05 February 2020

Saint John’s Church,
Kilcornan, and a visit
to Saint Brigid’s Well

Kilcornan takes is name from a sixth century saint, Saint Chúrnan, but the church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Two interesting feastdays were marked in the Church Calendar last weekend: Saint Brigid’s Day (1 February) and the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).

Two of us marked Saint Brigid’s Day on Saturday, seeking out Saint Brigid’s Well in a remote dale reached by muddy paths and trails across hilly fields near Kilcornan and Stonehall.

Although there was a sign by the roadside, the pilgrim route was not marked, and we were grateful to other visitors we met along the way for directing our paths and warning us about the muddy and rocky obstacles as we picked our through the fields in our wellie boots.

Inside the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Kilcornan, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Kilcornan is 17 km west of Limerick, on the N69 from Limerick to Tralee. The name Kilcornan comes from a sixth century saint, Saint Chúrnan, whose feast is on 6 January. In his Topographical Dictionary (1837), Samuel Lewis notes that the earliest identifiable settlements in Kilcornan were Danish.

The lands changed hands several times during the Tudor era. The Rector of Kilcornan, William Casey, was nominated by James FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond, as the first post-Reformation Bishop of Limerick in 1551. He was deposed by Queen Mary in 1556, but he was restored to the see in 1571.

A large part of the parish was granted to Sir Hardress Waller (1605-1666), MP for Askeaton (1634, 1640), one of the regicides who signed the death warrant of Charles I in 1649. The parish also includes Curraghchase, the ancestral home of Aubrey de Vere and the Hunt family.

For generations, the Roman Catholic parish was usually known as Stonehall, although the names Castletown and Kilcornan were also used.

Looking towards the gallery in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Kilcornan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

An 18th century church in Stonehall served the Roman Catholic parishioners until 1828 when, in an unusual gesture of generosity, the local landlord John Waller (1763-1836) donated a site for a new church and paid for its building. The church in Kilcornan is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist whose feast is on 24 June.

The Church of Ireland parish church in Kilcornan is a Board of First Fruits church, designed by the architect James Pain and built in 1831. Local tradition says the two churches were designed by the same architect.

The Roman Catholic parish church was built in 1828, when the parish was still known as Stonehall. The date, 24 June, was the parish holiday until Father Patrick Condon ended this tradition while he was parish priest (1896-1917).

The Baptismal font in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint John’s Church, Kilcornan, is a small stone building. The porch was added in the 1950s and the windows in the porch were donated by Kathleen O’Connell in memory of John and Brigid Kennedy and her brother Dan.

Inside the church on the right, there is a mosaic of Christ donated by the Sheahan family. The altars are to the memory of John Ranahan who died on 26 August 1954.

A large Crucifix hangs above the altar, with a statue of the Sacred Heart to the left, and a statue of the Virgin Mary on the right.

The stained glass depicting Saint John the Baptist and Saint Patrick (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

At the top of the nave, stained glass windows depict Saint John the Baptist (left), the patron of the church, in memory of a Mrs Chapman, and Saint Patrick (right), the patron of Ireland, in memory of Father Micheál Ó hAodha, former parish priest (1925-1930), who died in 1934.

Two smaller stained-glass images in windows the centre of the nave, depicting Saint Brigid and Saint Columcille, were donated by Mary O’Donoghue. These two saints are patrons of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick, but also link the church with Saint Brigid’s Well, which is within the parish.

The large gallery covers almost half the nave area. A stained-glass window in the gallery depicting the Crucifixion is in memory of Michael McKnight who died in 1936.

Father Timothy Foley is buried before the altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Father Timothy Foley, first Parish Priest of the church (1827-1849), is buried in the church before the altar. Two other parish priests are buried in the churchyard: Father Patrick Condon (1896-1917), and Father Stephen Culhane, who died on Easter Day 1920.

The parish was known as Stonehall until 1961, when Canon Bluet changed the name to Kilcornan.

