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A Seventeenth Century Quaker Burial Ground

Over the past year a number of groups have co-operated in an extensive renovation programme at the old Quaker Burial Ground known as Lynastown. This cemetery, which is one of the oldest, if not the oldest Quaker graveyard in Ireland, lies some 75 metres to the north of the Bluestone Road on the edge of the Brownlow sector of Craigavon.

The Quaker movement was initiated in Ireland by William Edmondson. He was convinced of its validity while on a stock purchasing visit to England. On his return to Ireland he opened a shop in Lurgan and in 1654 commenced a Quaker Meeting for worship, probably the first in Ireland, in his own house. This house was located in what is now Church Place in Lurgan, approximately where the premises of T G Menary & Co., solicitors, are at present.

Among the first worshippers in William Edmondson's house was old William Lynas and, when he died on 20 June 1658, Quaker principles precluded his burial by a priest in the parish graveyard. He was therefore buried in a small plot belonging to his son Thomas in the townland of Moyraverty and it was this small plot which developed into Lynastown burial ground. Thirteen other members of the Society of Friends were interred before an Indenture was signed on 15 December 1673 and the sum of ten shillings paid to Thomas Lynas for the transfer of this ground to Francis Robson of Tamnificarbet and William Porter of Lurgan. Both these men were weavers and prominent local Quakers and this indenture, which was for a period of seven years, was the first step in bringing the burial ground under more formal Quaker control. The Indenture details the dimensions of the burial ground which are identical with those of today: "Part of the townland of Moyraverty.... which doth contain by estimation (on the side towards the King's High Street) twenty-five yards and a half or thereabouts and on that side adjoining Westwards on a piece of ground now in the tennure and possession of Richard Mathson containing thirty-five yards or thereabouts also butting and bounding Eastwards on a piece of ground in the tennure and possession of Leonard Calvert together with a highway leading from the King's High Street (into the aforementioned sould piece of ground) along by Leonard Calvert's groundside through the end of a little plot of ground called Whitehead's Garden containing seven yards broad or thereabouts be it more or less as it is now ditched and fenced out...".

The Indenture was witnessed by ten men, seven of whom were sufficiently literate to sign their names and very sensibly included the adjoining landowners Richard Measson and Leonard Calvert.

Almost six years later, on 2 August 1679, a Deed of Conveyance was signed transferring the ground at Lynastown to twelve other Quakers. This Conveyance stated quite specifically that "the onely intent use and purpose that the aforesaid piece of parcell shall and may bee continue and remain a burying place wherein for the bury their dead and not only theirs but such others as they the aforesaid people shall suffer there to be buried". Again, each of these twelve men were able to sign their names, as were eight of the nine witnesses. This indicates a remarkable level of literacy among Lurgan's Quaker community in the seventeenth century. Eleven of the signatories were tradesmen and the trades represented were linen draper, cooper, turner, tanner, shopkeeper, weaver (2), tailor (2), and smith ("). One of the signatories, Vallentine Hollingsworth, was listed as a freeholder.

The burying place at Lynastown was originally surrounded by a hawthorn hedge, and possibly a ditch, although there was constant complaint about the wetness of the ground. Access was by means of a gate and by 1679 there was a demand for a lock for this gate - possibly to prevent entry by straying animals. William Williams was asked by Lurgan Men's Meeting on 29 November 1862 to "provide and make ye graves at ye burying place when there is occasion" and on 17 of twelfth month 1685 they decided to approach him to negotiate for a drier piece of ground to act as a new burying place. These negotiations, however, proved unsuccessful. Thirty-five shillings were paid in 1686 for ditching and fencing and the Quaker desire for proper order was manifest when in the same year it was agreed that "all graves be hereafter made in a row, and at one side of ye burying place". Recurring problems over securing the entrance were resolved on 23 December 1687 when "Thomas Wainwright having gotten a new gate made for the burying place gives account to this meeting that ye new gate, and gate posts, and a lock and hinges for ye sd. gate with new style and getting and finishing ye same cost twenty shillings". The same meeting decided that John Hutchesson should be asked to maintain the graveyard on a regular basis. He later agreed to do this but appears not to have continued these duties for long as on 4 November 1690 Mark Wright and Thomas Wainwright were "desired to take care the graveyard fences and stile be well made and kept in repair".

Lurgan meeting was not only conscious of the need for fencing, draining and orderly arrangement of the graveyard. There was also concern that proper records should be kept. John Dobb was entrusted with this task on 9 of twelfth month 1687. By October 1691 he had left the country, possibly a consequence of the Williamite Wars and the record book, was "committed to ye custody of William Porter that it may be more duly kept in order as formerly".

