22 July 2019

Saint Patrick’s Church,
a Gothic revival church
in neighbouring Ballysteen

Saint Patrick’s Church in Ballysteen was built in 1861 on land donated by the Earl of Dunraven (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I was visiting Beagh Castle on the banks of the Shannon Estuary at the weekend, when I decided to visit Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church nearby in Ballysteen, at the western end of the village.

Although I have been living in Askeaton for 2½ years, this was my first visit to this neighbouring church, which is part of the Roman Catholic grouped parish of Askeaton and Ballysteen.

Saint Patrick’s Church in Ballysteen was built in 1861 on a site donated by Edwin Richard Wyndham-Quin (1812-1871), 3rd Earl of Dunraven, who lived at Adare Manor and who had become a Roman Catholic in 1855.

A few years earlier, in 1859, Lord Dunraven has subscribed £50 towards building a new school in Ballysteen, promising to match £1 for £1 every donation that had been raised by other subscribers.

The date of the church is inscribed on the church bell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

When the church was built, it replaced an earlier, thatched Mass house, dating back to the 1790s. The date of the church is inscribed on the church bell, and the church was consecrated in 1862.

Since then, it has retained its modest form and size, and its long axis runs parallel with the main road through Ballysteen and the expansive green areas in front.

Saint Patrick’s Church, Ballysteen, seen from the south-west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This architect of this Gothic revival church is unknown. But the church is noteworthy because of the impressive stonework on the exterior. It has a long nave, a small chancel and an attached sacristy. It has a four-bay nave elevation with the lower gabled chancel at the east end and a gable-fronted sacristy on the south side.

The church design is enhanced and enlivened by its subtle dressed and cut limestone features, including the quoins, finials, belfry, copings, window surrounds and the chimneystack at the sacristy, as well as a stained-glass window above the altar.

Inside Saint Patrick’s Church, Ballysteen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The south wall is of excellent limestone masonry and has the doorway, with a large fanlight towards the west end, and there are three, Gothic-style windows to the right.

The south wall has paired pointed arch windows, with dressed limestone surrounds and dividing mullions and leaded lights at the windows. The pointed arch openings in the nave and sacristy have cut limestone surrounds and sills, with leaded lights in the windows.

The stained-glass window above the altar in Saint Patrick’s Church, Ballysteen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The three-sectioned stained-glass window at the east end above the altar portrays the Holy Family with Christ as the Sacred Heart flanked by the Virgin Mary on the left and Saint Joseph on the right.

The pitch-pine rafters are exposed, and wooden arches support the high ceiling. The church was reroofed in 1996. The pitched slate roof has cut limestone copings at the gables, and carved limestone Celtic cross finials at the east end of the chancel and the south side of the sacristy.

The Baptismal font may have come from the earlier thatched Mass house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The three-light window in the west gable is surmounted by the belfry and a stone cross.

There is a cut limestone belcote with a cast-iron bell and a cut limestone Celtic cross finial at this west end. The sacristy has a cut square-profile limestone chimneystack.

There are few burials in the churchyard apart from the plot of the Naughton family.

Saint Patrick’s Church is at the west end of Ballysteen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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