Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Our Heritage in Stone - St Mary's Church of Ireland

One of the oldest stone structures in Dungarvan is the old gable wall in the cemetery which has fascinated locals and visitors to Dungarvan for centuries.  In the 19th century and before people speculated that it was the ruin of a lighthouse or a sun worshipping temple.  It is in fact the remains of the pre-Reformation church of St Mary the Virgin records of which go back to the 1300s.  The most distinctive feature are the circular windows which are wider on the inside and on the outside face of the wall there are decorative sandstone surrounds which may be of Dundry stone from the Bristol area.

The present church designed by James Pain c. 1835 is constructed predominantly of limestone with sandstone blocks which may be reused stone from the 18th century church on the site.   On one of the walls is a sandstone plaque inscribed: ‘J.H. & B.B. C.W. 1827’.   It commemorates John Hudson and Beresford Boate, Church Wardens.  This may refer to an upgrading of the earlier church.  An extension was added to the east end in 1903. This was executed in limestone in a more regular manner.

Our Heritage in Stone - St Mary's Parish Church Windows

The building we see today is the result of a long period of building works which commenced in the early 1820s.  When first opened in 1826 the church was very plain in appearance.  The window frames were all of wood in a Gothic style with plain glass and no stone surrounds.  Each gable end had a different arrangement of windows than those to be seen today.  The external appearance of the church is unusually austere, the only ornamentation being the buttresses, bell-cote, and window frames all carved of local limestone.  When was this work carried out?

It was initiated in 1879/1880 by the P.P. Rev James Vincent Cleary (1828-1898) as part of a complete overhaul of the church.  A major part of the improvements was the installation of fourteen new stained-glass windows and stone casings.  This work is first mentioned in the accounts on 5 October 1879:

Held a meeting of my parishioners to-day and obtained a declaration of their warm approval of my action in ordering a new set of windows for the church at a cost of £47 per window for the stone-work, and £50 per window for the painted glass with 5% commission, the total cost being £1,324-1-0 to which extras must be added for contingent work and for taking down the side galleries.

The stone surrounds were carved by James Newstead of Fermoy.  He received £600 in December 1879 and again in October 1880.  Each window was designed to a different pattern.  These window casings and other improvements appear to be by the architect George Ashlin, as his name appears in the accounts for 21 July 1879 when he was paid £46.3.0.

In December 1893, George Ashlin was paid £40 for designing a new west porch.  Canon Power writing in 1912 stated that ‘during the pastorate of Very Rev. P. Casey, it was renovated according to its original style of architecture by Mr. Credon, Fermoy after plans by Mr. Ashlin’.

Culture Night 2020 in Waterford County Museum - a great success!

Our Culture Night event held on Friday 18th September was a wonderful success.  We had a full house and the curator William Fraher showed a fascinating sample of artefacts from our archive.  Niamh Hayes performed several traditional airs on the tin whistle and sang “The Parting Glass” as a finale.

Willie Fraher shows one of the artefacts from the museum archives

Niamh Hayes entertaining the group at Culture Night

Our Heritage in Stone - Dungarvan Courthouse, T. F. Meagher Street

The old courthouse is believed to have been held upstairs in what is now the Arts Centre building in Lower Main Street which was owned by the Duke of Devonshire. In the early 1800s the Duke of Devonshire redesigned the town centre and a new courthouse and jail were developed as part of the overall plan.

The architect is thought to be James Pain (1779-1877) an English architect who settled in Ireland with his brother, George Richard who designed St Mary’s Parish Church in Dungarvan.

The building was in place by around 1825. It was also the location of the Town Commissioners offices before they moved to the Town Hall in St Augustine Street in the 1870s.

The courthouse is constructed of limestone, has a central block with a pediment and three round-headed windows. On either side are single story blocks with a doorway and blank panel overhead. In front of the building are the original iron railings.

Unfortunately, the building has suffered from modernization as the buildings of Ireland website notes: ‘over-zealous renovation works in the late 20th century have compromised much of the character of the site, with inappropriate replacement fittings…’

The original style of windows to the main façade should be reinstated, and the trees, which almost completely obscure the façade should be removed and railings painted. This fine listed building should be presented to a higher standard than it is at present.