Saint Brigid depicted in a window in the church in Kilcornan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint Brigid’s Well, off the road between Kilcornan and Stonehall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint Edmund the King,
a Wren church once in
close to London banking

Saint Edmund, King and Martyr … the last remaining church in Lombard Street, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Church of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr, is the last remaining church in Lombard Street. This is a church in the City of London that I have often passed but have never managed to visit.

This church, dedicated to Saint Edmund the Martyr, was once a parish church, but it is no longer is used for regular worship. It is now home to the London Centre for Spiritual Direction and the Centre for Church Planting and Church Growth.

The church is commonly known as Saint Edmund the King, and also houses the offices of the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe.

Until the 1980s, most London-based banks had their head offices on Lombard Street and in the past this street was the London home for money lenders. Lombard Street, a narrow but still busy street, takes its name from the Lombardy or Italian merchants who settled in the area during the 12th century. From 1691 until 1984, Lloyd’s Coffeehouse, which eventually became Lloyd’s of London, was based nearby.

The church is dedicated to the King of East Anglia who was martyred by the Danes in 870. The first church on this site is recorded in 1292, when it is named as ‘Saint Edmund towards Garcherche’ or Grasschurch, after the hay market that gave its name to Grasschurch Street.

The church is named again half a century later as ‘Saint Edmund in Lombardestrete’ in 1348. In his Survey of London (1598), John Stow refers to it also as Saint Edmund Grass Church.

The mediaeval church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. After the fire the parish was united with the parish of Saint Nicholas Acons, where the church was also destroyed in the fire but not rebuilt.

The present church was built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren in 1670-1674. A new tower, designed in 1707 by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), is ornamented at the angles by flaming urns in allusion to the Great Fire.

George Godwin described the tower as ‘more Chinese than Italian,’ while James Peller Malcolm called it ‘rather handsome, but of that species of architecture which is difficult to describe so as to be understood.’

The liturgical orientation of the church is north-south instead of the normal east-west orientation.

The essayist Joseph Addison (1672-1719), the son of a Dean of Lichfield, was married in this church in 1716.

A riot took outside the church in September 1868 followed a Friday morning sermon by the Revd Joseph Leycester Lyne (1837-1908), who strongly criticised the traders of Lombard Street.

Lynne, known as Father Ignatius of Jesus, was an eccentric Anglican Benedictine monk and a friend of Edward Bouverie Pusey. He had once been curate of Saint George in the East and at Saint Saviour’s mission church, and from 1866 to 1868 he preached regularly at Saint Bartholomew’s Moor Lane Church and other London churches. But, although he was ordained deacon, he was never ordained priest, and his increasingly erratic extremism and eccentricities led to his ridicule and isolation.

Saint Edmund the King was restored in 1864 and 1880, and the interior was rearranged by the architect William Butterfield (1814-1900).

The church was damaged by bombing in 1917. After World War I, ‘Woodbine Willie’, the Revd Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), was given charge of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr. He moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship and died of exhaustion in Liverpool in 1929 at the age of 45.

The church and parish now form part of the combined parish of Saint Edmund the King and Martyr, and Saint Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, with Saint Nicholas Acons, All Hallows’ Lombard Street, Saint Benet Gracechurch, Saint Leonard Eastcheap, Saint Dionis Backchurch and Saint Mary Woolchurch Haw. This lengthy title is usually shortened to Saint Edmund and Saint Mary Woolnoth – the names of the only two surviving churches in the parish.

The church is in the Ward of Langbourn, and has a ward noticeboard outside.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

The projecting clock, hanging from the church wall above Lombard Street, dates from around 1810. There is a face on each side so that the time can be seen both sides of the church along Lombard Street. The clock has a black face with the hours and minutes painted in gold. The hours are in traditional Roman numerals. The hands are also painted gold as is the bezel. A crown sits on top of the clock.

Nearest station: Bank

Inside Saint Edmund King and Martyr (Photograph: John Salmon/Georgaph/CCL)