25 May 2018

Adare Courthouse opens
again after many years

The courthouse in Adare has opened to the public after many years … it was designed by the architect William Fogerty (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

The former Adare Courthouse is an impressive stone building at the roundabout in the centre of this pretty village, where I stopped for lunch in yesterday afternoon [24 May 2018] on my way to speak at the launch of Patricia Byrne’s book in Limerick.

The courthouse in Adare was built in 1863, when its construction was financed by the 3rd Earl of Dunraven. It was designed by the Limerick-born architect William Fogerty and was built by M Walsh of Foynes.

The former courthouse is a Gothic-style two-storey building, built of cut-stone external limestone walls and a pitched slate roof, with cut limestone copings and cut limestone chimney stacks.

For many years, this protected structure had not functioned as a courthouse and was closed to the public until recently. But it was bought last year [2017] by the publican Charlie Chawke. Since then, it has been restored, with the ground floor incorporated into the neighbouring Aunty Lena’s bar and restaurant, and with a courtroom museum on the first floor that was opened last night.

This is a detached, six-bay, two-storey former courthouse. The symmetrical façade gives the appearance of a pair of houses, each with three bays and a central door. The domestic element is further underlined as the building was designed to accommodate a caretaker on the ground floor and with a constable’s room at the same level.

The unadorned limestone construction adds a certain austerity to the façade which gives the building a civic dimension. The austerity might have been relieved by the proposed clock tower that was part of Fogerty’s original plans.

The external staircase is another notable feature, and this is how the public accessed the court room on the first floor. The protected status relates not just to the building, but also to its ‘curtilage, fixtures and fittings.’

The fine stonework adds artistic interest and is indicative of the quality of craftsmanship used when it was being built. The building and its associated boundary walls make a notable addition to the streetscape and architectural heritage of Adare and it has additional significance because of its close links with local history and the Earls of Dunraven.

The external staircase provided public access to the court room on the first floor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

William Fogerty (1833-1878), the architect, was born in Limerick, and practised in Limerick, London, New York and Dublin.

He was born in 1833 or 1834, the second son of John Fogerty of Limerick, and a younger brother of the architect Joseph Fogerty.

William was a student at Queen’s College, Cork, in 1850-1851, when he drew up a plan by CW Law for a new road to the college. He began practising as an architect in Limerick with his father in the 1850s, and was working from 97 George’s Street, Limerick, in 1861-1863, when he designed the courthouse in Adare.

His other works in Limerick include the Protestant Orphan Society Hall, the apse in the former Holy Trinity Church, Catherine Street, and the Tait Memorial Clock in Baker Place.

He moved to Dublin in 1863 or 1864, and he was working from offices at 23 Harcourt Street when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (FRIAI) in 1863 and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA) in 1868.

After a tour of Italy with Thomas Henry Longfield, he moved in 1870 or 1871 to London, where his brother was already practising as an architect. There he practised from 8 Buckingham Street, The Strand.

From London, Fogerty emigrated to New York in 1872-1873, but he had returned to returning to Ireland by 1875, and he was President of the Association of Architects of Ireland in 1876-1877.

He announced in the Irish Builder on 1 March 1875 that he had resumed practice at 23 Harcourt Street. His works in Dublin include the Scots Presbyterian Church in Abbey Street.

He continued to practise from 23 Harcourt Street until his untimely death from smallpox at the age of 44 on 22 May 1878, having been ‘in excellent health up to the period of the fatal attack.’

He was buried in the graveyard at Saint Munchin’s Church, Limerick. He was survived by a young son, John Frederick Fogerty, who also became an architect.

The new courthouse museum in the former court room on the first floor opened to the public last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The courthouse was used for sittings of the district court in Adare until 2009. Last night, the new museum on the first floor was opened to the public, and the ground floor is incorporated into the bar and restaurant at Aunty Lena’s. Different sections are labelled with names that recalls the past use of the building, such as ‘The Cell,’ and the wall are lined with legal-themed paintings and cartoons.

