A brief history
In the year 1778 John Wesley first visited the Ards Peninsula.
He tells in his Journals that in Thursday 11th June he preached at Kircubbin, where he was the guest of Mr. Napier who fitted up a barn for him to preach in. After his visit to Portaferry he crossed to Strangford "where standing on a point of rock, which projected into a large circular cavity that contained in the hollow and round the edge of it all the multitude who flocked together."
The point of rock would probably be Swan Island in the centre of Strangford Harbour.
In June 1789 Wesley paid his last visit to Ireland. He again preached in the Presbyterian Meeting House in Newtownards and he says "from hence we had a pleasant ride to Portaferry, a pretty large seaport town and one of the quietest in Ireland I ever saw. Here likewise, I preached in a large meeting house to a serious and well-behaved congregation on 'Stand ye in the old paths.' And many seemed determined to walk therein. The following day we had twice or thrice as many people in the morning as our house would have held."
In the minutes of the 1786 Methodist Conference the question was asked: "What houses are allowed to be built?"
Portaferry was amongst those given permission to build a church so we conclude that Methodism had been in the area for some time. Hence the date on the gable of the church of 1780.
The Ordinance Surves memoirs for the year 1834 tells us that "The church was erected in 1788. The cost was not known but it was paid for by the members and other subscribers. It was reroofed in 1810 and there were six seats and a sundry number of forms, but it was hard to say how many it would seat owing to the constant shifting and irregular position of the forms - perhaps 200."
A school was held in the church during the week from about 1830 to 1870 at which pupils of all denominations attended.
The church was further improved in 1864 and then in 1904 the building was renewed inside and out. The ceiling was replaced with pine and the walls were wainscoted in the same wood.
Twenty-two new pews were designed, six new windows with leaded lights were installed and a hall was also built. All the work was carried out by the Beck family of Portaferry for the sum
of £sd 299.5.0.
This is the church as you see it today.
These were the last major renovations carried out on the church until 2006 when we managed to acquire the next door garages and built Cuan Mews.
Framed copies of the original detailed bills and specifications can be seen in Cuan Mews.
Portaferry is now the oldest Methodist Church in Ireland still in regular use.