Today’s townland is Movilla, on the edge of the town of Newtownards in County Down.
I took the next photo from Scrabo looking northeast across the Ards Peninsula. Most of the houses in this image are in the townland of Movilla. Beyond are fields in Ballyharry and Cronstown.
The name Movilla comes from the Irish Maigh Bhile meaning ‘plain of the sacred tree’, according to the website of the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project. I found a tree, together with the townland name, on the stencilled metal gates at Movilla High School. Can you see Movilla on the right side of the image? To the left is another townland – Corporation North.
Movilla has more houses than trees now, but there are still traces of the sacred. The next photo shows the remaining walls of Movilla Abbey, dating from the 13th and 15th centuries.
Going further back, a church associated with St Finnian stood on this site in the 6th century. And for hundreds of years, the land around the abbey has been used as a graveyard. To illustrate this, I’ve chosen an 18th century headstone for Gawin and Jannet Cooper, very distant relatives of mine.
More modern churches have been built nearby: ‘Movilla Gospel Hall’ and (in the townland of Ballyalicock) ‘Movilla Abbey Church’.
The abbey is also remembered at the local primary school, which still clearly has trees, sacred or not.
Which county is Movilla in? County Down
Which civil parish is Movilla in? Newtownards
Which townlands border Movilla? To the north, Ballyharry. To the east, Cronstown. To the south, Bowtown. To the west, into the town of Newtownards, Corporation North.