The Church of Ireland Historical Society’s second conference of the year will be on Saturday, 2 November 2019 in Christ Church Cathedral’s Music Room, Dublin. Tea and coffee will be served from 10.30am and the first paper will start at 11am.

Confirmed speakers are Dr Áine Hensey (RTE Raidió na Gaeltachta), Professor Kevin Cathcart (UCD), Dr Ida Milne (Carlow College) and Dr Ian d’Alton (Trinity College, Dublin). The research paper will be delivered by Ms Kiara Gregory, who is pursuing her PhD at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

The full programme can be seen below.

The conference is open to all members of the public. There is a day fee of €10 (or £7) for non-members to assist with conference expenses, payable at the registration desk in the Music Room, but anyone can become a member for €40 (or £35). Those who join the Society but are unable to attend either of our conferences in Armagh (in April) or Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (in November) will be given exclusive access to the podcasts which record these papers. For further details of our membership package please visit our membership page.

We’re looking forward to an interesting day and hope to see many of you there.

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Each year, the RCB Library’s managing committee – the Library and Archives Committee – delivers an annual report of the Library’s recent activities and developments to the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of Ireland.  The report includes a detailed appendix of all of the acquisitions that came into the Library’s custody and were processed throughout the previous year. This is broken down under the following headings: parish records; cathedral records; diocesan papers; records of the General Synod and RCB and their respective committees; and finally manuscripts.

Now that the annual report for 2018, including the detailed list, has been received and published (following the General Synod held in Derry/Londonderry in May), the Library is particularly keen to promote those materials that may be of value for local and family history. So the focus here includes the summary list of the parish records received during 2018 – an unprecedented 82 collections, many of them from parishes that had not previously transferred collections before and also including several parishes in Northern Ireland, which is a most welcome development.

The Representative Church Body Library, Churchtown, Dublin 14

When new materials come into the Library, they are accessed and listed. For parish materials, there is a hand-list for each one, each with a unique identity number. As and from September 2019, a total of 1,159 collections of parish records in the Library and each of their corresponding hand-lists are available to download through the Library’s colour-coded List of Parish Registers available at this link:

This master list originated through a collaboration between the Library and the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS), resulting in the production of a simple-to-follow listing, to account for which parish registers survive, and where they are held – whether by the Library, by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), or in local custody, with the additional benefit of live links to online copies and transcripts.

An excerpt from the RCB Library’s colour-coded List of Parish Registers.

The re-launch of this resource was covered here in August 2016 ( when the List was widely acclaimed by the research community.  Additionally, it is kept up-to-date by RCB Library staff who have enhanced its value by uploading the detailed Library hand-list of each parish collection in its custody, thereby enabling researchers to both view and download the Library collection master lists as PDFs. When a new collection is received or additional materials are added to existing collections, the lists are updated and re-loaded.

The Library continues to be proactive in encouraging local clergy to transfer non-current records from their local provenance to the Library’s permanent and secure centralised custody and to date during 2019, has received records from 42 different parishes, island-wide, all of which are accounted for from the master colour-coded list. Now in the new online presentation, to enable the research community to focus on some of the recent acquisitions, the summary of the intake for 2018 is listed alphabetically by parish union or group (including their diocese), highlighting the extent of the materials that have been processed and listed. A similar list will be made available for 2019 at a later stage, once it has been reported to General Synod in the Library’s annual report for 2020.

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The opening of ‘Cúinne Caird’, a collection of Irish books and related materials of the late Bishop Donald Caird (1925-2017), took place in the RCB Library on Saturday, 14th September 2019. 

This printed collection was presented to the RCB Library by Nancy, his widow (in the context of a larger collection of related archival and photographic materials), and a special corner of the Library, ‘Cúinne Caird’, has been created to exhibit the books in memory of Bishop Donald Caird.

The collection as a whole consists of documents, photographs, sermons and other related materials pertaining to his great interest in the language.  The Library has catalogued the printed collection to date, and as Robert Gallagher, Library Administrator, explained: ‘As the Library did not have many books in Irish in its collections, it was decided to keep the collection together in a special section dedicated to the memory of Bishop Caird, which we have called Cúinne Caird.  I began the project by organising the books in order of the date they were published and, in addition to this, each book was recorded on our digital catalogue.’

