Mountnorris Town
County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Civil Parish Loughgilly
Barony Orior Lower
Poor Law Union Newry
Catholic Diocese Armagh
Catholic Parish Whitecross (Loughgilly)


MOUNT-NORRIS, or PORT-NORRIS, a village, in the parish of LOUGHGILLY, barony of UPPER ORIOR, county of ARMAGH, and province of ULSTER, 5 miles (S.S.E.) from Markethill (to which it has a penny post), on the road to Newry. The village is situated at the southern extremity of a morass extending from Pointz-Pass, a distance of five miles, and at the foot of the Balleek mountains; it derives its name from an important fortress erected in the reign of Elizabeth by Gen. Norris to protect the pass between Armagh and Newry; and on the plantation of Ulster by Jas. I. received a charter of incorporation and a grant of 300 acres of land. In the reign of Chas. I. it was one of the strongest fortresses in this part of the kingdom. That monarch conveyed to Primate Ussher six townlands, comprising 1514 acres, for the purpose of founding a college here for the classical education of Protestants; this college was afterwards founded in Armagh, which was considered a more eligible situation; the income arising from these lands is £1377 per annum. The village contains 10 houses, mostly well built. Fairs are held on the second Monday of every month, for the sale of live stock, which are well attended.
From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis, 1837, extracted from FHL film 413528



(A presentation by Thomas George Farquhar Patterson, Curator of the Armagh County Museum, undated, circa early 20th century)

(extracted from FHL film 1279352)

The story of Mountnorris should commence in the 12th century with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland out of which arose a sequence of events that over 400 years later provided the motive for a military post in this area.  In the limited time at my disposal we cannot delve as deeply into the past as I would wish so we shall begin with the actual foundation of the fort.  This took place in November 1600 and in March 1603 Queen Elizabeth died.

The old name of the townland in which it was situate was Aghnecranagh, but following the establishment of the fortilage it eventually became known by its present appellation [of Mountnorris].  The change of designation we can be sure was gradual and probably did not come into general use until the 18th century.

The territory on which the fort was built was originally O’Hanlon property and at the period of its erection the district was overrun by the forces of the famous Earl of Tyrone who was thus able to intercept food and arms intended for the English troops garrisoned at Armagh and the Blackwater.  This state of affairs was a source of worry to Queen Elizabeth and resulted in one of her most distinguished commanders, the celebrated Lord Mountjoy, taking the offensive.  From a record kept by Fynes Morrison, who acted as a kind of “Press Agent” to Mountjoy, we learn that on the 2nd November, 1600, his lordship and his army set forth from Newry, encamping at a point “eight miles towards Armagh”.  The next morning he rode some quarter of a mile from the camp and viewed a place where Sir John Norris had formerly contemplated building a fort, and “liking the choice set down to build the same”.

From Morrison we understand that the site chosen was a hill resembling a promontory, all environed by bogs, a river and a great store of wood, but in the midst of a fair country with houses and much corn nearby.  The corn was quickly commandeered by the soldiers who at the same time removed suitable timber from the neighbouring houses for use in the construction of the stronghold.  During those operations the Earl of Tyrone and his men watched from an adjacent hill but were later driven off in a skirmish.

The next day (November 4th) the soldiers began work on the fortification and by November 9th it was completed.  We are told by the same authority that Lord Mountjoy then named it “Fort Norris” in honour of Sir John Norris under whom he had served in the wars.

By the end of that month it contained a garrison of 450 men under Captains Edward Blayney, Sir Samuel Bagenall and Henry Atherton.  From that date onwards it is frequently mentioned as a link with Armagh and the Blackwater.  For instance, on June 22nd, 1601, the Lord Deputy came again to Mountnorris and with the garrison marched to Armagh, riding the next day to Blackwater and returning that night to Mountnorris.  On the 4th August of that year he defeated O’Neill near Armagh and three days later marched to Mountnorris where he stayed four days.  On the 14th he supplied stores to Armagh and the Blackwater and returned to Mountnorris where he left 600 men and 60 horses.

In 1602 Captain Blayney and Captain Atherton were still at the fort but Sir Samuel Bagenall’s company had been replaced by Captain Rotheram’s.  Later the garrison was reduced to 150 men under Captain Atherton, an officer who makes his first appearance in Irish history in the expedition into Wicklow under Sir Henry Harrington in 1599.  He is next mentioned in connection with a fight at the Moyry Pass in May 1600.  On the 28th October, 1602, he was appointed Constable of the Fort of Mount Norris – we will deal with his subsequent career later.

