Holywood Old Priory

The town’s rich ecclesiastical heritage is represented today by its most distinctive building, the Old Priory. The site was formally a monastery founded by St Laiseran in the early 7th century. The ruins you see today are that of the 12th century Anglo-Norman Augustinian Abbey. Henry VIII dissolved the Priory in 1541 with its lands passing into the hands of the O’Neill family and then to Sir James Hamilton, First Viscount Clandeboye. Hamilton laid out the town, with a Maypole at the crossroads and most of the early buildings are clustered round the Priory. The tower, however, dates from 1809 (the date marked on the original clock now in the current Parish Church) when this was the site of the town’s Parish Church. The graveyard has some interesting “residents” including members of the Praeger family, the Dunvilles (of whiskey fame) and Sir Joseph Larmor the world famous mathematician.
When facing the Priory, across the road on your right, you will see First Holywood Presbyterian Church (1842).