20 April 2021

How a new church in Harold’s Cross
replaced an old ‘Little Tin Church’

The Rosary Church in Harold’s Cross … the parish dates from 1935 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing yesterday (19 April 2021) about the former Church of Ireland parish church in Harold’s Cross, how it began as a trustee church in the 1830s, and how it is now a parish church of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Harold’s Cross was part of the parish of Saint Nicholas Without until 1823, when it became part of the new parish of Rathmines.

Harold’s Cross was constituted as a new parish from portions of the parishes of Rathmines, Rathgar and Terenure in 1935. Before the new parish was formed, Archbishop Edward Byrne of Dublin took initiatives to shape the parish. When the house and grounds of Mount Harold, a Georgian residence, were put on sale, he instructed the Parish Priest of Rathmines, Canon Fleming, to buy the house and the site.

The sale was completed on 11 August 1931 and the new parish was formed in 1935 with Father Percy McGough as the first parish church, although a new church was not built until 1938.

The Rosary Church in Harold’s Cross replaced an old tin church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At first, it was decided to erect a temporary church in Harold’s Cross. When a new church was built at Foxrock, Co Dublin, in 1935, Canon Fleming arranged to have the old timber-framed, tin church in Foxrock, dating from 1907, taken down and re-erected in the grounds of Mount Harold.

When the process of rebuilding was almost complete on 30 September 1935, Archbishop Byrne constituted Harold’s Cross as a new parish.

This temporary church was blessed by Archbishop Byrne on 24 November 1935 and the first Mass was celebrated by Canon Percy McGough, who remained Parish Priest of Harold’s Cross until he died in 1954. Harold’s Cross parish then began a new history with the ‘Little Tin Church’.

The Rosary Church in Harold’s Cross was designed by Ralph Henry Byrne in 1938 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Building work began in 1938 on the lands of Mount Harold House on a new church with the dedication of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The new church, with a capacity for 1,250-1,600 people, was designed by the architect Ralph Henry Byrne (1877-1946) and was built in 1938-1940 by Murphy Brothers of Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines.

The church is a large, granite structure, with pitched-pine flooring. The Communion rail is 116 ft long, reputedly one of the longest in Dublin, the pipe organ dates from 1947, and all the windows were plain originally. The ornate stained-glass window over the main altar, depicting Our Lady of the Rosary, is by the Abbey Stained Glass Studios and was installed in 1996.

RH Byrne, who designed the church in a classical style, was born in Largo House, 166 Lower Rathmines Road, Rathmines, on 25 April 1877, the third but second surviving son of the architect William Henry Byrne (1844-1917), who had been a pupil of JJ McCarthy. He was educated at home and at Saint George’s School, Weybridge.

In 1896, he was articled to his father for five years, and then spent six months in the Harrogate office of Thomas Edward Marshall, before joining his father’s practice as a partner in 1902.

Byrne’s father became blind in about 1913 and died on 28 April 1917. RH Byrne continued the practice under the name of William H Byrne & Son, and in 1936 his nephew by marriage, Simon Aloysius Leonard, joined the partnership.

Byrne, who worked from 20 Suffolk Street, Dublin, was elected a member of the RIAI in 1902, proposed by George Coppinger Ashlin, seconded by Thomas Drew and William Mansfield Mitchell. He was elected a fellow (FRIAI) in 1920 and was vice-president in 1938, the year he began work on his church in Harold’s Cross.

The Communion rail in the church is 116 ft long (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Byrne is known principally for the restoration of the Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines, after the disastrous fire in 1920, with a new, much higher dome (1920-1928).

His other works include the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Athlone (1930-1936), the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar (1931-1936), the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Felim, Cavan (1938-1943), the Church of the Four Masters, Donegal, the completion of Saint Senanus Church, Foynes, Co Limerick (1932), commenced by JJ McCarthy, rebuilding Saint Mary’s Church, Croom, Co Limerick (1929-1932), and the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Newport, Co Tipperary (1933-1934).

As for the original house at Mount Harold, some priests of the parish lived there until the 1970s. The ground floor of the house remains and it now serves as a Pastoral Centre.

The church was built by Murphy Brothers of Rathmines (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
63, Bevis Marks Synagogue, London

Bevis Marks Synagogue … the only synagogue in Europe that has held regular services continuously for more than 300 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

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 synagogues that have welcomed me over the years and offered a place of prayer and reflection. My photographs this morning (20 April 2021) are from Bevis Marks Synagogue, often seen as the Jewish ‘cathedral’ among synagogues in London, and the oldest operating synagogue on these islands.

I have been welcomed there when I visited for a number of reasons:

● the synagogue helped to fund and held the trust deeds of the first Jewish burial ground in Ireland, at Fairview in Dublin;

● in recent years, I have found one branch of the Comerford family whose extended family tree includes families who were members of Bevis Marks Synagogue;

● I am working on yet another paper for a lecture in Limerick next month on the Irish-born scientist JD Bernal, who had many ancestors linked with Bevis Marks Synagogue.

In addition, after visits to Jewish sites in Spain and Portugal, I had an added interest in the story of the Sephardic community of Spanish and Portuguese descent that began to settle in these islands over 350 years ago.

Bevis Marks Synagogue is officially the Qahal Kadosh Sha’ar ha-Shamayim (קָהָל קָדוֹשׁ שַׁעַר הַשָׁמַיִם, or ‘Holy Congregation Gate of Heaven’). It stands in a courtyard off Bevis Marks, the street in the city of London that gives this synagogue its popular name.

The synagogue was built in 1701 and is at the heart of the story of London’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community. It is a Grade I listed building, and it is the only synagogue in Europe that has held regular services continuously for more than 300 years. Indeed, the story of the community goes back into the mid-17th century and the arrival of many of Jewish families with Spanish or Portuguese ancestry.

Bevis Marks Synagogue is close to the heart of the City of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

John 6: 30-35 (NRSVA):

30 So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”.’ 32 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’

The Aron haKodesh or Holy Ark resembles in design the reredos of churches of the same period (Photograph © Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (20 April 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for the Green Schools initiative run by the Church of South India. May they continue to teach the next generation how to live sustainably and combat climate change.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Above the central doorway are the Hebrew and secular dates of the opening: 5462, 1701 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

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