The interior of All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
This morning I was celebrating the Eucharist and preaching in All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, in Dublin’s north inner city. The choir and the clergy were away for the day, visiting Leighlin Cathedral in Co Carlow, and there was a small congregation this morning.
All Saints’ Church goes without mention in Peter Costello’s Dublin Churches (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1989), but is an interesting parish and building in the life of the Church of Ireland in the Diocese of Dublin.
Grangegorman was originally a grange belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral, providing an income for the Vicars Choral of the cathedral. Although the area had a vicar or curate from at least the early 18th century, Grangegorman was without a church for so long that in 1800 it is described as providing a sinecure for the Revd Henry Campbell.
All Saints’ Church was designed by John Semple and was built in 1828. A year later, in 1829, the parish was formed from areas carved out of the parishes of Saint Michan and Saint Paul, and the Revd Arthur Smith Adamson was reappointed perpetual curate or vicar.
Grangegorman has seen many changes since then, particular under Adamson’s two immediate successors, the Revd William Maturin (1843-1887), and Canon Henry Hogan (1887-1923), who, between them, served the parish for 80 years. During their time, Grangegorman became the most prominent of three Tractarian churches in Dublin – the other two being Saint Bartholomew’s, Clyde Road, and Saint John’s, Sandymount.
In this climate, the architect Thomas Drew remodelled the interior of All Saints’ according to Tractarian principles, redesigning the chancel in 1856, and adding the north aisle in 1867, the south porch in 1887 and the baptistery in 1889.
The walls of All Saints’ are lined with red-and-blue brick, and the pointed brick arches between the nave and the aisle are carried on limestone shafts with stylised Caen stone capitals. The baptistery window is of red sandstone. The chancel arch is carried on clustered colonnettes of black-and-red polished stone.
Sadly, much of the beautiful interior of the church was destroyed in a fire in 1966. The first phase of restoration work around 1980 was limited to essentials by financial constraints, so that the present low raftered ceiling is not as high as the original 19th century roof.
When restoration work was again necessary in 2001, the church was restored to its condition before to the fire, the original brickwork was revealed, new floor tiles were laid and the organ was re-sited.
The War Memorial in All Saints’ is considered a late masterpiece of the Arts and Crafts Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
The stained glass windows include work by Catherine O’Brien, AL Moore of London, James Powell & Son and various artists from An Túr Gloine school. The War Memorial is considered a late masterpiece of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The vestry walls are lined with portraits and photographs of previous rectors and curates at All Saints’, often remembered as giants striding across the history of the Church of Ireland.
Archdeacon Raymond Jenkins, Rector from 1939 to 1976, was also Warden of the Divinity Hostel, the precursor of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (1934-1939), where the Jenkins Room is named after him.
For nine years, from 1966 to 1975, his curate at All Saints’ was Bishop Frederick Robert Willis, who had been a missionary in India with the Dublin University Mission for 23 years before becoming Bishop of Delhi (1951-1966).
Many of the other clergy at All Saints’ had colourful careers, dedicating much of their life to missionary work. The Revd Davis George Croghan (1862-1865) from Wexford and the Revd John Thomas Darragh (1880-1881), both curates with William Maturin, later became missionaries with SPG (now USPG – Anglicans in World Mission) in South Africa – Croghan became Archdeacon of Bloemfontein and Dean of Grahamstown, while Darragh became Rector of Saint Mary’s, now Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg.
Since 1976, All Saints’ Church has been part of the Christ Church Cathedral group of parishes, which also includes Saint Michan’s Church and Saint Werburgh’s Church, on opposite banks of the River Liffey.
The mediaeval tower of Saint Michan's reflected in a neighbouring modern office block (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
From Grangegorman, I strolled back through Broadstone, down Constitution Hill and Church Street and past Saint Michan’s, along the Quays and up Winetavern Street to Christ Church Cathedral, in time for coffee in the crypt.
A bagpiper in Temple Bar, where men in kilts outnumbered women in skirts this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
After lunch in Café Topolis in Parliament, I spent some time strolling around Temple Bar. For the first time in my memory, men in skirts outnumbered women in skirts in Temple Bar – the Scottish football supporters in kilts outnumbered the women still in the city centre after last night’s hen parties, and a young girl in her first communion dress shied away from a bagpiper who was adding to joyful sunny atmosphere.
I was back in Christ Church Cathedral this afternoon for Choral Evensong sung by the Cathedral Choir. The Preces and Responses were by Herbert Sumsion (1899-1995), who was the organist at Gloucester Cathedral for much of his career and a life-long friend of Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells. The Canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were from the Evening Service in D by Sir George Dyson (1883-1964).
But the outstanding performance by the choir this evening was the Anthem: Wesley, Blessed be the God and Father, written in 1833-1834 by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876). This truly was the choir at its best, and sitting behind them in my stall was a real blessing this afternoon.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin