Bishop William Reeves, Keeper of the Armagh Public Library, 1861—1886 described the Terrier, or Ledger Book of Down and Connor, originally made out in 1615, “of great value as a connecting link between the records before and after the Reformation, showing the condition of the dioceses in their traditional state”. The Terrier refers throughout to the taxes payable by churches, chapels and the like under the headings — Proxies Refections — Synodals — and unless otherwise stated, these taxes were levied respectively at the rate of — twenty shillings (Proxies), twenty shillings (Refections) and two shillings (Synodals).

Monsignor O’Laverty in his Down and Connor, Vol. V, p. 318 states that the fullest recital of the see lands and perquisites of the bishops in both these dioceses is preserved in the Terrier, as is obvious from the initials at the side of certain parishes — parishes, which by the Charter of Connor 1609—constituted under the Established Church the corps of the cathedral dignitaries and prebendaries. This Charter, in the polity of the Church of Ireland, still functions, albeit in name only, since the passing, in 1869, of the Irish Church Act (32 and 33 Viet. c. 42).

In 1615 Robert Echlin, the Established Church bishop of Down and Connor “repaired” says Ware, Works, p. 208, “to London and represented to King James I the great decays and unconscionable concealments and usurpations of the temporalities, tithes, advowsons, and other spiritualities of the bishopric; upon which the king appointed commissioners to inquire into this affair”. The Terrier would appear to have been drawn up under Echlin at that period. It gives the name of every church that existed in Pre-Reformation times in the diocese, for, in 1615 the very sites of many of them were unknown. It also gives the amount that each church should pay to the bishop in proxies, in refections and in synodals. These payments were obviously not those that were made to Bishop Echlin, but what had been paid to the Pre- Reformation bishops.







From early times until the tenth century, it was the custom for the bishop personally to visit each parish under his jurisdiction once a year, unless where the diocese was of too great extent, in which case the indulgence of a biennial, or, at furthest, a triennial, visitation was allowed him. A revival of this custom was contemplated by the seventeenth canon, which prescribed that ‘a bishop shall in his own person every third year, at least, in the time of his visitation, perform the duty of Confirmation, etc.’ Thus was founded the rule that the bishop should be entertained by the parish priest at each church, which entertainment was called procuratio from pro cur are to refresh.

In after times, when a considerable portion of the visitatorial duties were delegated to the archdeacons, the right of procuration was extended to them (though not necessarily in every diocese, e.g. Raphoe). This impost became very oppressive, and, to prevent further abuses, it was decreed by the Third Lateran Council, in 1179, that archibishops, in their visitations, were not to exceed a retinue of 40 or 50 horses; bishops 20 or 30; archdeacons 5 or 7 and rural deans 5 or 7. As soon as the bishops ceased to hold their itinerant visitations, and the clergy were convened to their cathedrals, the word procuration, or proxy came to signify a pecuniary composition paid to the Ordinary (Ordinarius) in lieu of the discontinued entertainment. W. Reeves, Ecclesiastical Antiquities, pp. 98, 100. J. O’Laverty, Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol. V, p. 316. At the period of the Reformation the rate of proxies varied in Down and Connor from twenty to two shillings.


Refectio is interpreted a dinner or supper, hence the duty to provide such. This duty was commuted and fees were payable on that score to the Bishops of certain dioceses in Ireland. Such fees had their origin in the discontinuance of the custom of holding ruri-diaconal chapters, or other conventions. As a rule all the priests in a diocese were obliged to pay the taxed proxies, but refections were rarely alluded to. To remove any obscurity that might surround this apparent duplication of ecclesiastical taxes, it is necessary and sufficient to bear in mind that the proxies were intended to represent a proportionate contribution from each cleric for the upkeep of the bishop, while he was justified in remaining on duty within the parish and that on the other hand, the refection payment represented the expense of a meal occasionally at the table of an individual cleric, in whose house the bishop might, if he chose, hold assemblies of the capitular body or general clergy, instead of bringing them to the cathedral. Proxies were universal, refections particular, impositions and both taxes were significantly small.