A special cabinet, in which the collection will be exhibited, was commissioned from Shane Duffly.

Bishop Donald Caird was a long-time member of the RCB Library. He often visited there throughout his career and subsequently during his retirement.  He was a member of Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise (the Irish Guild of the Church) since 1943.  In 2010, he was awarded the Ghradam an Phiarsaigh prize which is central to the ‘Cúinne Caird’.

This event has been organised by the RCB Library and Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise.

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As you may know, the Church of Ireland is currently marking the 150th anniversary of its Disestablishment (summarised succinctly as D150).  The Act of Union 1800 united the Churches of England and Ireland ‘into one Protestant Episcopal Church’, a status which continued until the Irish Church Act 1869.  Our theme – ‘free to shape your own future’ – reflects the independence which the Church experienced from that time onwards.

Forthcoming events will include:

  • special choral evensong on this theme at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh (Sunday, 22 September 2019);
  • a free public lecture by Professor Stewart Brown (Edinburgh University) entitled: ‘Dissolving the Sacred Union: The Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, 1869’ at the Armagh Robinson Library (Tuesday, 8 October 2019);
  • as part of the Dublin Festival of History, the Church of Ireland Historical Society is hosting a talk by Dr Miriam Moffitt. Her lecture is entitled: ‘”Betrayed by friend and foe alike”: the unlikely collusion of politicians and prelates in the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland’. It will be held at St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin (Thursday 10 October at 8 pm). All welcome and free of charge.
  • the national commemorative service at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, followed by a panel discussion in conjunction with the Swift Festival with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Mary McAleese and others (Saturday, 23 November 2019);
  • Disestablishment Colloquium, including talks by Professor Alan Ford, Dr Miriam Moffitt and Professor Salvador Ryan at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (Saturday, 30 November 2019);
  • a half-day Royal Irish Academy conference (Thursday, 27 February 2020);
  • Church of Ireland Historical Society will dedicate its winter conference to mark Disestablishment at Christ Church Cathedral (Saturday 7 November 2020);
  • a service in Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, to ‘book-end’ the programme (Sunday, 22 November 2020) with the Archbishop of Wales preaching.

For more information on all of the above, please check out our D150 website – – or contact our D150 co-ordinator, Caoimhe Leppard, at

The Church of Ireland is marking the 150th anniversary of Disestablishment over the course of the next year

We’re keen to spread the word about D150 as widely as possible and any assistance with this would be much appreciated.  We hope that this will be of interest in your research and also look forward to maybe meeting you and your colleagues at these events over the next while.

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Heritage Week is back for another year! As usual the Church of Ireland tries to involved itself in various activities throughout the week and this year is no different.

In what has been a busy year with the fantastic exhibition A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastic World at the Irish Architectural Archive in Merrion Square, the RCB Library has teamed up with their partners once again to organise four wonderful lunchtime talks for members of the public. All presentations take place at 1.15pm at 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

On Tuesday 20 August Professor Alan Ford (University of Nottingham) will deliver a presentation on ‘What kind of a Church is the Church of Ireland?‘. Professor Ford was one of the editors of a recent book co-sponsored by the Church of Ireland Historical Society. You can read more about the book here.

On Wednesday 21 August Dr Michael O’Neill FSA will talk about ‘Architecture and Ecclesiology: The evidence from the Church of Ireland drawing collections‘. Dr O’Neill was heavily involved in organising the exhibition currently on show at the Architectural Archive. For more details, click here.

On Thursday 22 August the Right Reverend Michael Burros, Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, will give a paper entitled ‘Liturgical space and the re-ordering of Church of Ireland churches‘.

On Friday 23 August Dr Niamh NicGhabhann (University of Limerick) will give the final weekday presentation entitled ‘Church of Ireland restorations and representations in 19th-century Ireland‘. Dr NicGhabhann recently gave a paper at the Church of Ireland Historical Society in November 2018. Members of the society can hear her paper on podcast by clicking here.

Admission to these four talks are free and open to all members of the public. Those interested in coming can also avail of the opportunity to see the Church of Ireland’s Architectural Drawings Exhibition which ends on 30 August.

