The Muniments of Swift’s Cathedral

Although by no means complete, having suffered the ravages of time, including flood, fire and neglect, the scope of the muniments of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, (Swift’s cathedral) is vast. The collection contains records from as early as the 13th century and continuing on to the present day. Since the transfer of the collection into the safe and permanent custody of the Representative Church Body Library, Dublin in 1995, these have been accessioned as RCB Library C2/ and organised into nine distinct groups of records, as follows:

  1. Volumes
  2. Deeds
  3. Maps
  4. Plans & Drawings
  5. Loose Papers
  6. Photographs
  7. Printed Materials
  8. Seals
  9. Music

Now for the first time the extensive hand-list or finding aid which provides access to the collection is available online to assist potential researchers who may wish to consult its rich and varied materials.

Timed to coincide with the Swift 350, to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift (born on 30th November 1667 at Hoey’s Court, in the parish of St Werburgh, Dublin), the new online exhibition on the RCB Library website highlights particular aspects of the collection which relate to Swift’s tenure as Dean of St Patrick’s which he served for 32 years – from 1713 until his death in 1745. It also provides a link to the detailed hand-list available as a searchable pdf.

Popular print depicting the Very Revd Jonathan Swift at his cathedral, © RCB Library C2.7

These include the Chapter Act Books (commencing in 1643) that record the procedures of the dean and chapter. During Swift’s tenure as dean these became notably more extensive, as he was renowned for his efficiency and administrative ability. Another collection of particular interest includes in the miscellaneous loose papers section a folder of papers entitled ‘Swiftiana’ which was compiled in the late 19th century and features copies of specific papers and correspondence relating to Swift, as well as papers outlining the rediscovery of the grave containing the skulls of Swift and Esther Johnson (known as Stella), during the retiling of the floor of the cathedral in 1882.

Much of the work of organising the cathedral archive into a structured arrangement was carried out to facilitate the research for and publication of the cathedral’s most recent and comprehensive published history – edited by the late Canon John Crawford, and Professor Raymond Gillespie – St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin: A History (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2009), but more recently the collection has been expanded as new items continue to be transferred to the Library’s custody, and in particular the Library Administrator, Robert Gallagher, has completed a listing of the extensive  collection of the cathedral’s photographs, dating from the 1940s, and including some dramatic images of the cathedral’s interior and exterior, as well as many human interest pictures from numerous services such as the annual Remembrance Service, and the Christmas Eve carol service, that have a national resonance. The photographic collection also contains a number of items relevant to Swift and his legacy, including significant services commemorating his life, the display of his death mask and other items in the area of the cathedral designated as ‘Swift’s corner’, and even the dramatic portrayal of his life in a stage production entitled: ‘Mr Handel’s Visit to Dublin’ premiered in the cathedral as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival on 29th September 1969.

The photographs are further complemented by an extensive run of scrapbooks, which commence in 1884 that include a wide range of miscellaneous press cuttings, orders of service, and other memorabilia that flesh out not only Swift’s association with the Church of Ireland’s National Cathedral of St Patrick, but also many other stories of interest too.

Thinking about Reformation 500: the warm up to the big weekend

As part of the build-up to the Reformation 500 conference jointly organised by the Church of Ireland Historical Society and the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland on 20-21 October (for further details visit http://churchofirelandhist.org/reformation-500-conference/), the History Ireland Hedge School starts the discussion on Martin Luther and the wider significance.

It is 500 years since Luther composed his ninety-five theses at Wittenberg, in which he criticised the Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences to absolve sin. This set in motion an unexpected turn of events that led to the Protestant Reformation. A panel organised by the History Ireland Hedge School, in association with the Church of Ireland Historical Society, will reflect and discuss Luther’s actions and whether it was really about religion or a cynical power-grab by some of the princes of Europe. Other themes will explore whether it was an early manifestation of Brexit – a disillusionment of the periphery with the perceived corruption of the cosmopolitan centre? Ultimately, the panel will consider Luther’s actions and the relevance this has (if any?) today.

History Ireland Hedge School, in association with the Church of Ireland Historical Society, St Werbugh’s Church, 18 October at 7pm

History Ireland editor, Tommy Graham, will chair a lively and enlightening round-table discussion with Adrian Empey (COIHS, Hon. Sec.), John McCafferty (University College Dublin), Alison Forrestal (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Gesa Thiessen (Trinity College, Dublin). It all takes place on Wednesday, 18th October at 7pm in the beautiful surroundings of St Werburgh’s Church, Werburgh Street, Dublin. The event is free of charge and no booking is required.

