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St. Werburgh's Church, Dublin

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Title: St. Werburgh's Church, Dublin  
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Subject: 1719 in architecture
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St. Werburgh's Church, Dublin

Coordinates: 53°20′33″N 6°16′11″W / 53.34250°N 6.26972°W / 53.34250; -6.26972

St Werburgh's Church, Dublin
Location Werburgh St., Dublin
Country Republic of Ireland
Denomination Church of Ireland
Founded 1178
Founder(s) Men of Bristol
Dedication St. Werburgh
Past bishop(s) Henry de Loundres, James Ussher
Architect(s) Thomas Burgh (1719), Joseph Jarratt (1759)
Architectural type Italianate classicism
Length (interior) 80 feet (24.4 m)
Width (interior) 52 feet (15.8 m)
Diocese Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough
Province Province of Dublin

St. Werburgh's Church is a Church of Ireland church in Dublin, Ireland, and was built in 1178, shortly after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the town, and named after St. Werburgh, abbess of Ely and patron saint of Chester who died in 699 AD. It is located in Werburgh Street, close to Dublin Castle.

The church

In Celtic and Danish times, the parish was known as that of St. Martin of Tours, and his church stood near the south end of Werburgh Street. After St. Werburgh's Church was constructed it was much frequented by Bristol men, who were amongst the earliest settlers in Dublin. It contained chapels in honour of Our Lady, St. Martin and St. Catherine.[1]

The original church was burned down in 1300 (along with much of the city) and was rebuilt. From the time of Archbishop Henry de Loundres (died 1228), St. Werburgh's was appropriated to the Chancellor of St. Patrick's. By 1559 the nearby church of St. Mary del Dam on Dame Street was closed and its parish incorporated in that of St. Werburgh’s, which meant that St. Werburgh’s became the parish church of Dublin Castle.

Primate James Ussher was appointed to this church in 1607, and Edward Wetenhall, afterwards Bishop of Kilmore, author of the well-known Greek and Latin Grammars, was curate here. Swift's friend, Dr. Patrick Delany (1685–1768), was rector of the parish in 1730.[1]

During the 17th century conflicts erupted between the parish of St. Werburgh and that of nearby St. John the Evangelist (located in Fishamble Street) over parish boundaries. Each vestry wanted houses to levy rates on. The contested houses were in Copper Alley and those around Essex Gate and Essex Bridge.

The church needed replacement by the end of the seventeenth century. An act of 1715 which passed through the Irish Parliament appointed commissioners for building a new church.[2] Colonel Thomas Burgh, M.P. for Naas, Surveyor-General for Public Buildings, was entrusted with the erection of the new structure. This was completed, so far as to admit of the celebration of divine service, in 1719, at a cost of £8,000. However, it was damaged by fire in 1754 and did not re-open until 1759. The present interior dates from this time, and was designed by John Smyth.[3]

In the eighteenth century St. Werburgh's came into vogue as the parish church of the British Lord Lieutenant and his entourage, where he had his own Viceregal pew inserted in 1767.[3] In fact the pew register for this church lists many of the persons prominent in Dublin public life in this century. Around the same time John Smith (or Smyth) was the architect of an upper gallery for schoolchildren. The tower and spire were added the following year. The spire was removed around 1810 by the Castle authorities as a security measure, as it overlooked the Castle yard. They used as an excuse that the tower was unsafe (whereupon the architect Francis Johnston offered to make it safe, but was rejected); the tower was felled twenty-six years later.[3]

The interior of the church was re-modeled in 1877 by the architect William Welland, when the parish was united with that of St. John the Evangelist.

In past times the area's fire engines were stored in the church porch and two examples can still be seen there today.

The parish

The parish corresponds with the civil parish of the same name.

Notable parishioners

John Field, composer and pianist was baptized in this church on 5 September 1782.

There is a collection of parish deeds from the parish of St. Werburgh dating from 1317 to 1662, listing property owners in the parish. They were catalogued by the Royal Irish Academy between 1916 and 1919.[4]


There was a churchyard next to the church used for hundreds of years and beneath the church are twenty-seven vaults.[5]

Nicholas Sutton, the Attorney General for Ireland, was buried here in 1478; his family had lived on Werburgh Street for several generations.

Sir James Ware (1594–1666), historian, was buried here in December 1666.

Lord Edward Fitzgerald, commander-in-chief of the United Irishmen was buried in the vaults of this church on 5 June 1798, while his captor, Major Sirr, was buried in the churchyard in 1841.[5]


References and sources


External links

  • Archiseek site - with images
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