Any enquiries, please go to

Heritage Week
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Drawing on the rich resources of the digitized and freely searchable Church of Ireland Gazette, Dr Miriam Moffitt has produced a timely analysis of the coverage of the Disestablishment story as it happened and was reported by the Gazette, the Church’s newspaper, then under its former name: the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette (and then as now a monthly, not weekly publication). She focuses on the period between the circulation of the draft Bill in January 1869 to its passage into law on 26th July and then the immediate aftermath to the end of that year demonstrating how the news was reported and thus read and interpreted by the wider Church of Ireland community.

She comments: “At the start of August 1869, exactly 150 years ago this month, members of the Church of Ireland were coming to terms with the news that their Church had been disestablished by Parliament at the end of July. Viewed from today’s perspective, the passage of the Irish Church Bill through both Houses of Parliament was inevitable but few people saw it that way in 1869. Many Irish Protestants accepted that, with a hefty majority of 110, Gladstone’s Liberal government could push through any legislation it chose through the Commons. They had, however, pinned their hopes on the House of Lords where they believed Conservative peers, under the leadership of the Belfastman Lord Cairns, along with bishops from Ireland, England and Wales, would reject the Bill. However, although many of the Lords firmly opposed the Bill, they voted it through, and many of the English and Welsh bishops abstained.

“To have rejected it would have caused such a constitutional crisis that the future of the House of Lords would have been called into question. Members of the Lords could only save one skin – their own or the Church of Ireland’s and, unsurprisingly, they plumped for their own. The acquiescence of the Lords in late July was a bolt from the blue for members of the Church of Ireland who had been told repeatedly that Disestablishment would never happen. The legal status of the Church as the Established Church of the country was defined and guaranteed in Article 5 of the Act of Union of 1800. To disestablish it was to fly in the face of the constitution. It would, and could, never happen. Until it did.”

Contrasting editorials in the August and October editions of the Gazette portray the Church’s initial disappointment and a sense of betrayal following the passage of the Irish Church Act for August, with a later more optimistic tone about the future destiny of the Church, by October 1869. To view these and the full content of the Church of Ireland Gazette (Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette to 1900) from 1856 to 1949, see

Illustrated with relevant extracts from the newspaper, Dr Moffitt reconstructs the rather late dawning of realities for the Church at large.  At the start of 1869, the Gazette had confidently insisted the Church would retain its established status. The January issue assured readers that should the Bill ever reach the Upper House, “the eloquence and logic of such prelates as the Archbishops of Canterbury and the Bishops of Oxford, Peterborough, and Derry would go far towards quashing it”. The absolute conviction that the Bill would be rejected was echoed in the ‘No Surrender’ headline over the 18th February editorial. Again by 21st July – just three days before the Irish Church Bill was finally approved – an editorial confidently insisted: “There is every probability, as far as we can judge at this date, of its falling through”. By 21st August, the tone had changed: “We have been grossly betrayed”. 

The online presentation then goes on to analyse the immediate aftermath once Disestablishment became a fait accompli. Again Dr Moffitt’s forensic attention reveals how quickly the focus immediately turned to the future.  The Gazette urged its readers to look forwards not backwards: “As long as their seemed a vestige of hope, we hung up the flag of ‘No Surrender’; we have only taken it down when fairly beaten in the struggle. Now, as faithful members of the Church of Christ, it is our duty to accept the issue, bitter as it is, and bend all our energies towards making the best of our new situation. The future of the ‘Irish Church’ depends in a large measure upon a single twelve months.” (Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, 21st August 1869).

Other aspects of the story, including the deliberations negotiated in private by members of the episcopate in the background, and the role of influential members of the laity who navigated the Church’s more public journey to re-structure itself in the post-established world are also covered. Dr Moffitt observes how most of the negotiations in Westminster were carried out by prominent laymen who were also pivotal in organising the governance systems of the disestablished Church. Their actions ensured that planning was under way to provide an adequate form of church governance whether the Church was disestablished or not and on 30th July 1869, less than a week after the Act became law, this embryonic governing entity was given a name: ‘The Representative Church Body’.