Little books with big interest at the RCB Library, Dublin

The Representative Church Body Library, Dublin, has an exhibition showcasing some of its collection of miniature and small books available on display in the Library. Two particular items are worth noting: one is a miniature Bible presented to the Library by CJ Lundy, son of the Revd St George Lundy (1914-1976), and the other a beautiful edition of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which was purchased from a local charity shop after the Library was notified of its existence by a member of the public.

The RCB Library holds well in excess of 80,000 books, many of which have been donated by those associated with the Church of Ireland and other religious institutions, as well as by members of the public. These items in particular attest to their innately personal nature.

The first item, donated by CJ Lundy, is an intricate, miniature version of the Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments. Measuring only 4.3 cm in height and 3 cm in width, the Bible is bound in a dark blue cover. A particularly delightful aspect of the volume is that it includes drawings of notable biblical events. This miniature book was a product of David Bryce & Sons, a publishing house noted as masters of miniaturisation, using the latest technological advances in photolithography and electroplating to produce ever-smaller versions of popular texts. It comes complete with a magnifying glass to help the reader with deciphering the text, such aids being a particular feature of these kinds of books produced by Bryce. On the front endpapers of the book, the inscription that states: ‘From the Library of John Knott, M.D. given to St George Lundy by Eleanor Knott with best wishes 23 IV 1938’.

 

Eleanor Draper’s Book of Common Prayer, complete with distinctive frontal brass piece, clasp, and gold-edged papers. © Representative Church Body, Library.

St George Charles Hubert Lundy was baptised in St Mary’s Church in Donnybrook parish on 20th May 1914, with the family residing in 4 Churchill Terrace. After moving to 11 Strand Road in Sandymount, the family became members of St Michael’s parish in Irishtown. He trained in Trinity College with the aim of becoming ordained in the Church of Ireland, eventually becoming curate in Christ Church in Lisburn and St Mary’s in Belfast. In 1938, he received his Divinity Testimonium from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and so began his deaconship, but given that it was St George’s birthday on 24 April, it might be assumed that this book was a gift to mark this anniversary. It was given to Lundy by the remarkable linguist Eleanor Knott (born 18th November 1886).

The Knott family resided in Dublin in 34 York Street, near St Stephen’s Green and the miniature Bible came from the library of John Freeman Knott, a medical doctor and Eleanor’s father. Eleanor was encouraged by her Cornish mother, Philippa Annie Knott (née Balcombe), to study Irish, and came to focus on Old Irish at the School of Irish Learning in 1907. She began working for the Royal Irish Academy in 1911 and eventually became a lecturer in Celtic Languages in TCD in 1928. A year after presenting St George with the miniature Bible, a Chair of Early Irish was created for her in TCD. Her gift to Lundy was both a deeply personal and an innately respectful gesture. We can only speculate as to whether the two initiated their friendship on the campus of the university, but it is without doubt that their friendship had already begun during this important time for both.

The RCB Library was alerted to the existence of the second featured volume by a member of the public who saw it for sale in a local charity shop. It has a small budget for purchasing materials of direct relevance to the Church, and on inspection of the item in question, purchased it for longevity. This edition of the BCP, published in 1861 by G. E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, is in remarkably good condition, being a near-perfect copy, with a simple ‘Church Service’ in gold on the segmented spine. The book is bound in brown leather and the pages are gold-edged. What really takes the eye is the metal clasp that protects it, as well as the gold brass symbol on the front which states ‘peace’.

Eleanor Knott’s miniature Bible, complete with magnifying glass and a pencil for scale. © Representative Church Body, Library.

In contrast to Knott’s miniature Bible, biographical information on the provenance of the BCP indicates it may have been a treasured keepsake. On the front endpaper are two inscriptions, in different hand and ink. The first reads simply ‘M Draper. 1863’ while underneath is the inscription ‘Given to Eleanor Draper by Aunt Helen Montague March 20 1908’.

These tantalising bits of information led staff on a quest to find more information about the elusive Eleanor Draper, using online genealogical sources such as the 1901 and 1911 census forms. From this research one can argue with a degree of confidence that Eleanor Draper was born in Dublin on 3rd January 1867. Her parents, Carter and Sophy, were married in Rathmines Chapel of Ease in 1866 and had moved to Blackrock by the time of Eleanor’s birth. Eleanor’s father was an architect from Wicklow, whose notable work was the Halpin Memorial, in Fitzwilliam Square in Wicklow town.  The civil record of Eleanor’s death on 6th December 1962 states that she was a teacher.

