25 August 2021

Myrtle Grove in Youghal
has links to Walter Raleigh
and Claud Cockburn

Myrtle Grove, Youghal, Co Cork … associated with many of the legends about Sir Walter Raleigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

When I was visiting Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, Co Cork, as part of last week’s summer ‘road trip,’ I was disappointed not to be able to have a proper look at Myrtle Grove.

This Tudor house beside the gates of the churchyard is said to have been the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, and was also the home of the writer and journalist Claud Cockburn, who wrote regularly for The Irish Times, as did many of his sons.

Myrtle Grove is said to stand on the site of the house of the Wardens of Youghal. With its tall chimneys, oriel windows and many gables, the house is a rare Irish example of an unfortified, late mediaeval Tudor style stone house. It is said to have been built by Sir Walter Raleigh, and there are many legends associated with his time in the house.

It is said that a panicked servant at Myrtle Grove dowsed Raleigh in water while he was smoking the first tobacco in Ireland.

Raleigh reputedly brought the first potatoes from Virginia to Ireland in 1585, and planted them at his home at Myrtle Grove. For the following two years he was mayor of Youghal, where Queen Elizabeth I granted him 42,000 acres (170 sq km) of land.

At Myrtle Grove, he entertained the poet Edmund Spenser, who is said to have been inspired to write the last verse of the ‘Faerie Queene’ while looking out the window of Myrtle Grove.

Four yew trees in the gardens are said to have been planted by Raleigh, and he made his final trip from Cork to the West Indies in 1617.

However, many of the legends in Youghal about Walter Raleigh date to the romanticising of his links with Youghal by Samuel Hayman in his New Handbook for Youghal (1858). The Hayman family acquired Myrtle Grove in the 18th century, and renovated the house in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Myrtle Grove, Youghal, seen from Saint Mary’s Churchyard … the house was the home of the Blake, Arbuthnot and Cockburn families in the 20th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

In the early 20th century, it was the home of Sir Henry Arthur Blake (1840-1918), who had been Governor of the Bahamas (1884-1887), Newfoundland (1887-1888), Jamaica (1888-1898), Hong Kong (1898-1903) and Ceylon (1903-1907). He was born in Limerick, and died at Myrtle Grove in 1918.

Two years earlier, in 1916, Blake’s daughter, Olive, and her husband, Major John Bernard Arbuthnot, moved into Myrtle Grove with their family. Their youngest child was the writer and artist Patricia Evangeline Anne Cockburn (1914-1989). When the Arbuthnots moved to London in 1918, Patricia was left at Myrtle Grove with her widowed grandmother.

In 1940, after a divorce, Patricia married the journalist Claud Cockburn (1904-1981), and they returned to Youghal to live at Myrtle Grove in 1947.

For many years, Claud Cockburn was a columnist with The Irish Times while I worked there, and some of his sons, including Patrick Cockburn, also contributed to The Irish Times. Patrick’s godmother was Lady Clodagh Anson, who once lived at the Towers in Ballysaggartmore, in Lismore, Co Waterford.

Patricia and Claud Cockburn moved to Ardmore, Co Waterford, in 1980. Claud died on 15 December 1980, Patricia died on 6 October 1989; they are both buried in the churchyard of Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church, Youghal, under a tree planted by her mother in memory of her brother and close to the gates of Myrtle Grove.

The grave of Patricia and Claud Cockburn in the churchyard of Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church, Youghal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Myrtle Grove remains in private ownership and is closed to the public, but is being renovated and restored. The house is a rare example of an unfortified 16th century Irish house to have survived with much of its original form intact. It retains its original character and some interior features that may date back to the 1580s.

The Tudor features include the steep gables, oriel windows and tall chimneys. This is a detached triple-gabled six-bay three-storey house, built ca 1550, with a porch-oriel at the front, dormer windows at the rear, and an oriel window on the south elevation.

The oriel over the porch has a rendered pediment. The square-headed window openings have sash windows in the gables and on the second floor, and bipartite sash windows on the first and ground floors. The round-headed window opening in the oriel over the porch is flanked by four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows.

The oriel window on the south side has six-over-six pane timber sliding sash windows. The round-headed window at the rear has a spoked fanlight, and there is a round-headed door opening in the porch.

The house has rendered chimneystacks, a pitched slate roof, and a weathervane. The rubble sandstone masonry walls are covered with roughcast render. Leading into the house, a pair of square-profile rendered piers have double-leaf timber gates and a pedestrian entrance.

The Church gate lodge beside Myrtle Lodge at the entrance to Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church is also an attractive and eye-catching building, with a gable-fronted porch with an heraldic plaque, pointed arch windows and square-headed windows, a pointed arch opening at the porch, and timber battened door.

The Church gate lodge beside Myrtle Lodge at the entrance to Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
88, All Saints’ Church, Cambridge

All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting 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 churches in Cambridge that are not college chapels. My photographs this morning (25 August 2021) are from All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane.

All Saints’ Church seen from the front gate of Jesus College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) was one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement, and he is associated with at both All Saints’ Church and Saint Botolph’s Church, as well as Queens’ College chapel (1891), and the decoration of the old hall.

Bodley was a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott. He opened his own practice in 1855, and in all he designed or restored over 100 cathedrals and churches in the Gothic Revival style, favoured by AWN Pugin and of whom Scott was among the great exponents.

Bodley’s biographer Michael Hall argues he ‘fundamentally shaped the architecture, art, and design of the Anglican Church throughout England and the world’ (Michael Hall, George Frederick Bodley and the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America, Yale University Press, 2012).

