Burning of the Church Steeple

1996/97 - 1997

The burning of the Church Steeple

by Kieran Clendinning

One of the earliest photographs taken in Lurgan, shows the rebuilding of Shankill Parish Church nearing complete in l861. At this period the new church still retains the old tower and spire, which was soon to be replaced by the present steeple in 1861.

Shankill Parish Church with steeple

On two different occasions the Parish Church lost its spire, the first by Fire, and on that occasion Henry Monroe of the leaders of the insurgents in 1798, exerted himself heroically lo save it. The fire was caused by a careless worker who when repairing leadwork in the tower left the pot which he melted the lead behind him after he had completed work.

Several floors including the belfry were destroyed in the blaze, and the bell dropped from its housing with injury on to a bed of sods which had been hastily placed under the belfry. However, the bell was cracked by some energetic individual who attempting to cool it by throwing cold water over it.

The spire was shingled and this may have accounted for the easy destruction of the spire. However, it paved the way for the erection of a new spire which was erected shortly afterwards by a self taught carpenter named Robin Murphy of Ardmore.

Bell repaired and replaced

The bell was also repaired and replaced in the belfry, and the fabric stood intact until the great storm of 1839 when the spire was blown down and the tower and part of the church was badly injured.

Repairs to the church were carried out and a new spire erected from a design by a Mr. Farrell, the architect of Ecclesiastical Commissioners, under the direction of a Mr. Hutchinson of Dublin. The old spire destroyed by fire had elevation of 128ft, but the new one reached 160ft from the ground; the tower being 95ft high and the spire 65ft.

The spire was constructed of wood covered with copper painted to represent stone, and was crowned with a gilt copper ball about four feet in diameter.