Built in 1857 in response to the dramatic increase in the number of residents and visitors in Greystones, the story of St Patrick’s Church, like so much of the story of Greystones, is inextricably bound up in the story of the La Touche family.
Political intolerance in France led to Louis XIV revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and many Calvinist Protestants, known as Huguenots, who had previously enjoyed a measure of religious freedom, fled France, taking their energy and skill to Holland, Britain and Ireland. The son of one of these refugees, David La Touche, prospered and purchased 300 acres around Delgany in the mid-eighteenth century, building Bellevue and developing the estate. In 1789 his son Peter built Christ Church, the new parish church in Delgany.
During the 1850s and 1860s the population of Greystones greatly expanded. Previously only a few families lived there and were principally employed in fishing, but the extension of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway’s line to Greystones in 1854-1856 enabled people to realise its potential for permanent residence and as a seaside holiday destination. During these years the La Touche estate was owned by Peter David La Touche (died 1857) and then by his brother William Robert (died 1892). Two main roads were laid out by the La Touche estate around the time of the building of the railway station: Trafalgar Road, which led from Greystones harbour to the railway station, and Church Road, which led from the railway station to the old road that ran from Blacklion to the harbour.
All this development in Greystones and the influx of holiday makers and new residents meant that the parish church at Delgany ‘was not sufficient to accommodate the number of inhabitants of said Parish who might resort thereto for Divine Worship’, and so William Robert La Touche gave ‘a plot of ground in the Townland of Lower Rathdown in the half Barony of Rathdown in the Parish of Delgany’ for a church in Greystones, as stated in the 1864 deed that transferred ownership of the land from the La Touche Estate to the Church. St Patrick’s Church (the dedication is a later one) was built in 1857 by private subscription, the major portion of £1,500 being provided by the La Touche family.
The church is built of locally-quarried stone and the architects were William John Welland and William Gillespie. They had been appointed ecclesiastical architects by the Ecclesiastical Commission in 1860, a position they held until the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1870. The 1864 deed states that the church’s dimensions are ‘within the wall thereof in length from East to West Seventy Three feet and in breadth from North to South Twenty Four feet or thereabouts and the said Church has been adorned and furnished with all things decent and necessary for the due celebration of Divine Service.’ However, as there was no endowment to support a rector it could not be consecrated until 1864. Before then it was a chapel of ease of Delgany parish and was in the care of the rector of Delgany. The Archbishop of Dublin, Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D., consecrated the church on 19 July, 1864, granting a licence to perform divine service, ‘to read the Public Prayers and the Holy Liturgy to the Congregation therein assembled in the English tongue.’
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The town’s rapid rise as a popular summer residence meant that the church had to be enlarged a number of times. In 1875 the north transept was built (this is now connected to the Swann Hall) and in 1888 the south transept was added, creating the church’s cruciform shape. In 1898 the nave was extended and the gallery erected.
In 2005 a thorough evaluation of the needs of the parish resulted in major work being undertaken to develop the church and its site into an integrated worship and recreation centre. The rector, the Venerable Edgar J. Swann, and the Select Vestry worked with architect Stephen Newell ‘to create a new substantial building next to and indeed connected at one point to the beautiful stone church.’ The point at which the two buildings meet is glazed and creates a light-filled transition between the mundane and the numinous. The project was extended to the church where a geothermal underfloor heating system was installed and changes were made in order to enhance the building’s flexibility as the centre of the worshipping community. The pews were removed and replaced with chairs, and the communion rails, pulpit and fixed font were removed. Following the renovations the church was re-dedicated and the new building blessed at Family Eucharist on 6 November 2005 by Archbishop John Neill. Later that day a Thanksgiving Service and Open Day were held.In the early years of St Patrick’s the music was provided by a harmonium, but in 1904 the Select Vestry commissioned Conacher & Company of Huddersfield to build and install a pipe organ in the recently-built (1898) gallery. By the early 1990s extensive repairs to the organ had become necessary and it was not sufficiently powerful to lead the singing of the growing congregation, so in 1993 Derek Verso & Company carried out work to re-voice the existing pipework to increase and brighten the sound. They added approximately 300 pipes and re-designed the mechanical action to give a lighter, more responsive touch. The trackers were replaced when the organ underwent further restoration in 2011.
A bell for the church had been given by a member of the La Touche family, but by 1924 that bell was damaged and the Select Vestry decided that a new larger bell weighing ten hundredweight should be bought and housed in a larger belfry. However, insufficient funds were raised and it was decided to buy a smaller bell of three and a quarter hundredweight and to hang her in the existing belfry. She was cast in 1924 at the Byrne Foundry in Dublin, with the inscription cast in relief: ‘To the glory of God. Greystones Parish Church 1924’.
Most of the liturgical furniture in the church is of carved oak, and several pieces are memorial gifts. Three of the oldest and largest pieces have the maker’s name and date carved on them. They were made by T.R. Scott & Co. of Dublin. The lectern was made by T.R. Scott & Co. and presented by Col. D’Oyly Battley of Belvedere Hall in 1895. The Communion Table was made in 1926 and the pulpit, which is no longer in use, in 1934. The oak panelling in the chancel was erected in 1926 by Messrs Keating of Dublin, the gift of Mr and Mrs C Pratt-Whelan of Rochford, Greystones.
The east windows are three lancets depicting the emblems of the Evangelists and the resurrection. They are a memorial to Peter La Touche and were made by the studio of William Wailes of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1856. The stained glass window in the north transept depicts the miraculous draught of fishes and is a memorial to Thomas Hewson B.L. (died 1911). It was made in 1911 by Heaton, Butler & Bayne of London. The stained glass window in the south transept was installed in memory of Henry Maunsell (died 1879) and his wife Caroline (died 1886). A stained glass window on the north side of the nave depicts a pilgrim journeying to the Holy City, illustrating the ‘Pilgrim’s Song’ (adapted as He who would valiant be) from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. This window was created ‘In loving memory of Ormsby Vandeleur and Georgianna his wife formerly of this parish. This window was placed here by their children MICV, GBV, WEV 1927. He’ll fear not what men say, he’ll labour night and day to be a pilgrim’.
The church contains a number of memorial tablets, including one to Major D’Oyly William Battley (1808-1887) of Belvedere Hall, commemorating his military career. Some interesting insights into contemporary attitudes may be deduced from the two war memorial tablets. The Great War (World War I) memorial was erected by the ‘relatives and friends’ of ‘the officers and men from this parish who nobly laid down their lives for justice and right in the great war of 1914-1918’. Although not many of the men had been born in Greystones their families had summer residences in the town and were parishioners. The private funding required for this memorial, which was unveiled and dedicated by the Bishop of Clogher in 1920, is in contrast to the memorial for the officers and men of the parish who were killed in World War II. The memorial to their gallantry was erected by the parish, sanctioned and commissioned by the Select Vestry in 1946, and dedicated by the Archbishop of Dublin in 1948. The twenty-two names on the World War I tablet are listed in order of rank, descending from Lieutenant Colonel to Private. A more egalitarian attitude prevailed after World War II, as evinced by the alphabetical list of eight military personnel, followed by the name of one civilian.
By Sarah Murphy, with original research contributed by Wesley Galloway and Ken
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