09 May 2015

Back on the Pugin trail at a wedding in
a Gothic Revival church in Co Meath

The Church of Saint Martin of Tours in Culmullen, Co Meath … designed by William Hague

Patrick Comerford

Later today I am taking part in a wedding in the Roman Catholic parish church in Culmullen, near Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

The church in Culmullen is dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours and was renovated in 1989, but dates back to last quarter of the 19th century.

This is a single-cell Gothic Revival church designed in 1876 by the architect William Hague (1840–1899), a protégé of AWN Pugin.

Hague was active as a church architect in Ireland throughout the mid and late 19th century, working mainly from his offices at 50 Dawson Street, Dublin.

Hague was born in Co Cavan, the son of William Hague, a builder from Butlersbirdge who moved town Cavan town in 1838. William Hague jr designed several churches in Ireland, many in the French Gothic style. He was a pupil of Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860), the English architect who designed the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Hague spent four years in Barry’s office, and after practising briefly as an architect in Cavan he opened an office at 175 Great Brunswick Street, Dublin, in 1861. Later he was invited to supervise the completion of the unfinished church of Saint Augustine and Saint John in Thomas Street (John’s Lane), Dublin, begun by Pugin’s son, Edward Pugin, and George Coppinger Ashlin in 1862.

In the year Saint Martin’s Church was built in Culmullen, Hague married Anne Frances Daly, the daughter of a Dublin solicitor, Vesey Daly of Eccles Street. They were married in Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin, on 26 April 1876, and they had two sons, William Vesey Hague, the writer and philosopher, and Joseph Patrick Clifford Hague, and two daughters.

Hague had a flourishing practice, particularly as a prolific designer of Roman Catholic churches, designing or altering 40 to 50 throughout Ireland. He was the architect to Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Armagh, in the 1880s and 1890s. When he went to Rome to select marbles for the cathedral, he had a private meeting with Pope Leo XIII, who “imposed upon him an injunction to make such choice as would be worthy of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick’s See.”

Saint Martin’s Church in Culmullen, which was dedicated on 1 September 1878, was built by Hall and Son. The church is a good example of Gothic Revival church architecture. It is worth looking out for is the use of structural polychromy throughout the exterior which adds textural contrast with the rock-faced limestone. The conical bell tower and stained glass give artistic effect.

The church is built of rock-faced limestone with polychrome brick detailing and string courses. It has a pitched two-tone natural slate roof, with decorative terracotta ridge tiles and cast-iron rainwater goods.

There is a five-bay nave with pointed-arched stained glass windows, some in pairs, and stone sills. The windows are by Early and Powell, who worked in many of the Pugin and Gothic Revival churches in Ireland.

The gable-fronted west porch has a pointed-arch door opening with brick surrounds and a pair of timber doors.

The bell tower is designed on a rectangular plan with conical slate spire, and is topped with a cast-iron weather vane, attached to the west at the junction of the nave and the chancel.

There is a single-bay chancel to the north with a gable-fronted sacristy attached to the west. Three lancet windows illustrating the life story of Saint Martin of Tours light the chancel and the nave is lit by three lancet windows above five smaller lights, all with brick surrounds.

Both the nave and chancel gables are surmounted with carved stone crosses. The marble altar was designed by Neill and Co, and the octagonal font is said to be late mediaeval.

The roof is supported on king post trusses with diagonal struts.

The site of the church is enhanced by the cast-iron gates and railings and the graveyard to the rear. There are limestone gate piers with cast-iron gates and cast-iron railings on the limestone boundary wall, and a graveyard to the east.

Hague designed churches, convents, colleges, schools and town halls throughout Ireland. He completed Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, after the death of JJ McCarthy, often known as the “Irish Pugin,” and was responsible for the spire, the tower and the interior of McCarthy’s chapel at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, which were completed after his death in 1905.

He completed the interior of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, in 1880, when Bishop Michael Comerford was the parish priest. He also designed many of the buildings at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and Saint Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Hague’s acceptance of commissions was ecumenical in scope. His many other works include the Archbishop’s Palace, Drumcondra, Dublin; Belturbet Presbyterian Church, Co Cavan; Cavan Methodist Church; the Protestant Hall, Cavan; Saint Aidan’s Church, Butlersbridge, Co Cavan; Saint Bridget’s Church, Killeshandra, Co Cavan; Saint John’s Church (Church of Ireland), Cloverhill, Butlersbirdge, Co Cavan; Saint Patrick’s Church, Ballybay, Co Monaghan; Saint Patrick’s Church, Trim, Co Meath; Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan; the Town Halls in Carlow and Sligo; Waterside Presbyterian Church, Derry; and the Westenra Arms Hotel, Monaghan.

Hague had become a Justice of the Peace (JP) for Co Cavan by 1885. He died of pneumonia at his house at 21 Upper Mount Street, Dublin, on 22 March 1899 and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery three days later.

He worked from: 175 Great Brunswick Street, Dublin, and Cavan (1861-1872); 44 Westland Row and Cavan (1872-1877); 44 Westland Row (1879); 40 Dawson Street, Dublin (1879-1881); 62 Dawson Street (1881-1887); and 50 Dawson Street (1888-1899). He lived at 21 Upper Mount Street, and Kilnacrott House, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.

After his death, his former student and managing assistant, Thomas Francis McNamara (1867-1947), took over most of his work under the business name of Hague & McNamara.


Geraldine Webb/Boyle. said...

I was married in Culmullen 1970- my daughter was married here in 2003- my great-great grandparents in 1853 (in the church previously on this site) and this year (august 2016) my son and his partner will travel from to Australia to be married here too.

Declan O'Connor said...

A great narrative..