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‘Overlooked’ church is a genuine hidden gem

It slipped under the radar back in the 1970s but a 200-year-old church has just been added to the list of most important historic buildings in Northern Ireland.

Cappagh Parish Church near Ballygawley in Co Tyrone had never been listed.

Yet it is regarded as one of the finest rural churches in the county.

It has now been made a grade B+ listed building by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, meaning it is considered to be among the most important 600 historic buildings in Northern Ireland.

The listing came to NIEA’s attention as a result of major survey of historical buildings which NIEA and its predecessor the Environment and Heritage Service, has been undertaking across the province since 1997.

“Cappagh Church is undoubtedly one of the finest rural churches in Co Tyrone.

“It is highly unusual that a building of this quality was not previously listed, as our first listing survey in the early 1970s was quite comprehensive,” an NIEA spokesman said.

“Our current Second Survey, in addition to providing better research on existing listed buildings, has been mainly adding structures such as mills and vernacular buildings, which would not have been as highly valued at that time.”

The Church of Ireland building, which is located in an unspoiled setting in a graveyard near the River Strule, was built around 1780.

Its architect remains a mystery but similarities to other churches suggest that it may have been designed by the important architect Thomas Cooley.

It also has a fine chancel extension dating back to the 1870s by the ecclesiastical architects Welland and Gillespie.

Inside, the building retains much historic detail.

It is also located on a site which has long ecclesiastical associations.

The church was added to the list after the survey scoured the Omagh District Council area during the last year.

A total of 463 buildings have been recorded in detail in the area and these are now being evaluated against a standard set of listing criteria.

A proportion of these buildings will be listed and added to the NIEA website.

Full results should be available before the end of 2010.

An illustrated essay highlighting the important buildings and structures in this part of Co Tyrone is also in the pipeline.

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