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Virtual Tour

The Chichester or Donegall Aisle


The steps leading up to this aisle betray the fact that it was built as the burial vault of the family of Chichester. This happened in the reconstruction of the Church in 1614 and behind it lay the moving spirit of Sir Arthur Chichester, the Lord Deputy of Ireland and Governor of Carrickfergus. He was also the first Lord Baron of Belfast and his brother Sir Edward Chichester inherited his titles. Sir Edward's eldest son Arthur, died with no surviving male issue. His titles and the estates devolved to his nephew Arthur, eldest son of his brother John who was created first Earl of Donegall in 1647. The vault used to be entered from the nave by a door which is now built up. It is a barrel-roofed vault in cut red sandstone and in it several of the Chichester family lie interred.

The Chichester Monument is quite unique in any Church in Ulster. This elaborate Jacobean monument in marble and alabaster has effigies of Sir Arthur Chichester facing his wife, Lettice. Between them lies their only child, Arthur, who died in infancy. Below lies an effigy of a brother, Sir John Chichester, who was ambushed and killed by the MacDonnells in 1597. He was beheaded at "The Glynn." The story is told by Samuel McSkimin, though it is probably apocryphal, that in the following reign MacDonnell went to Saint Nicholas' Church to see the Chichester Monument. On seeing it he asked: "how the deil he came to get his head again, for he was sure he had anes taen it frae him?"

On the wall to the right of this aisle is also a marble tablet commemorating Arthur Chichester, third Earl of Donegall, who was killed fighting in Spain.

Two lovely examples of Irish stained glass work are to be seen in this aisle.

The one on the right hand wall has interesting story attached to it. In 1645 the aster of a ship, William Crispin, died at sea. The ship was brought in to Carrickfergus and the body interred in the Church of Saint Nicholas. The Commander of the ship was William Penn, father of William Penn, the founder, of Pennsylvania. In 1929 Mr. Jackson Crispin of Berwick, Pennsylvania and New York City, visited Saint Nicholas' Church and expressed a desire to erect a memorial to his ancestor "Master Crispin." After inquiries had proved satisfactory, consent was given and the lovely Saint Andrew window was erected. It depicts the Apostle bringing the lad with the 'five barley loaves and two fishes' to our Lord prior to the feeding of the 5,000. A bronze tablet below the window gives an from the log book of the ship in 1645. A stone tablet on the floor of the Chancel neat the Prayer Desk a1so recalls the burial of William Crispin.

The Window opposite this also draws the eye with its striking colours. It was given by the Officers of the Regiment in memory of the Officers and non commissioned Officers and Gunner of the Antrim Royal Garrison Artillery who fell in the great war 1914-1918. The window depicts the Beloved Disciple John. Of particular interest are the symbols in the window from the Book Revelation. The visitor will note with astonishment that the "Red Hand" of Ulster in the window and on the tablet are not identical. One is a left hand, the other a right. There is no need to argue as to which hand O'Neill threw ashore on Ulster soil. You can here take your choice.

Visitors will already have noted the complete contrast between this aisle and the remainder of the Church. This has been done deliberately to preserve the link with the Chichester family vault. This transept was closed to the public until 1830. Today it is open to all for Church services, but the character and atmosphere of the ancient vault have been retained.

We now return to the Crossing and proceed up the Chancel.


St Nicholas Sketch