“St Patrick’s chapel, situated on the west side of Portadown in the townland of Tannagh, is a neat stone building corniced with freestone and having four minarets in front and two in the rear. It is 73 feet long and 35 feet broad. Built in 1835 and cost £700 raised by public subscription. There is accommodation for 2500 persons; the general attendance is not known as service has only been performed once. The interior is very plain, having a mud floor and no ceiling. There is a gallery at the east end; the windows are gothic; on the front of the chapel is a tablet with the following inscription:-
Glory to God in the Highest
St Patrick’s Chapel. Erected A.D.1835
The Rev. James O’Neill, Pastor
And on earth peace to men of goodwill.”
Renovation of St Patrick’s Church (1982 – 83)
When the new liturgical requirements came into force in 1972, there was reluctance to carry out too drastic alterations to the sanctuary of St Patrick’s Church. A temporary altar was provided immediately in front of the high altar with sufficient room to enable a priest to celebrate Mass facing the people. The communion rail remained and as the sanctuary was comparatively shallow in depth little room obtained for dignified movement now associated with Eucharistic celebrations. There were other impediments to a better arrangement being adopted. The new church at Drumcree was not yet built and St Patrick’s was filled to overflowing for Sunday Masses. No reduction in seating capacity could be entertained to allow a more generous sanctuary.
St John the Baptist opened in 1977 and in 1980 a new Parish Priest Father P.J. Early appointed to succeed Dr. MacLarnon who became Vicar General of the diocese and transferred to the parish of Dungannon. Population movement and the new church at Drumcree greatly relieved the numbers attending at the William Street Church, which after almost 150 years life needed substantial improvement and Canon Early decided that at the same time thought should be given to altering the sanctuary to meet the liturgical requirements of Vatican II in a much more permanent way.
Work commenced in October, 1982. Needless to say, the decision was not reached without much trauma for it had several heavy implications. The new altar must be placed in a more central position and have a better relationship to the congregation. To achieve this, the former pulpit in its prominent lofty location in the nave was removed and the transept galleries reverted to the situation as it was prior to 1935. it was with much trepidation that these proposals were carried out because the interior of St Patrick’s was much appreciated by the Drumcree parishioners and beyond, and great care and thought has been expended in endeavouring to retain the devotional character of the church. While the side altars have been removed, the former high altar with its high crotcheted pinnacle has been retained as the sacrament Altar and the marbles of the former used to construct the new altar. The sanctuary wall mosaics retained, cleaned and repaired and extended (behind the side altars); the decorative panelled ceiling of the chancel likewise kept as is the symbolic illustration over the arch. The white carrara marble baptismal font is brought from the south porch to the sanctuary while the new ambo and sedilia are constructed in marble to match the former furnishings and the steps trimmed in the same material. The existing brasswork, paschal candlestand, altar candleholders have been kept and reburnished while the gold plated door of the tabernacle polished and cleaned. The sanctuary lamp is a simple oil lamp beside the sacrament. The floor of the sanctuary is covered with a soft grey carpet.
The basic format of the church remains unchanged, with its main entrance porch under the centrally placed tower of 1861 and north and south porches retained. However, some reorganisation of other elements took place. The confessionals or reconciliation rooms are now at the rear of the nave under the gallery where four are provided and this allows more orderly seating arrangement near the sanctuary. New pews are provided throughout the nave and transepts and a central aisle provided to allow formal procession from the main entrance to the altar when desired. The existing sacristy remains hence access to the sanctuary is as before. The nave gallery with its fine organ is retained but the gallery frontal has been replaced by one from the former side gallery. Much of the internal wall plaster is renewed and new Columbian pine screens and doors provided to all porches. The floors of the nave and transepts carpeted and the porches laid with ribbed rubber while the stairs to the gallery recarpeted as well as the gallery aisles. The mosaics of the north and south porches cleaned and illuminated while the whole interior has been redecorated to enhance the character of the church. During the improvements, the stained glass window frames in the gables of the sanctuary and north transepts were discovered to have much defective timberwork, which necessitated the removal of the stained glass and the old window frames which are replaced to the same design in hardwood and the stained glass cleaned and refitted. Over the high altar and suspended from the centre point of the nave and transept is an eight foot high wooden cross painted by Malachy McGonagle after the manner of the Pisan School (C. 13TH century) and illustrates a crucified Christ with stories from his life. The former Stations of the Cross are slightly rearranged after cleaning.
Externally, much has been done without altering the architectural character of the building. The roof of the church reslated in natural slate, relathed and felted and many roof timbers replaced and strengthened and flashings renewed. The sacristy roof has been recovered in asbestos slates. Some of the more severely eroded sandstone to the tower is refaced and all the stonework repointed. The former smooth rendered walls now have roughcast dash plasterwork and in many cases, window lintels and jambs rebuilt as the former had deteriorated beyond repair. Much of the guttering either replaced or rebedded and drains relaid and cleaned. The demolition of the former parochial house allows more space on each side of the church and the grass area will be planted in the late autumn. Bitumen macadam surfaces have been renewed and concrete pavings extended and made good where necessary.
The heating, plumbing and lighting installations have been practically replaced. A new boiler installed in the basement boiler room where much difficulty was encountered by flooding caused by broken drains. Radiators have been redistributed and in some cases removed and a new force-flo air heater placed behind the tabernacle setting. Three new toilets have been constructed and the sacristies augmented with additional cupboards and better facilities. Throughout the building, electric wiring is renewed and the method of lighting changed to provide good, unobtrusive illumination. The external lighting has been greatly improved.