Items such as this often contain dedications, notes, or personal items to underline their importance. In addition to the dedication, an original photograph of the British Legation at Kabul was inserted into the middle section. There is no indication of the reason that Eleanor placed this image in the book. On the back, in pencil, it simply states: ‘British Legation Kabul’. It would be fascinating to know if, for example, her father had worked on the construction of this building.

These rare items are just two examples of the many unique items that the RCB Library holds and the stories they help to uncover. Visitors are invited to view both volumes in the context of a selection of other miniature and small books in the RCB Library hall.

For more information about Eleanor Knott, click here: www.ria.ie/library/eleanor-knott-collection

The online exhibition, available through this link (www.ireland.anglican.org/about/rcb-library/archive-of-the-month) was researched and compiled by Jennifer Murphy, Library Assistant, and Bryan Whelan, Assistant Librarian.

Important! Reformation 500 booked out: details of reserve list

With exactly a month to go before we host our big conference marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (20-21 October), plans are gathering apace. However, due to exceptionally high demand the conference has now been fully booked out!

Still looking to attend the big event?

Those who would like to attend the conference but have not yet registered can ask to be put on a reservation list. Closer to the time we will be informed of possible availabilities where registered attendees must state their intention to come. Should there be people who are unable to make it, our secretary will contact those on the reservation list. This will work on a a basis of those who express an interest first (as of today). If you wish to be put on the reservation list, please email Dr Adrian Empey at secretary.coihs@gmail.com.

We thank you for your understanding and patience, and hope to see many of you there!

Reformation 500 is now booked out but a reserve list has been set up. Please email our secretary

The value of Church of Ireland registers: Ballincollig military men & their families 1810-1922

The details of some 2,187 people – soldiers and their families – recorded in the registers of Ballincollig Garrison Chapel have been recovered using the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials between 1810 and 1922 now in the safe custody of the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin. Further research using a variety of additional resources has further unlocked their hidden stories.

The work has been carried out by local historian Anne Donaldson, who over the course of several years diligently extracted all of the names and details of the soldiers mentioned in the garrison chapel registers (a combined register of baptisms 1810-1864; marriages 1823-1842 and burials 1813-1882; a register of baptisms 1865-1921; and a register of burials 1871-1920). Then, using a variety of other primary sources, she fleshed out details about them and their families, all of which data she has inputted to a detailed spreadsheet, a PDF copy of which is now available online at this link: www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

Title page from the Ballincollig Garrison Church combined register of baptisms 1810-1864; marriages 1823-1842 and burials 1813-1882  RCB Library P695.1.1

The town of Ballincollig is situated in the Church of Ireland parish of Carrigrohane, thus explaining the survival of the registers in Carrigrohane parish church, where they have been carefully maintained through the centuries. The background to the military presence at Ballincollig may be traced to the early 19th century and strategic importance of the town for milling. After the defeat of Napoleon, the mills were allowed fall into disrepair for 20 years before being sold on to a commercial developer at half the original price but the military presence at Ballincollig remained, ending only following Irish independence in 1922. This event is very precisely captured on the last pages of the chapel preachers’ book, when the last chaplain recorded: ‘The XIX, the Green Howards, Alexandra Princess of Wales’s own (Yorkshire) Regiment together with the R.A.O.C. [Royal Army Ordnance Corps] evacuated Ballincollig Military Barracks on Wednesday morning 17th May 1922 at 11 o’c’.

Up until this point, Ballincollig had served mainly as an artillery barracks – indeed the Southern Area Command was based here for a time, but many other regiments came and went too. Whilst every movement of these men was dutifully recorded in military records, with the passage of time, fires and war, much of the valuable information was lost. In this context the survival of church records including the registers of baptism, marriage and burial from the garrison chapel, now securely housed and available in the context of many other parish register collections at the RCB Library (see http://tinyurl.com/yal2ezjr) provides a window to hidden histories.

Speaking on the worldwide launch of her work, Anne Donaldson said: ‘As a local historian with a passionate interest to recover the past, I set myself the task of trying to counteract the sad deficiency of lost evidence. This work has been underpinned by two aspirations: firstly to compile a record of as many names as possible for research by historians, genealogists and family members, which through the Church of Ireland website is fully searchable. Secondly the project is about reconciliation, celebrating Ireland’s rich and varied multiculturalism, and cherishing different identities.’

