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

The Jacobite Risings: material from St Canice’s Cathedral collection

The Russell Library at Maynooth University is hosting an exhibition for the month on July on the theme ‘Exploring the Jacobite Risings’. This includes material from the St. Canice’s Cathedral collection which is now preserved at the library following a long-term lease agreement with the Representative Church Body Library last year.

The exhibition will be launched on Friday, 30th June at 3.45 pm. It will be up for the month of July and is viewable during the library’s normal opening hours, which are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 10.00 am until 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm.

Treasures from the RCB Library: The Faith Journey of Joseph Blanco White

A rare insight to the faith journey of the theologian and writer Joseph Blanco White, is made possible by the survival of an exchange of correspondence with Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, 1831-1863, housed at the Representative Church Body Library.

Born in Seville in 1775, José María Blanco y Crespo (Joseph Blanco White) has been described as a theologian, poet, novelist, critic, and political journalist. One of the central tenets of his life was a constant striving for ‘truth’, primarily the idea of absolute truth in religion. It led him on a fascinating journey, both in the physical sense – he migrated from Spain, and lived in Oxford, Dublin, and Liverpool – and in the theological sense – born into Roman Catholicism, he became a priest, converted to Anglicanism, and eventually became a Unitarian.

The collection of manuscripts and books that the RCB Library holds concerning Blanco White encapsulates an overarching narrative of his life of a journey in faith. The Library holds two volumes of his Second Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion (Dublin; Richard Milliken and Son, 1833) written as a riposte to Thomas Moore, Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and advocate for Catholic emancipation (indeed, the title page of both volumes states that it is ‘not by the editor of Captain Rock’s Memoirs’). The RCB Library copies are handsomely rebound (probably later 19th century) books, with half-tan calf, and spines panelled by raised bands with gilt-tooled panels, with marbled sides and endpapers. Given the intended riposte, it is perhaps unsurprising that the book is less a travel memoir (although it includes elements of this) and more a detailed theological argument, albeit in novelistic form. It has been suggested that the Most Revd Richard Whately (1787 – 1863) with whom Blanco White was residing in 1833 as tutor to his only son, Edward, was instrumental in encouraging the completion and publication of the manuscript.

Signature of J. Blanco White ‘dear friend and ever affect[tionate]in letter to Richard Whately ‘His Grace, the Lord Archbishop of Dublin, Palace, Stephen’s Green, Dublin’, 25th January 1835, © RCB Library Ms 707/1/1/6.5.

The RCB Library also holds an interesting body of primary source material relating to Blanco White, most of which has never been published before. Being an exchange of correspondence, it forms a part of the RCB Library’s substantial collection of papers of the Most Revd Richard Whately, containing correspondence and papers relating to religious and political developments of his day, and has previously been featured with a catalogue list here: https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/6389/correspondence-and-papers-of-the 

As one of the leading thinkers of his day, Whately drew all kinds of intellectual dialogue his way, sometimes leading to controversy. The material pertaining to Blanco White consists of an exchange of 25 letters between Archbishop Whately, White himself, and Mr Clemente de Zulueta (a Spanish merchant and intellect, based in Liverpool, and a member of the Socinian community).  They cover the period between 12th January and 30th April 1835, although there is one letter from Archbishop Whately, dated 7th September 1835, and one undated letter. White’s letters are also interesting in that, despite coming from Seville and a family that embraced its Spanish connections, as well as its social and linguistic norms,  there is a linguistic fluency that is impressive. Furthermore, they contain beautiful cursive handwriting, particularly that from de Zulueta’s hand.

White’s friendship with the future Archbishop of Dublin had developed during their time in Oxford, where the two could be found engaging in intellectual pursuits with the Noetics at the time, including Baden Powell, Edward Hawkins, R. D. Hampden, and Nassau William Senior.  Indeed, the Whately collection in the RCB Library contains a detailed paper prepared for the archbishop by Senior on the political economy of Ireland in 1830s, and the problems presented by the ratio of population to land.

By the time that Whately was appointed to the see of Dublin in 1831, his friend White’s theological convictions were still developing. Indeed White was beginning to stray from – and, indeed, criticise – the orthodoxy of Anglicanism of the time. It was this criticism that led to White’s evolving interest in Socinianism (more commonly known as Unitarianism) and would eventually result in his departure from Dublin for the Socinian community in Liverpool, initially staying with Clemente de Zulueta at 56 Steele Street.  It would thus be easy to imagine that the correspondence between the archbishop and Mr de Zulueta – given their diverging theological convictions – would be primarily arguing the finer points of Anglicanism and Unitarianism, but in fact what they reveal is the archbishop’s deep concern for Blanco White’s well-being. 

 Although he was concerned that White wished to publish another more controversial book which did eventually get published Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy (London, J. Mardon, 1835), it is the archbishop’s pastoral concern for his friend’s theological isolation which remain to the forefront. Indeed, Whately would continue to support White for the remainder of his life with an annual subsidy of £100, as well as helping to secure for him a Queen’s bounty as a former Anglican priest, of £300 in 1838.

