St. Michael's History

St. Michael's Parish Centre occupies a site and premises of considerable significance in the history of Downpatrick.

A Royal Patent, Dated 13 July 1635, granted Thomas Cromwell, Viscount Lecale " the town of Downe, alias Downpatrick" and about 14,000 acres of land in the surrounding area.  This constituted the Manor of Downe and to emphasise his enhanced status, Lord Cromwell began to build a castle at the top of Irish Street, where St. Michael's and the adjacent houses now stand.

it appears to have been a large building with orchards and gardens sweeping down to Loch Cuan, which then flooded the flat meadows now occupied by St. Patrick's Avenue, Russell Park and the Playing Fields along the Ballydugan Road.

The Rising of 1641 saw the Castle under siege from Lord Iveagh and Con O'Neill, after six weeks the Castle was surrendered, some days later Irish Troops ran amok and burned down Lord Cromwell's Castle.  It lay in ruins for the rest of the 17th Century.

At the beginning of the 18th Century, the Manor of Downe acquired a new owner, when in 1703 Edward Southwell, Chief Secretary for Ireland, married Lady Elizabeth, the last of the Cromwells.  Southwell was an absentee Landlord, however his local agent John Trotter, built on part of the site, a long two storied building (in recent years occupied by Dr. Vincent Kelly). 

The rest of the site is shown on the 1729 Map of Downpatrick as "The Mansion House" gardens and treet lined "Lady Bettys Avenue" leading down to the water.

John Trotter lived in the new house until 1771, when he was succeeded by his son Dr. Edward Trotter, Rector of Inch, the latter bequeathed it to his wife, Elizabeth, who in turn bequeathed it to her grand-nephew, Wellington Gardener.  

Mr Gardener sold the "St. Michael's" to the Superioress of the Convent of Mercy, Downpatrick on 26th April 1899, for a sum of £775, a considerable amount at the time.

The Sisters of Mercy made excellent use of the two acre site, using it first as an orphange and then as a boarding school, after the 2nd World War, on 25th September 1939 the Sisters opened a College of Business Studies on the site, the forerunner in  many ways to the present day St. Mary's High School.

Monsignor Jospeh Maguire purchased the building in 1974 from the Sisters of Mercy and set about making it available to the community for recreational and cultural benefit.