Speaking from the RCB Library, Dr Susan Hood, Librarian and Archivist, said: ‘Anne’s work and effort demonstrate what one person with knowledge and determination can achieve to unlock information from Church of Ireland registers kept safe through the generations, now shared for a worldwide audience. It has been a delight for the Library to collaborate with her on this project’.

This building will soon become the new parish centre for Carrigrohane Union of Parishes having been a former British Army officers stables which later became the gun store for the Irish Defence Forces. Image reproduced courtesy of Margaret Jordan, Ballincollig Heritage.

The rector of Carrigrohane Union, the Revd Ian Jonas, further endorsed the Ballincollig Military Men Project. Mr Jonas remarked: ‘Anne Donaldson’s painstaking research with the old registers of the garrison church in Ballincollig has been a labour of love. We are delighted that what she has mined now comes to the light of day for researchers everywhere. Interestingly, Anne found that what we consider to be the modern idea of multiculturalism was a feature of Irish life in the 19th Century.

‘The soldiers who served in the British Army came from diverse backgrounds, not just Protestant and British but Irish and Roman Catholic, as well as others. This summer, in responding to a diverse society with the Gospel of Christ, the Church of Ireland is returning to Ballincollig with a new parish centre, having just bought the gun store at the powder mills. This is the very place where those men recorded in the registers of the garrison chapel were stationed to protect the gunpowder. Once this new centre is up and running, there will be no guards defending explosives, just a warm welcome to share in the blessings of God amongst us.’

For further information about the Ballincollig Military Men Project, contact Anne Donaldson: adonaldson@iol.ie

More information about the Library and its collections of parish registers is available from Dr Susan Hood (susan.hood@rcbdub.org)

‘Keeping the head down’? The Protestant Folklore Project

A major collecting project being undertaken by the National Folklore Collection has been recently established. What makes it so uniques is that it focuses on Irish Protestants as a cultural group. This raises a number of questions as we mark the ‘decade of centenaries’. For example, what does the project tell us about Protestants in independent Ireland? Did the new state live up to the non-sectarian ideals of the 1916 Proclamation (‘cherishing the children of the nation equally)? History Ireland Hedge School series looks to examine these issues in more detail with particular focus on the Protestant Folklore Project, a major folklore, and oral history initiative.

Cavan County Museum

History Ireland editor, Tommy Graham, will chair a lively and enlightening round-table discussion with Deirdre Nuttall (National Folklore Collection), Niall Meehan (Griffith College), Críostoir MacCartaigh (National Folklore Collection) and Malachy Hand (Loughcrew Megalithic Centre). It takes place on Thursday, 14th September at Cavan County Museum, Virgina Road, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan. The event is free of charge and no booking is required.

The proceedings are supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The Church of Ireland and its past

The Church of Ireland Historical Society is pleased to announce that The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity, edited by Mark Empey, Alan Ford and Miriam Moffitt, is now out and available in all good bookstores. Co-funded by the Society and the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, and printed by Four Courts Press, this book ‘brings together leading Irish historians who examine how the history of the Church of Ireland has been written in the 500 years since the Reformation’.

With seventeen chapters and over three hundred pages, this work has much to offer the interested reader. (For a full list of the contributors and their chapters visit the following link: http://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2017/the-church-of-ireland-and-its-past/contents.) It traces the emergence of a ‘distinctly Protestant narrative’ and examines key figures in the debate such as Archbishop James Ussher, Sir James Ware and Robert Ware in the seventeenth century; Walter Harris, Thomas Campbell and Revd Edward Ledwich in the eighteenth century; and J.H. Todd, Charles Elrington, Richard Mant, William Reeves and George T. Stokes in the nineteenth century. The twentieth century receives equal attention with analysis of W.A. Philips’s influential History of the Church of Ireland as well as a number of fascinating discussions on the development of the Church of Ireland’s history and how the traditional confessional interpretation was significantly challenged by the professional elite.

Mark Empey, Alan Ford and Miriam Moffitt (eds), The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2017)

One striking feature is the inclusion of a chapter on personal reflections by three historians (Nicholas Canny, Karl S. Bottigheimer and Steven G. Ellis) who shaped and influenced the debate on ‘why the Reformation failed’ in the late 1970s and 1980s. In some respects, this is a historiography within a historiography.

