Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Glebe Castle, once a clerical
residence in Rathkeale

Glebe Castle, Rathkeale, seen from the banks of the River Deel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Rathkeale this morning for an end-of-school-year service in Holy Trinity Church, a flag-raising ceremony in the school, and a committee meeting in the afternoon.

The former rectory is across the street from both the school and the church, all located on the appropriately-named Church Street. But a little further west along Church Street is the interestingly-named Glebe Castle.

This castle is in the townland of Castlematrix, and about 300 metres from Castle Matrix itself, but should not be confused with its more lofty neighbour, which was once the seat of the Southwell family.

The name of Glebe Castle makes we wonder whether this was once the residence of the rectors and clergy of Rathkeale parish.

This 40 ft, four-storey tower dwarfs the modern house that it stands behind, but is easier to see from the opposite bank of the River Deel during my regular walks along the riverside. Like Ballybur Castle, the Comerford ancestral home near Callan, Co Kilkenny, Glebe Castle is more like a watch tower than a castle.

The castle once had three complete storeys, and in 1840 the walls were about 13 metres high in 1840 and three metres thick. There are parapets on the east and west walls, with chimney stacks flush with the gables rising from the north and south end walls.

Samuel Lewis noted in the 1830s that Rathkeale Glebe amounted to 10 acres, and was divided into two portions, one near the church on which Glebe Castle stood, and the other a mile distant on which the glebe house stood. The Revd CT Coghlan, rector of the neighbouring parish of Kilscannel, lived in Glebe Castle, while Glebe House was the residence of Archdeacon Charles Warburton (1781-1854), who was Rector of Rathkeale (1813-1855) and Chancellor of Limerick throughout the first half of the 19th century.

By 1846, the Revd James Boucher was living in what was described as Castle Glebe. An interesting contemporary of his was the Revd John Boucher (1819-1878), from Moneyrea near Belfast. He had been a Unitarian minister in Southport, Lancashire, and then in Glasgow (1844-1846) and at the New Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney (1847-1852). But he changed his views, resigned his pulpit and entered Saint John’s College, Cambridge, in 1853 to prepare for ordination in the Church of England. He graduated with a BA in philosophy in Cambridge in 1857, but owing to ill-health, retired to Chesterton, Cambridge. He died in Chesterton in 1878.

Today, Glebe Castle is the home of the Coleman family, and as I looked across at it from the church this morning I wondered when it ceased to be the residence of local clergy.

Glebe Castle stands on the banks of the River Deel, close to Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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