Chapeltown was built when Lord Charles FitzGerald gave permission for the erection of the chapel for the Roman Catholics of Dunsford and Ardglass.
The church here was built in 1791 by the Rev. Fr. Edward Mulholland. He incorporated several artefacts into the building including the cross taken from Ardtole, the sandstone font from Dunsford, a font from Tollumgrange, and the head of Our Lady of Dunsford. Built at the crossing of five roads Chapeltown is known as the place for Salvation, Damnation, Education and formerly Communication as it boasts the church, a public house, a school, and used to have a post office.
Our Lady of Dunsford
This statue is almost 750 years old and was carved shortly after the Norman conquest of Ireland. Among the knights in De Courcy's army was Roger of Dunesford who gave his name to part of this area. The statue is unique in Ireland as it is the oldest stone statue of its kind and also in still located in its original parish.
The statue was carved by monks at Greyabbey from Scrabo stone around the year 1300. Saint Mary was seen as an intercessor for mercy and was held in high regard by Normans who were returning from the Crusades.
After the Reformation it was torn down and broken up. The head of Saint Mary was found at the original church site (now Saint Mary's Church of Ireland) half a mile away and built into the gable in 1791. The body was recovered in 1905 when the green keeper of Ardglass Golf Club, Joe Hamill, found it while moving some steps in the green. He and his son John put it on a wheelbarrow and left it at Chapeltown.
On a visit to the area Francis Joseph Bigger seen the fragments and realised what they were. He funded the restoration and the restored statue was unveiled in March 1908. The heads are modern but it is thought that the head of Saint Mary can be seen in the gateway to Jordan's Castle which he made his home in 1911.
Saint Mary's Church of Ireland
Located just half a mile away on the Church Road Saint Mary's was rebuilt in the 1790s on the site of the medieval church. This was the original place where the shrine of Our Lady of Dunsford stood. The church retains some historic fragments such as the sarcophagus lid belonging to a Norman knight.
This site was also where the Methodist Church laid out its laws when John Wesley was invited by the Rev. Edward Smyth to preach in 1778. Rev. Edward Smyth had been rector for Castle Ward until he fell out with Lord Bangor who then sacked him. He is believed to have been the person who encouraged John Wesley to break away from the Church of England in 1783.
Please note this church is normally kept locked.
The Piping Rock and The Ceilí of the ‘Little People
Long ago there were few places in Ireland that did not have a story or two, and Dunsford especially around Sheepland was no exception. The popular stories were told around the firesides on many an evening recalling old Irish legends from giants like Finn Mc Cool to the fairies or ‘wee’ people.
People had no television or radio and the stories would pass down through each generation always being added to and made more colourful. Two of the older stories relating to Dunsford were the legends of the ‘Piping Rock’ and the ‘Broguey Stone’.
The Piping Rock was always mentioned as a place where, as the name would suggest, the fairies practised their music. The story goes:
Midway between Newtown and Crunglass an old bridle path leaves the main road and winds southwards towards the sea. At first it was bordered with high hedges, with fuchsias and honeysuckle peeping through in places, then the hedges gave way to low green banks decked in primrose and violets. The path bends and a grey rock covered with gorse seems to block the way.
This is the Piping Rock, for here long ago the fairies, who were small about the height of standing corn dressed in bright colours and always wearing a cocked hat we are told, held their revels on the long summer evenings while the old people listened to their music.
Gordons Blacksmith’s Shop GORDON AT HIS WORK IN THE BLACKSMITHS OF DUNSFORD
The Green space at the cross-roads in Dunsfort today was once the blacksmith’s shop was one of the hubs of the Dunsford community and the surrounding area.
With no cars unlike today the horse and cart were central to transport and working the farms of the area. The blacksmith would shoe all the local horses and fix all the farming equipment such as ploughs, harrows and all types of ironmongery such as potatoe diggers. Also the blacksmiths shop was an important meeting place for farmers to discuss the prices of cattle and wheat plus all other market prices and agricultural news. Dunsford’s blacksmith’s shop was owned and run by the Gordon family.
Originally the forge was owned by James O’Hanlon in the mid nineteenth century. From 1904 to 1913 the forge was owned by Paddy Gordon, but in 1913 Paddy left for America and Thomas Trainor took over from 1913 to 1919. Paddy returned from America in 1919 and ran the forge until 1923 when John Gordan,’s youngest brother of Paddy Gordon took over the forge and ran it until 1961 when he retired.
A couple of years later the forge was demolished and now no trace of the building can be seen. When the last stones of the forge were taken away a lot of history was taken away with it.
The blacksmith did a lot of work for the community when horse and carts were the main transport of the day. The blacksmith fitted all the horses with shoes and repaired the steel rims of the cart wheels They also made gates for the local farmer’s fields and sometimes decorative and ornate gates for the local churches.
Barter The blacksmith was not always paid in money. Sometimes as part of the payment a farmer would give him a sack of potatoes or some corn. A lot of the time the blacksmith had to wait to the end of the half year when the harvest money came in and then the farmer would pay as they themselves had enough money at one time to pay the blacksmith and other tradesmen. in May and November.