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New Ardstraw Presbyterian Church Opening, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland 1863

Extracted from the Londonderry Standard
Transcribed, compiled and submitted by Len Swindley, Melbourne, Australia

Ardstraw is a very old congregation, but nothing is known prior to the installation of the Rev. William Moorcroft in 1655. Presbyterian meetinghouses were not permitted to be erected in towns and villages at that time and the Presbyterians of Ardstraw parish resorted to a site in the countryside some kilometres from Newtownstewart


Extracted from the Londonderry Standard October 31, 1863


According to previous announcement, on the 22nd instant, the Rev. Dr. Cooke preached, at twelve o’clock, in the above church, to a very large audience, on the text – “He that hath the Son, hath life”; and at 7 o’clock p.m., in the First Presbyterian Church, Strabane, on “The Lord’s Prayer”. The collection and proceeds and the sale of tickets amounted, at Ardstraw, to the sum of £101.10s 10d, and at Strabane, to the sum of £20.15s, including the following donations forwarded by gentlemen who could not attend, viz.: - R. STEWART, ESQ., M.D., J.P., £2; A. MILLER, ESQ., Trench, £2; WILLIAM McCREA KNOX, Esq., Lifford, £1; WILLIAM OGILBY, ESQ., Donemana, £1; JAMES HERDMAN, ESQ., Sion, £1; --- McCAY, ESQ., Kilrail, £1; S. DONNELL, ESQ., Strabane, £1; MR. CHARLES LAFFERTY, Ardstraw, £1; A Friend, £1; A Friend, £1; M.J. ALEXANDER, ESQ., Derry, 10s; REV. R. STEWART, Alt, 10s; WILLIAM McCREA, Esq., Leck 10s, CHARLES BUCHANAN, ESQ., Newry, £1; A Friend, 10s; JOHN COLQUHOUN, ESQ., Strabane, 10s. The session and committee of First Ardstraw hereby tender their hearty thanks to the Rev. Dr. Cooke, for his valuable services; to the gentlemen who so kindly undertook the duty of collecting; and their friends from other churches and congregations, for their encouragement and liberality. And they feel especially grateful to the session and committee of First Strabane, for the use of their church on the 22d, and to the people of various denominations in that town for their liberal contributions, in addition to the large subscriptions previously given by them to the same object.

The new church at Ardstraw is a very large and handsome structure, capable of accommodating nearly 1,000 sitters. The entrance is by a Gothic archway, constructed of massive cut stone, in which the door is placed. The hall is spacious and contains two flights of stairs which lead to the galleries. Above the door and either side of it, there are Gothic windows, that above the door being of very large size. All the other windows, twelve in number, are in the same style, each with four metal sashes and moveable kites, which act as ventilators, the whole window measuring 18 feet by 4. Like the doorway, the windows are surrounded by cut stone. The quoins are of the same material and appear with good effect, while a champhered base course one foot in depth surrounds the building. The session and vestry rooms are in an adjunct to the church, and erected at the west end. The pulpit, semi-platform in shape, is entered from the floor of the vestry room, and we understand that its handsome decorations and furniture, and also the furniture of the vestry, have been provided by the liberality of the ladies of the congregation. The two windows of this end are of beautiful stained glass, and the gift of Thos. Lyle, Esq., Ulster Bank, Strabane. All the other windows, also, have a bordering of stained glass of various colours. The pews are very comfortable, with book-boards, and without doors. The gallery, which is of great extent, and upon three sides of the house, rests upon nine metal pillars, painted in the colour of stone. The whole edifice measures 70 feet in length, and 50 in width, exclusive of the Session and Vestry-rooms, and 28 feet from floor to the ceiling, which has a centre piece ornamented with a vine leaf pattern, both of which are exquisitely constructed. Altogether the church reflects the highest credit upon the ministers and congregation, and we hope that the debt which still remains upon it will be soon be completely removed.