28 October 2016

Saint Andrew’s Church, a former inner
city parish church, is on the market

Saint Andrew’s Church, Suffolk Street … the church had a history dating back to 1217, but closed as a church in 1993 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

As I was walking through inner city Dublin earlier this week, I noticed that Saint Andrew’s Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church at the point where Saint Andrew Street and Suffolk Street meet, has been placed on the rental market, inviting new tenants.

Saint Andrew’s was an old parish in inner city Dublin, formed almost 800 years ago in 1218 from the corps of the Precentors of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The original Saint Andrew’s Church stood on present-day Dame Street.

Until the Reformation, the Precentors of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral were the Rectors of Saint Andrew’s Church. At the Reformation, Saint Andrew’s was united to Saint Werburgh’s, together with Saint Mary le Dam.

It is said the church was destroyed in the mid-17th century during the Cromwellian era. However, under an Act of Parliament passed after the Caroline Restoration, Saint Andrew’s became a separate parish once again in 1665, and a new church was built by William Dodson in 1680.

This church was built a little further from the city walls, on an old bowling-green close to the Thingmote, the old assembly-place in the Norse city. It had an eliptical or oval shape with a cone-shaped roof and crenallations. Because of this shape, it was commonly known as the Round Church.

The patronage of the parish was vested in the Archbishop of Dublin, the Lord Chancellor, and other senior government officials. The church was the special chapel of the Irish Parliament, which met nearby in College Green, and had close links with the Dublin Stock Exchange.

Jonathan Swift’s friend, Esther Vanhomrigh (‘Vanessa’), was buried in here in June 1723. Alderman Thomas Pleasants, father of Thomas Pleasants, the developer and philanthropist, was buried in the churchyard in 1729. Thomas Dalton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was buried here in 1730, and Marmaduke Coghill, MP for Dublin University, judge of the Prerogative Court and Chancellor of the Exchequer, was buried in the family vault in Saint Andrew’s in 1738.

The church was rebuilt in 1793-1800 with a new round church designed by Francis Johnson. This was Johnson's first major commission in Dublin. Inside, the church was fitted out in what was described as an ‘Egyptian style,’ its windows were covered with oil-silk transparencies instead of being fitted with stained glass, and the gallery had beautiful Egyptian-inspired ornamentation that was much admired in Victorian Dublin.

This church was destroyed by fire on 8 January 1860.

The cloister-like walkway on the north side of Saint Andrew’s Church, Suffolk Street … the 1860s church was designed by William Henry Lynn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The Belfast-based architectural practice of Lanyon & Lynn won first and second prizes in the competition for designs for a new church. The new church was designed was designed in the Gothic style by William Henry Lynn (1829-1915), and could seat 1,000 people. The builder was John Butler & Son, and the total coast was £12,735.

The foundation stone was laid on 11 August 1862 by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Marquess of Abercorn, and the church was consecrated by Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench of Dublin on Saint Andrew’s Day, 30 November 1866.

Throughout this building or rebuilding project, the Vicar of Saint Andrew’s from 1862 to 1872 was the Ven Cadwallader Wolseley (1806-1872), who was also a canon of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (1852-1862) and Archdeacon of Glendalough (1862-1872). He was a descendant of the Wolseley family of Mount Wolseley, Co Carlow, and Wolseley near Rugeley in Staffordshire.

The Belfast-based architect William Henry Lynn (1829-1915) was born on 27 December 1829, at St John’s Point, Co Down. His father, Henry Lynn, whose family came from Fethard, Co Wexford, was an officer in the coast guard service, while his mother, Margaretta Ferres, was a doctor’s daughter from Larne, Co Antrim.

Lynn went to school at Dr Newland’s private grammar school in Bannow, Co Wexford. He trained as an architect in the Belfast office of Sir Charles Lanyon (1813-1899). By the time he was 18 he was Lanyon’s clerk of works for the building of Queen’s College, Belfast, and he became Lanyon’s partner in 1854 in the partnership known as Lanyon & Lynn, later Lanyon Lynn and Lanyon.

After a contentious breakup of the partnership, Lynn practised on his own from 1872 until he died on 12 September 1915 at home, Ardavon, 250 Antrim Road, Belfast. He had also kept a house at Innyard, near Fethard, Co Wexford.

Lynn’s original vision was ambitious for a cramped site and included rebuilding the surrounding neighbourhood in the same Gothic style. But this vision never saw the light of the day, and the full beauty of his design, including tower and spire, is difficult to discern through the narrow surrounding streets. There is a cloister-like walkway beside Saint Andrew Street, but many of Lynn’s planned features were never completed because of cost-cutting measures. For example, the central buttress of the cloister has a large lump of unfinished stone, and the empty niche above has protrusions that were clearly meant to be carved.

Perhaps Lynn’s single failure was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or a cruciform church into a site marked by its curved street boundary. Inside, the church had short and tall four-bay nave, transept and chancel. His other buildings in Dublin included the Unitarian Church on Saint Stephen’s Green and banks on Grafton Street Street and College Green.

On 1 October 1957, a Chapel of Divine Healing was dedicated in Saint Andrew’s Church, as a centre for the work of the Ministry of Healing in Ireland.

In January 1977, the union of Saint Andrew’s with Saint Werburgh’s, Saint Mary’s, Saint Michan’s and Saint Paul’s took effect, and the new union was grouped with Christ Church Cathedral.

Saint Andrew’s Church was closed after Divine Service on Saint Andrew’s Day, 30 November 1993, and the church was sold.

The head of Saint Andrew over the west door was one of the interesting features of the church, but has been removed since the church closed. Inside, the former church still retains the height and airiness of the original nave. Outside, there is a fine vaulted arcade with ornate stonework and pinnacles. A memorial to soldiers of the Fourth Dublin Imperial Yeomanry killed during the Boer War still stands in the former churchyard in the form of a polished pink granite column topped by a crown.

The church was remodelled by Ashlin & Coleman, the architectural heirs to Pugin and Coleman, in 1996, and until recently the building housed the Dublin Tourism office. However, Fáilte Ireland moved about two years ago to a remodelled building next door on Suffolk Street and the church is on the market for letting through the estate agents Cushman & Wakefield. They told The Irish Times last month that they expect it to a wide range of businesses because of its key location, heavy footfall and spacious facilities.

The former church is being offered on a long lease at an expected rent of over €600,000 a year. The property includes almost 20,000 sq ft of space, spread over three levels, and a former parish hall dating from 1884 at the rear of the church.

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