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An excerpt from a book written by:
Mrs. Valerie Ruddell and Rev. William Newell entitled:
'BATTLEHILL: - A Local History, A Church History'.

'Full of information, a very valuable book.'
Revd. Clive Webster

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BATTLEHILL - THE EARLY YEARS 1862-1900

In this post-famine era, when, as we have seen there was a crisis on the land, many tenant  farmers were in great poverty. In this local area, the story is told that tenant farmers took part in a scheme in an effort to clear outstanding debt. Their task was to gather stones to be used in the construction of a huge obelisk in a place known locally as 'High Battlehill', from where, for centuries, people have admired the Mournes, Belfast's Cave Hill and the Sperrins. We are told that piles of stones were gathered, but the work was never started, the obelisk was never built.  Instead, a building of much greater value was erected, a building whose worth would be remembered for all eternity.  The beautiful stone wall (part of it now sadly removed along the hill) was probably built at this time, stretching from the church to below my late parents' home. Much of it is now overgrown and adorned each summer with pretty wild plants and flowers like fern, dog daisy and, my favourite of all, the uniquely scented Herb Robert.

Pictures: From top to bottom, Mr. Averell Shillington who became a local preacher in 1834, Rev. James Donnelly - Superintendent 1867-9 and Mr. W.J.Paul

BATTLEHILL CHURCH BUILT - THE TRUE FACTS

On 1 May 1861 the Minutes of the Portadown District Meeting, which I viewed in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland during the course of my research, recorded the following chapels and their state of repair: i.e. Portadown (new), Scotch Street (good), Ballymagerney (bad), Eglish (tolerable) and Derrylee (good). Then the question is asked, 'What chapels and ministers' houses are to be built or purchased this year?' The answer is given, 'A chapel at Battlehill'. A year later, the same minute book records that Battlehill Chapel had been opened, (I regret that, despite an extensive search, I have been unable to find an exact date in May for an opening service!) The minutes continue, 'But the conditions prescribed by the Building Committee have not been complied with because of the badness of the times'. This may refer to the difficulties faced by this farming community in the aftermath of famine, although this area was fortunate in having Miss Isabella Richardson as one of the main landowners. She was interested in the welfare of her tenants.

The deeds for Battlehill indicate that by an indenture of lease dated 5 May 1862 between Dr Alexander Bredon (who Owned the plot of land on which the church was built) and Mr Averell Shillington, the piece of land was leased to Averell Shillington for 300 years from 1 November 1862 for the yearly rent of five shillings payable to Dr Alexander Bredon, his heirs and assigns, on the first day of November each year. This lease describes the property as follows:

That triangular plot of ground with the buildings thereon situate in the townland of Ballintaggart, Parish of Kilmore and County of Armagh, containing by estimation twenty perches statute measure . . . bounded on the South by the Dobbin Lane, on the North West by glebe land and on the North East by the field occupied by James Hunniford,

Similar details of the property are also recorded in the Register of the Property of the Methodist Church in Ireland dated 5 May 1862, available in the Public Record Office.  

BATTLEHILL CHURCH 1862-1900

Information for this early period is scant. Apart from one small minute book, which is a little treasure of information and covers the period 1862 to 1877, there are no society minutes available so I have had to painstakingly search through the Minute Books of the Quarterly Leaders' Meetings, of the Local Preachers' Meetings, of the Town Leaders' Meetings and other books, for any references to Battlehill.

These books are stored in Thomas Street and I will refer to them.

(a) Paying off the Debt

11 December 1862
The small minute book records the first meeting of trustees in Battlehill Church and their names are recorded in beautiful handwriting by the first secretary, Mr John Weir.

   The trustees were:
    Revd John Duncan (superintendent)
    Revd John Donald
    W. J. Paul (treasurer)
    John Smart (steward)
    John Weir Jr. (secretary)
    A.   Shillington (leasee)
    Benjamin Robb
    Thomas Shillington
    Joseph Pedlow
    William Cuddy

BATTLEHILL - THE EARLY YEARS 1862-1900

It was moved by Benjamin Robb that Thomas Shillington should get the trust deed stamped and lodged with the superintendent to be forwarded by him to the safe in Dublin and also to have the lease registered. W. Paul reported that the cost of the building was £143.7s.3d.

£57.16s.1d had been collected leaving a debt of £85.11s.2d. It was decided to have anniversary services in May 1863.

5 March 1863
The trust deed was indeed signed on 5 March 1863 between Averell Shillington and the trustees, guaranteeing the payment of five shillings per year to Alexander Bredon and the use of the premises for the 'preaching and expounding of God's Holy Word'. The deed was signed and sealed by those trustees listed above, with the addition of Hamilton Robb and William Creagan. The signing of the deed was also recorded in the Register of the Property of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

1864
The small minute book notes a list of seventy-one subscriptions collected mostly in 1864, to pay off the debt on the 'Wesleyan Chapel at Battlehill'. Some familiar names are listed including Robert Weir (Grange), John Weir Jr (Grange), Thomas Sinnamon, W. Creagan, James Pedlow, William Cuddy, Dr Bredon, Jonathan Hewitt, John Meyers, Robert Finn, James Hewitt, John Honeyford, John Jones and Richard Hewitt. A total of £37.0s.6d was collected.

7 March 1867
The small minute book (still in the neat hand of Mr John Weir) records a meeting of trustees held in Portadown Leaders' Room when those present were T.A. Shillington, Revd James Donnelly, Revd John Gilchrist (chairman), Benjamin Robb.

W. Paul reported
that the cost of the building was £143.7s.3d.


Last update - Nov 2013.