The presentation, which draws on other complementary resources available in the Library in addition to the newspaper, once again reveals how looking through the lens of the Gazette hidden aspects of the Disestablishment story can be recovered. The Gazette is especially useful in recording the diverse opinions held within the Church and, in this instance gaining insight to the different ways in which churchmen experienced a very significant change to their Church and how they responded. There is no evidence, for example, that women were involved at all in the Disestablishment episode. The content of the Church of Ireland Gazette (Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette to 1900) from 1856 to 1949 may be explored in full by using the search box on link to the digitized version of the Gazette available here:

The presentation and supporting images draw on other complementary resources available in the Library.

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As the RCB Library continues its efforts to digitize and make more resources available to a worldwide audience, a second of its most significant medieval manuscripts: the Liber Niger Alani being the record of John Alen (c.1476-1534), Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, 1530-34 (RCB Library D6/3) is now digitally available for public consultation on the Church of Ireland website.

Previously the Library has released a digital version of the Red Book of Ossory – a diocesan administrative record of international renown, which is now complemented by the digital version of the Alen’s “Dublin” register.

John Alen (Alan, Allen), Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, 1530-34, was born in Norfolk c.1476. He studied first at Cambridge and completed his Masters in Oxford in 1498, becoming ordained on 23rd February 1499. Admired for his sharp mind in both ecclesiastical and civil law, he rose quickly through the ranks of the clergy, culminating in his appointment as archbishop in 1530. After his consecration in the diocesan cathedral of Christ Church Dublin, Alen immediately began compiling documents for what would become known as “Alen’s Register”, also known as the Liber Niger Alani, early after his arrival in Dublin. He wanted a record of all the lands and properties held by the dioceses. The earliest records he accounted for reached back as far as the conquest of Ireland in the 12th century and continue up to his own administrative era in the 1530s. 

The volume is representative of Alen’s ambitious reforms which threatened the position of established powerful families in Ireland like the Fitzgeralds. On 28th July 1534, Archbishop Alen was murdered –his death being one of the opening acts of the Silken Thomas rebellion. On the evening of 26th July, the archbishop had fled the capital, boarding a ship at Dame Gate to escape the rebellion. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it past Clontarf where the ship ran aground. He retreated to allies in Artane but was betrayed and captured there by Thomas Fitzgerald, Lord of Offaly, and several dozen of his men. Alen’s execution was ordered and the items he had with him were seized. Fortunately his register was not with him when he was captured, and neither was it seized when Cromwell ordered that Alen’s remaining valuables be seized as a tax for the Crown. Instead it seems to have remained safely housed along with the diocesan records at the archbishop’s palace, and is now secure with many of those records in the custody of the RCB Library, accessioned as D6/3. Now, some 485 years after Alen’s death, it has been digitized to make its extraordinary content more accessible.

Example of the ornate script to be found in the Register of Archbishop John Alen, © RCB Library D6/3 folios 131r and 132

To accompany this significant digital release, topical analysis is provided by Julia McCarthy, a former undergraduate student at Trinity College Dublin, who worked in the RCB Library as an intern during the summer of 2017. Julia also transferred index cards cataloguing the Irish Huguenot Archive to a searchable database previously featured and permanently available for research enthusiasts.

Her analysis shows how Alen’s Register opens a window to pre-Reformation Tudor Dublin. And in an additional paper on the content of Alen’s Register, one of the leading Reformation experts, Dr Jim Murray, demonstrates the circumstances of how the diocese of Glendalough was officially linked to that of Dublin by papal decree of Pope Innocent III in 1216, within a significant pan-European context of pilgrimage and hospitality.

Before 1216, the diocese of Dublin had been largely confined to within the city walls with that of Glendalough designated to outlying lands. Dr Murray’s paper explains in detail how Alen’s transcription of Pope Innocent III’s decree that the union of the bishopric of Glendalough and the archbishopric of Dublin dateable to c.1216, was conditional on the foundation of a hospital by Archbishop Henry de Loundres (Archbishop of Dublin 1213-28). It was ordered that this place of refuge was for the use of the poor and pilgrims, especially those intending to travel to the shrine of St James the Apostle in Compostela on the European mainland.  It was intended that this religious hospice might become a community for those wishing to take pilgrimage along the Camino da Santiago through France and Spain.