As part of the membership package to the Church of Ireland Historical Society, members are entitled to a €15 discount should they wish to purchase The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity. For further details, please contact the secretary. Those who are not members of the society but are interested in purchasing the book can find it available in bookstores across the country priced at €55. There is an online discount on the Four Courts Press website (see http://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2017/the-church-of-ireland-and-its-past/)

The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity will be officially launched by Professor John Morrill (Selwyn College, Cambridge) in the Treasury of Christ Church Cathedral on Friday 20 October as part of the conference marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The conference is co-hosted by the Church of Ireland Historical Society. For further details, and to register for the event (which is FREE), please click here. Please note, tickets for the conference are limited due to capacity restrictions.

Finally, we would like to congratulate the editors Dr Mark Empey (lecturer in history at NUI Galway), Professor Alan Ford (emeritus professor of theology at the University of Nottingham) and Dr Miriam Moffitt (who lectures in church history at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth) on an excellent book. We hope, and expect, this study to have a significant impact on the history of the Church of Ireland for years to come!

Heritage Week: Talk on Jonathan Swift as Dean

As part of the Heritage Week festivities from Saturday 19th August to Sunday 27th August, Albert Fenton will deliver a talk on Jonathan Swift’s career as dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Given this is the 350th anniversary of the birth of Swift, this talk is a timely and welcome addition to the programme of events. Whereas Swift has become renowned for his political and writing abilities, this presentation will examine his career (and contribution) as dean of the cathedral.

The talk will take place on Friday, 25th August at St Patrick’s Cathedral, beginning at 2.30pm. It is free to members of the public.

For more details about Heritage Week, visit http://www.heritageweek.ie

The Church of Ireland & the Irish Convention, 1917

Previously hidden aspects of the Church of Ireland’s input and influence on the Irish Convention which opened in Trinity College Dublin one hundred years ago (on 25th July 1917) are brought to light in a new online exhibition from the RCB Library – the Church’s record repository and reference library.

The Irish Convention is significant because it was the last time that all of Ireland participated in political negotiations to find a solution to the Irish question before Partition in 1921. By initiating a gathering of Irishmen to decide their own political destiny, the British Government’s ostensible objective was to keep nationalist and unionist Ireland together as a single political entity (albeit at this point within the British Empire).  The Government invited the two Church of Ireland archbishops of Armagh and Dublin – John Baptist Crozier and John Henry Bernard – to attend. Additionally the Roman Catholic hierarchy was represented by the Archbishop of Cashel and three other bishops – of Down, Raphoe and Ross – and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland by its Moderator. Once in session, the proceedings of the Convention were strictly secular – there were no prayers or religious formalities as part of the proceedings. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of the church leaders among the political leaders in the front row of the official photograph that appeared in August 1917 (reproduced in the online exhibit courtesy of the National Library of Ireland) signals how highly-valued their input to the Convention was considered in political circles.

The Church of Ireland, then as now an all-island institution, and including members of all political persuasions and none, appears to have been deeply committed to support the Convention and promote the stability it offered, particularly in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916. The exhibition draws on the rich resources of the weekly Church of Ireland Gazette, now digitized and freely searchable online between 1890 and 1923, for insight to what could be considered as the moderate and middle-ground opinion being written and read by its members and others during this period.

It reveals that for the duration of the Convention’s deliberations, the Gazette continued to be edited by Warre Bradley Wells. Wells had witnessed first-hand the events of the 1916 Rising from inside the paper’s premises on Middle Abbey Street – initially writing up the graphic detail in the columns and editorials of his paper, and then co-authoring one of the first contemporary histories of the 1916 Rebellion: A History of the Irish Rebellion of 1916 (published Dublin, 1916, and New York, 1917).

Significantly, as the exhibition demonstrates, Wells co-authored the first independent contemporary record of the proceedings of the Irish Convention written in the immediate aftermath of its demise in March 1918, which was actually published as a sequel to his history of the Rising, as The Irish Convention and Sinn Fein, in Continuation of “A history of the Irish rebellion of 1916” (Dublin, 1918). Whilst this book would lament what could have been achieved had the Convention succeeded, back in July 1917 through the pages of his Church of Ireland Gazette, Wells used his editorials and lead articles to foster hope: ‘The Convention has in its power to rescue us from our tragic confusion’ he wrote on the eve of its convening, in the 20th July 1917 edition’s lead article.

