Grey Abbey (or, Greyabbey), County Down

From The Illustrated Dublin Journal, Volume 1, Number 23, February 8, 1862

GREY ABBEY was situated in the vicinity of a small town of the same name in the county of Down, about ten miles from Belfast, and within a short distance of Strangford Lough. The ruins are of considerable extent, in good preservation, and finely situated for effect. The Abbey is thus quaintly described in an old work entitled the "Montgomery MSS.," published about thirty years ago:--"Neare and in view of Rosemount-house, are the walls of a large Abbey of curious work, (ruinated in Tireowen's rebellion); it is called in inquisitions and patents Abathium de fugo Dei; in Irish, Monestrelea; in English, Grey (or Hoare) Abbey, from the order of fryars who enjoyed it; and had, in ancient times, belonged thereunto, all its own parish, both in spiritualibus et temporalibus, conferred by De Courcy, at the inshanes of his wife, the king of the Isle of Man's daughter, as Cambden reports (if I remember aright) in the annales of that island. To this Abbey belonged also divers lands and tithes in the county of Antrim, viz., out of Ballymena..... Campion reports (p. 69.) that the said Abbey, Innes and Comer, were built A.D. 1198 and 1199; but in all my researches I could not find figures or any stones either of the Abbey or of the castles aforesaid, to denote the year when they were erected; and who views the walls and ruines of this monastry, will allow many years to the building of it. The church thereof was in part roofed, and slated, and re-edifyed, and a yeard thereunto walled about, and a competent stipend given for that by the first Lord Montgomery."

Greyabbey, County Down

Of the parish of Grey Abbey, in the year 1634, an old writer says that it contained "a double-roofed house, and a baron and fower flankers, with bakeing and brewing houses, stables, and other needful office houses; they are built after the forraigne and English manner, with outer and inner courts walled about, and surrounded with pleasant gardens, orchards, meadows, and pasture enclosures, under view of the said house, called Rosemount, from which the mannor taketh name."

The way in which the Montgomery family became possessed of this fine tract of country is gathered from the "Great Inquisition of the county of Down."

"Con O'Neill, chief of South or Upper Clandeboy, whose castle was that of Castlereagh, having about Christmas, 1602, a 'grand debauch' at Castlereagh, with his brothers, friends, and followers, he sent his servants to Belfast for more wine; but, in returning, a quarrel took place between them and some English soldiers, near the Knock Church, and they lost their wine. Con, inquiring into this transaction, learned from themselves that their number exceeded that of the soldiers; on which he swore 'by his father, and the souls of his ancestors,' they should never be servants of his till they had beaten the `baddagh Sassenagh soldiers.' On this threat they returned, armed, and attacked the soldiers, several of whom were killed in the affray; and Con was soon after taken up as an abettor, and sent prisoner to Carrickfergus castle. The severity of his first confinement was soon mitigated by a permission to walk through the town during the day attended by a soldier, who returned him to the provost-marshal at night. He at length obtained his liberty in the following manner:--Thomas Montgomery, master of a barque, which traded thither with meal for the garrison, was employed by Hugh Montgomery, his relation, to endeavour to effect Con's escape. Having got letters conveyed to Con, acquainting him of the steps about to be taken, he began by making love to Annas Dobbyn, daughter of the provost-marshal; and marrying her, through her effected Con's escape, who was conveyed on board Montgomery's vessel, and landed at Largs in Ayrshire. In 1605, Con obtained his pardon from James I. at the suit of the above Hugh Montgomery, and James Hamilton; but for their effecting his escape, and this service, he had previously made over most of his lands to them, of which they immediately obtained a new patent from the crown. In April, 1606, we find Con granting the lands of Ballyrosboye, in the Galliugh, between Castlereagh and Belfast, to a Thomas Montgomery, probably the above-mentioned Thomas, for his share in effecting his escape.