The ancient Parish of Coole, alias Carnmoney, has been in existence for over
1,000 years. It is the union of seven medieval parishes which lay between the
Parish of Shankill and the Sixmilewater. The Glas-na-Bradan, which flows near
the church, has been translated as St. Brigid's River. The Holy Well at the back
of the church is known as St. Brigid's Well.
So the ancient church was probably dedicated to the Irish Saint. From the 13th
century, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1542, the vicar was
appointed by the Prior of Woodbourne. The living was then in the hand of the
O'Neills for sixty years. It then passed to the Chichester family, who retained
the right of presentation until 1870. In 1793, the Rev. Richard Meade was
appointed vicar, and three years later, in 1796, the Rev Samuel Smythe became
curate. Meade was appointed to the living of Innishannon, Co.Cork at this time,
and in accordance with the custom of those days was given a faculty to hold both
Coole and Innishannon. Smythe remained in sole charge, and as far as is known,
Meade never returned. He resigned the living of Carnmoney in 1808. The
Visitation Returns of 1808 states:-
'The Rev.Richard Meade is Rector and Vicar and the Rev. Samuel Smythe is Curate.
Meade resides in another living in Co .Cork and Smythe in Belfast near Carnmoney.
The Parish has one church, one schoolmaster, a glebe of 50 acres and no house.
Ballyrobert and Carmavey are served at Coole. Mr. Smythe's income is £60 per
annum. The Parish covers an area of 20,000 acres. 'Following Meade's resignation
the Rev. S. Smythe was instituted as vicar on 29th February 1808. He started the
book which records proceedings at the Annual Easter Vestry, and which is still
Carnmoney Parish Church c1820. The church at that time was small - 64 feet by 26
feet, with walls 3 feet thick, and a tower at the west end. Inside there were
six square pews on the south side with the three-decker, and seven on the north.
The 'three-decker' pulpit was a post-reformation development, combining stalls
for the minister and clerk, and a pulpit. The pulpit had no canopy and there was
no heating. There was no choir or organ, and the singing, if any, was led by the
parish clerk. Thomas McTear tells us 'In the early years of the 19th century
there was no place of worship between Carrickfergus and Belfast except for the
ruinous Parish Church and the Presbyterian Meeting House at Carnmoney. 'In the
first years of Rev. S. Smythe's incumbency, many repairs were carried out, the
graveyard was enlarged, and a Glebe built.
The improvements made must have been considerable, for in 1837, Lewis
'Topographical Directory describes the Church at Coole as 'A modem and spacious
edifice in good repair, built on an eminence near the site of a former church.'
Where the former church stood, and when it was demolished is not known. The Rev.
S. Smythe's oldest son, John was appointed curate in 1837. On his appointment as
rector of Ballyclug. in 1843, another brother, George, became curate. The Rev.
Samuel Smythe died in 1849, in the 64th year of his ministry. The Rev. J.C.
Battersby was then instituted as vicar, but never resided in the parish.
According to the records, he only visited the church twice, in June 1851 and
June 1852. He resigned the living in 1853, and the curate, Rev. George Smythe
was instituted as vicar on 1st June 1853. The first years of the new vicar's
incumbency were spent in erecting the present church. The original cost was
£2,500., but £900 was granted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The architect
was James WeIland.
The church was consecrated by the Bishop of the United Diocese, the Rt. Rev.
Robert Knox, on 23rd December 1856.In 1897, a church hall was erected at
Hydepark, and named The Smythe Hall to commemorate a century's work in Carnmoney
by the Smythe family. Services were held every Sunday afternoon until recently.
Archdeacon George Smythe died in 1903, in the sixtieth year of his ministry, all
of which had been spent in the service of Carnmoney Parish. The Rev. R.J.
Clarke, rector of Holy Trinity, became the next vicar. In 1904, the school was
enlarged and extensive repairs to the church were undertaken. The Freewill
Offering Scheme was introduced in 1924. Electric lighting was installed in 1927.
In the same year work commenced on a new parochial hall, to be a memorial to
those who served in the First World War.