Courthouse doorway

New Book by Donald Brady

Congratulations to Museum member Donald Brady on the publication of his new book “Julia M. Crottie And Other Disparate Essays”. This book is the tenth title produced by Donald. It represents a culmination in a lifetime’s involvement with the history and heritage of county Waterford. The disparate essays range from the 17th to the 20th century and while most are historical narratives several are gleaned from the author’s own life experiences.

Our Heritage in Stone - Dungarvan Town Hall and Catholic Young Men's Society Rooms / Bank House


Old Photo of Bank House c 1890

The Dungarvan Catholic Young Men’s Society was established in November 1856 to be ‘facilitators for developing the moral and intellectual abilities of their members through the stormiest days of manhood, and at an age when impressions are most susceptible of good or evil’.

They acquired a prominent site opposite the bridge.  The architect was Henry Sinnott and the stonemason was James McCarthy, and the foreman carpenter was Michael McCarthy.  The façade of the building is mainly built of local sandstone with limestone mouldings around the windows. The Cork Examiner of 22 May 1861 reported on the progress of the new Town Hall:

The Catholic Young Men’s society of Dungarvan, deserve well of the community among whom they reside.  Some four years ago…a few young men with a zealous and efficient priest at their head, formed the nucleus of the institution. The site of a new Town Hall…has been purchased in fee-simple from the Duke of Devonshire by father Mooney…and the plans & specifications of the projected building have already been designed and executed…In point of architectural splendour it will be fit to rank with the splendid church, the magnificent convents etc.  A noble Grecian building with a front 74 feet in length and 26 in height.

The foundation stone of the new Town Hall was laid on 23 May 1861 by Henry Villiers- Stuart of Dromana.  The Cork Examiner reported on the occasion:

The event appeared to create a considerable stir amongst the townspeople, numbers of whom had collected near the site of the new building long before the hour fixed for the commencement of proceedings had arrived.

A very excellent amateur band from Clashmore attended, under the superintendence of Mr Barrett, who, while waiting for the principle persons who were to take part in the ceremony, paraded the town playing various popular airs and thus lent an éclat to the proceedings.

The new building besides its great utility as a place of public assembly, of which the town may be said to be altogether deficient, will be very ornamental.  It is to be a handsome Grecian building, with a portico in front.  It will contain two rooms to be specially reserved for the use of the Young Men’s Society, who with the aid of their spiritual director, the Rev. Mr. Mooney, raised the funds for the undertaking, a museum and library, and over these will be a long room 74ft long by 34 wide, which will serve for concerts, lectures, balls, or any of the other purposes of a public assembly room.

The Waterford News also covered the event (31 May 1861).  It noted the layout of the interior which consisted of: a ground floor, to be divided into five large comfortable rooms, - a large news room in front, and two guild rooms in rere of same…On the opposite side of the hall – which shall run through the centre of the building to the stairs – will be two rooms of good proportions, one for a library and the other for a museum, and the space to the rere of said two rooms, shall be for a kitchen and room for a caretaker.  The entire upper floor shall be one splendid apartment…and will be exclusively set apart for lectures, amusements, etc...you will have an admirable opportunity, if you think fit, of cultivating, in concert, the sister art of music.

What happened to Dungarvan’s first cultural centre?  Edmond Keohan in his History of Dungarvan published in 1924 explains:

[By 1875] The old Young Men’s Society was a thing of the past, and the fine premises they had built was disposed of to the Provincial Bank’.

Bank House Facade

The façade has recently been beautifully restored by the Bank House owner and shows off the fine craftsmanship of James McCarthy and his apprentice stonemasons

Bank House Stonework

Culture Night - Friday 18th September 2020

 Waterford County Museum is delighted to present an event to mark Culture Night 2020.

‘Curator’s Choice - The story behind the object’

Curator Willie Fraher will tell the story of a selection of objects from the museum’s reserve collection which have never been on display.

Music will be provided by Niamh Hayes, Cork School of Music.

Date: Friday 18th September 2020

Time:  4.30 to 5.45.

Places are limited and must be booked in advance. Masks are mandatory for the event.

Contact us at info@waterfordmuseum.ie or phone 058-45960