14 April 2021

A failed search for
a forgotten family
chapel built by Pugin

Saint Canice’s Church, Clough, Co Laois … designed by AWN Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I recently tried to resume my Pugin trial, in search of AWN Pugin’s works across Ireland, and visited the pretty village of Clough in Co Laois.

Clough – often spelled Clogh – is a small and pretty village with thatched cottages in the south-west Co Laois, close to Rathdowney, Ballybrophy and Aghaboe. It is pronounced Clough as in ‘clock’ – and not ‘Cluff’ as in Brian Clough. It can be difficult to find today because it has been squeezed in recent years between the junction of the M7 and M8 without direct access from either motorway.

Clough is a pretty village squeezed between the M7 and M8 motorway junction (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

I had read that two years before his death, Pugin was commissioned by the FitzPatrick family to design a new mortuary chapel in Clough in 1852. The new mortuary or chantry chapel was commissioned by John Wilson FitzPatrick (1811-1883), 1st Lord Castletown.

FitzPatrick, an old Etonian, was a Liberal politician and MP for Queen’s County (Laois) on three occasions (1837-1841, 1847-1852, 1865-1869), until he became a peer with the title of Lord Castletown in 1869.

FitzPatrick was known as John Wilson from his birth until 1842, when he changed his name to FitzPatrick in order to inherit his father’s estates of Grantstown Manor and Lisduff in Co Laois. He was the illegitimate son of John Fitzpatrick (1745-1818), 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory, and Mrs Elizabeth Wilson, and, while he inherited his father’s estate, he could not inherit his title, and so was given the title of Baron Castletown of Upper Ossory.

A FitzPatrick grave in Bordwell, near Clough … but where was the FitzPatrick mortuary chapel? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Lord Castletown commissioned Pugin to design a family mausoleum or chantry chapel in Clough in 1852. After Pugin’s death in 1854, the chapel was supervised and completed by JJ McCarthy. The building work was carried out by William Haughton Beardwood.

Beardwood was a builder from Lancashire and, like Pugin, he had become a Roman Catholic. He was active as a builder in Dublin from the 1820s until his death in 1860, working from Townsend Street, Great Brunswick Street and Westland Row.

Beardwood married Catherine M Teeling and they were the parents of six children. Three of their sons became architects: William Henry Beardwood, John Francis Beardwood and Joseph Beardwood, who later became a Cistercian monk as Dom Camillus and eventually Abbot of Mount Saint Joseph Abbey, Roscrea.

I searched in vain for Pugin’s mausoleum in Clough, only to learn later that the chapel has been long demolished. Instead, in my search around Clough, I came across both the church ruins at Bordwell and Saint Canice’s Catholic Church in Clough, which was designed by Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921).

Although the Roman Catholic parish of Clough is known as Aghaboe, the village is both the parishes of Aghaboe and Bordwell, at a point where the two civil parishes meet.

The mediaeval church ruins in Bordwell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

I first went in search of the FitzPatrick mausoleum in the old churchyard at Bordwell, outside Clough, on the site of an earlier ecclesiastical foundation. Bordwell is in the Barony of Upper Ossory, which gave its name to some of the titles held by the FitzPatrick family.

Bordwell church and graveyard is in rural area, surrounded by low lying pastureland. The site includes the ruins of a mediaeval church.

The church at Bordwell was granted to the Augustinians of Saint Thomas’s Abbey, Dublin, by Thomas de Hereford in the 13th century. This is a nave and chancel church, built of roughly coursed limestone, with a pointed arch doorway in the west end of the south wall, and a round arch doorway opposite in the north wall.

The church at Bordwell was in ruins by the early 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The ruins consist of upstanding walls with two arched doorways, and measures about 20 metres by 8 metres. There is a levelled mound of collapsed rubble at the east end of the ruined church, and the walls are partially overgrown. The church was in ruins by the early 19th century, there was no glebe or glebehouse, and Sunday services were held in the schoolhouse.

The graveyard has a stone wall boundary about 1 metre high with a gate and stile and access is through field from a gate at the crossroads. The headstones date from the 18th to the 21st century and there is an 18th century altar tomb inside the ruined church. The names include FitzPatrick, but none of these seems to be linked with the family who commissioned Pugin to build their mausoleum in the 1850s.

