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Church and chancell down – the state of parish churches in South East Cork, 1615

Cloyne sth side

The Cathedral Church of St Colman in Cloyne was closed to the Reformed Church until the death of Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Dean of Cloyne, in 1612. He was a Catholic and the Established Church only gained entry on his death, with the appointment of a new Dean, Thomas Winter.  

Some time between July 15th and August 25th, 1615, a Royal Visitation of the dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross took place to ascertain the condition of the parish churches and the status of each parish. The Visitation was ordered by the government in Dublin with a view to assessing with total accuracy the actual progress in imposing the reformed religion on Ireland. Where England, Wales and Scotland had accepted their respective reformations, Ireland proved more contentious.

William Lyon of Chester was the bishop of the three dioceses at the time. An avowed Protestant, he deplored the idolatry of the native Irish and the Old English families that clung to their ancestral religion. Lyon proposed to the government that the only solution to the obstinacy of the Irish in their religious preference was to, literally, exterminate all the Catholic clergy whenever and wherever they were discovered or identified. The government, perhaps lacking the machinery to do this, or more likely to avoid stirring up an expensive rebellion, declined to follow Lyon’s advice in this matter.

The final report of the Visitors must have made for grim reading for the bishops and divines of the Established Church – many parish churches were in ruins or only partially intact. Worse still, many parishes were impropriate (the Latin word appropriata is used to indicate this). That is the tithes were held by a layman (who might be a Catholic) who also held the patronage of the parish – it was the patron’s duty to appoint a minister or priest.  Naturally, a Catholic patron might decline to appoint a minister of the Reformed Church.

Fitzgerald Tomb Cloyne

Tomb of Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Ballymaloe, Dean of Cloyne. Located in the north transept of the cathedral this was the work of an English sculptor who also executed the tomb of  Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, in St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal.

The frequent repetition of the phrase ‘church and chancell down‘ indicates either the deliberate destruction of the church during the wars under Elizabeth I, or simple neglect by the incumbent minister and the parishioners. It should be noted that the medieval practice of imposing the cost of maintaining the church on the parish and the maintenance of the chancel (roof and all the liturgical furnishings) on the Rector was still evident, even though few of the medieval churches displayed any external evidence of division into nave and chancel. The separation of nave and chancel was usually only visible in interior of the church.

This survey is taken from Michael A Murphy’s article ‘The Royal Visitation of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, and the College of Youghal’ published in the journal Archivium Hibernicum, vol 2 (1913). Murphy covers all three dioceses, but this post will only examine the rural deanery of Imokilly. It should be noted that Murphy made some mistakes – his Kilmachin is actually Kilmahon (modern Shanagarry) and NOT Kilmaclenine, as he suggests. Note that the tithes of a parish were usually divided between a Rector (the actual parish priest) who got perhaps two thirds of the income and a Vicar (representing an absentee proprietor of the living) who got about a third of the tithe. A curate was given a small stipend from the Rector or Vicar who appointed him, the rest of his income coming from payments for performing parish services like baptisms, marriages and burials. Pluralism (holding several benefices/livings/curacies was commonplace because the tithes from Irish parishes rarely provided sufficient income. The term benefice or living are virtually interchangeable – it refers to the effective proprietor of the tithes.

The Cathedral of St Colman in Cloyne. Dean, Thomas Winter MA. (Winter was a pluralist, being Treasurer of Cashel and Precentor of Waterford and Lismore until 1614. He appointed to Cloyne in 1612, following the death of Sir John Fitzedmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe, a Catholic who kept Cathedral closed to ministes of the Reformed Chuch. Winter died on 25th August 1615.) Income valued at £20 per annum. No house for the Dean. All the church intruded upon by Sir John Fitz Garrett (Fitzgerald). It appears that three years after the death of Sir John Fitzgerald, the Dean and Chapter still didn’t have full access to all of the Cathedral in Cloyne!

The Precentor was Alexander Gough, a reading minister of over eighty years of age. (He didn’t have license to preach, but he was permitted to read published sermons.) Value of his office: £4 per annum. By right of office he held Kilcredan, near modern Ballmacoda, valued at 30 shillings. This church and its chancel were down (ruinous) in 1615. (Kilcredan was later rebuilt by Sir Robert Tynte of Youghal.)

