The congregation’s eleventh minister was the Rev Hugh Hamill, M.A. Born in Mosside in 1797 and licensed by the Route Presbytery in 1819, Mr. Hamill was ordained in Bushmills in 1820.
Mr Hamill began the careful record of births and marriages which continue to be consulted by relatives and visitors, many from overseas. In 1827 Mr Hamill recorded in the minute book of the Church Committee that there were 262 families in the congregation who were seatholders and another 77 who were not seatholders but expected ministerial responsibilities. He also noted that:
‘The Meeting House being in that time in such a state that it must be rebuilt, or that a very large sum must be expended to repair and make it comfortable as a place of worship.’
It was unanimously decided to rebuild the church building and on 27th June 1829, at a cost of £560, a new meeting house was officially opened. Three months later the congregation had cleared their debts. It would, with some modification, continue as the congregation’s meeting house until the extensive renovations of 2005.
Not long after arriving in Bushmills, Mr Hamill purchased a piece of land in the townland of Eagry (on what is today the Straid Road) of some nine acres upon which he built a dwelling house. Prior to this there is no substantiated record of a Manse for the minister of Bushmills. During his long ministry, Mr Hamill served the wider community, as clerk of the Presbytery of Route between 1834 and 1864 and as a trustee of the Bushmills National School. When he died in 1864 an anonymous writer to The Coleraine Chronicle, who signed himself as “An Old Friend” wrote eloquently of Mr Hamill’s attributes. Part of that tribute reads:
‘Viewed as a man and a member of society, he was distinguished for his sterling integrity of principle and exemplary conduct, which secured the respect and esteem of all classes in the community….
In expounding Scripture, explaining doctrines and inculcating duties, in a plain and unadorned style, he had few superiors. His well-known sincerity and habitual consistency gave weight to his instructions.
As a member of the courts of our Church … he was contented to rank among the “mutes”; but he could think as correctly, discriminate as judiciously, and vote as independently, as the most prominent and eloquent of our debaters.’
Mr. Hamill died intestate and it was left to his widow to enact his long-held wish that the house and land at Eagry be made available for future ministers of Bushmills in perpetuity. In agreement with the family, Mrs. Hamill bought the house from her late husband’s estate for £150 and gave it to the congregation in February 1865. Shortly thereafter, the house was extended from a storey and a half to two storeys and a large addition was made to the south end with four commodious rooms comprising two reception rooms downstairs and two more bedrooms upstairs. The house became Bushmills Manse and has continued as the residence of successive ministers of the congregation until the present day.