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st marys chapel lavey plaque lady of mercy

st marys lavey chapel spire

Lavey Chapel Opening 1873

Sited with its east end almost on the roadside, St. Mary's, Lavey closely resembles the siting and layout of St. Patrick's, Castlederg, where the parishioners had to walk around the transepts to find the entrance. The foundation stone was laid on 26th May 1872 and it was dedicated on the 26th May 1873 by the bishop of the diocese, Dr. Kelly.

The Londonderry Journal of the 9th July 1873 described the church:

"A grand and beautiful edifice, few churches in Ireland have been built in so short a period of time. Three months before the building was commenced the only available fund was the small sum of seventeen pounds. It has not only been built within a limited period of fourteen months but what is better, it is perfectly free of any debt. This is the more remarkable, when we state that it is a very large and most expensively built church".

 The parish priest was Reverend James McLaughlin who left a note in the Baptismal Register - "Having spent eight laborious years in Lavey, expended during this time more than three thousand pounds in the erection of churches and schools". Detailed lists of sub­scribers are among the parish records.

The Journal continued its description:

"It stands on a beautiful rising round, which comnands a view of the surrounding district. The site and adjacent grounds consists of one and a half acres which are kindly granted in perpetuity by Earl of Stafford, Sir Thomas Bateson and Lady le Poer Trench who are the joint proprietors of the Bellaghy Estate. The building and details, even to the furniture in the sacristy and altars is strictly Gothic of the most severe style. The plan cruciform, consists of nave, transepts, sanctuary, chapel of the Blessed Virgin and chapel of St. Joseph. The length of the nave is one hundred and six feet, the width thirty feet and across the transepts seventy feet and there also thirty feet wide; the sanctuary has a width of thirty feet and twenty feet long and is well adapted, on account of its site, for carrying out the grand and imposing ceremonies of the church.

 Stone is the best quality of black stone from the quarries of Knockloughleim. The exterior faces of all the stones are scabbled and the joints are punched four inches from the face, and laid with Portland cement. The walls of the entire superstructure are of uncoursed masonry and present an appearance of solidity and strength not surpassed by any church in Ireland. The stone used for the plinth and quoins is of the best description of sandstone, from the quarries of Tullyhogue. The jambs and mullions of the windows are all Dungiven freestone. The pillars are Dungannon freestone and consist of plinth, bell, abacus and capital.

 The roof is by far the grandest and most expensive part of the building, the timber is memel and red pine. The eight principals, which support the roof of the nave, rest on cut stone corbels. The roof of the transepts, sanctuary, chapels of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph are sheeted with red pine and panelled. No part of the building, however, displays more beauty and artistic skill than the cornice which is both massive and beautiful. The timber of the entire roof is stained and varnished.

 The morning was unfavourable but the assemblage was one of the largest ever witnessed in any church in the County Derry. The gathering was between three and four thousand and nearly an equal number was congregated outside the building. Father Edward Loughrey preached the sermon and his distinct and powerful voice could be easily heard in every part of the large edifice. The collection was four hundred pounds. Messrs O'Neill and Byrne of Belfast were the architects and Mr. G. Tipping of Castledawson the contractor".

Here is an extract from another newspaper at the time courtesy of Joe McGurk

Catholic Church of Lavey, Derry.

This is an extract from The Nation newspaper dated 4th January 1873. We copy from a Northern journal the follow­ing account of the above-named church, which is now in course of completion. We heartily echo the hope expressed in the last sentence.The foundation stone of the above Church was laid on 2nd May last. Although the season was most unfavourable for building purposes, the spirited contractor, Mr. Tipping, carried on the work with such energy that the mason work of the entire building, and the roofing and slating, are now all completed. On the 11th of December, 187I- the only available funds the Rev James McLaughlin, PP had in hands for building a new church was the small sum of five pounds. On the 11th December, 1871, all the instalments due to the contractor up to that time were paid, and a balance still on hands. This church is not only the largest, but it is also the most beautiful that has yet been erected in the diocese of Derry. An eminent architect who visited it a few weeks ago, stated that it was the best rural church in the province of Ulster, and considered it as one of Mr. O'Neill's most successful efforts as an architect. The site is good, commanding an extensive view of the surrounding district The parish of Lavey lies between Maghera and Castledawson, and is only a short distance from the river Bann and Lough Neagh. The Catholic population scarcely amounts to 600 families. An idea, however, may be formed of their generosity and the noble sacrifices they have made when it is stated that during the mouths of January and February last they contributed to the building fund of their new church a sum nearly amounting to one thousand pounds and during the last few months the weekly collections amounted on the average to fifty pounds. It is not too much to say that no rural population in Ulster has over contributed the same amount of money in an equal space of time.

The architecture of this church is medieval gothic, of the cruciform style. It consists of nave, chancel, transepts, chapel of the Blessed Virgin, and chapel of St. .Joseph. The chapel of St. Joseph stands between the northern transept and chancel, and is lighted by a large gothic window and a sixfall circular window. The chapel of the Blessed Virgin stands between the sacristy and the southern transept, aud has communica­tion with the chancel by means of a large gothic arch. The entire building is of the best description of rubble masonry. The faces of all the stones are scabbled, and the joints and beds punched for four inches from the face, and laid in Portland cement. The stones
used for the rubble masonry are all black stone of the best quality, got from the Knockcloghrim Quarries, The stones for the plinth and all the quoins are red sandstone from Tullyhogue. Tho jambs aud mullions and all the tracery for the windows are of Dungiven freestone, and the pillars arc Dungannon stone. The Rev. James McLaughlin and the people of the parish feel very grateful for the generous aid they received from the clergy and laity of the diocese, and from many other kind friends throughout Ireland and elsewhere ; and as a large sum will still be necessary for the completion and internal fittings, it is confi­dently hoped that a charitable public will lend them a helping hand.The church was dedicated on 6th July 1873,14 months after the foundation stone of the current Lavey chapel was laid on Thursday 2nd May 1872 by the Rev James McLaughlin, Parish Priest of Lavey, who had received permission from the Bishop of Derry, the Most Rev Dr Francis Kelly. The land for building had been acquired from the Bellaghy Estate and the design and building was entrusted to Messrs Tipping and Company of Castledawson and Magherafelt. Although unfinished, the chapel was opened on Sunday 6th July 1873 by Dr Francis Kelly and dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy. 146 years further on, the current renovation will largely be financed by the parishioners as it was in 1872. At that time, some funds had also been raised amongst the Tyneside Irish communities in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Jarrow and Wallsend where many people from Lavey parish had emigrated during the Famine of the 1840s. Incidentally, £1000 in 1873 would have the purchasing power of £115,000 today.
Joe McGurk.

This is the view of Lavey Chapel most people (2000s) will remember until the major renovation during 2018, 2019 when the most distinctive exterior feature, a spire was installed.


Lavey Chapel

Interior Saint Mary's Chapel Lavey Parish

Lavey Chapel from top of Christmas Tree 2014ad

Saint Mary's Lavey 14th November 2001 ad

Lavey Chapel 14th Nov 2001 

Saint Mary's Lavey maybe after 1961 renovations

lavey chapel pos 1950s 

The old original altar was removed during renovations in 1961. Apparently it was made mostly of wood with a marbelised effect.

Lavey Chapel Old Altar


The following scans are bulletin notes by Father Regan PP 1988


Repairs to Old Chapel 1845 - Father McAleer.




A brief history of Saint Mary's Chapel Lavey

Building donations list around 1860 1870s

Video Chapel People 1987

Saint Mary's Lavey 68 Mayogall Road, Magherafelt, Co Derry, BT45 8PG