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Comber, County Down


Ir. An Comar ‘the confluence’


Town is 5.5km SW of Newtownards

bar: Castlereagh Lower

It has been suggested by several authorities (Reeves EA 197; O'Laverty ii 139; McKay DUPN 1999; Strangford Lough 287) that Comber is so named because of its situation close to where the Enler River (in its tidal course known as the Comber River) flows into Strangford Lough.  However, technically this is not a confluence (the flowing together of two or more streams), and places located at the mouth of a river are usually named bun or inbhear in Irish. It may be preferable to favour Knox's suggestion as to the origin of the name, i.e. the confluence of two streams which form the Enler River (Knox Hist. 522). 

The confluence in question seems likely to be the meeting of the Enler River and the Glen River, a small tributary which rises in the SW part of the parish.  The Glen River enters the Enler in the townland of Town Parks near the Church of Ireland parish church, which appears to occupy the site of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey. According to Sir James Ware, writing in 1658, this abbey was founded in 1199 and, along with Tracton in Co. Cork, was populated by monks from Alba Landa (Whitland) in Carmarthenshire, Wales (Charts St Mary's ii 233).  Like the mother house at Whitland it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin (Monasterium Beatae Mariae).  There was also an early Irish monastery established at Comber.  According to the Tripartite Life this was built by Conla, one of two local brothers whom St. Patrick encountered (Trip. Life i 164; O'Laverty ii 139).  Jocelin states that Conla offered a remarkable field called Elom and that the monastery was built here (Jocelin's Patrick 186).  However, the exact site is not known, and since Elom may well be an echo of the biblical Elim (Exodus 15.27, Numbers 33.9), the place-name is probably of little help in locating it.

On Thomas Raven's map of 1625 the name Cumber indicates a substantial town beside the river and the townland of Catoge [Cattogs] to the south of it.  However, this settlement was not at the location of the modern town.  Rather, it was a recent development by Sir James Hamilton known as New Comber.  On the same map Owld Cumber is marked slightly upstream, but with only a church indicated there.  However, New Comber appears not to have thrived and the development of the town in later centuries focussed once again on Old Comber.  The Raven map therefore gives an unusual snap-shot of Comber at the time when much of the town had temporarily shifted downstream.


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 45; PMcK 2009; revised PT 2012

Additional Information

T., 1851 Census. See also the parish of Comber.

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Domnach Combair

0900cTrip. Life (Stokes) i 164


1185cJocelin's Patrick 186

Comerer in comitatu Dunensi

1199Charts St. Mary's Abbey ii 225

Commerer, eodem anno fundata est Abbathia de

1199Charts St. Mary's Abbey ii 307

Counner, eodem anno fundata est Abbacia de

1199Charts St. Mary's Abbey ii 285 [needs checking]

Comair, abb

1222AU ii 270

Cumber, monasterium de

1280cCartae Dun. $12 423

Abbathia de Commerer, Eodem anno fundata est

1331 X 1147Annales Hib., Pembridge 307, sub anno 1199


1574Sav. Ulst. 367

Ballimonaster otherwise Ballicumber

1606CPR Jas I 77b

Mc Camher

1610Speed's Ulster

My(?) Ca(?)mber

1610Speed's Antrim & Down

Balle-Cumber alias Ballemonestra

1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xliv

Cumber [= New Comber]

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye

Owld Cumber

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye

sicuti Tinterna, Combera et Tractona [origines trahunt] a Tinterna majori et Blancha Landa [= Alba Landa/Whitland] in Wallia

1626cCharts St. Mary's Abbey ii 229 [Sir James Ware]

Ballynecomber al Ballymonestragh

1650cInq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I

Comerer al. Comber, Monasterium Beatae Mariae: Fundatum anno 1199, & monachis repletum Cistertiensibus, coenobio de Alba Landa

1658Charts St. Mary's Abbey ii 233 [Sir James Ware]

Commurense Caenobium

1685O'Flaherty's Ogygia 371 (cited in Harris Hist. 71)

ag an Cumar nuadh

1744O'Neill Fun. Oration 267

feall an Chumair nuadh

1744O'Neill Fun. Oration 267

Comar ""a confluence""

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E 19

" abbey at Comber, said to have been founded in 1189, and filled with Cistercians from Alba Landa [=Whitland], in Pembrokeshire [recte Carmarthenshire]..."

1914Inq. Earldom Ulster ii 59 [needs checking]

An Comar

1969AGBP 115

An Comar

1989GÉ 75

An Comar ""the confluence""

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 45

An Comar ""the confluence""

2002Culture NI PNN PMcK/JP
Mon Camber1567Speed's Ireland
(?)Gray Cambe1591Hondius Map
Conner1595Mercator's Ire.
Conner1595Mercator's Ulst.
Conner1595Mercator's Ulst.
Mo Cumb=er1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1
Co[nn?]er1610Speed's Ulster
Co[nn?]er1610Speed's Antrim & Down
Conner1610Mercator's/Hole's Ire.
Comber1615Terrier (O'Laverty) 326
Comber1615Terrier (Reeves) 53
Comber1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 51
Cumber1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxx
Cumber1625CPR Chas I 65
Cumber1626CPR Chas I 131
Comber1627CPR Chas I 230
Comber, the river1627CPR Chas I 228
Commor1645cMacCana's Itinerary 54
Cumber1659cCensus 1659 86
Cumber1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 12
Comber1663Sub. Roll Down 284
Cumber1663Sub. Roll Down 284
Cumber1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 22
Cumber1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 44
Comber1745Map of Down (OSNB) E 19
Comber1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E 19
Comber1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E 19
Cumber + Subarbs1830cTreas. Warrant (OSNB) E 19
Cumber + Subarbs1830cTreas. Warrant (OSNB) E 19
Castlereagh Lower
Parish in 1851
Town Parks
Place name ID
Place name type