350 Years of Worship

A Touch of History

2013 saw us celebrate 350 years of worship at Hillsborough Parish Church. There has been Christian worship in the area since the twelfth century when St Malachy built his first church, and we have retained his name in our churches until the present day.

There has been Christian worship in or around Hillsborough since 600AD. Worship of God on the site of the present church building dates back to 1636. The present church building was completed in 1772. Few alterations have taken place over the years: it took about 100 years for heat to be introduced, and 50 more before there was electric light! The Parish known as St. Malachy’s, takes its name from a reforming leader of the 12th century church. The Parish has a churchyard with plots dating back to the 1700s and some of the rarest species of wildflowers in the countryside can be seen there.

In 1663 Colonel Arthur Hill, whose family developed the village of Hillsborough, built a new church in the shape of a cross, and this provides the basis of what we can see today.  It was dedicated by the famous Bishop Jeremy Taylor, who had been chaplain to King Charles I. The church in its present form was reconstructed incorporating the older walls between 1760 and 1772 by Wills Hill, the first Marquis of Downshire.

The church today is essentially the same as it was when Wills Hill completed his work of enlargement and restoration before being opened for public worship in 1773. As with any building of considerable age, the church buildling and grounds have been modernised over time, reflecting the progressive development of the way people have sought to meet together and worship God.

The building is a well-known landmark, with its 180-foot spire topped by a gilded cross. The construction cost over £20,000 and involved the work of many of the great artists of the day, such as Reynolds, Nollekens and Chippendale. The church is fortunate in having two magnificent organs – one the work of John Snetzler, and the other the work of his pupil, George Pike England. Amongst the organists of the church was William Harty, whose son was the world-famous composer and conductor, Sir Hamilton Harty.  Sir Hamilton’s ashes are buried at the west door of the church, near the bird bath dedicated to him.

The church stands on the summit of a gentle slope in the centre of the village some 300 yards from the main street.

The Parish Churchyard is a special place situated to the north of the church of St Malachy and is surrounded by trees and the sound of village life. Near the lychgate to the left a stone records the burial place of Bishop Richard Mant, the hymn writer.