It cost £2,508 to build, and was dedicated by Bishop Grierson on 6th October
1928. An examination of the church in 1936 revealed serious deterioration in the
fabric and roof. A repair fund was started to defray the estimated cost of
£2,000, but before the money could be raised the outbreak of war in 1939 meant
the scheme had to be postponed. In 1941, the vicar was appointed Archdeacon of
Connor, a position he held until his retirement in 1946, after 43 years service
in Carnmoney, and 64 in the Ministry. He was succeeded by the Rev. C.W. Guy, who
had been curate from 1937. In the difficult immediate post-war period, repairs
were carried out to the hall, mostly by voluntary labour, also the Glebe, which
was over 130 years old. Restoration work on the church commenced in the
centenary year of 1956. As the same time a new sexton's bungalow was built.
Services were held in the parochial hall during the time the work was in
The re-dedication took place on 30th March 1957, conducted by the Bishop of
Connor, the Rt. Rev. R.C.H. Elliott. With the post-war building boom many new
people were moving into the district, and Carnmoney was made responsible for
three new churches in the area - St.Comgall's Rathcoole, St.Brigid's Mallusk and
the Church of the Holy Spirit Mossley.The Rev. C.W. Guy died in 1967, and was
succeeded by the Rector of Jordanstown, and Rural Dean of North Belfast, Rev.
E.A. Jones. The organ, which had been in use from 1857, was in a very bad state
of repair, and was replaced in 1971. The organ and choir stalls had always been
at the west end of the church, but the new console was installed in the south
transept. The pipes were raised, and the open area converted into a baptistry,
with a block glass window at the back, in memory of the Rev .C.W. Guy, who had
served the parish for over 30 years. It was dedicated on Palm Sunday 1971.
A new rectory was built in the same year. The Rev. E.A. Jones moved to England
in 1976, and was succeeded by the Ven. W.J .McCappin, Archdeacon of Connor. He
had resigned as Archdeacon in 1978, and in 1979 was appointed a Canon of St.
Anne's Cathedral. The church was floodlit in 1979, and the paths to the church,
hall and sexton's bungalow re-surfaced. The clergy vestry was refurbished, and
repairs carried out to the church roof. When Bishop A.H. Butler resigned in
1981, Canon W.J. McCappin was appointed his successor. The Rev. N.B. Jackson,
rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Upper Malone was instituted as vicar on
30th November 1981. In 1986, he was elected by the Chapter of St. Patrick's
Cathedral, Dublin, to the Prebendal Stall of Castleknock. A detailed survey of
the church in 1983 revealed very serious defects which would cost an estimated
£140,000 to put right. The vicar and select vestry decided to go ahead with the
work, and Mc. William Hunter of R. Robinson & Sons, Ballymoney was appointed
Work started in February 1984, and services were held in the parochial hall. A
Service of Thanksgiving and re-Dedication was held on 30th September 1984,
conducted by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt. Rev. W.J.
McCappin. Many fund raising schemes took place, and this massive debt has now
In 1994 Rev N.P Baylor
rector of Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh was instituted as Vicar of Carnmoney.
In 1996/7 the Glebe was extended and refurbished. The existing garage was
converted into a family sitting room and a new double garage was built.
All windows, doors and fascia boards were replaced with UPVC and double glazing.
The entrance driveway and forecourt was refurbished. In 1997/8 The exterior
of the church building was restored, this consisted of, renewal of damaged and
corroded stonework, removal, cleaning and replacement of stained glass windows,
Repointing of all stonework, renewal of timbers in the belfry, re-roofing of the
bell tower. The driveway was resurfaced and access was provided for the
disabled at the main entrance. Internally the church organ was
dismantled, serviced and rebuilt.
In September 2003, the Rev. Mercia Malcolm was instituted, the first female Vicar in the parish's long recorded history. In 2018 the Rev. Mercia Malcolm retired from the Parish. In 2006 the Rev. Carol Harvey joined the parish as non-stipendiary Curate. The current Vicar the Rev. Andy Heber was instituted as the new vicar of Carnmoney on 18th October 2018, with the Rev. Carol Harvey still as Curate.