Thursday, 9 December 2010

150th Anniversary Celebration of St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Nenagh

The Nenagh Union of parishes extend a very hearty invitation to all, to join with us in St Mary’s Church, Church Rd., Nenagh, on Sunday 19th December at 3 pm, for an Advent Eucharist to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of St Mary’s Church of Ireland, at which Archbishop of Armagh Alan Harper will preach and Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe Trevor Williams will preside. Refreshments will be served afterwards.

Archbishop of Armagh Alan Harper

Readers may be interested in the following historical details.

The vision to build the present St Mary’s came from the then Rector, Rev. James Hill Poe. It replaced a church of the same name which was unfit for purpose in Kenyon St, of which only the tower remains. The first planning meeting was held on May 6th 1855, and the new church was finally consecrated on 19th December 1860 – 150 years to the day before this year’s celebration.

The site was donated by Carroll Watson, Attorney, of Brookwatson. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were informed that the parish would contribute £200 towards the cost, but replied that this was not enough. After various delays, plans were received, but they did not include a spire or gallery. Further negotiation was needed before permission was given for them.

The Rev. James Hill Poe died in 1859, without seeing his plans fulfilled. Work finally began in September of that year. The church was designed in the Gothic style by Joseph Wellard, one of the Irish pupils of Edward Pugin, and the pictures show that his design was followed closely. The plans included a neat tower surmounted by a sword-like spire.

Original architect's drawing of St Mary's

The building-contractor was Mr Hunter of Bandon, but of course many local craftsmen were employed. It took over a year to complete the task.

A bell cast in the Sheffield foundry of Nalor & Vickers, presented by John Bennett, Churchwarden, was installed in the tower. The organ, built by Telford of Dublin, was especially designed to expose to view a pretty stained-glass rose window in the gable end.

Opening Ceremony, 1860
St. Mary's Church was consecrated and opened for worship on Wednesday, 19th December 1860, as recorded in the Nenagh Guardian of that day. The Bishop of Killaloe, Lord Riversdale, was present "though somewhat feeble of limb" and the congregation numbered about 700. The choir sang an anthem composed for the occasion by the newly appointed organist, Robert Atkinson, while the preacher was Archdeacon Roe, rector of Roscrea and one of the leading orators of the time.

150 Years of History
Since its erection, the church has undergone no structural change and the Nenagh Guardian’s description of 1860 still stands:
The building... consists of nave, aisle and chancel. A light gallery spans the West-end… The chancel is lighted by three lofty lancet opes (windows)… The flooring… laid with encaustic tiling pavement of very neat pattern.

The church has since witnessed the worship of generations of parishioners, as well as their baptisms, marriages and funerals. They have lovingly maintained it and beautified it with many memorial gifts. The church was entirely re-roofed in 2003-5 at a cost of €230,000, and this year it has been completely redecorated as part of the anniversary celebrations.

Do come to see all that has been achieved by the grace of God!

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