14 October 2020

The parish church in Bruree
was built in the 1920s in the
Hiberno-Romanesque style

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bruree was built in 1922-1925 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Bruree in Co Limerick was one of the seats for the kings of Munster until the end of the 12th century, according to local lore, and Bruree was the place where Irish bards met twice a year until 1746.

Over the years, Bruree was a seat of the Dalcassians, the Uí Fidgeinte, the O’Briens and the Anglo-Normans. The de Lacys became the principal landowners ca 1290. However, Bruree is best-known as the childhood home of the former Taoiseach and President Eamon de Valera.

I had already visited the former Church of Ireland parish church in Bruree, Saint Munchin’s Church, Ballynoe, built in 1812 and closed in 1969. On my back from Kilmallock to Askeaton at the weekend, I stopped again in Bruree, this time to visit the Roman Catholic parish church.

Inside The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bruree, facing the liturgical east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The Church of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1922-1925, when Father John Breen was the parish priest, and was officially opened on 26 April 1925.

The foundation stone to the left of the main door of the church was laid by Bishop Denis Hallinan of Limerick on 8 December 1922. The inscription says Samuel Francis Hynes from Cork was the architect and Jeremiah J Coffey from Midleton, Co Cork, was the builder.

The church is built in the Hiberno-Romanesque style, with limestone from nearby Tankardstown, in Kilmallock.

Inside the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bruree, facing the liturgical west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

This church is oriented on a north-south axis, instead of the traditional east-west liturgical axis. It has a fine interior with stained-glass windows, a well-carved timber roof and marble colonnades. These features add architectural significance to the church and are a testimony the skilled craftsmanship used in its construction.

This is a gable-fronted church, with a seven-bay nave and six-bay side aisles, two transepts, and gable-fronted porches that have chamfered corners, and a distinctive, square-plan three-stage tower at the front, to the right of the main door, with a battered base, a large open bell chamber and a short spire.

The snecked limestone walls have a stringcourse and an inscribed plaque at the front.

There are four, round-headed lancet windows above the double-leaf, timber battened front doors, with a stained-glass oculus above them. There are stained glass oculi in the nave too.

The windows above the High Altar in Bruree (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Inside, the church has a lofty, open timber scissors brace roof. Polished granite columns support the tall rounded arches, with the arcades separating the nave and aisles.

Mr and Mrs Carroll from Fort East erected the High Altar. Miss Mary Dunworth donated the altar rails, part of which remains.

The stained-glass window above the High Altar depicts the Virgin Mary, the Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph. Above these windows, an oculus or round stained-glass window depicts Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid.

To the right of the High Altar is a statue of Saint Joseph and the Christ Child and an altar to the Virgin Mary. To the left, the side chapel now serves as the Baptistry.

The foundation stone names the architect Samuel Francis Hynes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The church was built by the Cork architect Samuel Francis Hynes and the builder was Jeremiah J Coffey from Midleton, Co Cork.

Samuel Francis Hynes (1854-1931), who was a member of an old Cork family, was articled to William Atkins in Cork in 1869 and spent five years as his pupil. He travelled on Continental Europe before opening his independent practice in Cork in 1875.

The Irish Builder in 1877 published two of his designs: for the chapel of the Convent of Mercy in Bantry, Co Cork, and the de Vesci Memorial in Abbeyleix, Co Laois.

Hynes practised from a number of addresses in South Mall, Cork for over 40 years, working mainly on commissions from Catholic parishes and religious orders. He was elected a member of the RIAI in 1878 and a fellow in 1889, and was elected a follow of the RIBA in 1888.

His last works to be recorded in the Irish Builder date from 1921. The church in Bruree was one of his last works. He retired from practice in 1929 and died, unmarried, at the age of 77 on 28 June 1931.

The oculus above the High Altar depicts Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

This church is near the site of the earlier Roman Catholic parish church, Saint Munchin’s, beside John Moloney’s Bar. Saint Munchin’s, built in 1842, was later owned by Billy and Jim O’Connor of the Starlight Showband, who used it was a dancehall and for travelling theatre companies.

The old holy water font from this church is now in the Eamon de Valera Museum and Bruree Heritage Centre, and the former church is now owned by the HSE.

The tower has a large open bell chamber and a short spire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The Church of Ireland
church built in Kilmallock
after a fire in the 1930s

The Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Kilmallock, Co Limerick … designed by GF Hicks and opened in 1938 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

The main church buildings and ecclesiastical sites in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, include the ruins of the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the ruins of the Dominican Priory of Saint Saviour, the Gothic Revival 19th century Roman Catholic Parish Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, designed by JJ McCarthy, and the Church of Ireland parish church, also named Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

These two mediaeval sites were among the cluster of ruins that once made Kilmallock known as the ‘Baalbec of Ireland.’

For centuries, the choir and chancel of the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul served as the Church of Ireland parish church in Kilmallock. But, during a wave of sectarian attacks that swept across Ireland in the summer of 1935, the Church of Ireland parish church was destroyed in an arson attack on the 22 July 1935.

While I was visiting Kilmallock last weekend, I visited the new Church of Ireland parish church. It was built hill on the edge of the town, across the road from the Deebert Hotel, and was consecrated on Saint Peter’s Day, 29 June 1938. The Rector of Kilmallock at the time was Canon Sackville Eastwood Taylor.