The volumes of Second Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion and the correspondence between Blanco White, Archbishop Whately, and Mr de Zulueta can be viewed in their entirety at the RCB Library, while the new online presentation (which has been assembled by the Assistant Librarian, Bryan Whelan) provides an illustrated snapshot of their content, again emphasising the fusion between books and archives in the Library collection.

Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath, 1622-1799

On Thursday, 6 July, the Most Revd Pat Storey, Bishop of Meath & Kildare, will launch the latest volume in the Representative Church Body Library’s Texts and Calendars series: Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath, 1622-1799. It is edited by Dr Michael O’Neill and published by Four Courts Press. The launch will take place at St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Loman’s Street, Trim, Co. Meath at 6.30pm.

Episcopal visitations of the
diocese of Meath,
1622–1799 (Four Courts Press) edited by Dr Michael O’Neill

The visitation records of the Church of Ireland were largely destroyed in the fire in the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922, thus greatly enhancing the significance of those that have survived in copy form. This volume provides editions of the visitations of the diocese of Meath for the years 1622, 1693, 1733 and 1799, which offer 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. These records reveal much about the spiritual and temporal life of the Church in a large Irish diocese and provide a framework for more detailed study of localities based on the records of individual parishes.

BIG NEWS! Reformation 500 Conference, October 2017

The Church of Ireland Historical Society, together with our friends in the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland, have been working tirelessly in the background organising a big conference to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We are delighted to reveal our provisional programme that includes some of the leading scholars of the period.

The conference will be take place over two days and in two locations. The proceedings for the first day will take place on Friday 20th October 2017 in the Music Room at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin beginning at 3pm, while events on Saturday 21 October will be held at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra (Dublin City University), starting at 10am.

Dr Scott Dixon (Queen’s University, Belfast) will kick off the conference with a presentation on ‘Martin Luther and the Reformation‘. After a short coffee break, Professors Peter Marshall (University of Warwick) and Alec Ryrie (Durham University) will lead an open discussion entitled ‘Tudor Brexit: How European were the British and Irish Reformations?‘. This will be followed by the launch of a book edited by Dr Mark Empey, Professor Alan Ford and Dr Miriam Moffitt, entitled The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and memory, which was co-funded by the Church of Ireland Historical Society.

On Saturday 21 October 2017, the conference will be at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Dublin City University, where Professors Alan Ford (University of Nottingham), Graeme Murdock (Trinity College, Dublin) and Jane Dawson (University of Edinburgh) will discuss reform movements in England, Ireland and Europe. This will be followed with presentations by Dr Alison Forrestal (NUI Galway) and Professor Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (University College Dublin) who will examine the Catholic reformations in Ireland and Europe. Professor Mícheál Mac Craith (St Isidore’s Irish College, Rome) and Professor John McCafferty (University College Dublin) will then look at how the Reformation was written in Europe and Ireland. The conference will end with a roundtable discussion on commemorating the Reformation, which will be chaired by Professor Marian Lyons (Maynooth University).

The event is FREE to all members of the public. Anyone wishing to attend can register via Eventbrite. Please click on the following link: https://reformation_500.eventbrite.ie We strongly encourage early registration as places are limited.

For informal inquiries, you can contact either Professor Marian Lyons (Marian.Lyons@nuim.ie) or Dr Adrian Empey (secretary.coihs@gmail.com).

Listen back: COIHS Armagh podcasts 2017 (members only)

Missed the last conference at Armagh Robinson Library on 1st April?

Members of COIHS can now listen to the latest papers delivered by Dr Colman Dennehy on the role of the Church of Ireland bishops in the Irish House of Lords in the seventeenth century, Dr Patrick Little on the challenges confronting the Church of Ireland during the tumultuous years between 1647 and 1650, and Ms Barbara McCormack on St Canice’s Cathedral Collection now housed at the Special Collections in Maynooth University. To hear the speakers visit the podcasts link and enter the password sent to your email from the honorary secretary, Dr Adrian Empey. You can also download the conference programme for further information about the conference by clicking on the archives link.

If you are not a member but would like to hear these papers (as well as papers dating back to November 2013) you can join the Society by visiting the membership link. The annual subscription is €40 or £35. This includes free access to the podcasts in addition to many more great offers. There is also a special student discount of just €15 or £12 for those with a valid university card (alternatively students interested in joining can email the society and inform the secretary of your institution and contact details of your supervisor).

Happy listening!

