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St. John's Church of Ireland Church, Edgeworthstown, County Longford
13309011
View from the west.
Reg. No.13309011
Date1720 - 1780
Previous NameN/A
TownlandEDGEWORTHSTOWN
CountyCounty Longford
Coordinates226054, 272003
Categories of Special InterestARCHITECTURAL ARTISTIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL HISTORICAL SOCIAL
RatingRegional
Original Usechurch/chapel
In Use Aschurch/chapel
 
Description
Freestanding Church of Ireland church, built or rebuilt c. 1750, with four-bay nave elevation, a two-stage tower on a square plan having slated roof/spire over attached to the centre of the west elevation (spire added c. 1811, and church possibly enlarged c. 1810), a bowed chancel to the east end and a single-bay vestry attached to the east end of the north elevation, added c. 1889. Possibly incorporating the fabric of an earlier church(es), pre-1700AD. Pitched slate roof with projecting dressed limestone eaves course and cast-iron rainwater goods. Pyramidal slate roof to tower with wrought-iron final/weather vane over. Dressed limestone eaves course with corbels to tower, just below spire/roof. Roughcast rendered walls to main body of church with render plinth and carved limestone memorial plaques, one with carved limestone surround and consoles (dated 1737). Rubble limestone walls (with base batter) to tower with dressed limestone string course above belfry openings. Round-headed openings to south nave of nave with chamfered dressed limestone surrounds, chamfered limestone sills and stained glass windows. No window openings to the north face of nave. Three round-headed window openings to chancel with chamfered dressed limestone surrounds, chamfered limestone sills and stained glass windows. Round-headed openings to tower at belfry level with limestone sills, cut limestone voussoirs and metal louvers. Square-headed opening to the south face of tower, now blocked. Round-headed door opening to front elevation of tower (west) with timber battened double doors having cast-iron strapping, carved limestone roll moulding and carved limestone block-and-start surround and voussoirs with carved limestone hoodmoulding above. Round-headed door opening to west face of vestry with timber battened door with cast-iron strapping and chamfered dressed limestone surround. Base cruck ceiling to interior. Retains interior features such as timber altar furniture and stained glass windows. Blocked round-headed arch to the north face of nave. Set back from road in extensive grounds to the northeast of Edgeworthstown. Rubble limestone boundary wall to site. Main entrance gates to the west side comprising a pair of ashlar limestone gate piers (on square-plan) having moulded capstones and a pair of wrought and cast-iron gates. Graveyard to site with collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century grave markers, including tomb of the Edgeworth family, which is enclosed by cast-iron railings. Associated rectory (13309017) to the south.

Appraisal

This Church of Ireland church is an important element of the architectural heritage of County Longford. It is of interminable age and probably incorporates the fabric of earlier churches to site. It survives in good condition and retains much of its early form and character. The relative lack of ornamentation to the exterior creates a plain but interesting appearance that differs from the usual Board of First Fruits-type composition. The carved limestone memorial plaques (one dated 1737) to the north elevation of the nave add artistic and historic incident to an otherwise blank façade. The rather squat tower with a battered base creates an interesting and distinctive profile and it may be of considerable antiquity. The slated spire was added in 1811 to designs by Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744 - 1817). Lewis (1837) records that it was erected using a 'gift of £150 and a loan of £500 from the Board of First Fruits (1711 - 1833), although the Irish Parliamentary Returns (1837) states that the church was enlarged in 1810 at an expense of £522, of which £276 was a loan from the Board of First Fruits with £251 raised by parochial assessment. This spire was apparently built on the ground and was hoisted into place. It was replaced in 1935. The vestry, round-headed openings, the stained glass windows and probably the bowed apsidal chancel are late-nineteenth century additions, added 1888 - 89 (cost £430). The stained glass windows are of artistic merit and they are of a type more commonly found in Roman Catholic churches of the same date. The grounds of the church contains an interesting collection of cut stone grave markers, including the family vault of the Edgeworth family (which houses the remains of the celebrated author Maria Edgeworth (1767 - 1849), which is a 'table' type monument surrounded by simple wrought-iron railings. The earliest legible grave marker is dated 1705. The graveyard also, strangely, has a memorial to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ardagh, Rev. Dr Thomas O'Beirne (1746) and a 'pillar'-type marker commemorating a circus performer (Lloyd) who died following an accident in 1892. A sister of Oscar Wilde is also interred here, in whose memory Wilde wrote the poem 'Requiescat'. A memorial monument to the interior of the church is to Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774 - 1857), the developer/inventor of the Beaufort Wind Scale and a relative of the Edgeworth family. The interior also contains a table presented to Maria Edgeworth by Sir Walter Scott (not viewed). A number of wall monuments to the interior were taken here from the now derelict St. Anne's Church of Ireland Church (13401922) at Kilglass, near Ardagh c. 1990. This is the possible site of an early medieval church associated with Forannan (died 751 AD, Bishop of Meathas Truirn, mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters (LF015-063002-) and possibly of a later church mentioned in 1621. It is also the possible site of an early graveyard (LF015-063005-) associated with the early church/churches to site. The simple stone boundary walls and the good quality gateway complete the setting of this interesting composition, which is an integral element of the history and built heritage of the local area.
 
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