The church was designed by the Dublin-based architect George Frederick Hicks in Romanesque Revival style, using his characteristic red brick, and the builder was John Cleary of Charleville.

The church stands on a hill on the edge of Kilmallock, across the road from the Deebert Hotel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The church is arranged on a traditional plan and is built using 20th century techniques and materials, particularly seen in the red brick exterior and the tower.

The church has a four-bay nave with gable-fronted transepts, a square-profile stepped two-stage tower at the west end and a canted chancel at the east end. The hipped and pitched slate roofs have a cast-iron finial and cast-iron rainwater goods. The hipped slate roof of the tower has a cast-iron weathervane.

The red brick garden bond walls have stepped consoles at the gable ends and raised panels at the tower, west, south and north sides. The round-headed openings have recessed brick surrounds, concrete sills and stained-glass windows. The round-headed opening at the south side of the tower has a raised brick surround and double-leaf timber panelled doors. The square-headed openings in the tower at the second stage have timber louvers and recessed brick surrounds.

There is another timber panelled door in the south transept.

The features that enhance the artistic design and quality of the church include the stained-glass windows. The East Window was moved here from Saint Munchin’s Church, Bruree, through the intervention of President Eamon de Valera, who was anxious to save it when the church in Bruree closed in 1969.

The church was designed by the Dublin-based architect George Frederick Hicks (1870-1965), who was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, on 16 May 1870, the fourth son of Joseph Hicks, a linen draper, and his wife Mary.

Hicks was educated at Taunton School, received his architectural training at the London Architectural Association School and Finsbury Technical College, and in 1886 became an articled pupil of John William Stevens of London.

He moved to Dublin in 1890 at the age of 20 to join the office of James Rawson Carroll, where Frederick Batchelor was then the chief assistant. He later worked in the offices of William Henry Byrne and of Thomas Drew before setting up his own practice in Dublin in 1895. He worked from 5 Saint Stephen’s Green (1898) and at 28 South Frederick Street and 35a Kildare Street (1900-1903).

Hicks formed a new partnership with Frederick Batchelor at 86 Merrion Square in 1905, and the Batchelor and Hicks partnership lasted until 1922, when Batchelor retired. Hicks continued to work from Merrion Square until he retired in 1945, when he sold the practice to his assistant, Alan Hope.

Hicks also designed Saint Thomas’s Church on Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin (1929-1932), built in the Lombardic Romanesque style to replace a church on Marlborough Street that was destroyed by fire in 1922. For this church, Hicks was awarded the first Triennial Gold Medal of the RIAI in 1932.

The church in Kilmallock was designed by Hicks in the Romanesque Revival style, using his characteristic red brick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

I find an interesting similarity between Hicks’s churches in Dublin and Kilmallock, and the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, designed in English redbrick by the Romanian the architect Victor Stephanescu.

Other works by Hicks include the Carnegie Library and Technical Institute in Rathmines (1905-1913), the War Memorial in All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, 73 houses in East Wall (1925-1926), a housing scheme of 428 houses in Marino (1919-1925), and Mount Pleasant Buildings and Hollyfield Buildings in Rathmines (1930). For many years, he was architect to the Association for the Housing of the Very Poor and the Saint Barnabas Public Utility Society.

Hicks was a founder member of the revived Architectural Association of Ireland in 1896, honorary treasurer (1896-1899), honorary secretary (1899-1902), and president (1902-1903). He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland in 1898, and was a long-serving council member, treasurer (1907-1909), secretary (1913-1915), vice-president (1921) and president (1929-1931). He was elected a fellow of the RIBA in 1906. As president of the RIAI, he invited the RIBA to hold its annual conference in Dublin in 1931.

He was elected an associate member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (1930), and later a member (1944), and served as honorary treasurer (1950-1954). He exhibited frequently at the Water Colour Society of Ireland, and also exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy. Several of his sketches were published in the Irish Builder and four of his sketchbooks are in Library in Trinity College Dublin.

Hicks lived at Warren Cottage, Sutton (1898), Ceanchor Cottage, Howth (ca 1905-1907), 17 Wellington Place, Clyde Road (1908) and The Tower, Malahide (1910-1965), a Martello Tower he had converted into his home. He died at the Tower, Malahide, shortly before his 95th birthday, on 24 April 1965. He is buried in the churchyard at Saint Andrew’s Church, Malahide, with his wife, Edith (née Sykes).

The small garden graveyard behind the church has a small number of graves, including one of Limerick’s best-known horsemen and bloodstock breeder, William Henry Leicester Stanhope (1922-2009), 11th Earl of Harrington, who died in Ballingarry, Co Limerick.

The story is told that when Lord Harrington was with the 15th/19th Hussars in Germany at the end of World War II, he arrested Admiral Karl Doenitz who had been made head of state after Hitler’s suicide, but the admiral had been reluctant to surrender to such a junior officer.

Kilmallock Parish was united with the Adare Group of Parishes in 1994, and the present rector is Canon Elizabeth (Liz) Beasley.

The grave of William Henry Leicester Stanhope (1922-2009), 11th Earl of Harrington, who died in Ballingarry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)