Belfast- The Church of Sancles (Shankill), which was near the present day St Matthews Church.
However, it is believed that worshippers had gathered here for several centuries prior to this.
Beal Feirsde, meaning 'The ford at the sandbank' (or the mouth of the River Farset) consisted of a small hamlet, which had built up at this area, as it was a crossing place on the River Lagan. The small chapel here was used by pilgrims and people waiting to cross the mud flats. Prayers were said for a safe crossing.
When the Church of Sancles fell into ruin, this Chapel of the Ford (or Crossing) Became the Main Church.
Beal Feirsde, had developed into a market town, due to its strategic point as a crossing, and was now known as Belfast.
A larger, more substantial church was needed. In the late 17th Century, a central tower, transepts and chancel were constructed on 'The Church at Belfast'.
In 1613, the Charter of Saint James1 was granted to Belfast.
It then became known as the Corporation church, as The Burgess of Belfast (The Corporation) and the Sovereign (Irish Mayor) worshipped here.
One of the churches 'claims to fame' was that Cromwell's troops were stationed here, and the lead from the church roof was used to make their musket balls.
Another is that King William stopped off here, on his way to the Battle of The Boyne. The seat that he sat on to hear the famous 'Arise, great king.... sermon, is still used in the church today.
By 1774, the church was in a dangerous state, and instead of being repaired, was demolished. The Earl of Chichester, who was the patron, donated land for another church to be built in the area - St Annes Parish Church (Which later became Belfast Cathedral).
The site continued as a burial ground. In 1798, the remains of Henry Joy Mc Cracken were buried here, following his execution. The grave is thought to have been near the entrance doors of the church. In 1909, what are believed to be his remains, were re-interred in the Clifton Street burial ground.
Earlier in 1806, The Reverend Edward May (Vicar of Belfast) ordered that all memorials were to be destroyed. In 1811, a large part of the graveyard was sold for building purposes. In the 1960's burials recommenced here, and a small strip of land at the side of the church was used for the interment of ashes following cremation. (pic 3)
Belfast continued to expand, and by the early 19th Century, there was need for a church to be built again on this site.
The foundation stone was laid on 4th June 1813, by the Earl of Masserene.
A group of parishioners formed a Building Committee, and organised fund raising amongst themselves. Surprisingly, they received little contribution from the Diocese or state, but the first service was held on 16th June 1816, just 3 years from the first stone being laid.
The Church was now known as George's Church', and the Perpetual Curacy of Upper Falls.
The church gained a reputation for its own identity, and for having flamboyant preachers- their sermons 'pulled the crowds in'. It was the first church to introduce Harvest Festival services, and the first to hold weekly communion services, and weekday services. Also, musical recitals, drama productions.
Music was an important part of this church. The first organist was Edward J Bunting, who played from 1817-1821. He became renowned for his interest in Irish harp music-and played a large part in promoting the Belfast Harpers Festival of 1792. He collected and recorded Irish music. There is a blue plaque commemorating his connection with this church, on the wall of the churchyard, near the burial yard. (pic 4)
In the 1860's the church choir were among the first to wear robes-a High Church tradition, that fits this churches ethos.
In 1889, the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, led to the clergy being known as the Incumbents of the Church of Saint George, Belfast.
In 1994, it was the first church in Ireland to use the revised Alternative Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland, then in 2004 it was replaced by the new Irish Book of Common Prayer.
Address: High Street Belfast
Phone: (028) 9023 1275
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