Synodals represented sums of money or fees paid as a commutation for the entertainment that the clergy were to provide for the bishop or archdeacon when either of them presided at their rural chapters. From the Terrier it appears that in Down and Connor each benefice paid at the Reformation the sum of two shillings under this head. Synodals were so-called because they were usually paid to the bishop or archdeacon by the inferior clergy at Easter visitation. They were called synodals because they were usually paid at the Diocesan Synods, which were denominated Denarii Paschales. In Down and Connor they amounted to two shillings on each benefice. Synodals constituted payments belonging to the spiritualities and not to the temporalites of the bishops; they vested during a vacancy in a see (sede vacante) not in the Crown, but in the archbishop of the province in which the vacant see was situated — Armagh, Dublin, Cashel or Tuam, in the archbishop’s capacity as Custos Spiritualium. — “The Cathedral System in Ireland”, Vol. II, Chapter 6, Section 3, p. 274. H. A. Boyd, M.Litt. thesis in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Proxies, Refections and Synodals represented the perquisites, or profits which a prelate received in his capacity as a diocesan bishop and it is to the Terrier that we must turn in order to ascertain the fullest recital of the various estates belonging to the see of Down and Connor and drawn up from older documents that have long since perished. J. O’Laverty, Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol. V, pp. 318—334.

The vast majority of the entries in the Terrior record proxies 20/-, refections 20/-, synodals 2/- or 42/– in all. Such were the amounts levied in the case of the parish of Ballymoney which (to take but one example), “hath in glebe twenty acres; it is one of the best livings in the diocese”. By the time of the Ecclesiastical Commission (Ireland) report, p. 238, over two and a half centuries later, Ballymoney still held that prestigious position, but lost it as a consequence of the enactment of the Irish Church Act 1869. Another entry of interest refers to The Capella de Killoan — the chapel of St. James in Morelloke (Murlough) near the Fair Foreland (Fair Head). It is usurped and concealed a long time by the parson of Keelfectrin (Culfeightrin at Magherintemple), see Preliminary Survey of the Ancient Monumeants of Northern Ireland, 1940, p. 12, “and is exempted”.

As for the Grange of Innispollan in Cushendun it “hath a little mensal; pays to the bishop one fat beef; he hath agreed 50/- per annum.” A mensal parish or grange pertained to the table of the bishop; its revenues were in part devoted to supplying the bishop’s table. In former times the bishops of Down and Connor had five mensal parishes or granges in the Connor portion of their dioceses — Innispollan, Glynn, Inverbeg in the parish of Inver, Ballyhampton in the parish of Kilwaughter, “brinked by evil neighbours” (Terrier) and Solar in the parish of Cairncastle.

I remember some years ago in the polity of the Church of Ireland when the Right Rev. F. R. Mitchell, D.D., Bishop of Down and Dromore 1955—1969 visited in his episcopal capacity the mensal parish of Kilbroney, (Rostrevor) in his diocese of Dromore, advantage was taken of the occasion by the incumbent and members of the congregation to present him with a roast of beef (or lamb) “for his table” as a reminder of the mensalic nature of character of the parish in former times and therefore “in accordance with ancient precedent or custom”. (Perhaps a not dissimilar procedure could be enacted when the Bishop of Down and Connor visits his “little mensal” of Innispollan — all the more so because

The site of the church is occupied by the modern Catholic church and it is the only site of an ancient church in the diocese which is occupied by a modern Catholic church. J. O’Laverty, Down and Connor, Vol. IV, p. 529.

Innispollan which is in the civil parish of Layd, but in the ecclesiastical parish of Cushendun has a particularly fascinating history — a history that could well form the subject of a contribution to the pages of this journal.

In the ecclesiastical arrangement of parishes in the city of Belfast at the present day the following are mensal and, as such, served by Administrators — St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s, Holy Family, St. Peter’s, recently raised to the status of the cathedral church of the diocese of Down and Connor, St. Joseph’s and St. Columcille’s; they represent the modern equivalent of the mensal parishes and granges of olden times. In the list of parishes in The Catholic Directory, diocese of Down and Connor, they understandably occupy pride of place in the diocesan list, being followed by those served by parish priests.

(In the preparation of the above grateful acknowledgement is made to two well-known and reliable authorities, Monsignor O’Laverty’s monumental work Diocese of Down and Connor, Vols. IV and V; the latter volume prints the Terrier in extenso, while Bishop Reeve’s Ecclesiastical Antiquities of the United Dioceses of Down and Connor (with Dromore) is no less authoritative.)

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