09 September 2017

Saint Paul’s, a former
parish church, stands
on an old site in Glin

Saint Paul’s Church, Glin, Co Limerick … now a community centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I pass through Glin, Co Limerick, regularly on my way between Askeaton and Tarbert, and although it is part of this group of parishes, the Church of Ireland parish church in Glin has been closed for decades.

Glin is on the banks of the Shannon Estuary and is probably best-known as the seat of the Knights of Glin at Glin Castle. The parish was formerly known as Kilfergus, and Glin takes its name from the Irish Glen Corbraighe, a name that recalls the Corbry tribe who ruled the area until the arrival of John FitzJohn FitzGerald, ancestor of the Knights of Glin, in the 13th century.

From around 1400 until 1866, the Knights of Glin were buried in a tomb near the church ruins in Kilfergus.

The graves of the Knights of Glin in Saint Paul’s Churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In 1815, a new parish church, Saint Paul’s, was built for the Church of Ireland parish on land that had once been part of the Glin Castle Estate.

Half a century later, a new Gothic Revival Church of Ireland parish church was built in Glin in 1865-1870 on a site beside earlier Saint Paul’s Church.

This new Gothic Revival church, incorporating the west tower of the earlier church, was a break with the earlier Board of First Fruits single-cell and tower arrangement.

The new church had a five-bay nave with a lean-to porch at the west end, a chancel at the east end and a vestry at the south-east corner, beside the chancel. The square-plan, three-stage tower at the south-west, was built in 1871 and incorporated much of the tower of the earlier church.

‘Domus Dei [et] porta coeli’ … the inscription over the entrance to Saint Paul’s Church, Glin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Over the main door, an inscription reads:

Domus Dei [et] porta coeli (‘The House of God [and] the gate of heaven’)

The pitched slate roofs have limestone copings and cast-iron cross finials to the nave, vestry and chancel, including a cast-iron cross finial at the nave and a limestone cross finial at the chancel. The porch has a single-pitched, fish-scale roof. The tower has a limestone spire with a cast-iron cross finial to tower.

The walls are snecked limestone with a limestone plinth course and sandstone platbands. The rusticated limestone walls of the porch have a rusticated limestone plinth course and sandstone platband. The rusticated limestone walls of the tower have tooled limestone quoins, sandstone platbands, a rusticated plinth course, carved roundels at the third stage, and an inscribed plaque on the west elevation and a date plaque to the east elevation that reads:

S. Paul
T Pyne Weldon

Canon Thomas Pyne Weldon, who was Rector of Glin for 33 years, died in Glin on 25 January 1894 and is buried in the churchyard.

There are lancet stained-glass windows in the nave, paired lancet stained-glass windows in the vestry, south elevation, and a triple lancet East Window in the Chancel.

At the west end of the church, there is an oculus in the nave.

The church retains most of its original form and massing, as well as the tower, which provides a focal point of the Gothic Revival design.

The architect James Edward Rodgers (1838-1896) built the new church within the grounds of Glin Castle.

James Edward Rogers was born in Dublin in 1838, the son of James Rogers QC of 20 Upper Mount Street, Dublin. He went to school at Guildford Grammar School, and matriculated at Trinity College Dublin on 2 July 1855. Soon after, he became a pupil of Benjamin Woodward (1816-1861).

At the time, Woodward was working on the Oxford Museum, and Rogers visited the site on more than one occasion. He is mentioned as the companion of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – who were decorating Woodward’s debating hall at the Oxford Union with scenes from Arthurian legends – when they went ‘hunting in the parish churches on Sunday evenings to find a Guinevere.’ He was later described by his lifelong friend, Sir John Pentland Mahaffy (1839-1919), later Provost of TCD, as ‘Woodward’s favourite pupil.’

Woodward died in May 1861, and Rogers graduated BA at TCD Trinity later that year. He may have set up his own architectural practice in 1862, and was working under his own name in 1863.

By 1864, he had opened an office at 205 Great Brunswick Street, and his first important commission was the Carmichael School of Medicine in North Brunswick Street. By 1870, he had moved to 179 Great Brunswick Street, where William Stirling and James Franklin Fuller also had their offices.

Most of his recorded work was in connection with the Church of Ireland. He was architect to the Diocese of Meath until disestablishment in 1869 and also designed or worked on churches in the diocese of Dublin and in the west of Ireland.

As a watercolour artist, he exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1870 on. He was elected an associate of the RHA in 1871, and he was elected a Fellow of the RIBA in 1874 on the proposal of James Franklin Fuller, James Joseph McCarthy and Thomas Newenham Deane.

He moved to London in 1876. He does not appear to have practised as an architect in England, and he resigned as a fellow of the RIAI in 1874 and as a fellow of the RIBA in 1877.

In 1889, Rogers and his old friend JP Mahaffy published Sketches from a tour through Holland and Germany. Soon after, he illustrated the Revd Sabine Baring-Gould’s Troubadour-Land: A Ramble in Provence and Languedoc (1891). He continued to exhibit his paintings at the RHA until the year he died. He died in London on 18 February 1896.

His other works include Saint Mary’s Church, Howth, Kenure Church and Rectory, Rush, Holmpatrick Church, Skerries, the former Vicarage at Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, and the former Caledonian Insurance offices at 31 Dame Street, Dublin. He also enlarged Saint John’s Church, Listowel, Co Kerry.

In March 1997, President Mary Robinson opened the Glin Heritage Centre in the former Saint Paul’s Church. The centre is open daily from April to October.

Inside the Church of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1858 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

On the opposite side of Church Street, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1858, and is a well-maintained example of a mid-19th century Gothic Revival Roman Catholic parish church built in the decades immediately after Catholic Emancipation.

This church was built in 1858. Over the main door, the foundation stone is inscribed with the names of Father John Bunton and Father David Quin, who were parish priest and curate when the church was built.

Paired together, these two churches provide an ecclesiastical touch to the view from Glin towards the Village Lodge, with its crenelated towers, built in 1825 and now serving as the main entrance to Glin Castle and the demesne.

When Desmond FitzGerald, the 29th and last Knight of Glin, died on 14 September 2011, he was buried with his ancestors in the churchyard of the former Saint Paul’s Church.

The Village Lodge, built in 1825, now serves as the main entrance to Glin Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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