Residents of a North Antrim village are curious about the future of one of Ireland’s smallest and most iconic churches.
St Gobban’s, at Portbraddan, near Bushmills, is thought to date back several hundreds of years but it has now been bought privately after being put on the market last summer for £375,000.
The tiny 11 feet by six feet non-denominational place of worship has played host to numerous weddings and christenings over many decades and is a huge attraction for tourists along the north coast.
The property, which has been fenced off, is currently undergoing major refurbishment including the removal of some of the church’s artefacts such as the famous bell.
There is no suggestion that the new owner has acted in any way improperly but some residents have taken to social media to ask what’s going to happen the famous landmark.
Blogger, Nevin Taggart, from Bushmills, said: “One of Portbraddan’s unique attractions is the miniature private church of St Gobban’s, constructed by the Rev Con Auld, until recently owner of the adjacent The Braddan, 22 Portbraddon Road. The small building had previously been used for livestock.
“Will the small church be reopened or is it closed for good? It would be a great shame if such a magical part of our local heritage was hidden from public view; it’s been very much appreciated by local people as well as by visitors from distant shores.”
In response to the post, Johanna White commented: Portbraddan is one of my favourite places to visit... I hope they eventually re-open the church to the public as it truly is a wee treasure.”
Bobbie Phillips said: “What a shame if St. Gobban’s Church is no longer open to the world - Rev. Auld wouldn’t be pleased about that, I think.”
Causeway Coast and Glens councillor, Norman Hillis, also remarked: “It would be really sad if St. Gobban’s does not reopen to the public. It is truly unique.”
Speaking to the Times, Mr Taggart said: “The blog has attracted a lot of interest from people throughout the world as well as from around the corner.
“The property is not listed and is privately owned. As yet we don’t know what the owner has in store for the site, they could be restoring it to its former glory. However I have been unable to find out who bought it and what their plans are.”
A spokesperson for the National Trust added: “As a conservation charity with limited resources we look after a wide range of special places across Northern Ireland, including along the Antrim coast. We were not approached regarding St Gobban’s, and as far as we are aware it is not currently for sale.”
A spokesperson for Belfast estate agents, Simon Brien Residential, who sold the church added: “We acted for Rev Auld and have no knowledge of the current owners future plans.”
The church was put up for sale on Property News in September last year.
The brochure stated: ”Idyllic seaside home that boasts Ireland’s smallest church is up for sale. Built in the 1950s, the charming non-denominational church on the Causeway Coast near the Giant’s Causeway is just 11ft 4ins x 6ft 9ins (3.45m x 2.06m).
“It has played host to dozens of marriage services over the years and boasts breathtaking views over Whitepark Bay to Rathlin Island and the Irish Sea towards Scotland.
“The church, house and boathouse - owned by retired clergyman and teacher Rev Con Auld, a former mayor of North Down - is on the property market with Simon Brien Residential for £375,000.”