07 August 2021

A former bank in Ennis
and the sad end to
an architect’s career

The former Provincial Bank on Bindon Street, Ennis, Co Clare … the west side was developed from the 1830s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Following the development of two elegant terraces of Georgian townhouses on Bindon Street, Ennis, Co Clare, in the 1830s and 1850s, the street was completed in the 1860s with the building of the Provincial Bank in 1860-1864, and Saint Columba’s Church in 1869-1871.

A new bank and manager’s residence was designed for the Provincial Bank by William George Murray (1822-1871) and built ca 1860-1864. It later became a branch of Allied Irish Bank and is now the offices of the Munster Insurance Group.

The Dublin architect William George Murray was born in Dublin in 1822, the second son of William Murray, and he trained as an architect in his father’s office. In 1845 his father took him and Abraham Denny into partnership as Murray, Son and Denny. William Murray died in 1849, and the two younger partners to continue practice as Murray and Denny.

Denny left the architectural profession in 1855, and William George Murray carried on a successful practice on his own. He designed some major banks and insurance offices in Dublin and the Royal College of Physicians in Kildare Street. He was also the architect for the Dundalk, Enniskillen and Londonderry Railway Co, designing many railway stations, for the South Dublin Union, and for the Provincial Bank of Ireland.

His bank branches for the Provincial Bank include banks in Cootehill, Co Cavan, South Mall, Cork, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, College Street, Dublin, Nenagh and Templemore, Co Tipperary, and Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Murray’s bank on Bindon Street, Ennis, is a detached, five-, two-storey Italianate-style bank and manager’s house, built 1864, with an advanced single-storey entrance porch addition.

The Gibbsian door surround is flanked by engaged pilasters with a moulded cornice above the porch. The round-headed windows have roll mouldings and dropped keystones at the ground floor. On the first floor, the segmental-arched windows have architraves and dropped keystones to first floor. The limestone cut-stone walls have string courses at sill levels.

There is a two-storey hip-roofed side entrance extension at the right. There is a hipped slate roof with paired limestone stone brackets under a moulded limestone eaves course, and cut-stone decorations on the chimneystacks.

However, Murray’s connection with the Provincial Bank ended in bitterness, when the bank took legal action against him and the Dublin building contractor John Nolan, alleging fraud and collusion in connection with the issue of certificates for extra work in building the bank’s headquarters in College Street, Dublin.

The bank, now part of the Westin Hotel, was designed by Murray. When the bank was completed in 1867, the cost was twice the estimate. Before the money ran out, a magnificent banking hall had been built. But there was no money left to provide the planned luxurious first-floor offices for the directors and management.

Although Murray and Nolan were acquitted by the Vice-Chancellor, to the great satisfaction of the Irish Builder, the court of appeal ruled that, because of errors and negligence on Murray's part, an inquiry should be held to establish whether to pay the sums of money for extra work that Nolan claimed from the bank.

This dispute, involving a contractor Murray had been associated with in a large number of projects over a decade, cast a deep shadow over Murray in the last years of his life. He died at his house, Avonmore, Ballybrack, Co Dublin, on 6 March 1871, leaving effects of about £9,000 and two houses in Ballybrack on 5½ acres of land.

His brief death notice in the Irish Builder noted that ‘he will be remembered in connection with some of the public buildings erected within the space of a few years, and which add so much to the beauty of our city.’

Murray’s pupils and assistants included his son, Albert Edward Murray, who inherited his practice, and Sir Thomas Drew, who married his sister Adelaide Anne in 1871.

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
70, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Corfu

The former Ionian Parliament building became Holy Trinity Anglican Church in 1870 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is focussing this week on USPG’s links with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church in Japan, and this week’s anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (6 August 1945).

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This week’s theme is seven churches on the Greek island of Corfu, and my photographs this morning (7 August 2021) are of Holy Trinity Church, the Anglican church in Corfu.

The former chaplain’s residence now serves as Holy Trinity Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There has been an Anglican presence in Corfu since 1814 Corfu, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands became a British Protectorate. The High Commissioner, the administrators, and the soldiers and sailors based in Corfu, required a place of worship, and a chapel was built in the Doric style in the Old Fortress and was named Saint George.

Saint George’s remained the garrison church until 1864, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands were incorporated into the modern Greek state. The Greek Parliament in Athens wanted to turn the old fortress into a military base, and Saint George’s became an Orthodox church.

Indeed, this was the church where Prince Philip, later the Duke of Edinburgh, was baptised according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1921.

When the former Anglican Church of Saint George in the Old Fortress in Corfu became a Greek Orthodox in 1864, the Anglican community was left without a church. On the other hand, with the incorporation of Corfu and the Ionian Islands into the Greek state, Corfu no longer needed a parliament building. The Greek government offered the former Ionian Parliament building to the Anglican community. The building was designed by a Corfiot architect John Chronis.

The gift was ratified in Greek law in 1869, and the building was given to the ‘British community of Kerkyra (Corfu) of the Anglican faith so long as it might serve as a house of worship of the said persuasion.’

The deed of consecration was signed in 1870, the Ionian Parliament building became Holy Trinity Church, and the premises to the rear became the parsonage or residence of the Anglican chaplain.

Holy Trinity Church was in a unique position because it belonged not to the British Government nor any church body, but solely and entirely to the Anglican community in Corfu. The church flourished from 1869, with a permanent resident chaplain until 1940, and for 71 years the church served the island’s many British residents.

At the outbreak of World War II, most British residents left Corfu, and the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society (now ICS) was appointed trustee of the church.

The church was bombed during World War II, leaving only parts of the outside walls. Although the parsonage to the rear suffered bomb damage, it provided shelter for the Maltese community. However, with the slow return of British residents to post-war Corfu, the Mayor of Corfu took advantage of this situation, the city took over the church, restored the building, and retained it.

Later, through negotiations, the residence part of the building was retained, repaired and served many uses. While he was the British Vice Consul, Major John Forte set about recovering this part of the building. Major John Forte is also known for reviving the game of cricket in Corfu, and for helping to prevent L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, from setting up a university on Corfu in 1968.

Fifty years ago, on Easter Day 1971, Holy Trinity Church Corfu reopened on a permanent basis for the first time in 31 years.

Half a century later, Holy Trinity Church is part of the Diocese in Europe and has a vital congregation that continues to reach out to residents and visitors alike in Corfu.

Holy Trinity Church maintains an Anglican presence and outreach in the heart of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 17: 14-20 (NRSVA):

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15 and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ 17 Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 20 He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’

Saint George’s Church was an Anglican and garrison church in Corfu until 1864 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (7 August 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Japanese Anglican Church in the UK.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Major John Forte is known for reviving the game of cricket in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org