Bodey’s churches in Staffordshire include the Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross (1871-1872), the Mission Church, Hadley End (1901), and Saint Chad’s Church, Burton-on-Trent (1903-1910).

All Saints’ Church in Jesus Lane is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England, with some of the finest interior decorations of the period. Although this is Bodley’s first church in the Decorated Gothic style of the early 14th century (1300-1320), it is one of his most successful and became his favourite.

The church stands opposite Jesus College, beside Westcott House and just a few steps away from the Jesus Lane Gate below the rooms I have had in Cloister Court, Sidney Sussex College.

Although All Saints was built in 1863-1864, the parish is much older, dating back to the Middle Ages. The original church stood on a site opposite Trinity College and close to the Divinity Schools. This site, now marked by a triangular piece of open land with a memorial cross, stood in the old Jewish quarter of Cambridge, and the church was known as All Saints in the Jewry.

The patronage of All Saints was held from the 13th century by Saint Radegunde’s Nunnery. The nunnery became Jesus College in 1497, and after that the Vicars of All Saints were appointed by Jesus College.

Through the centuries, the old church was rebuilt and restored on several occasions, but the site was cramped and dark, and by the mid-19th century the parishioners realised it would be impossible to enlarge the building.

Jesus College, as patron of the living, donated a site for a new church in Jesus Lane. Although Gilbert Scott was the first choice as architect, the commission was awarded eventually to Bodley.

The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 27 May 1863, the church was consecrated on 30 November 1864, and the new church, with its tower and spire, was completed between 1869 and 1871.

When the spire was completed, All Saints was the tallest building in Cambridge, until the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and the English Martys was built. Although both have since been out-passed by the chimney of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the spire of All Saints remains a landmark that can be seen from parts throughout Cambridge, with great bulk of the church rising majestically above the surrounding buildings and landscape.

The tower and spire are modelled on the tower and spire of the parish church in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and the design of Ashbourne influenced many other details Bodley introduced to All Saints.

Bodley was closely associated with William Morris and much of the interior decoration is the work of his partnership, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. This was one of their first architectural commission in a Bodley church.

The Morris work in All Saints includes the spectacular stained-glass East Window. Later decorations are the work of the studios of the Tractarian artist Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) and the Cambridge-based studio of Frederick Leach.

Kempe had studied architecture under Bodley, and also designed windows for Lichfield Cathedral and Christ Church, Lichfield, as well the colourful triptych that forms the reredos of the altar in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral. The Cambridge Church Historian, Owen Chadwick once said Kempe’s work represents ‘the Victorian zenith’ of church decoration and stained glass windows.

Bodley devised all the wall paintings in the nave of All Saints, the nave aisle, the sanctuary, and the east end of the south chancel aisle.

The walls and roofs are decorated with colourful stencil patterns, in red, green and gold, with pomegranates and seeds used as a sign of the Resurrection, monograms of IHS and IHC for Christ and a crowned M for the Virgin Mary, as well as inscriptions from the Psalms, the Beatitudes and the Book of Revelation.

The ceiling is decorated with symbols of the Four Evangelists, and the roof of the nave and south nave aisle are the work of FR Leach, who did much of his work at his own expense. The tempera painting of Christ in Glory, flanked by his mother and Saint John the Evangelist and surrounded by angels, is the work of Wyndham Hope Hughes and was restored by Leach’s son, BM Leach.

The pulpit was designed by Bodley in 1864 and the panels were painted by Wyndham Hope Hughes in 1875. They show Saint Peter, Saint John the Baptist and Saint John Chrysostom.

The oak chancel screen was designed by the Cambridge architect John Morley and is the work of Rattee and Kent. The rood beam was fitted to act as a girder to counteract a structural weakness in the base of the tower. On it stands a great cross decorated with emblems of the Four Evangelists.

Below the tower, in the chancel, the choir stalls were also designed by Bodley.

The East Window was made in 1866 as a memorial to Lady Affleck, wife of the Master of Trinity College and the woman who had laid the foundation stone of the church in 1863. This window is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, with 20 figures designed by Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and William Morris. The whole work was assembled by Morris & Co.

The nave windows include one designed by Kempe as a memorial to three former vicars and showing three saintly Cambridge Anglicans: the priest poet George Herbert, the theologian Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott and the missionary Henry Martyn.

One of those Vicars, Herbert Mortimer Luckock (1833-1909), was Vicar of All Saints in 1862-1863 and again in 1865-1875, and later became Dean of Lichfield (1892-1909). He is also commemorated by a Carrara marble memorial on the West Wall that shows him vested in choir robes and kneeling at prayer.

The last addition to the church was a window celebrating womanhood which was erected in the nave in 1944. The four great women depicted in the window are Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker prison reformer, Josephine Butler, the bishop’s wife who worked with prostitutes and called for social reforms, Mother Cecile Isherwood, who founded a community of nuns in South Africa, and Nurse Edith Cavell, who was killed in World War I.

With a decline in the number of resident parishioners, the church closed when the last vicar, the Revd Hereward Hard, retired in 1973, and the parish was merged with the Parish of the Holy Sepulchre at the Round Church.

The church is now vested in the Churches Conservation Trust, and it is used by Westcott House, the Anglican theological college on Jesus Lane, and by the Cambridge Theological Federation.

The work of William Morris can be found throughout All Saints’ Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The pulpit was designed by Bodley in 1864 and has panels painted with saints (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 23: 27-32 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 27 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.’

The window celebrating women in the church was placed in 1944 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 August 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Church in the Province of the West Indies, giving thanks for our partnership with them.

The East Window is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Three Cambridge theologians commemorate three vicars of All Saints (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 monument to Dean Luckock in the West Wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)