The area of Derry City and Strabane can boast a number of historic church sites, with evidence of building existing on some of the site dating back as far as the 5th Century. Historic facts on the existing sites are enclosed below along with details on how to access each as visitor.
Irish Grid Reference:C464 206
Access: Via Judges Road
The church of Enagh is beautifully situated on a bank of the eastern lake of that name. It is much dilapidated but enough remains to show its original form and the style of its architecture, in both of which it is very similar to most of the other ancient churches of the county. The current church ruins date back to the 18th Century and this may be the site of the church recorded in the Annals of Ulster, as pillaged by Roitsel Pitton in 1197, and may have been founded by St.Canice.
Irish Grid Ref: 588 057
Access: From Altinure Road
The church at Straidarran is said to be the oldest in the Faughan Valley and may date to the 8th Century and may be dedicated to St. Constans or Cuana who spent most of his life living as a hermit around the shores of Lough Erne. The present church ruin is likely to have been built upon the remains of an earlier church dating to medieval time (400-1169AD).The number of early church foundations in the Faughan River Valley suggests that there was a large Christian population in this area at a very early stage
Irish Grid Ref: C533 068
Access: From Cregg Road
Cumber Old Church is located off the Cregg Road in Claudy and the current ruin is the remains of an 18th Century Church of Ireland church. This church may be built upon or near to the site of an earlier medieval (400-1169 AD) church, however, there is no trace of it or any medieval buildings within the church grounds. Cumber was the base of an Erenagh, a medieval Irish office responsible for receiving parish revenue from tithes and rents, building and maintaining church property and overseeing the termon lands that generated parish incomes. There are numerous grave markers dotted around the graveyard, which date from the 18th Century onwards. Cecil Hamilton Browne -Leckey was the last person to live in nearby Cumber House and he is buried here.
Irish Grid Reference: C384 147
Access: from Letterkenny Road (B193)
No evidence of the original church exists within the cemetery ground and the period of the church is unclear as the church was much dilapidated by the time of the OS Memoirs. Existing gravestones mainly date to the 19th & 20th Centuries and are predominantly those from Roman Catholic backgrounds although other denominations are represented. The boundary wall is probably 19th Century, as is the ruins of an evident stone building located near the main entrance gate which was probably a watch house.
ST BRECAN’S (ST. COLUMB’S PARK)
Irish Grid Reference: C432 165
Access: From Limavady Road (St. Columb’s Park)
The current church ruins were built in 1585 by Redmond O’ Gallagher, Bishop of Derry on the site of an earlier medieval church, which was destroyed in 1197 by Roitsel Fitton, a Norman knight.
Grid Reference: C445 129
Access: from Church Road
Situated within the Burngibbagh valley, Clondermot Cemetery is more commonly known as ‘The Apprentice Boys Cemetery,’ as buried within are two prominent commanders of the Siege of Derry, Colonel Adam Murray, and Colonel John Mitchelburne. There are no visible remains of the church which may have been built in the early 1600’s and appears on Thomas Raven’s maps of that time.
Irish Grid Reference: C371 023
Access: Ballyheather Road (off main A5 road)
The cemetery is home to what is said to be the oldest recorded gravestone in west Ulster dating to 1617 and belonging to John Maghee who was one of the first Scottish settlers in the area. There are no visible remains of the pre-Norman church which existed here. An 18th Century mausoleum may be discovered within the cemetery belonging to the Abercorns of Baronscourt and which is in good condition.
Irish Grid Reference: C369 063
Access: Grange road (off main A5 road)
The graveyard was once the site of an Augustinian abbey but no trace of it remains today. The erection of the boundary wall and entrance arch in the 19th century was probably done so by utilising the stone of the abbey.
Irish Grid Reference: C454 045
Access: From Donemana
Period: Post medieval
Overlooking the Altinaghree Burn are the remains of a 17th Century church and graveyard possibly built on the site of an earlier medieval church. This Church of Ireland building was utilised until 1788 when the new building was erected about a mile away.
Irish Grid Reference: H397863
Access: Off main A5 (<1 mile north of Newtonstewart)
Period: Post medieval
Franciscans (3rd Order) founded a friary here in the 15th Century but there are no visible remains of it today. In fair condition is the surrounding boundary wall and the split level of the interior would indicate the presence of an internal structure. An excavation revealed the presence of trenches which would highlight past flooding issues.
Irish Grid Reference: H451 881
Access: Farm lane off B47 Dergbrough Road
Period: Late medieval
Overlooking the merging of the Owenkillew and Glenelly rivers are the remains of a late 15th Century Franciscan friary although a monastery may have existed here from as early as the 6th Century. Davis (1937-8) recorded overgrown walls to the north of the present day ruins which he interpreted as the possible remains of monastic buildings. Unfortunately the location of the possible monastic buildings has made way for a concrete farmyard.
Irish Grid Reference: H303 949
Access: B85 road from Claddy
Period: Early Christian
Located to the west of the River Finn are the ruins of a post-medieval church and its associated graveyard. The site may originally have been a monastery dating to the 8th Century and has been associated with, the woman saint, Samthain of Clonbroney. The monastery is recorded as being desolate in 1179. The current graveyard contains many gravestones dating to the 18th Century.