On the 6th April, 1601, Captain Josias Bodley of Newry and Captain Edward Blayney, Atherton’s predecessor in the Constableship of Mount Norris, planned a raid on Loughrorkarn.  Being unable to carry a boat with them that had been provided for the purpose of crossing to the island therein, they took fireworks instead.  These they fired from the shore.  By that means they were enabled to set the island habitations on fire.  From a prisoner who was captured it was discovered that out of thirty people, eight had managed to swim away, four of whom were shot in the water, and the rest were killed or left lying hurt on the island, where a great store of butter, corn, meal and powder was burnt and spilled.  At the same time they “fired a great house upon their side of the lake and killed there five kerne, besides churls and calliaghs, after which they burned more houses and brought away cows, sheep and other provisions”.

In June of the same year preparations were made for the saving of a great store of hay for horses at Armagh and Mountnorris.  In August, the total strength of the forces at Armagh, Mountnorris and Newry was 2,300 foot and 225 horses.  An account of a journey from Armagh to Newry for that period survives.  It was compiled by Josias Bodley who relates that the trip from Armagh to Newry was then a day’s journey.  At Newry he and his friends were not well entertained.  The town, he states, produced nothing “but lean beef and very rarely mutton”.  The wine was very bad so he and his companions added sugar to it and made the best of it!  In Newry he found Captain Atherton whom he describes as an honest fellow and a friend.

In 1602 the garrison at Mountnorris is given as 150 foot under Atherton.  In 1603 Patrick O’Hanlon petitioned the king for an equivalent quantity of land in lieu of what he had lost by the erection of the fortress.  In 1604 the force in occupation was 100 foot.

In February 1605-1606 Captain Atherton was granted the lands of Mountnorris, otherwise Aghnecranchie, on which the fort was built and two other townlands to hold for 21 years should he live so long.  By that patent Atherton was required to keep the place in repair.  In March of the same year it was decided that it might be held with a ward of 10 men and in October the new arrangement was confirmed.

In 1608 Josias Bodley made a report on Ulster fortresses.  This gives us the first pen-picture of Mountnorris.  We are told that “there was already there a strong pallisado on top of the parapitt and a mount or cavalier to be raised within the fort to scoure the hill and other works without, of which the charge may amount to 100 marks”.  In the same year under the project for the Plantation of Ulster it was proposed that Mountnorris should be made a corporate town or borough.  That proposition unfortunately fell through, due no doubt to the fact that Mountnorris quickly became a less important factor in the northern affairs following the erection of similar defenses at Charlemont, Mountjoy, etc.

In 1609 the Lords Deputy and Commissioners appointed to settle the escheated lands of Ulster left Dublin on 31st July, and on 3rd August encamped at the Moyry Fort, the next day’s march bringing them through the Fews to Mountnorris where they are said to have made a brief halt on their way to Armagh.  In the same year Patrick O’Hanlon was granted eleven parcels of land at a rent of 3/- out of which 300 acres were reserved for the Fort of Mountnorris.

In 1610 Atherton was still Constable of the fort, but his warders were reduced to 10 men.  At this time Mountnorris is mentioned in State Papers as a place of intercourse and meeting for the English and Scotch of County Armagh, the other towns being Armagh and Charlemont.  From that we may assume an attempt had been made to found a town in the vicinity.  In the same year Captain Atherton got a re-grant of the 300 acres that had formerly been allowed to him as Constable or Keeper of the fort at a rent of 48/- per annum.

The question of borough status again cropped up in 1611 and with it the right to send representatives to Parliament.  In that year 720 acres in the immediate neighbourhood were allotted for the maintenance of a Free School to be erected in Armagh.

Carew’s Report of 1611 describes Mountnorris “as a good fort well rampiered with bulwarks and a fair deep ditch”.  In it we are told that Captain Atherton had “built a fair cage-work house, and others to keep victuals and munitions in”.  Some of the inhabitants, English and Irish, had settled themselves and built good houses after the manner of the Pale which was a great relief and comfort to travelers between Newry and Armagh.  It was then thought to be a place of service and worthy of being maintained.  In October of the same year the fortilage and town of Mountnorris was granted to Francis Annesley, Esq., to hold for 21 years, the change arising through the death of Captain Atherton.  In January 1612 Annesley received a further grant by which the Manor of Mountnorris was brought into being.  A couple of months later a Friday market and a yearly fair on 5th May and the day following came into existence.  At the same time he was nominated Constable of the Fort, an office which Henry Acheson made an unsuccessful effort to secure.