Ordered to be dedicated to St James and built ‘without Dublin on the seashore which is called Steyn’ (extra Dublin quod in littore maris quod dicitur Steyn), the place designated for the hospital provided a suitable embarkation place for pilgrims waiting for suitable sea conditions and weather to begin their journey to the shrine of St James. The Steyn was an area outside the walls of the medieval city in what now forms the area between the Pearse Street-side of Trinity College Dublin down to the river Liffey, including such streets as Townsend and Poolbeg) and thus in close proximity to the sea.

The story of the Hospital of St James in the Steyn represents just one tiny piece of an extraordinary medieval history revealed by this source – all the more significant in the context of 800 years of united diocesan history, which in its current context has organised an annual Camino de Glendalough through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains, taking in many ancient pilgrim routes to the monastic city of Glendalough along its route. For further information, see this link:  

To view the digitized version of the Register of Archbishop John Allen (c 1476-1534), including the muniments of the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough from c. 1172-1534, © RCB Library Dublin, D6/3, click here:

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The RCB Library’s exhibition showcasing a selection of the Church of Ireland’s historical architectural drawings – entitled A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World – was launched on Tuesday, 7th May, by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, at a special reception in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.

The exhibition is now open to the public and will run until the end of the summer. Admission is free, and members of the Church of Ireland and others are encouraged to visit to view this unique and extraordinary collection in the purpose-built Architecture Gallery of the Irish Architectural Archive – the IAA – (Tuesday to Friday, 10am-5pm) until Friday, 30th August. 

The ‘Earl’s Gift’ map before its restoration by Liz D’Arcy, from the Paperworks Studio for Paper Conservation, with support from the RCB Library Conservation Fund.

Curated by Dr Michael O’Neill FSA, and involving the collaboration of the RCB Library with the IAA, the exhibition draws on his extensive research into the Church’s architectural history, which has included the digitization of almost 9,000 individual drawings to safeguard them for future generations. All of the originals are safely housed in the Library, but to reduce their wear and tear and showcase them to a wider audience, the entire collection was systematically digitized and catalogued in the Library, and freely available to view online at

A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World showcases a selection of the originals, which are arranged chronologically and thematically, guiding viewers through a representative selection of the overall collection and literally open a window to the past, telling the story of who designed these buildings – why and when they were built (or rebuilt). There is an excellent representation of virtually every diocese of the Church and of churches and glebe houses throughout Ireland, north and south. 

One of the items on display is the recently repaired and conserved early 19th-century map of the ‘Earl’s Gift’ Demesne showing lands near the town of Donemana, Co. Tyrone, in the parish of Donagheady and diocese of Derry. These lands were colourfully surveyed for the Revd Charles Douglas by Robert Craig in 1830.

The ‘Earl’s Gift’ map after its restoration by Liz D’Arcy, from the Paperworks Studio for Paper Conservation, with support from the RCB Library Conservation Fund.

The Hon Revd Charles Douglas (1791-1867) was the second son of the 14th Earl of Morton. Ordained in the Church of England, he came to Ireland as rector of Donagheady in 1825 and continued to serve there until retirement in 1857. Clearly of significant independent means, Douglas was able to commission this survey map of the lands where he had laid out a house and planned demesne on the former ‘Earls Gift Castle’ estate, which had been associated in the 17th century with Sir John Drummond who laid out the original ‘Earls Gift Castle’ and town of Donemana. But for this survey map which provides visual evidence of the castle, associated farmyard parish church, church lands and outlying areas, the association of over 95 acres of these lands with one Church of Ireland cleric might have remained unknown.

The map was recently transferred to the Library’s custody from the diocesan registry in Derry and Raphoe in the context of a large consignment of diocesan papers. It had suffered the ravages of time, and was in need of urgent repair. Thanks to the expert intervention of Liz D’Arcy, at the Paperworks Studio for Paper Conservation, and availability of the Library’s Conservation Fund which allows for urgent repair of specific items, this beautiful work of art by surveyor Robert Craig has been brought back to life.

Before and after compared: The ‘Earl’s Gift’ map restored by Liz D’Arcy, from the Paperworks Studio for Paper Conservation, with support from the RCB Library Conservation Fund


To support the RCB Library Conservation Fund, please see this link:

The Visual Window exhibition is open Tuesday-Friday until the end of August. See

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The Church of Ireland Gazette – the Church’s weekly newspaper since 1856 – was written and read by lay and clerical members among others. It provides the longest-running public commentary on its affairs, and as such recognised as a valuable primary source for understanding the complexities and nuance of Church of Ireland and indeed wider Protestant identity, as well as the Church’s contribution to political and cultural life throughout the island.

