09 August 2021

Gort Muire, a Carmelite
house first built for
an old Dublin family

Gort Muire, formerly Gortmore House, in Ballinteer, is the residence of the Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites … designed by John Skipton Mulvaney for Richard Atkinson (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Dublin today, visiting my GP for check-ups for my continuing pulmonary sarcoidosis and for one of my regular injections for my B12 deficiency.

I am planning a theme on Carmelite churches and spirituality for a future week in my prayer diary in my morning blog postings, and I used today’s visit to Dublin and a few other recent visits to photograph the Carmelite churches in Clarendon Street, Whitefriar Street, Terenure College and Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon.

This afternoon, after a walk on the beach in Bray, Co Wicklow, I also tried to visit the Carmelite chapel at Gort Muire, Ballinteer. Gort Muire is the residence of the Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites and houses the Provincial offices, including the Province Archives and Library. It is the Irish Province’s study centre as well as a house of hospitality and retirement, and for the care of sick and elderly friars.

Some years ago, I had organised a retreat in Gort Muire for students from the Church of Ireland Theological College (now CITI). The Carmelites bought the original Gortmore House in 1944. The chapel houses a specially commissioned work, ‘The Scapular Vision’ by the Irish artist Sean Keating, and two beautiful stained-glass windows of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and of Saint Joseph are from the Harry Clarke Studios.

Sadly, my efforts were in vain this afternoon. The chapel remains closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I was unable to photograph the chapel or the windows this afternoon.

The chapel at Gort Muire … once the venue for a retreat for students from the Church of Ireland Theological College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Gortmore House was designed in 1858 for Richard Atkinson (1818-1871) by the architect John Skipton Mulvaney (1813-1870). It was almost 10 years before it was completed, and the conservatory was added in 1897.

Richard Atkinson of Gortmore was born on 6 October 1818 and educated at the King’s Inns, Dublin. He married on 14 October 1840 at Caledon, Co Tyrone, Mary Jane Elizabeth, daughter of Captain George R Golding of Lime Park, Caledon, and they were the parents of three sons and six daughters. He died on 18 July 1871.

Their daughter, Katherine Mabel, married Canon Robert Baker Stoney, Rector of Holy Trinity, Killiney, Co Dublin, and Canon Treasurer of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Their son, the surgeon Richard Atkinson Stoney (1877-1966), was visiting surgeon at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital, a consulting surgeon at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital in Leopardstown and the Masonic Boys School.

During the World War I, Stoney was with the medical services of the French army and was awarded the L├ęgion d’Honneur. Later, he was President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (1930-1932), and President of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (1933-1936).

During surgery, he was known for his robust and eccentric manner. He detested kidney-shaped surgical dishes, preferring to use round ones. On one occasion a flustered theatre nurse handed him one and he threw it through the window into the street.

His wife Gladys Enid was a daughter of Arthur Lenox Figgis of Greystones, Co Wicklow, and they were the parents of two daughters: Dr Jean Stoney, who later married the artist Louis Le Brocquy, and Patience Kate Stoney, who married Adolph Gygax.

The architect John Skipton Mulvany was born in 1813, the fourth son of the landscape and figure painter Thomas James Mulvany by his wife, Mary, daughter of Dr Cyrus Field. His father was a friend and biographer of James Gandon and was keeper of the Royal Hibernian Academy’s house in Lower Abbey Street.

Mulvany trained with William Deane Butler, and had established himself in private practice by 1836, when he was commissioned to design an extension to the hotel at Salthill, Monkstown, for the Dublin and Kingstown Railway Company.

He designed railway stations at Salthill, Blackrock and Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), and also designed Broadstone Railway Station and the Royal St George Yacht Club and the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Kingstown. But his important domestic commissions were from members of the Malcomson family of Portlaw, Co Waterford, for whom he designed several houses. He also designed Prior Park School, a short-lived Quaker-run school in Clonmel.

He died at the age of 57 in 1870. His pupils included Alfred Gresham Jones.

Gortmore House was sold in 1880 to Edward F Burke, a spirit and wine merchant, of 16 Bachelor’s Walk in Dublin. He installed the ornamental wooden staircase that bears his initials EB. Edward Burke was also responsible for the fine wood panelling in the hallway and reception rooms. The wood used was of the highest quality, and was the same as that used for conserving the spirits.

Edward Burke died in 1897, and the house passed to his brother-in-law, Sir John Gardiner Nutting, chairman of the Burke Company. It was probably during his time there that the elegant wrought-iron veranda and charming conservatory were added. In 1889, John Nutting bought the much grander Saint Helen’s, off Stillorgan Road. He was Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Co Dublin and was made a baronet in 1903.