Annesley continued to acquire land in Counties Armagh, Down, etc.  In 1615 he managed to get a patent whereby, if after 21 years from 26th October, 1609, the fortress should not be used by the Crown, it should revert to him.  In 1618, according to a King’s letter, he was granted Mountnorris with its 300 acres.  By this patent he was empowered to empark and erect and keep ten houses and hold manorial courts.

A grant of January 1618-19 sets out the Annesley property in great detail and shows that he had acquired certain lands formerly belonging to Templenafertagh and Templebreed, two ancient ecclesiastical foundations in Armagh City, besides property in Tyrone, Down and Wexford.  Annesley was a very grasping individual and managed to deprive Richard Rolleston, another Plantation grantee and his near neighbour, of the Manor of Teemore by sharp dealing whereby he procured another 1,000 acres in county Armagh.

From State Papers of 1620 we learn that he was in possession of the fort, that the wards had been dismissed, and that he had secured a pension for life as a “discharged constable”.

In 1626 Sir Richard Trevor, Governor of Newry, Carlingford, the Fort of Mountnorris and the Moyry, being aged and unable for military duties, was succeeded by Sir Arthur Taringham who held in addition the Governorship of Dundalk.

In 1630 a Muster Roll of the tenants on the Annesley property capable of bearing arms was compiled.  It shows a total of 35 men, 11 swords, 3 pikes, 3 calivers and 4 snaphances.  In passing I should perhaps mention that the caliver was a 16th century weapon and that the snaphance was roughly of the same period.  The surnames of the tenants may interest you.  They were: Douglas, Impson, McCulaph, Grimton, Trumble (3), Ellot, Crafford, Moore (5), Irwin, Tattayne, Clay, Hollinwood, Abeston, Reedford, Kennitee, Shaw, Williams, Hollinwood, Hallwood, Boware, Curtes, Fullerton, Nixon, Thompson (2), Roe, Dod, Arnold and Jackson.  The major portion of the above tenants would of course have been in Armagh and on the Rolleston property.

About the year 1633 Sir Charles Poyntz of Poyntzpass seems to have been managing Annesley’s affairs in County Armagh.  This emerges from a mortgage of 14th May, 1633, whereby Annesley and his wife were staking a claim on part of the Loughgall estate then in possession of Anthony Cope.  By that time Annesley had been created Lord Mountnorris, but of that later.

How the Fort fared in the Civil War of 1641-1642 is a matter upon which I have no detailed information.  It is quite possible that some of the settlers reached Carlingford and Dundalk and thus were able to embark for home ports.  Certain depositions indicate a general attack by the natives but as much of the evidence is hearsay we have no authentic material from which to draw conclusions.

The Poll Tax abstracts for the year 1660 show the numbers of Irish and English tenants on the various townlands but we cannot attempt a summary tonight nor can we deal with the Hearth Money Rolls of 1664, a document of great interest giving the names of all the people of the district who paid Hearth Tax in that year.

The area does not seem to have suffered in the period of the Williamite Wars.  King James came to Armagh and Derry by the direct route and returned the same way.  Detachments of William’s army were quartered at many places in the county but I have no note of any being stationed at Mountnorris.

In 1712 the Manor of Mountnorris was leased by the Annesley family to Charles Campbell of Dublin.  The estate then consisted of 4,300 acres.  Campbell in 1718 released the property to Robert Cope of Loughgall and by a deed of the same date Lord Anglesey covenanted that if he should die without issue then his heirs should convey to Cope the manor forever for a sum of £5,570.  In 1738 Francis Annesley of London sold the estate to Robert Cope and thus began the Cope ownership of the manor.  Cope was a Member of Parliament for the County of Armagh and died in 1753.  He was a great friend of the famous Dean Swift.

Rocque’s Map of the County published in 1760 shows the site of the fort on ground between the village and the river.  By that time the fairs had become monthly events.  If tradition can be relied upon they were often disturbed by quarrels.

In 1779 when England was threatened by invasion by the French, Spaniards and Americans, corps of volunteers were raised in practically every village and parish in Ireland.  In that year the Mountnorris Volunteers came into being under the command of Captain John Cope.  The Company formed part of the Northern Battalion of the County Armagh Regiment of Volunteers – its uniforms were scarlet and white.

In 1785 owing to riots it became necessary to change the fair from the first to the second Monday of the month.

According to an account written in 1837 there were then no vestiges of the extensive fortress from which the village takes its name.

Records of the 19th century cannot be gone into this evening, but you may be interested in a few details regarding Francis Annesley and his descendants.

