16 September 2020
Twin parish churches
sharing the one site in
Bansha, Co Tipperary
On the way back from Cahir to Askeaton, at the end of the summer ‘Road Trip,’ we stopped between Cahir and Tipperary to visit the village of Bansha, Co Tipperary, on the N24, 13 km north-west of Cahir and 8 km south-east of Tipperary Town.
It is always interesting when I find that two parish churches in an Irish town or village – the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic parish church – are built side-by-side on the one campus or adjoining sites.
I am aware of this since childhood with the two parish churches in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, where the two churches – Saint Anne’s and Saint Mary’s – stand on the same street corner.
In Bansha, the two churches also stand side-by-side. Once again, Templeneiry Church, the Church of Ireland parish church, stands on the higher point on the site. But in Bansha, the Catholic churchyard seems to surround the Church of Ireland churchyard, as if one churchyard with its graves is embracing the other and that in death all the divisions of the past are cast aside.
Bansha is a small compact village, and historically had two streets and two lanes: Main Street and Barrack Street, with Banner’s Lane, named after the Revd Benjamin Holford Banner, a former Rector of Templeneiry, and Cooke’s Lane, named after the Cooke Family of Cordangan Manor.
The Church of Ireland Parish Church of Templeneiry dates from 1718, but is now closed; the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Annunciation was built in 1807; both are in the Diocese of Cashel and are centrally located in the village.
Templeneiry Church stands on an ancient site, and the present church dates from 1718. The imposing spire was added to the tower in 1813.
Samuel Lewis described the church in 1837 as ‘a neat building, to which a handsome spire was added in 1813.’
Until the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, the parish was one of the parishes linked to the Precentors of Cashel. Bansha now lies within the Cashel Cathedral Group of Parishes, and Templeneiry Church serves as a community-run heritage, cultural and information centre.
The surrounding churchyard includes the graves of many old local families. The most notable grave is that of William Baker, a magistrate, of Lismacue House.
William Baker was the son of Colonel William Baker and Elizabeth (Massy) of Lismacue. In 1805, she married Elizabeth Roberts, daughter of Sir Thomas Roberts (1738-1817) and Amy Johnson, on 21 August 1805.
He built Lismacue House in 1813, which became the home of the Baker family. Two years later, however, Baker was murdered the age of 48 at Thomastown, Co Tipperary, on 27 November 1815, on his way home from Cashel Sessions. Eventually, two men were arrested, and one was convicted and hanged based on the testimony of the other.
The Church of the Annunciation was built on the adjoining site in Bansha in 1807, and the porches and the sacristy were added in 1948.
This pre-Emancipation, early 19th century church is enlivened by many details, including a large, elaborate decorative west window, trefoils, and corner buttresses.
The church is set in landscaped grounds with the graveyard on the north side of the site.
Inside the church, the features included three large timber galleries at the west end and in the transepts, the scissor truss roof structure, the very fine carved panelling at the back and sides of the chancel, triple-tiered ogee-headed arcades, the timber confession boxes and pews, the pointed-arch statue recesses and the carved marble Stations of the Cross.
This well-maintained church displays a great range of decoration, and various additions from the mid-20th century are in harmony with the earlier church building.
One of Bansha’s famous residents was Lieutenant-General Sir William Francis Butler (1838-1910), a soldier, writer and adventurer, who lived in retirement at Bansha Castle from 1905 until his death on 7 June 1910.
His wife, the battle artist Elizabeth Thompson (1846-1933), Lady Butler, continued to live at Bansha Castle until 1922, when she went to live at Gormanston Castle, Co Meath, with their youngest daughter, Eileen, who married Jenico Preston (1878-1925), 15th Viscount Gormanston, in 1911.
Lady Butler’s famous paintings include The Roll Call and Balaclava, depicting scenes in the Crimean War. When she died in 1933, she was buried at Stamullen, near Gormanston, Co Meath.