Dr Miriam Moffitt once again provides her thought-provoking and forensic analysis to reveal how the advent of cycling, which came into its own as a means of transport towards the end of the 19th century, impacted the Church of Ireland directly, with many of its clergy swiftly taking to the bike from the early 1890s onwards.

Clerical group with bikes, including the new ‘Rover’ to the right, from the collection of Canon Britain Lougheed (1882–1952), © RCB Library Ms 1073

Dr Moffitt reveals how Church of Ireland clergy were quick to spot the usefulness of the bike beginning to cycle around their parishes from the early 1890s onwards. This followed the introduction of the ‘Rover bicycle’ c. 1885, with its equal-sized wheels and robust chain, coupled with John Dunlop’s development of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 giving rapid rise to the use of the bicycle as a means of transport in all walks of life, including the ordained clergy. Indeed, for some, the bicycle was embraced as ‘a heaven-sent machine’ which cost less than a horse and covered the ground more quickly. TheGazette began to publish advertisements for bicycles and cycling lessons. Bikes soon began to feature regularly in accounts of parish activities and, as early as 1892, the parishioners of Mariners Church in Kingstown even presented one to their rector as a gift, for whom “the bicycle is a heaven-sent machine to him under such circumstances; it costs less than a horse and gets over the ground more quickly”.

Not everyone was completely happy with this trend; a few considered it unseemly that clerics should cycle at all, but many were more concerned about that they should wear. The Gazette of 2nd January 1891, for example, insisted that it was inappropriate for clergy to cycle to church dressed in surplice, stole and hood, which makes us wonder if they had formerly ridden on horseback fully attired for service, or whether they travelled in some form of carriage or cart: “One cannot help feeling that it would be a more decent method to carry one’s surplice, stole and hood over one’s arm, and put them on in open church … than to be seen hurrying along the road in them, perched on top of a bicycle”.  

JW Elvery & Co. advertisement for waterproof cycle cape, from Elvery’s, as it appeared in the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, 23rd October 1896, © RCB Library

As the traditional long black coat proved cumbersome on a bike, cycling clergy began to wear short shooting jackets to the dismay of some who claimed they were “coming in ‘as a flood’ and, horror of horrors, they were even worn in colours other than black” (Gazette, 23rd September 1892). The donning of shooting jackets by clergy, would, however, continue. Indeed, while advertisements for distinctively clerical attire continued to appear in the Gazette, their incidence declined by the early 20th century. Thus, whilst changes in clerical fashion were not wholly attributable to the advent of the bicycle, the practicalities of cycling forced clergy to make decisions regarding clothing and that these decisions reduced the distinctiveness of clerical tailoring. 

The uncovering of this unusual aspect of social history once again confirms the usefulness of the Church of Ireland Gazette (the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette to 1900) as a resource for historical research over the last 150 years. A combination of central church funds, private sponsorship and support from the Commemorations Unit in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (for specific aspects of the decade of commemorations period) have to date ensured that all editions of the Gazette between 1856 and 1949 are now freely available for searching through the Church of Ireland website, at this link:

McBirney & Co. tailoring advertisement for General Synod 1910, from the Church of Ireland Gazette, 24th March 1910, © RCB Library

This leaves just 54 years of editions (from 1950 to 2004 – when the Gazette became available an e-paper) to complete the digitization process and make it a fully and freely searchable resource for a worldwide audience. Prospective sponsors of this final 50-year phase of work are invited to contact the Library, or consider making a donation to the Library Conservation Fund here:

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An exhibition of the Church of Ireland’s historical architectural drawings – entitled A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World – will be launched by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, next Tuesday evening (7th May) at the Architecture Gallery, in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.  Admission is free but those interested in attending the launch are asked to RSVP by Friday, 3 May (email:

The exhibition will be open to the public Tuesday to Friday (10am-5pm) until Friday, 30th August.  The exhibition is curated by Dr Michael O’Neill FSA and draws on his extensive research into the Church’s architectural history, which has included the digitization of over 8,000 drawings to safeguard them for future generations.