The Annesley family in Ireland claim descent from a Robert Annesley, a captain in the Army of Elizabeth.  He was given an estate in Munster following the defeat of the Earl of Desmond.  Francis, his eldest son, was appointed Constable of Mountnorris in 1612 and in the following year was elected a Member of Parliament for the County of Armagh.  For over forty years he filled high posts in Ireland.  In 1620 he was created a baronet and in 1621 was given the revisionary peerage of Valentia.  In 1628 he was made Baron of Mountnorris in the County of Armagh.  His son, the 2nd Viscount Valentia, was created Earl of Anglesey in 1661.

Arthur Annesley, 8th Viscount Valentia, was created Earl of Mountnorris in 1793 but the earldom has since become extinct.  The Viscount of Valentia, however, survives and with it the Barony of Mountnorris.

Francis, the first Baron Mountnorris, had a son Francis, ancestor of the Castlewellan Annesleys, later Barons Annesley, Viscounts Glerawly and Earls of Annesley.

The present Viscount Valentia now resides in Oxfordshire but so long as that title remains in being there will always be a Baron Mountnorris.

In conclusion may I assure you that in Armagh we look upon Mountnorris with affection and pride.  We do not forget that the famous Ingram brothers were grandsons of one of your most respected inhabitants.



As written by the Rev. R. L. Porter in the 30th year of his ministry in the year 1829, prepared for an intended history of the Secession Synod in Ireland by order of the Synod.

(Courtesy of The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland)

Although the history of this congregation may be given in a very few sentences, there are some incidents in it of rather an interesting nature and which distinguished its formation from most of the other places of worship under the Synod’s care.  And before proceeding further it may be necessary to state that the under mentioned dates are not given positively, they are however as correct as could be at this distance of time ascertained by report.  The accuracy of the facts may be relied on.

A number of Presbyterian families who had formerly worshiped at Markethill, Clare and Drumbanagher were first induced from the remoteness of those places to apply for occasional preaching at Tullyallen about the year 1730 or 1736.  Shortly after, it was erected into a vacancy under the inspection of the Presbytery of Dromore, denominated the congregation of Mountnorris, a meeting house built, and the Revd John Mulligan ordained the Pastor.  Some aged persons in the country still remember and speak of him in terms of veneration and esteem.  It appears indeed that he was a pious, zealous, and faithful labourer in the vineyard of his heavenly Master, and there are visible even to this day some parts of the good seed thus early sown by him.  He died the 4th of June 1776, having successfully exercised his ministry among a numerous congregation 34 years.  The Revd Francis Turrittine from the congregation of Ray, County of Donegal, was called and appointed his successor around 1779.  The same evangelized truth continued to be taught and the worshipping community peaceful and prosperous under the ministry of Mr. Turrittine for 12 years, when an event occurred which suddenly and unexpectedly proved the occasion of dividing the congregation into two equal parts.  This event was the rebuilding of their meeting house consisting of four large aisles, but now falling into decay.  One party to suit their local convenience would have the new house built at the village of Mountnorris about three fourths of a mile distant.  The other party from the same motive would have it erected on the old ground and both actually began to build in the two places at the same time.  Their common minister, as may be well imagined, was greatly disappointed.  For some time he preached at a bleach mill midway between the two houses which were being erected for him, and performed the other duties of his office alike to both sides.  Matters were carried on in this manner for some time until the Presbytery visited the congregation and decided that the house erected in the village of Mountnorris should in future be Mr. Turrittine’s place of labour.  This decision, which was no doubt considered partial, rash, and inconsiderate by many at the time, immediately led the party at Tullyallen to resolve to apply to the Associate or Secession Presbytery of Monaghan to take them under their care and supply them regularly with services.  This was done and shortly afterwards in the year 1791 Mr. Wm McAuley was ordained amongst them as their minister.  A few years afterwards a wing of the original congregation around Kingsmill and remote from both the former places formed themselves into a separate congregation there and is at the present time in a flourishing condition.

In taking a retrospective view of the separation above detailed, it is very natural to think that the severing of such close and strong ties as what existed between the parties would have been productive of much rancour, recrimination, and heartburning among them, and it cannot be denied that it did, but these unhappy feelings (the writer of this sketch is happy to observe) have long since died away.  The most free and friendly intercourse is carried on between the two congregations and their ministers, their continuing to believe the same things and striving together for the faith of the gospel has contributed very much to bringing about this pleasing state of things, while it is admitted on all hands that, long ere this, the current congregation of Mountnorris would have been overgrown and too large to worship together in any one place.

