Festival of Baptism at Billy Church

Tuesday August 9th 2011

Billy Parish ChurchBilly Church, the ancient parish of the Giant’s Causeway, is to celebrate the joy of baptism in a festival taking place on the weekend of September 10 and 11 2011.

The Festival of Baptism will be held as part of the annual European Heritage Open Days, and as well as celebrating baptism, the event will look back on Billy’s long history.

There will be a myriad of christening gowns ancient and modern on display, along with other artefacts from the Causeway School House Museum. Central to the festival will be the restored baptismal font which dates back to at least 1815, and was in some ways the inspiration for this unusual festival.


The Rev John AndersonThe Rev John Anderson, rector of Billy and Derrykeighan, had read about a Festival of Baptism held in a church in England. When last year the old font was discovered hidden in a balcony that was never actually built in Billy Church, the idea of having a similar festival was born.

“We think the font dates back to the building of the present church in 1815 or it may be even older,” said John. “A new font was built at the front of the church in 1890. We have restored the old one, which is an eight sided font and would probably have sat in the porch. It is very simple sandstone and was probably built by a local craftsman.”

It is hoped the restored font will be permanently relocated back in the porch at Billy Church.

And the church can also boast a third font! “The parish used to have Chapel of Ease at the Giant’s Causeways Schoolhouse, and it was used until 2000. It was a travelling font and the Education Board kept it and other items for the Schoolhouse Museum. The font and other items will be brought here from the museum for the Festival,” said John.

The baptism gowns will be provided by parishioners, and each will be displayed with a history of all those babies who wore them for baptism. There will be newer gowns along with many old and ornate linen and lace christening gowns.

John said: “A lot of the gowns would no longer be used as babies now tend to be bigger, or are baptised when they are older, and the gowns would not fit. It will be nice to bring these wee gowns out and let people admire the beautiful craftsmanship that went into them.”

Adding to the attractions over the weekend of the Festival, Ian and Meta Page, who bought the old Billy Rectory 30 years ago and have restored both house and grounds, have agreed to open their beautiful gardens to visitors. The gardens can be accessed through a gate in the church graveyard.

Services on the Sunday at 10.30am and 6pm will reflect the theme of baptism although unfortunately at this stage an actual baptism cannot be promised!

During the Festival, there will also be floral displays and on the Saturday teas will be served in the church hall.

The Festival will raise funds towards the restoration of Billy Church. Major work was carried out five years ago and the project is ongoing, with plans to install a new lighting system in the church.

Billy is one of Connor Diocese’s most historic parishes. Billy Mountain has been a site for worship for 800 years, and according to the rector, a survey carried out at the time of Henry VIII showed only seven churches in Connor had a roof, and Billy was one of them. Although it is the ancient parish of the Giant’s Causeway, its inland location means it is not too well known to tourists who flock to Antrim’s north coast.

Billy Church will be open from 10am-6pm on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September, and all are welcome.  


Back to latest news

Site Directory