INCH, or INNISCOURCY, a parish, in the barony of LECALE, county of DOWN, and province of ULSTER, 2 and a half miles (N.) from Downpatrick, on the road to Killyleagh; containing 2857 inhabitants. A Cistertian abbey was founded on a peninsulated portion of this parish, called Inch Island, and subsequently Inniscourcy, by Sir John de Courcy, in 1180, in atonement for having in his wars demolished the abbey of Erynagh, which had been fortified against him. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and amply endowed by its founder, who transferred to it all the possessions of the abbey of Erynagh, and placed in it monks from Furness in Lancashire; after the dissolution, its site and possessions were granted to Gerald, Earl of Kildare.
The parish, which is bounded on the east by Strangford Lough, comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 6494 and a quarter statute acres, of which 80 and a quarter are water, and 4731 are applotted under the tithe act; of these, 200 acres are wood and plantations, 1800 rocky pasture, and the remainder, with the exception of 20 acres of bog, are under tillage and in a high state of cultivation. Over the river Quoile, which here opens into the western branch of Strangford Lough, is a bridge connecting this place with Downpatrick. Adjoining the parish are the very extensive embankments called the water-works, constructed across the lough by Mr. Southwell, in 1748, at which time a large tract of marshy ground was reclaimed. Finnebrogue, the seat of J. W. Maxwell, Esq., is a handsome mansion, situated in a richly wooded and well-watered demesne of 500 acres, embellished with thriving plantations.
At Ballanacreg is a lead mine, and near it a slate quarry, both of which have been imperfectly worked. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Down, formerly united to the rectory of Ardkeen and vicarage of Witter, together constituting the corps of the prebend of St. Andrew, in the cathedral of Down, but in 1834 separated from those parishes, on the recommendation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and now solely forming the corps of the prebend, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £286. 3. 1. The church, erected in 1742, and enlarged and repaired by a loan from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1831, is a handsome structure with a tower and spire, added in 1784, and a transverse aisle added in 1826. In the R. C. divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Kilmore, or Crossgar; the chapel is a small building near the extremity of the parish. About 100 children are taught in the parochial school, for which a good school-house was built at the joint expense of the rector and J. W. Maxwell, Esq., by whom it is chiefly supported; and there are two private schools, in which are about 150 children, and a Sunday school.
There are some remains of the Cistertian abbey, situated in a fertile dell near the southern extremity of the parish, and within a quarter of a mile of the cathedral of Down, from which they are separated by the Quoile river, across which is a ferry; the choir is nearly perfect, having three lofty windows at the east end, and two in the north and south walls, with many other interesting details. To the north of the abbey are the ruins of the ancient parish church, a spacious cruciform structure, erected in 1610, partly with the materials of the old abbey; the spacious cemetery is still used as a burial-ground. These ruins, from their style and situation, are exceedingly picturesque.