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Newtownards Priory.

In County Down.

Newtownards Priory.

(New town of the heights.)

Around 1244 Newtownards priory was built by Sir Robert Savage for Dominican Friars, the priory stands less than a mile from the much earlier Augustinian Abbey of Movilla founded by St Finian. Both houses were burnt by Brian O'Neill in 1572 to prevent them falling into the hands and being garrisoned by the English.

Much of the present day profile of the Priory owes it origins to Hugh Montgomery, first Viscount Ards, an English planter granted the town and surrounding area in the early seventeenth century.

He remodeled the ruined building for Anglican worship, and added the square bell tower projecting beyond the building into Court Street, his initials HLM are carved above the arch of the ornate porch.

In 1817 a new church was built in Church Street, for about thirty years the priory was used as a courthouse, giving the street its present name, after which it was abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1860 it was consecrated as a burial place for the Londonderry family of Mountstewart.

The image on the left shows the priory today with the protruding square tower added by Montgomery, the priory is not open to the public.