26 April 2017

In search of the architect of the
former glebe house in Castletown

The former glebe house in Castletown is the second on the site … was James Pain the architect (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On Sunday morning, before Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, I stood looking across the road at the former glebe house in Castletown, which would have been the residence of my predecessors as Rectors of Kilcornan.

In recent weeks, I have written about Castletown Church as one of the fine churches in Co Limerick designed by the great Regency architect, James Pain (1779-1877). The church was partly funded by the Board of First Fruits, which gave grants and loans for building new Church of Ireland churches and glebe houses and gave financial assistance to clergy in need.

The work of the board increased ushered in a period of intensive church building, and in the half century between 1779 and 1829, the Board of First Fruits built, rebuilt or enlarged 697 churches and 829 glebe houses.

Both the church and the glebe house in Castletown benefitted from the grants made available by the Board of First Fruits. However, the most significant benefactor of the church building project in Castletown was John Waller (1763-1836) of Castletown Manor and estate.

This John Waller was the son of John T Waller and Elizabeth Maunsell, and he later became an MP for Limerick. He married Isabella Oliver of Castle Oliver and was buried in the Waller vault in Castletown cemetery.

Castletown Church cost £1,500, of which John Waller donated £700, and he also gave the site for the church as an outright gift. Waller also undertook to pay off the balance of £800, which came as a loan from the Board of First Fruits.

The monument to Bolton Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

John Waller was succeeded by his brother, Bolton Waller. Bolton Waller died in 1854 and his son and heir, the Revd William Waller, held a large estate in the early 1850s, mainly in the parish of Kilcornan. His son, the Revd John Thomas Waller of Castletown, was Rector of Kilcornan and still owned 6,636 acres in Co Limerick in the 1870s. He died in 1911.

The former glebe house opposite Castletown Church, which was once the residence of the Rectors of Kilcornan, was built in 1810. I can find no information about the architect of this glebe house, which is the second house on this site, but wonder whether it was designed by James Pain, who was also the architect of both Castletown Church and the Regency-style former rectory in Askeaton, next door to the present modern rectory in Askeaton.

The first house, which was the residence of the Revd Roger Throp, was burned down in suspicious circumstances in 1735. Throp blamed Colonel John Waller for an arson attack and for shooting dead his valuable saddle horse. Throp described Waller as his ‘bitter and vindictive enemy.’

Following these incidents, Throp became depressed and ‘fell into a rapid decline.’ He died soon after in 1736, and Dean Jonathan Swift lampooned Waller in a ballad, ‘The Legion Club’:

See the scowling visage drop,
just as when he murdered Throp

Captain John Waller, who paid for the building of Castletown Church, may also have been the main driving force in building the glebe house in Castletown in 1810. Originally, 60 acres of land were attached to glebe house. By 1850, Griffith’s Valuation lists only 57 acres, and this area was gradually reduced over the years.

The monument to the Revd William Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The main part of the glebe house consists of a three-bay, two-storey house, with a recessed four-bay, two-storey addition on the east side. There is a hipped slate roof with rendered chimney stacks and terra cotta ridge tiles.

Before recent renovations, there were large nine-over-six pane windows to the south and six-over-six pane windows to the north. However, this arrangement was changed in recent times.

There is a round-headed opening to the south elevation, flanked by timber pilasters, with fluted consoles. There is a fanlight over the front door. To the south of the house are the remains of a walled garden. The restraint in ornamentation adds symmetry to the building and focuses on the front entrance.

Some years ago, the Church of Ireland sold the glebe house, and it is now in private ownership. But this former glebe house retains much of its original form and is characteristic of glebe houses of that period.

The monument to the Revd John Thomas Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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