Upstairs, in the former courtroom, you can imagine yourself in the old courthouse, with striking, life-like representations of Judge Cyril Maguire and District Court Clerk Maurice Fitzgibbon.

The courtroom and the stairs are lined with presentations on Adare Manor and biographical details of successive Earls of Dunraven.

Edwin Richard Wyndham-Quin (1812-1871), 3rd Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, who built this courthouse, is credited alongside George Petrie with ‘laying the foundations of a sound school of archaeology’ in Ireland. He was involved with George Petrie, William Stokes, and other Irish archaeologists in the foundation of the Irish Archaeological Society in 1840, and of the Celtic Society in 1845.

As Viscount Adare, he was the Conservative MP for Glamorganshire (1837-1851). He succeeded his father as Earl of Dunraven in 1850, and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1855.

A portrait of the 3rd Earl of Dunraven in the former courtroom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A glimpse of the mystery
of the Trinity in a fresco
in Lichfield Cathedral

The mediaeval fresco of the Holy Trinity in the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral was severely damaged by 17th century Puritans (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I am putting the finishing touches to sermons at the celebrations of Trinity Sunday on Sunday morning [27 May 2018] at the Parish Eucharist in both Castletown Church, Co Limerick, and – appropriately – Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

I have preached so often on Trinity Sunday, and I have prepared extensive preaching and liturgical resources for priests and readers in the Diocese of Limerick. But I still want to avoid saying something that is ‘reheated’ and want to say something that challenges me as well as challenging the people in these two churches on Sunday morning.

As well as prayer and reading, I find it is helpful in preparing sermons to look at images that focus my attention on my sermon topic.

This morning, as I pray and think, I am focused on a photograph I took last month of a fresco on the wall of the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral depicting the Holy Trinity.

This scene, showing the Trinity flanked by two censing angels, was probably painted in the mid-15th century, although it may even date earlier to the 14th century.

Although the painting has been damaged severely in the religious strife of later centuries, it is still possible to look closely and to see how it originally depicted the Holy Trinity.

As I look at it closely I can just make out the representation of God the Father sitting on a yellow or golden throne, his knees clad in a red robe.

God the Father is holding his crucified Son, God the Son, Jesus Christ, before him. Originally, this mediaeval fresco would have shown a full depiction of the Crucifixion. However, all that can be seen today are the legs of Christ, with his feet nailed to the Cross.

The representation of God the Holy Spirit, traditionally depicted as a white dove, is now missing from this work. But comparisons with similar paintings from this period suggest that this representation was placed in this painting in Lichfield Cathedral between the head of God the Father and the head of Jesus Christ.

On either side of the Holy Trinity stands an angel, each holding and swinging a censer or incense burner, offering large amounts of incense before the throne of God.

The notice accompanying this mediaeval work in Lichfield Cathedral quotes a passage in the Book of Revelation:

‘Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel’ (Revelation 8: 3-4).

In Christian thinking over the centuries there has always been an element of uneasiness about representing God pictorially. Sometimes this was completely forbidden in Judaism and Islam, because of fears that the images might become objects of worship instead of God.

In Christianity, a theologically unhealthy exaggeration of these reservations lead to the iconoclast heresy. This resurfaced among the English Puritans in the 16th and 17th century, and this fresco depicting the Holy Trinity was severely damaged when it was painted over by Puritans during the English Civil War.

Traces of this mediaeval wall painting were restored in 1979. Today, its condition remains a reminder not only of the cultural dangers of theological extremism and the aesthetic vandalism it encourages, but also that we can never see fully the mystical truth behind the truth of the Trinity – we cannot work it out ourselves, but we need to spend time in contemplation and prayer.

A second New Testament quotation on the accompanying notice in the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral reminds me of the essential truths I need to keep before me as I finish these sermons:

‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you’ (II Corinthians 13: 13).