I returned to Clough, where Saint Canice’s Church is known as Aghaboe rather than Clough. It was built in 1872-1877 by George Coppinger Ashlin, who had married Mary Pugin (1844-1931) in 1867.

Saint Canice, who gives his name to Saint Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, was the founder of the Abbey of Aghaboe and is seen as the founder of the Diocese of Ossory. The parish takes its name from Aghaboe Abbey, which stands in ruins nearby, and the Church of Ireland parish church in Aghaboe is also known as Saint Canice’s and is part of the Rathdowney Group of Parishes in the Diocese of Ossory.

The foundation stone of Saint Canice’s Church, Clough … built with a ‘princely donation’ from Lord Castletown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Saint Canice’s Church in Clough was built as a new Gothic church for Father Matthew Keeffe, thanks to a ‘princely donation’ from Lord Castletown. Tenders were invited for its completion in March 1873, and it was dedicated on 4 November 1877.

This is a Gothic Revival Catholic church, with a tower at the corner and side aisles. The spire was never built, and the builder, R Courtney, was sued by Father Keeffe, after portion of a wall collapsed. The East Window was a gift of a Mrs Phelan of San Francisco. The interior features include a gallery.

The Parish Priests of Aghaboe are buried in Saint Canice’s churchyard. There are no other burials in the churchyard, although there is a second, older burial ground surrounding the old school in Clough, now a community centre.

Once again, the name FitzPatrick name appears on some of the gravestones.

Although I had failed to find the Pugin mausoleum commissioned by the FitzPatrick family in the 1850s, not knowing it had been demolished, Clough was a pleasant diversion from the motorway route between Dublin and Limerick.

A thatched cottage in the centre of Clough (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
57, Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford

Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford, on the eastern fringes of Calne in Wiltshire, long post-dates the presence of the Quemerford and Comerford family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week, I am offering photographs of churches with close associations with my family and ancestors. My photographs this morning (14 April 2021) are from Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford, on the eastern fringes of Calne in Wiltshire.

For many generations, my family continued to regard Comberford in Staffordshire as our ancestral home, although recent research shows that the name actually comes from the village of Quemerford.

Holy Trinity Church long post-dates the presence of the Quemerford family in this area. The church was built in 1852-1853 as a chapel of ease to Saint Mary’s Parish Church, Calne, to serve Quemerford and the areas east of Calne. The site was donated by Lord Lansdowne, and the building costs were met by Canon John Guthrie (1794-1865), Vicar of Calne (1835-1865), largely at his own expense. The churchyard became the parish graveyard because the one at Saint Mary’s was overfull. The Vicar of Calne appointed an assistant curate to serve Holy Trinity by .

A chalice and a paten both hallmarked 1866 were given to the church by the curate assistant, the Revd JRA Chinnery-Haldane (1840-1906), later Bishop of Argyll and the Isles (1883-1906), and are still used today.

The church was designed by CH Gabriel and is tall, of coursed rubble and in the Decorated style. It has a west bell cote and spirelet and consists of a chancel with north vestry and a nave with south porch. The chancel is long, has tall south windows and diapering in relief on the sanctuary’s walls and is separated from the vestry by a traceried screen.

The chancel arch is high and wide, and the nave has an open timber roof with cusped trusses and wind-bracing.

Originally there was stained glass in the east window, but a fire in February 1970 caused major damage to the roof, destroying windows and the organ. The church was rededicated on 25 January 1972. The church was not licensed for marriages until 1990.

Today, Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford, is one of the three churches in the Parish of Calne and Blackland – the other two are Saint Mary’s, Calne, and Saint Peter’s, Blackland.

The Team Rector is the Revd Bob Kenway and the team vicars are the Revd Linda Carter and the Revd Teresa Michaux.

Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford, was designed by the architect CH Gabriel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 3: 16-21 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

The south porch of Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (14 April 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for all those who wish to study at university but do not have the means to do so, that support through generosity might be available.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A fire in 1970 caused major damage to the roof of Holy Trinity Church, Quemerford, destroying windows and the organ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org