Aspects of the Church of Ireland’s input to the Convention provide the lead in “The Week” column, Church of Ireland Gazette, 27th July 1917.

In the next edition, published on 27th July 1917, two days after the Convention got under way, the paper’s opening ‘The Week’ column was pleased to report the first day’s proceedings had resulted in the ‘happiest omen’ with the unanimous appointment of Sir Horace Plunkett as Convention chairman, adding with some pride that Plunkett was ‘a member of our Church’. The paper further reveals that whilst the actual proceedings of the Convention did not contain any religious content, the Church of Ireland appears to have hosted a pre-Convention ‘special Service for delegates in St Andrew’s Church, Suffolk Street’. Rather than use the adjacent chapel building within Trinity’s precincts, added political symbolism was provided by staging the service in what had been the parish church for the Irish Houses of Parliament. The only detailed report of this service appears in the Church of Ireland Gazette on 27 July 1917, which observed how ‘Wednesday’s Service’ appeared to revive the old tradition being ‘the first Service of the kind since the Act of Union’, and was well attended: ‘about one-third of the congregation were gentlemen chosen to deliberate on the future of Ireland’.

Other interesting stories of Church of Ireland significance presented in the exhibition include Wells’ revelation that the operating procedures to regulate the work of the Convention were in fact modelled on those of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, with Archbishop Crozier selected as ‘Chairman of the Procedure Committee’, while the typescript memoirs of the RCB Library’s founding benefactor – Rosamond Stephen (1868-1951) – include a personal and hopeful exchange of correspondence with Sir Horace Plunkett on the eve of the Convention, and its opening day.

The personal diary of Rosamond Emily Stephen (1868-1951) entitled The Record 1902-1940 includes her personal reflections on the Convention and copies of her correspondence to and from Sir Horace Plunkett on the day the Convention opened, © RCB Library Ms 253/4.

The RCB Library gratefully acknowledges the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for supporting this online exhibition, and covering the costs of hosting the Church of Ireland Gazette search engine online to the end of the Decade of Commemorations in 2023.

The Church of Ireland Gazette (available in complete hardcopy format in the Library from 1856 to the present) is also fully viewable and free to search from 1890 to 1923 here: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

Sneak peak: Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath 1622-1799

To mark the publication of the Representative Church Body Library‘s latest volume in its Texts and Calendars series: Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath 1622-1799 (taking place tomorrow, Thursday, 6 July at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim) we offer a brief insight into this important study. Edited by Dr Michael O’Neill and published by the Four Courts Press (www.fourcourtspress.ie), in association with the RCB Library, this book will make a significant contribution to our knowledge of the diocese of Meath in the early modern period.

Episcopal visitations are formal/structured accounts – parish by parish – which build up to give an in-depth state of a diocese at a given time. Specific questions were asked and the answers – and indeed non-answers or evasions – helped the bishop to build up a picture of the diocese, and the strengths and weaknesses of individual parishes and clergy. The early visitation records of the Church of Ireland were largely destroyed in the fire at the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922, which greatly enhances the significance of those that have survived in copy form.

The current volume provides editions of the visitations of the diocese of Meath for the years 1622, 1693, 1733 and 1799, covering the episcopates of James Ussher (Bishop of Meath from 1621 to 1625), Anthony Dopping (bishop from 1682-97), Welbore Ellis (1732-34), and finally Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1798-1823).  Two of these sources are located in Marsh’s Library, Dublin, the third in the RCB Library, and the fourth in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

This is the eighth volume in the RCB Library’s Texts and Calendars series, and the first to focus on sources outside Dublin. It brings all four diocesan visitations together as a single edition, offering unique insights into the life of the Church of Ireland and its interaction with the wider community, from the post-Reformation period to the eve of the Act of Union. As the enlightening introduction reveals, there is much in the content of these records about the spiritual and temporal life of the Church in a large Irish diocese during the 17th and 18th centuries, providing a framework for more detailed studies of localities, based on the records of individual parishes.

The editor, Dr Michael O’Neill, is well known as an architectural historian, who has written widely on the heritage of the Irish Church, and manages the project to digitize, catalogue and make available online the Church of Ireland’s extensive collections of architectural drawings, available at: www.archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org

All are welcome to attend the launch in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim, on Thursday, at 6.30pm, or for those who cannot make the launch the book may be purchased through the Church of Ireland online bookstore here: https://store.ireland.anglican.org/store/product/129/episcopal-visitations-of-the-diocese-of

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