The village of Camlough (Crooked Lake), is so called from the shape of the lake in the parish, which is about 90 acres in extent, and from which a stream runs towards Newry.  It supplied water power to the former mills and factories of the district. 

Camlough was established as a Perpetual Curacy, out of Killeavy Parish about the year 1793.  The Parish Church of Camlough, St. Jude’s (pictured) was designed by the notable architect Thomas Cooley and built by Primate Robinson in 1773 on a site conveyed by James Caulfield, Earl of Charlemont.  The church was consecrated in 1775.

The remains of the former church, situated in Camlough village, are still an outstanding landmark in the area.  The stalwart tower still bears witness to the many faithful worshippers who assembled throughout the generations long past.
Ruins of St. Jude's Church, Camlough
The Church was built to only accommodate 120 souls.  In 1859 the average attendance at Morning Worship was 118 and Evening Worship 58.  Morning Prayer was held each Sunday in Camlough at 12.00 noon and Evening Prayer at Millvale at 5.00pm.  Holy Communion was celebrated on the 1st Sunday of each month and at Christmas, Easter and Whit Sunday.  Baptisms were held on the 2nd Sunday of the month during Morning Worship with Sunday School being held in Camlough and Millvale.

On Monday 28th March 1864, with Rev J B Frith, Incumbent of Camlough and Rev H W Lett, Curate, present at the Easter Vestry, it was resolved that in the consequence of the great increase in the number of members of the Established Church in this parish, amounting now to about 800 souls, the accommodation afforded in the Parish Church was wholly inadequate.

It was also resolved that the site of the Parish Church was inconvenient, seeing the greater number resided at the distance of two miles from the Church, and that an enlargement of the present Church would not therefore meet the needs of the parishioners, and that a larger church on a new site, nearer the dwelling houses of the parishioners is required as a substitute for the small, old and inconveniently situated present Parish Church of St. Jude’s.

The corner-stone of the new Parish Church was laid at Maghernahely, Bessbrook, on Saturday 18th May 1867 at 4.00pm, by the Rev Alexander Irwin, Rector of Killeavy, Precentor of Armagh Cathedral and Chaplain to the Lord Primate.
On Tuesday 22nd September 1868, the new Episcopal Church (pictured left), named as ‘The Church of Christ the Redeemer’ at Bessbrook was consecrated by His Grace, The Most Rev Marcus Gervais Beresford DD.  The style of the architecture is the early English, and the Church consists of Nave, North and South Transepts, Chancel and Tower, the latter being 70 feet (21.34m) in height.  The Spire was a later addition.  The building is of granite with brick arches.

The total cost of Christ Church, Bessbrook, Parish of Camlough, was £3014-19-7, together with the addition of two memorial windows in the South Transept, costing £50.00.

The Officers were: Rev John Brien Frith, Rector; Rev Henry William Lett, Curate; and Churchwardens, Robert Ross and W J Wonfor.
The first marriage solemnised in Christ Church, Bessbrook, is dated 23rd October 1868, between John McKnight of Cloughrea and Sarah Stewart of Drumilt, in the presence of William Best and William McKnight.  The Rev Henry Wm Lett officiated.
The first recorded Baptisms in Christ Church, Bessbrook, took place on Sunday 27th September 1868.  There were seven, whose names are: Elizabeth, daughter of Robert and Isabella Gordon; Robert, son of Thomas and Sarah Smith; Margaret, daughter of John and Margaret Frame; Elizabeth, daughter of William John and Margaret McCrainor; Charles, son of David and Sarah Frame; Ellen, daughter of John and Margaret Strahan; Elizabeth, daughter of Robert and Mary Atkinson.  All were baptised by Rev H W Lett.

On Tuesday 20th September 1870, it is recorded that ninety-seven young people from the parish were confirmed by the Archbishop of Armagh in Mullaglass Church.

The gallery was erected in the church in 1881, under the stewardship of the Rector, Rev A Lockett-Ford, who later held the position of Archdeacon of Armagh.

In 1887 additional burying-ground was purchased – one acre at a cost of £120.00.  Mr J N Richardson, the vendor, contributed £50.00 towards this, so the actual price paid by the church was £70.00.

In 1900, Rev Henry Todd BA, was Instituted as Rector and continued in a long ministry of 42 years.  In Rev Todd’s time, a new organ was installed at a cost of £600.00 in 1910.  A new pulpit costing £360.00 was erected as a war memorial in 1928 and Memorial plaques containing the names of all who served in the Great War were placed in the Chancel wall.
Rev Canon Todd MA, in 1938 on the 70th Anniversary of the Church, decided to hold a Commemoration Service on 22nd September, and the special preacher was Rev Canon Lockett-Ford, MA, Archdeacon of Armagh, and previously rector of the church.

