07 May 2012

Searching for Pugin and finding the cobbler baronet

A field of rapeseed is reflected in a pool outside Coolkenno, Co Wicklow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

Having met one of Pugin’s descendants, Jim Thunder, in Dublin last week, I went on the Pugin trail again this afternoon, looking for a church in Tullow, Co Carlow, said by some historians to have been designed by AWN Pugin (1812-1842) in 1830s.

But I also wanted to see Mount Wolseley, which had once been the home of a branch of the Wolseley family from Wolseley in Staffordshire, half-way between Lichfield and Stafford.

Mount Wolseley House, outside Tullow, Co Carlow ... ancestral home of Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley and Frederick York Wolseley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Mount Wolseley House is the ancestral home of the brothers Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley, one of Britain’s most important military leaders, and Frederick York Wolseley, in whose Birmingham factory the first British-designed car was built in 1895.

The first of the Wolseley family to come to Ireland was William Wolseley from Wolseley, who fought alongside King William at the Battle of the Boyne. William bought the 2,500 acre estate of Mount Arran from Charles Butler, Earl of Arran, and renamed it Mount Wolseley. When William Wolseley died unmarried, the estate passed his nephew Richard Wolseley, who was MP for Carlow from 1703 to 1713 and a younger brother of Sir William Wolseley, 5th Baronet, of Wolseley, Staffordshire.

Tradition says that groups of trees in the parkland surrounding Mount Wolseley were planted to depict the positions taken up by the Duke of Wellington’s troops at the battle of Waterloo. Mount Wolseley was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Wolseley in 1864.

Probably the most famous of all the Wolseleys was Frederick York Wolseley, who along with Herbert Austin created the world’s first mechanical sheep shears and in 1895 started producing one of Britain's most famous car marques – the Wolseley. The name dominated the British motor industry for eight decades until 1975, when the last car with the famous Wolseley name was produced.

The gates and gate lodge leading to Mount Wolseley ... sold in 1925 for £4,500 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

When Sir John Richard Wolseley (1834-1874) died aged 40, he was succeeded in the title by his brother Sir Clement James Wolseley, probably the last of the family to live at Mount Wolseley. The estate was sold for £4,500 in 1925 by Sir John’s daughters to the Patrician Brothers, who were founded in Tullow in 1808 by Bishop Daniel Delaney.

Meanwhile, the Wolseleys’ title of baronet began to pass out in an ever-widening circle of distant cousins. In all five successive holders of the title died without heirs. A title that had once been held by family members in various positions in the church, the army and the diplomatic service, eventually passed in 1950 – following the death of the Revd Sir William Augustus Wolseley – to a cobbler from Cheshire. He had been earning £5.10s a week, and became the 12th baronet as Sir Garnet Wolseley.

Sir Garnet later moved to Canada, where he died in 1991. The presumed 13th baronet, Sir James Douglas Wolseley, 13th Baronet, who was born in 1937, has not successfully proven his succession. His name is not on the Official Roll of the Baronetage, and so the baronetcy is considered dormant since 1991.

In 1994, Mount Wolseley was bought by the Morrissey family and it has since been developed into a four star hotel and 18-hole championship golf course. Today, the house and gardens are private, but can be viewed from the entrance gate beside the hotel.

The Roman Catholic Parish Church in Tullow ... the attribution to AWN Pugin appears to be without foundation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

From Mount Woseley, we drove back into Tullow to see the church attributed to Pugin and closely associated with Bishop Delaney, the founder the of the Patrician Brothers.

The Roman Catholic Church in Tullow was described by Samuel Lewis in 1837 as having a “very fine tower and spire, lately added” and the church was attributed to Pugin by Thomas P Kennedy in his paper ‘Church Building’ in the History of Irish Catholicism (Vol. 5, 1970, p. 35). However, the church in Tullow never seems to have been designed by Pugin.

The story of the Church of the Holy Rosary, Tullow, dates back to 1798 when Bishop Daniel Delaney secured the site for a house, church and convent, later agreeing to a lease from a local landlord named Doyne.

The church, first known as the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was built in a cruciform shape by Bishop Delaney and was completed in 1805. The spire was added by a Father Nolan in 1833, and two side altars and the two stained glass windows were installed in 1857.