Records of the date of construction of the stone wall encompassing the burial ground have not yet come to light but its appearance suggests that it was built in stages, possibly beginning as a famine relief measure in the 1840's. This supposition is borne out by the Ordnance Sruvey maps which show no wall in 1835, the north and west walls complete by 1860 and the east wall complete by 1908. The south wall, which contains the archway and gate and faces towards the Bluestone Road, must have been completed during the early part of the present century. The caretaker's house, regrettably demolished as part of Craigavon's early development, appears on the 1860 O.S. map but not on the 1835 edition.

Initial Quaker meetings for worship and for the purpose of marriage were held in the homes of members. Early meetings were held in William Edmonson's and when he left for Cavan other frequently used homes were those of Roger Webb and Mark Wright. After Roger Wright's death and burial at Lynastown in 1684 meeting were often held at the house of John Robsob in Tamnificarbet, almost half-way between Lurgan and Portadown, and some Quaker marriage records to the "publick meeting house of John Robson's". William Edmondson in his Journal refers to a visit to John Robson's house in 1695 "and from thence to a meeting at Lurgan". The minute of this meeting on 30 Arpil 1695 records that "Our antient friend William Edmondson be present at this meeting proposes ye great need there is of a better Meeting-house to be built that which is being in a Decaying Condition and not suitable for ye Meeting. So it being approved by ye meeting that there is a necessity for a better house have consented that preparation be made for ye Building of a better as Conveniently can be had". Just two years later the new Meeting House and its associated new burying ground were in use and the first burial there was that of Thomas Turner of Lurgan who died 29 December 1697. From this date onwards interments at Lynastown declined.

Prior to the opening of the Lurgan Meeting House and burying ground the Christy, Morton and Mulligan families of Moyallan had used Lynastown for interments. They not only continued this practice for a time after 1697, but even after the new Moyallan Meeting House and Graveyard had opened in 1736 the Christy family continued to use Lynastown. There were 39 burials between 1717 and 1788 and only five of these were definitely of friends who were not from Moyallan and its adjacent townlands. Fifteen members of the Christy family were interred in Lynastown during this period.

After the funeral of George Ballintine of Moyraverty in 1788 there were no further burials at Lynastown for over fifty years. During this period a number of Friends joined the emerging Methodist Church and among these were several of the Webb family. On the night of 6/7 January 1839 one of the worst storms in Irish recorded history devastated much of the country. Factories and churches were severely damaged, hundreds of thousands of trees uprooted and thatched cottages stripped of their roofs. The spire of Shankill Parish Church in Lurgan was blown down and the new Methodist Chapel at Bluestone, which was almost ready for consecration, was levelled to the ground. In Moyallan 73 year old Margaret Webb did not survive the storm. Her funeral, on 8 January 1839, was to Lynastown and on its way it passed the rubble of the devastated church. Over the next twelve months there were four more interments at Lynastown and all of these were of people who lived locally. In the space of the next one hundred and fifty years there were only 26 further burials, almost exclusively of people who had not been members of the Society of Friends. Their average age was 73, contrasting sharply with the great number of child burials (40%) which had been the case in the first fifty years.

The final burial ay Lynastown was that of William John Williamson who died on 24 March 1967. New road and house building subsequently left the site exposed and open to vandals, and the growth of briars and bushes made it almost inaccessible. Work over recent months involving a number of community groups has concentrated on rebuilding the wall, providing a new archway and gate to the same designs as had previously existed and, hopefully, returning the burying ground to a place of rest and rememberance.


Minute Book of Lurgan Men's Meeting, 1675-1710.
Lurgan Monthly Meeting, Record Book "No 1", 1674 - mid 18c.
Lurgan Monthly Meeting, Record Book "No 2", mid 18c. - early 19c.
Lurgan Monthly Meeting Burial Register commencing 8th Day if 1st Month 1812.
Craigavon Historical Society "Review", Vol. 1, No. 1 "Lynastown Burial Ground" by S J W Cooper.
Craigavon Historical Society "Review", Vol. 2, No. 1 "Quaker Meeting Places in the Lurgan Area in the 17th Century" by George R Chapman.
"Guide to Irish Quaker Records 1654-1860" by Olive C Goodbody and B G Hutton.
Settlement and Survival on an Ulster Estate - The Brownlow Leasebook 1667-1711" by R G Gillespie.
Bluestone - Gem of Irish Methodism 1789-1989" by Caroline M Jones.

Restoration work at Lynastown has been carried out by a number of local, national and international groups and individuals. Sincere thanks are due to all these people and also to Mr S J W Cooper who illustrated the front cover of this booklet and to Mr P B Wilson who wrote the text. Both illustration and text originally appeared in the Craigavon Historical Society's "Review 1992-1993" and permission to reproduce these is gratefully acknowledged.

Craigavon Borough Council and the Home Mission Committee of the Religious Society of Friends have co-operated in the publication of this booklet.

6 June 1993

The details of those who were interred at Lynastown are shown on the following link
Headstones - Lynastown
More articles about Craigavon, Lurgan and Portadown can be found on the following link
Craigavon Historical Society

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