St. Mary Star of the Sea Church
The land on which this church is built was donated in 1820 by Lord Henry Fitzgerald, who also largely subsidised the construction of the original church on this site. St. Mary’s church was a single storey building with a mud floor, slate roof, five small windows and five seats. Lord Fitzgerald also bequeathed the sum of £10 annually ‘in consideration of being allowed two seats for the use of visitors and servants.’
St. Mary’s church was irreparably damaged by fire in 1930 and the foundation stone of the new Stella Maris church was laid in June 1933. Designed by Thomas McLean, it was completed at a cost of £7000. Since its construction, Stella Maris church has played a vital role in the lives of local people. It has been a centre of welcome and support, not only to the Catholic population of the Strangford area, but to all sections of the community.
Lord Henry Fitzgerald was the son of the Duke of Leinster and grandfather of Lord de Ros. His brother, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, was an important leader of the United Irishmen. Lord Edward was captured in Dublin and taken to Newgate prison where he died, aged 34, on 4th June 1798 as the rebellion took place. Lord Henry was with him in his last moments.
Before 1820 Mass was celebrated in Strangford by the harbour at Newry Quay. It took place in a store owned by Samuel Norris, a local businessman and customs’ collector.