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Black Abbey, County Down


Ir. An Mhainistir Dhubh ‘the black abbey’


Although the modern townland of Black Abbey is in the parish of Grey Abbey, the abbey itself was formerly known as the priory of the nearby parish of St. Andrews. The majority of historical spellings indicate that in the post-Anglo-Norman period the monastery and parish of St. Andrews were commonly known as Black Abbey, gaelicized An Mhainistir Dhubh. The foundation of the abbey resulted from a grant by John de Courcy c. 1183-4 and its initial monks were supplied from the Benedictine Abbey of Stogursey in Somerset(originally Stoke Courcy, e.g. Stok Curcy in 1212). John de Courcy, a descendant of William de Falaise, embarked on his extensive conquest of East Ulster in 1177.  A native of Somerset, he was a member of the de Courcy family from which Stogursey acquired its name.  In the year 1183, or 1184, he granted ten ‘carucates of land with all their appurtenances in the country of Lart [i.e. L’Art or The Ards]’ to St. Andrew’s priory in Stogursey in England. This grant of land in the Ards by de Courcy enabled the establishment of a Benedictine priory in this area which was founded in 1204 as the priory of St. Andrew of the Ards, although it was better known as the Black Abbey or the Black Priory. In An Archaeological Survey of County Down the Black Abbey is listed under ‘Destroyed monuments and lost sites’ (ASCD 289).  In 1847, however, Reeves (EA 18) describes how the last remains of the building of the site,  marked on the first edition of the OS six-inch map, ‘have lately been cleared away’. For various accounts of the Black Abbey see: Kerr (1989); Atkinson (1823:i 289); EA 18 n. f, 382-3; O’Laverty (i 429-32, ii 336); Knox Hist. 462; Orpen JRSAI xliv (1914) 51, 58-9.


Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 107 and 99; with additions PT, 2012.

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
S. Andrea in Arte, priore de1190cEA 192
sancti Andree de Arce, priori et monachis1204Pontif. Hib. i 126
sancti Andree de Arce, priori et monachis1204Pontif. Hib. i $59

St. Andrew in the Ards

1356Reg. Sweteman §88, 244

the Black Abbey

1497CSP Ire. 1601-3, addend 672

Black ab

1595Mercator's Ire.
Black abbaye1595Mercator's Ulst.

Mo:[nastery] Black

1601Bartlett Map (TCD)

Black abbie

1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1

The three townlands called Black Abbey, Ballynemanough and Ballecarrock

1606cCPR Jas I 72b
Sancti Andreae, Prebenda de1609EA 179

Black Abb

1610Speed's Antrim & Down
Black Abb.1610Speed's Ulster


1610cCPR Jas I 122a

Blacke Abbey

1610cNorden's Map


1618cCPR Jas I 326a
Black-abbey1621CPR Jas I 520a

Ye Black Priory of St. Andrews in the Ardes

1622EA Hampton, cited in EA 383
Black Abbey1622CPR Jas I 546a

Ballekilvolgan al Ballyknocke and Ballemanagh

1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xliv

Ballemonestraduffe al. Ballylisbrane

1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxii

Ballemonestraduffe alias Ballyliserlane

1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xliv


1636Inq. Ult. (Down) §75 Car. I


1659cCensus 1659 93

Blackabby al. Ballemannagh

1661BSD 87

the Black-abbie

1662Inq. Ult. (Down) §23 Car. II

black Abby

1683Descr. Ards 38
Ards Lower
Grey Abbey
Parish in 1851
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