Castlejordan parish church, Co. Meath: entitled ‘Design of a Church & Steeple or Tower for Castle Jordan’, by Chas Lilly Arch. 8 Merrion Row Dublin’, with the approval of the Bishop of Meath: ‘I approve of this plan T.L. Meath [Thomas Lewis O’Beirne Bishop of Meath, 1798-1823] Oct. 7 1820’

The Church of Ireland’s churches, cathedrals and glebe houses have made an indelible impression on the Irish landscape. Spires, towers and pinnacles punctuate the skyline while in subtler ways the residential aesthetic of the glebe houses provide visual indicators of the former pre-eminence of the Church of Ireland – the Established or state Church until 1871.

Whilst many of the churches no longer function as places of worship, and the surviving glebe houses have either passed to private ownership, or have simply disappeared, an extensive collection of almost 9,000 original drawings (plans, elevations, sections and details) continues to document this ecclesiastical world, providing an important resource for understanding the architectural, liturgical, social and cultural development of the Church of Ireland through the centuries. The collection also covers many churches and indeed rectories which are still in use and occupied by the Church.

Installation of mounted drawings in progress at ‘A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World’ – a forthcoming exhibition of Church of Ireland architectural drawings at the Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin.

Created for the most part under the auspices of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (1833 onwards), which had succeeded the Board of First Fruits (founded in 1711), the materials were initially accumulated in the diocesan registries to which they related, while others passed directly into the custody of the Representative Church Body (RCB), the charitable trust created after Disestablishment in the 1870s. Over the decades, these have been carefully accessioned and arranged in the RCB Library, founded in 1931, which is the Church of Ireland’s record repository.

There are 860 drawings of the cathedrals of Christ Church and St Patrick’s in Dublin as well as the diocesan cathedral of St Canice’s in Kilkenny, while a further 300 drawings are of glebe houses, but the majority (some 7,600 drawings) show varying aspects of the parish churches throughout the island. Some are the work of distinguished architects such as John Semple, James Pain, Joseph Welland, William Farrell, William Atkins, Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon, J. Rawson Carroll, and W.J. Barre and are beautiful artworks in their own right, as well as in utility.

Installation of mounted drawings in progress at ‘A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World’ – a forthcoming exhibition of Church of Ireland architectural drawings at the Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin.

However, being outsize and clearly working drawings, many of which were in fact drawn on tracing paper, they are also fragile and cumbersome to handle. To reduce the wear and tear, but also to showcase them to a wider audience, the drawings have been systematically digitized and catalogued inthe Library, and are now freely available to view online at

A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World is arranged chronologically and thematically, aiming to guide the viewer through a representative selection of the overall collection and literally open a window to the past, telling the story of who designed these buildings – why and when they were built (or rebuilt). Dr Michael O’Neill FSA has digitized and catalogued the entire collection.  This is one of the Church of Ireland’s events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Disestablishment, and represents a most positive collaboration between the RCB Library and the Irish Architectural Archive which will house the exhibition between May and August, with a series of lectures planned for Heritage Week later in the year.

Dr Michael Webb says: ‘As Chairman of the Irish Architectural Archive and as Chairman of the RCB Library and Archives Committee it is a particular pleasure to bring both organizations together for this exhibition.  The Architectural Archive has the national collection of architectural drawings and is custodian of over 500,000 drawings of buildings from all over Ireland.  The RCB Library has a unique collection of almost 9,000 drawings of churches, and rectories.  It is wonderful to be able to display a selection of these drawings in the gallery which was specially designed for architectural drawings.’

Installation of mounted drawings in progress at ‘A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World’ – a forthcoming exhibition of Church of Ireland architectural drawings at the Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin.

Dr Susan Hood, Librarian and Archivist at the RCB Library, says: ‘This exhibition showcases in public for the first time some of the original drawings making up the collection at the RCB Library. It also marks the culmination of over eight years of hard work by Dr Michael O’Neill to catalogue and digitize the entire collection making it available for a worldwide audience through the Church of Ireland website. This painstaking and dedicated work (generously supported with church and other funding) demonstrates the Library’s capacity to digitize and share its unique holdings – literally opening a window to the past!’

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