The Old Priory at the Bangor end of High Street is part of Holywood’s rich ecclesiastical heritage, today it is surrounded by modern developments. This is Holywood, County Down. Northern Ireland and not Hollywood across the pond, otherwise known as Tinseltown.
The site began as a monastery founded by St. Laiseran in the early 7th Century. The present ruins are 12th century Anglo-Norman, built by Thomas Whyte for the Augustinian Order and much of these ruins remain. After the Black death (1348-1350) Niall O’Neill refurbished the church for the Franciscan Order.
The Priory was dissolved on New Years Day, 1541, by Henry VIII with its lands passing into the hands of the O’Neill family and then to Sir James Hamilton, First Viscount Clandeboye.
The tower dates from the 1800’s when this was the site of the town’s Parish Church. The Church of Ireland maintained the building until the congregation moved to Church Road in 1844.