Ballymore Parish Church was mentioned in ecclesiastical records at least 650 years ago. In 1343 Roger Sampford held possession of a Prebendary of Armagh for the Parish Church of Tamlackikieth with its churches and chapel. Afterwards it was called Tonlegee which means “back to the wind” and from which the present town name of Tandragee derives. We cannot fix a definite date for the founding of Ballymore but this information would indicate that by 1343 the church may have moved to its present magnificent site. The name Ballymore means “big townland”.
Tandragee owes its origin to the Castle next to the Church, which was erected by the O’Hanlons and later rebuilt by Sir Oliver St John. The successive Duke’s of Manchester lived in the Castle right up to the last century and were important benefactors of the Parish.
Numerous Church buildings have existed on this site over the centuries. In February 1812 the Church building of that time was pulled down in order to build a bigger Church as the existing one had become too small for the congregation. During the building, parts of the old walls were revealed and found to be over four feet thick and made of brick. The loopholes and embrasures showed evidence of a fire which records say took place in 1641. The new Church was built by means of a loan of £1,384.12s.3 ¼ d from the old Board of First fruits to which Lady Mandeville added £700. It was dedicated to St Mark.
In 1846 the transepts and chancel were added. In 1884 inside renovations were carried out and a new organ, the gift of the 7th Duke of Manchester was placed at the side of the chancel. The building is cruciform and originally had old fashioned boxed seats and a gallery at the west end (these were removed in 1956). There were also two large enclosed pews, one in each transept; the Rectory pew in the North and the Duke’s pew in the South. A fireplace adorned the wall beside the Duke’s pew but no such luxury was afforded to the Rectory family!
The oak panelling in the Sanctuary, along with the cherubs in the Baptistry and the carvings of musical instruments on the front of the organ loft, came from the Chapel in Tandragee Castle. A new digital organ was purchased by the Parish in 2010. In 2011 the East Window which depicts the Gospel writers was totally restored at a cost of £30,000 and was paid for by the generosity of parishioners and through money raised during Bicentenary celebration events in 2012. In 2016 a new entrance foyer was added to the Parish Hall along with a new heating system and double glazing.
St Mark’s Church may now be over 200 years old but it is not a museum dedicated to the past but the centre of a vibrant and living worshipping community ready to face the challenges and opportunities facing us all in the 21st Century.
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