[Back row: from left to right] Dr Adrian Empey, Mr Brendan Toomey, Mr George Woodman, Dr Ken Milne, Professor David Hayton
[Front row: from left to right] Dr Patrick Little, Ms Kathryn Sawyer, Very Revd Gregory Dunston, Ms Barbara McCormack and Dr Coleman Dennehy
Photo courtesy of Ian Maginess

Conference on the Reformation, Waterford (20 May)

On 20 May Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, will host a one day symposium entitled ‘Religion, reform, identity: Ireland and the age of Reformations’. Registration is open at 10am but pre-booking is advised. The first paper will begin at 10.45am. Proceedings will conclude at 6pm

Speakers at the conference include Dr Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (UCD) on religious change in the Celtic world, 1530-1650; Dr Áine Hensey (IAPH) on the parish clergy of Waterford and Lismore; Dr John McCafferty (UCD) on Luke Wadding’s ‘reformations’; Dr Marc Caball (UCD) on the career of Bishop William Bedell; Dr Ivar McGrath (UCD) on the Penal Laws; Professor Salvador Ryan (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth) on Perceptions of Protestants and the construction of Irish Catholicism; and finally, Professor Alan Ford (University of Nottingham) on Irish Protestant attitudes to  Catholics, 1600-2000.

There is a conference fee of €50 (or €30 concession). Lunch is included. The event is curated by Dr Jeffrey Cox (University College Dublin) and is supported by The Priorities Fund of the Church of Ireland.

Further details on registration and the contact details, please visit: http://christchurchwaterford.com/events/public-conference-religion-reform-identity-ireland-age-reformation/


Church Architectural Drawings Project: Tuam Diocesan Collection

The latest phase of the project to digitize, catalogue and make available online the Representative Church Body Library’s collections of architectural drawings of churches has resulted in the processing of drawings from the western Diocese of Tuam. To date (as of 1st May 2017) over 5,000 drawings have been made available online for the churches in some 20 of a total of 30 Church of Ireland dioceses.

With the completion of the extensive collection for the Diocese of Tuam, those for a further 10 dioceses remain for systematic processing i.e. imaging each drawing and details therein, cataloguing the details and uploading it to the dedicated web page available through the Church of Ireland website at: https://archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org

The work is being carried out by architectural historian Dr Michael O’Neill at the Library, where the Church’s architectural drawings are stored in the context of many other collections documenting the evolutionary history of the Church of Ireland.

From the 12th Century, the Diocese of Tuam was part of the larger archdiocese or ecclesiastical Province of Tuam. The archdioceses of Tuam and Cashel were absorbed into the provinces of Armagh and Dublin respectively from 1833. The architectural drawings of churches for Tuam date from the middle decades of the 19th Century and give a good indication of the state of the diocese at that time, while further 20th Century drawings continue the picture up to more recent times.

Ballinrobe parish church interior plan, as executed by Welland and Gillespie, under the terms of ‘Articles of Agreement’ bearing date 23rd September 1863, signed off by the rector and various other diocesan officials, © RCB Library PF/26.

Included in the line-up are the drawings of the diocese’s two glorious medieval buildings: Tuam Cathedral and St Nicholas, Galway, are wonderful medieval churches.  As well as the diocesan cathedral and Galway parish church, other medieval churches still in use in the 1830s were at Crossboyne, Dunmore, Headford, Kilconta, and possibly Moylough.  Eighteenth-century churches were built at Ballinrobe, Drummonaghan, Kilkerrin, Ballincholla, with Annaghdown, Lewisburgh and Westport built in the last years of that century. These so-called ‘First Fruits’ churches, featuring a plain rectangular interior and western tower of the early 19th Century, had an interesting variety of furnishings, quite a number with a triple-decker pulpit located behind the communion table. Two 18th Century churches with more developed plans had the triple-decker pulpit and communion table located in different limbs within the church (Killrenan, Moore Drum).

Many of the drawings in Portfolio 26 depict the proposed rearrangements of church interiors that became commonplace by the mid-19th Century – removal of pew boxes and triple decker pulpits and their replacement with bench seating and a separate reader’s desk and pulpit located towards the east end, with more prominence given to the communion table and often the provision of chancel rails. The attached image shows how such rearrangement impacted on Ballinrobe parish church.

Additionally, and not found in the drawings for any of the 16 dioceses catalogued to date, are churches described as ‘mission churches’ or as ‘licensed houses of worship’. Drawings for Achill missionary church date to 1851, while those for an additional missional church in Achill date from around 1855. There are also drawings for Roundstone in 1865 and Bunlahinch in 1866 which are described as licensed houses of worship.

The Achill Island Mission, located near the village of Dugort was founded by the Revd Edward Nangle who moved permanently to the new colony in 1834. Nangle died in 1883 and the colony was failing by that time. Indeed the Welland plan for the church on file in the portfolio dating from the mid-1850s shows a proposed spire for the building, which does not appear to have been executed, and to this day the little church remains a humble structure.

The church drawings for Tuam diocese will undoubtedly be of interest to parishioners, vestry members and historians of the various parish churches within the diocese. Moreover, taken as a collection, they assist in tracing the history of the Church of Ireland in 19th and 20th Centuries. These visual records document the reform and extension movements of the first decades of the 19th, and then the further expansion and remodelling in the decades leading up to Disestablishment. In the case of this diocese, they also document part of the story of the ‘Second Reformation’ campaigns in Achill and Connemara.

When we consider that today the diocese consists of just four unions and 14 churches, the content of this particular portfolio provides an important visual record of many buildings that may no longer be in use as churches, yet continue as part of the rich architectural tapestry of rural Ireland.