The following story was found among the effects of the late George Blair and passed on by his son Nicholas in Jan 2017.
Its origin is unknown.
Macosquin and the Old Rectory
The stories of Macosquin Parish Church, known as Camus-juxta-Bann – the curved townland near the Bann, village, church and rectory are all interwoven.
A church and monastery were founded at Camus ( the old graveyard near road and river beyond Castleroe )in 580AD.
In 1172 AD the Cathans founded a Cistercian monastery at Macosquin, the Abbey of the Virgin of the Clear Spring.
Both monasteries flourished until the dissolution of monasteries (Macosquin until after 1588).
In the Plantation of Ulster, 1609 their lands were granted to the Irish Society Merchant Tailors Company. The Merchant Tailors sold out in 1729 to William Richardson whose family set up at Summer – Seat (Somerset).
Macosquin village, the Merchant Tailors’ “Capital” was laid out about 1610 in much its present form. The church was at one end of the ‘main street.’ Macosquin castle was sited on the rise where the old Rectory now stands, at the other end. The castle gates opened onto the market square, a rectangular area opposite the new rectory. . Two laneways led down to the river. The road from Coleraine, ‘Ye highway to Derry’ left the village opposite the castle – the present Ringrash Road.
Macosquin Castle stood a little nearer the road than the present house. It was 50 feet by 34 feet, set within a bawn (wall), which was fortified at each corner by a flanker (round rower). Within the walls, the grounds were divided into a formal Jacobean garden, a stable yard, an inner court and an outer court. The castle was destroyed in the 1641 rebellion and no remains can be seen today.
The Parish church was built in 1616 by restoring about half the chapel belonging to the Cistercian Abbey. All unnecessary frivolities such as carvings or tracery were eschewed. A simple preaching box with a timber bell-cote, the latter and the Church roofed with slates were all that the Parish Church amounted to at that time. The church was enlarged and repaired in 1868.
The Old Rectory, as said above, sits on the raised site of Macosquin Castle. It was built about 1760 of stone from the ruined abbey. The commodious house and outbuildings indicate plenty of materials were to hand. At one time there were even more outbuildings – a row having been demolished when the road (not existing in the original plan of Macosquin) at the front of the house was re-aligned in 1948.
The house sat in three acres of gardens. Now one acre remains – one acre gone to Macosquin by-pass in 1965, and one to the new rectory in 1967. The house is four storey, originally just the taller block. The lower three storey wing was added about 100 years ago to accommodate a rector who had eighteen children. The house is of country Georgian design – fairly plan. The walls in the original part slope slightly inwards. All the external walls have a cavity on the inside lined with lath and plaster. There is an early type of French window leading out of the dining room. When renovations were being carried out, blocks of peat were found in the ceilings of the old kitchen (now laundry room) and a music alcove (now the cloakroom). This was for soundproofing.
The Old Rectory has now been “caught up” by other houses, but must have been an outstanding place when most people were under thatch in some form or other. The Rectors appear to have lived in great style. In 1840 the stipend was £700 per annum with 100 acres of farmland. In the house a green baize door separated “upstairs” and “downstairs”. A lift brought food up from the downstairs kitchen to a servery (the present kitchen). Beside the old kitchen was a wine cellar. Every room had a fireplace. The laundry in the backyard had a long wooden ‘jaw box’ and a built-in boiler. The stable block could hold two coaches ad four horses, with accommodation for the coachman upstairs. Other house and farm staff lived on the top floor and in the outbuildings. A gate lodge stood on the site where the bungalow opposite now is. .
However, the Old Rectory’s greatest claim to fame is that Macosquin Womens’ Institute was founded in the drawing room there in March 1940.