By 1900, Gortmore was the home of Sir Joseph Michael Redmond, a distinguished Dublin physician. He was knighted when he became President of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.

Sir Michael and his wife Oswaldina (Nelson) were Catholics and they kept a private oratory in the room over the main entrance. Jesuit priests from Milltown Park came occasionally to celebrate Mass there. His brother, the Revd James Redmond SJ, served as vice-president during the Jesuit management of UCD, and later was the superior of the Jesuit community in Leeson Street, Dublin. Sir Michael died at in 1921 at 41 Merrion Square, Dublin; Lady Redmond died in 1924.

The next owner was Oswald Hegarty, a barrister, who in turn sold it to the Lefroy family in 1930.

Gortmore House and about 50 acres of land were bought by the Carmelites from St George LeFroy in 1944 for £12,000.

When the Carmelites bought the house and lands, Father O’Shea, the Provincial, changed the name of the house to Gort Muire, meaning ‘Maryfield, and Father DC Kiely was appointed first Prior.

The Carmelites then undertook a building programme. The chapel was designed by the architects Robinson, Keeffe and Devane and was built by Walsh & Co. This was followed by large accommodation blocks for clerical students.

The chapel at Gort Muire was designed by the architects Robinson, Keeffe and Devane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
72, Clare College, Cambridge

Inside the chapel in Clare College, Cambridge, with The Annunciation (1763) by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

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.

My theme this week is seven college chapels in Cambridge, and my photographs this morning (9 August 2021) are from Clare College.

The window commemorating Richard de Badew, the original founder of the college, offering what was known then as University Hall to the Virgin Mary and Christ Child (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I stayed in Clare College, Cambridge, five years ago in advance of the annual summer school at Sidney Sussex College in 2016 organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

The Chapel in Clare College was built in the 1760s to a design by the amateur architect and Master of Gonville and Caius, James Burrough. The Chapel is at the heart of the college in Old Court, with a daily Eucharist each morning during Full Term, and Choral Evensong sung by the College Choir.

According to instructions left by the college founder, Lady Elizabeth de Clare, the chapel, as with the whole college, is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The painting above the altar is ‘The Annunciation’ by Giambattista Cipriani, and was commissioned for the chapel by the Duke of Newcastle in the 18th century.

In the early 20th century, two stained glass windows were installed at the West End of the Chapel. The window on the south commemorates Richard de Badew, sometime Chancellor of Cambridge University and the original founder of the college, which was later re-established, renamed and endowed by Lady Elizabeth de Clare. He is shown offering his foundation, then known as University Hall, to the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.

Below them is a map of Europe, with Ireland and Britain comfortably close to the European continental landmass, long before anyone thought of ‘Brexit.’ The window opposite on the north side of the chapel commemorates two of the college’s most distinguished alumni: Bishop Hugh Latimer, a martyr in the reign of Queen Mary Tudor; and Nicholas Ferrar, founder of the community at Little Gidding just before the English Civil War in the 17th century. To the left is a small image of the church built by Nicholas Ferrar and referred to by TS Eliot in his poem ‘Little Gidding.’

The antechapel has memorials to the members of Clare College who died in the two World Wars, including Hamo Sassoon, brother of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon. Past deans of Clare College include Archbishop Rowan Williams (1984-1986); the theologian and New Testament scholar, Bishop John AT Robinson (1951-1959); the New Testament scholar, CFD (‘Charlie’) Moule (1944-1951); Maurice Frank Wiles (1959-1967); and Bishop Mark Santer (1967-1972).

As I stood in the chapel of Clare College, I was reminded of TS Eliot’s reflections on Nicholas Ferrar and his community in ‘Little Gidding’:

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding and Bishop Hugh Latimer (right) in the north window of the Chapel in Clare College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 17: 22-27 (NRSVA):

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, 23 and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’ And they were greatly distressed.

24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?’ 25 He said, ‘Yes, he does.’ And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?’ 26 When Peter said, ‘From others’, Jesus said to him, ‘Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offence to them, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.’

Lady Elizabeth de Clare depicted in a window in the Chapel of Clare College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (9 August 2021, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples), invites us to pray:

Today we pray for indigenous peoples across the world, as they fight to protect their ancestral lands from deforestation and extractive mining.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The founder of Clare College, Lady Elizabeth de Clare, wanted the chapel and the college dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (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

The bridge at Clare College, spanning the Backs in Cambridge and beside King’s College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)