28 July 2012

Celebrating a church anniversary in Monkstown, Co Cork

The Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Monkstown, Co Cork

Patrick Comerford

I am in Cork this weekend, at the invitation of the Rector of the Carrigaline union of parishes, the Revd Elaine Murray, to preach tomorrow morning [Sunday 29 July 2012] in the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Monkstown.

The church is celebrating its 180th anniversary this year, and the Festival Eucharist celebrates the building of this church in 1832 on land given by Daniel and Gerard Callaghan of Cork, who were the tenants of Thomas Pakenham (1774-1835), 2nd Earl of Longford, and John Vesey (1771-1855), 2nd Viscount de Vesci.

The two peers, who were the joint landlords of Monkstown Castle and the surrounding estate, also provided the income for the first vicar. The Earl of Longford was a brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington, and together the Pakenham and Vesey family had inherited their interest in property in the Monkstown area through their shared descent from two heiresses, two granddaughters of Michael Boyle, Archbishop of Armagh.

But the church was built not through the generosity of these two aristocrats, but through the generosity of their tenants, the brothers Daniel Callaghan (1786-1849) and Gerard Callaghan of Cork. The Callaghan family had been the tenants of Monkstown Castle from the 1770s.

Gerard Callaghan was MP for Cork City and County as a Tory from 1826 to 1832. On the other hand, his brother Daniel Callaghan was an MP for Cork City and Cork County from 1830 to 1849, first as a Whig (1830-1849) and then as a member of the Irish Repeal Association, Daniel O’Connell’s effective political machine.

By the time the church was being built, the tenant of Monkstown Castle was Bernard Robert Shaw (1801-1880).

The church was designed by William Hill (1798-1844), a well-known architect whose public buildings in Cork, including the North Infirmary, the Corn Exchange, Saint Michael’s Church, Blackrock, and Kilmaloda House, Timoleague.

The building of Saint John’s was finished in 1832. The church is a cruciform shape, built of limestone in the Early English style with a tower and spire, 70 ft high at the east end. It contains a fine organ in its gallery. The stained glass of the west window includes the coats-of-arms of those who helped to cover the £950 building costs.

The East Window in Saint John’s is by Hardman of Birmingham who worked closely with AWN Pugin

The double lancet East Window, representing the Resurrection and the Ascension, is by Hardman of Birmingham who worked closely with AWN Pugin, dates from 1874 and is in memory of Amos Langton Newman.

Saint John the Evangelist ... a window in Saint John’s Church, Monkstown

Saint John the Evangelist is represented in a window in a one lancet window in the north-west transept in memory of Mary Augusta Brodrick. The window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London dates from 1885.

The inscription on the church bell reads:

“Monkstown Protestant Church, erected by voluntary contributions, collected in Ireland and England by Gerard Callaghan, Esq, MP for Cork, and the Rev AGH Hollingsworth. The first Protestant church erected since the Reformation.

“Lord Longford and Lord de Vesci gave the endowment, Gerard Callaghan, Esq, of Monkstown gave the glebe in perpetuity; AGH Hollingsworth, the first Protestant incumbent; William Hill of Cork, architect. The church completed March 1832. Robert Shaw and Wm. Andrews, churchwardens.”

The claim to be “the first Protestant church erected since the Reformation” seems extraordinary.

The first rector of the parish, the Revd Arthur George Harper Hollingsworth, came to Monkstown from Roscrea in 1831. After the church building project was completed he was instituted as Vicar of Monkstown on 13 August 1835. The glebe house or vicarage with its three acres of land was formerly the residence of Michael Westropp and leased forever from his grandson, Bernard Robert Shaw of Monkstown at £25 per annum. The income of the vicar at the time was £50 per annum, secured by Lord Longford and Lord de Vesci.

When his departure from Monkstown was announced in 1838, Hollingsworth was presented with a commemorative plate by his parishioners and, in an almost unprecedented gesture, the Catholic people of Monkstown presented him with a silver box.

Holingsworth moved to Suffolk and was later a published poet (although not a very good one), local historian and travel writer. After visiting Palestine, he called it a country “without a population, without resources, without commerce.”

But the other interesting literary connection is provided by Bernard Robert Shaw (1801-1880), the churchwarden who leased the lands for a glebe house. Shaw, who became a tenant of Monkstown Castle, was a second cousin of George Carr Shaw (1814-1885), father the Dublin-born playwright and Nobel Laureate, George Bernard Shaw.

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