The Cistercian Abbey at Newry was founded in 1153 by Murtagh McLoughlin, king of the Cenel Eoghainn. The estates included in the grant were extensive and included land in counties Armagh, Down and Louth. Although the abbey at Newry was outside the English Pale and the king's jurisdiction, Edward III seized the abbey estates in Cooley as part of his attempt to weaken the Irish-controlled section of the church. The reason given was that Newry Abbey was "mere Irish, conversing only with such, and spending their rents and profits in abetting the said Irish".
In 1543 Arthur Magennis successfully petitioned Henry VIII to
allow Newry Abbey to be converted for secular use as a collegiate
church. This avoided confiscation of the Abbey estate in which
Magennis had a vested interest. For a while the ploy succeeded,
but in 1548 the warden, John Prowle, surrendered all to the Crown
in return for a pension for himself and the Vicars Choral.
Little evidence of the Abbey survives above ground level. A 12th century slab of granite bearing a Celtic cross was salvaged from a nearby building and placed in a wall in McCann's bakery in the mid 20th century.
Cross-carved stone, probably a grave slab from a possible early monastery at Newry (11th - 12th century)