Portico, the third church on this site and one of the most important Greek Revival buildings in Great Britain and Ireland, was built for the local Presbyterian community in 1840, to the designs of John Millar, an eccentric and very brilliant young Irish architect.
Thought to be based on the Temple of Nemesis (on the Island of Rhamnous) it features two hexastyle Doric porticoes sitting on a podium - the west at ground level, providing access to the gallery, and the east at first floor level with the entrance to the ground floor underneath between Egyptian styled pylons. At both ends the spaces between the central four columns are infilled to provide a vestibule for the gallery and at the other end an organ chamber.
Internally, under the coffered ceiling, there are columns with Bassaen ionic capitals, a trompe l'oeil marbled preaching box, the original wooden pews and the earliest stained glass to be found in an Irish Presbyterian church.
In 2015 ownership of the building was taken over by the charity 'Portico Ards' which raised the £1.6m for its complete restoration with the support of the HLF and over 30 other grant funders. It now functions as an arts and heritage centre with displays on the history of the region from the last ice age.
The organ loft is also open to the public with permanent displays explaining the inner workings of the instrument. Visitors are also welcome to try their hands (and feet) at the organ console. A wide range of arts events are held throughout the year and details can be found on Portico's webpage. The building can also be hired for events or as a recording studio.
On Sunday mornings Portico reverts back to its original purpose when the local Presbyterian community meet for their weekly service.