In 1945, while Rev Henry Robert Rogers, was Rector, the following resolution was unanimously passed: “that Camlough and Killeavy Union agrees to the prospective union with the parish of Mullaglass, as approved in the final scheme of the commission for the union of parishes in 1922, being dissolved, and hereby requests the Diocesan Council to take the necessary steps to have this carried into effect.”  It wasn’t until 1st October 1965, that the Union known as Camlough and Killeavy came to an end, and a new grouping of Camlough and Mullaglass came into being.

In 1955, with Rev S R Redpath, MA, as Rector, an extensive scheme of renovation and redecoration was carried out as follows:
oak panelling and reredos, electric lighting and floor covering for aisles;
HOLY TABLE, was presented by Mrs E H Rogers;
COMMUNION RAIL, presented by Elizabeth Brown;
SERVICE BOOKS, by Mrs Elinor Boyle and the late Mrs Elizabeth Harland;
ALMS DISH, by the family of the late Mr O R Morris;
ALMS DISH, by the family of the late A R Morris;
PRAYER DESK, presented by Annie Cowan;
PULPIT AND LECTERN LIGHTS, given by the Bible Study Group;
COLLECTING PLATES, by the Church Guild;
HYMN BOARDS, by Mr and Mrs Wilton;
and an ORGAN CURTAIN, presented anonymously.
In 1956, a tablet in memory of Sergeant Samuel Weir, RAF, killed during World War II, was unveiled at a special Memorial Service.

In 1966, the Select Vestry agreed to purchase a ‘gym hall’ in Bessbrook village at a cost of £800.00.  After an extensive programme of remedial works, the hall was opened by our Rector, Rev A. E. Crawford on Friday 4th September 1970, and named ‘The Harland Hall’.

At the Select Vestry meeting on 10th November 1977, Rev Crawford advised of his retirement date of 6th April 1978.
Rev Raymond G Hoey was Instituted as Rector of Camlough & Mullaglass Parishes in June 1978.

During the tenure of Rev Hoey, various major repairs were carried out to both the church and rectory, bringing both buildings up to a modern standard.

In 1986, Rev R G Hoey was made a Domestic Chaplain to the Archbishop of Armagh and in 1992 became the Archdeacon of Armagh, becoming the Venerable Raymond G Hoey.

After major renovation and re-decoration, which included a complete new central heating system, new sound system, a new choir vestry created, organ dismantled and re-built and a full re-decoration and re-carpeting of the church, a Re-opening Service was held on Sunday 22nd September 1991, with the sermon provided by the Very Rev. Herbert Cassidy, Dean of Armagh.  A further Service of Dedication of new Choir Robes and Memorial Gifts was held on Sunday 15th December 1991 at 3.30pm.

On 1st March 1993, the church suffered major damage, including to the roof, stained glass windows and internal ceilings and doors, after a mortar bomb attack on the neighbouring RUC station.  It remained ‘out of use’ until our Harvest Services in October 1993.

On Sunday 26th May 1996, our Holy Communion service for Whit Sunday was broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster at 10.30am.  Hymns sung were; This day, at thy creating word; Come down, O Love divine; O praise ye the Lord and the choir anthem; Come, Holy Spirit, from above.
A 50th Anniversary Holy Communion Service of the Camlough & Mullaglass Mothers’ Union branch was held in Christ Church on Wednesday 10th May 2000, with the address by Lady Eames, World Wide President of the Mothers’ Union.

On Friday 14th October 2011, a new £400,000 Parish Hall was opened, adjacent to Christ Church, by The Most Reverend Alan Harpur, Archbishop of Armagh.

During 2016, the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, re-organised various parochial groups within the Armagh Diocese.  As a result, a new Parochial Grouping of Camlough, Mullaglass and Ballymoyer & Belleek Union came into effect on 1st January 2017, consisting of Christ Church, Bessbrook, St. Luke's Mullaglass, St. Luke's Ballymoyer and St. Luke's Belleek.

Today, Christ Church, Bessbrook is the place of worship for 130 local families and our current Rector, Rev Alan Synnott, was Instituted by the Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Rev
Dr Richard Clarke, at a service in Christ Church on Friday 22nd September 2017.
Christ Church Parish Hall, Bessbrook

During 2017 and 2018, the parishioners of Christ Church held numerous events to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the church.  These were launched by the Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, on Saturday 25th March 2017.  

Our story continues...