But to return to the immediate subject of this narrative, Mr. McAuley after labouring in the gospel 4 years at Tullyallen emigrated in 1795 to America.  The place continued vacant for 4 years and in the mean time was transferred to the care of the lately formed Presbytery of Armagh.

On the 12th of September 1799 the present minister, the Revd R. L. Porter, was ordained to the pastoral charge of the congregation and, consequently, in two months will have completed the 30th year of his ministry.  At last sacrament (May 1829) there were 330 communicants and the number of families holding seats may be estimated at something short of 300.  The meeting house is three aisled and no more than accommodates the congregation.  It is very handsomely and conveniently situated and a plot of ground consisting of nearly two acres held in perpetuity rent free from the late Colonel Cope (the rent is one shilling a year).  Though this congregation has sustained considerable losses from emigration and other causes, and though closely surrounded by several places of worship yet from the dense population of the district and its own internal increase there is still a steady and respectable congregation and it is hoped there will still be a need to do the Lord’s service in this place.

Transcribed September 27, 1843 by John D. Martin, Minister of Tullyallen Congregation.



Mountnorris Presbyterian Church



Available Catholic Records at NLI & PRONI
(other than county heritage centers)

NLI=National Library in Ireland, Dublin
POS=film number
PRONI=Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
MIC.ID=film number

Type Dates Where
Baptisms1825-1844, 1849-1880 Pos 5587, MIC.ID/38
Marriages1825-1844, 1849-1880 Pos 5587, MIC.ID/38


Available Church of Ireland Records
(other than county heritage centers)

NLI=National Library in Ireland, Dublin
POS=film number
PRONI=Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
MIC.ID=film number



Available Presbyterian Records
(other than county heritage centers)

NLI=National Library in Ireland, Dublin
POS=film number
PRONI=Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
MIC.ID=film number

Baptisms1810-PRONI MIC IP/29
Marriages1804-PRONI MIC IP/29
Baptisms1795-PRONI MIC IP/29
Marriages1795-PRONI MIC IP/29


Church Records

Surname Record Type Info Contact
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LDS Film Numbers

Film Title Film number(s)
Tithe Applotments, 1832 #258464
Griffith's Valuation, 1864 #258750
1901 Ireland Census Townlands: Ballygorman, Ballyvally, Belleek Town, Bolton, Cornagrally, Corrinure, Creggan Lower, Creggan Upper, Drumcrow, Drummilt, Kilcon, Killycarn Lower, Killycarn Upper, Maytone, Mountnorris, Mountnorris Town, Mullaghmore, Tullyallen, Tullyherron, Tullywinny #812104
1911 Ireland Census Townlands: Ballygorman, Ballyvally, Belleek, Belleek Town, Bolton, Cornagrally, Corrinure, Creggan Lower, Creggan Upper, Drumcrow, Drummilt, Kilcon, Killycarn Lower, Killycarn Upper, Maytone, Mountnorris, Mountnorris Town, Mullaghmore, Tullyallen, Tullyherron, Tullywinny #1999613

(before ordering films, check # for accuracy)


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Town(land) Links

Griffith's Valuation Index for Loughgilly Civil Parish, John Hayes' website
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According to the 1826 survey by the Commissioners of Education (FHL film 1559450), there were 14 schools at that time in Loughgilly Parish.  These included 5 Catholic schools in Lesh, Greyhillan, Cornagrally, Carrowmannan, and Tullywinny; 7 Presbyterian schools in Drummilt, Lisdrumchor, Mountnorris, Tullyallen, Keady More, Mavemacullen, and Lisadian; 2 Episcopal schools in Belleek and Creggan Upper;  and an independent school in Lisdrumchor. 

None of the Catholic or Episcopal schools were very convenient to Mountnorris; the Greyhillan, Lesh, and Cornagrally Catholic schools were all about the same distance from Mountnorris (about 2 miles each) and the Creggan Upper Episcopal and Lisdrumchor Independent schools were slightly closer.  The Tullyallen and Mountnorris Presbyterian schools were the most convenient.

In 1826, the headmaster of the Mountnorris school was King Murray, the school was contributed by the Mountnorris Presbyterian Church congregation and was rated "good".  The student body included 11 Presbyterians, 13 Catholics, and no Episcopalians, including 15 boys and 7 girls.  (These numbers don't add up, but that's what the report says.)

The headmaster of the Tullyallen school was Alexander McCullogh, the school was attached to the Tullyallen Presbyterian Church and was rated "good".  The student body included 33 Presbyterians, 7 Catholics, and no Episcopalians, including 23 boys and 17 girls. 

This page is always under construction!

Information to be added:
     Description of town
     etc. etc. etc.


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last updated September 10, 2011