In 1872, Bishop Lynch, the coadjutor Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin who lived in Tullow, laid the foundation stone of the neighbouring convent chapel. Three years later, at a dedication ceremony on Rosary Sunday, 3 October 1875, Cardinal Cullen renamed the church. At the end of the 19th century, the church was redecorated and a High Altar of alabaster and marble was erected as a memorial to Bishop Lynch.

The original High Altar, carved in alabaster and marble, has been retained in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The church was extended in 1940 by adding two flat-roofed side aisles that transformed the building from a cruciform shape to its present almost square shape. The sanctuary was rearranged in the 1970s by Richard Hurley, and a major renovation in the 1980s saw the removal of the much patched original roof of 1805 and the flat roofs of 1940, replaced with one structure. The present building incorporates walls from 1805 and the 1940-1941 extensions.

A new oak altar was installed in 2000 and matching sanctuary furniture and a baptismal font were installed in the following years. On the side walls there are plaques in honour of Bishop Corcoran and Bishop Delaney. A stained glass window also recalls Bishop Delany and the two religious orders he founded, the Patrician Brothers and the Brigidine Sisters.

Saint Columba’s Church in Church Street, Tullow ... the present church was built in 1830-1831 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The Church of Ireland parish church nearby has monuments and windows recalling the Wolseley family of Mount Wolseley.

Saint Columba’s Church in Church Street just off the Market Square, is the third or fourth church on this site. An 11th century granite stone baptismal font from Saint Austin’s Abbey which is now in the grounds of Saint Columba's Church, near the west tower. Local tradition tells of an underground passage starting in the graveyard leading to Saint Austin’s Abbey south of the River Slaney.

A church dating from the 1530s was replaced by a later building in 1737. The present church was built in 1830-1831 at a cost of £1,669. This church, designed by Thomas A Cobden (1794-1842), is a four-bay single-cell early Gothic Revival church, with buttresses. The tower has a turret and crenellated belfry, built on an octagonal plan. Inside, the church retains a group of wall monuments from the earlier buildings, including the Nevill Monument.

The octagon on the tower of Saint Columba’s Church, a trademark of Cobden, also inspired Pugin and may have been inspired by Ely Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Cobden was born in Chichester, but worked mainly in Co Carlow and Co Wexford. His works include the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Carlow, Duckett’s Grove, Ballykealy House, near Ballon, and Wells House, Co Wexford, built for the Doyne family. His octagons in Saint Columba’s, Tullow, and in Carlow Cathedral recall the octagon tower in Ely Cathedral, which also inspired Pugin ‘s design for the chapel at the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnham.

Some monuments from the earlier churches survive inside the present church, including a memorial erected in 1745 to General Clement Nevill, who fought at the Siege of Derry and carried the colours for William of Orange at the Boyne in 1690. He was a nephew of Sir Charles Wolseley of Wolseley, Staffordshire, and of Mount Wolseley, Tullow.

The stained glass East Window, telling the story of the Sermon on the Mlount, was erected in 1907 by the Wolseley family to commemorate Sir John Richard Wolseley, who died in 1874, and his wife Frances, who died in 1907.

Evening lights behind the former Market House, now the library, in Tinahely, Co Wicklow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

From Tullow, we went to Rath Wood House, on the Carlow-Wicklow borders, for a late lunch, before driving east through Coolkenno in Co Wicklow to the attractive villages of Shillelagh and Tinahely.

Shillelagh is a planned town, built as part of the FitzWilliam estate at nearby Coolattin House. Nearby is the largest remaining oak forest in Ireland. Tinahely, on the banks of River Derry, was rebuilt in the early 19th century by Lord FitzWilliam after it was burnt during the 1798 Rising.

Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam (1745-1816) also founded the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, with its name to a square and streets in Dublin, and his name has also been continued in Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge – a name chosen by the students in 1887.

The Public Library in Dwyer Square, Tinahely, was formerly the town market house. The two-storey market house has granite dressings and arched windows with fanlights. The front of the building has a three-arched arcade at the ground floor with single arches in the adjoining walls. At the rear of the building, a double external stairway gives access to the first floor. The building is capped by a small square cupola with an ogee-hipped copper-clad roof. There is a clock and a weather vane. Tinahely’s local people have included the playwright Sebastian Barry and the late Bishop Noel Willoughby.

From Tinahely, we drove north through Aughrim, Ballinaclash, Rathdrum, Glenealy and Rathnew, before joining the M11 and returning to Dublin. The bank holiday weekend was coming to an end.

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