Youghal (St Mary’s Collegiate Church, or the College of Youghal). The Guardian was Richard Boyle, minister and preacher. He was a relative of the Richard Boyle who became the richest man in Ireland and Earl of Cork. Value: £200. Church and chancel were in good condition. This was the richest and largest parish church in the diocese.

Garryvoe was a Rectory. Previously held by the Abbot of Chore (Midleton) but now held impropriate by the estate of Sir John Fitzgerald. The medieval church and chancel was intact and well kept at this time.  No rector named, but the vicarage was held by the College of Youghal (see above). William Wood was the minister and preacher appointed by the vicar.

Garryvoe Church

Garryvoe Church is a ruined late medieval single-cell structure (the internal divisions being invisible on the exterior). It is entirely typical of the rural parish churches built in Ireland in the 1400s. Many of these buildings continued to serve into the 17th century but others were in ruins by 1615.

Bohillane was a Rectory without any vicarate. Thomas Wilson was the minister and preacher. Value: £3 per annum. ‘Church and chancell down.’ A poor parish usually served by clergy attached to other parishes or vicarates.

Killmachin or Kilmahon (now Shanagarry) was Rectory previously held by the Abbot of Chore (Midleton) but now impropriate to Sir John Fitzgerald. Value: £5 p.a. ‘Church and chancell in decay.’ The vicar Thomas Wentmore served the cure.

Ballygourney was a Rectory held by the Abbey of Chore (this placename is not familiar today). Vicar was John Hall, minister and preacher, and Bachelor of Theology. Value: £5 p.a. Church and chancell down. This location is a mystery that needs further study, perhaps a mistranscription. One idea is that this may actually be Ballycurrany. Paul McCotter has Ballycurrany as a medieval parish in the diocese – is Ballygourney a corruption of that name? Ballycurrany is near Lisgoold, close to Midleton.

Inchie alias Ninsh (modern Inch) was a Rectory held by Degorius (Gregorius?) Hawkes, a reading minister who served the cure. Hawkes also held the vicarage, valued at £10. The church and chancel were down and Hawkes was admonished to repair them.

Agfadda (or Aghada) was a Rectory with the church and chancel ‘well slated.’  Hawkes (see above) was the vicar and served the cure. Value:£10.

Corkbegg (Corkbeg) was a Rectory impropriated by Sir John Fitzgerald.. Vicar: William Thomas. Value: £6. Wentmore (see Kilmahon) served as curate. Church and chancel in good repair and slated.

Rostellan was a Rectory, impropriated to Sir John Fitzgerald. The Vicar was Anthony Kingsmell, minister and preacher, who served the cure. Value: £3. Church and chancel down.

Capella de Rath alias Garrenefeke (modern Garranekinnefeake) was a rectory. The Vicarate was sequestered to the rectory because there was no income. No information on the church the site of which is still extant but was replaced by Holy Trinity Church in East Ferry in the later 19th century.

Capella Roberti (Templerobin on Great Island) was a Rectory held by the Augustinian Abbey of Bridgetown, near Mallow. Vicarate was vacant. Value: (detail missing). Bishop has been admonished to appoint a minister.  Church and chancel up. (An intact church yet no clergy to serve the parish…Bishop Lyons was letting matters slip!)  Great Island is now part of the Barony of Barrymore, but then it was attached to the Deanery and Barony of Imokilly.

Moysagh  (Mogeesha) was a Rectory impropriate to Sir John Fitzgerald. The Vicar was Arthur Kingsmell (see Rostellan). Value: £5. Church well, chancel down.

Castrochorie (Ballincurra, probably including Chore, now Midleton) was a Rectory formerly held by the Prior of All Hallows in Dublin (site of Trinity College). The Vicarage was vacant and usurped by Sir John Fitzgerald. No curate. Walls up of both church and chancel. This refers to the medieval church that still stands in the graveyard of Ballinacurra. There is no mention of the parish of Corabbey suggesting that the Abbey of Chore (Midleton) was in complete ruin and that the two parishes had been reunited for the first time since 1180. The usurpation by Fitzgerald can be explained by his possession of Corabbey since 1583.

Ballinacorra Church interior

Ballinacurra Church was one of the oldest parish churches (before 1180?) and became the parish church of the newly reunified parishes of Castra Chore and Abbey Chore when the latter parish was suppressed before 1615, presumably on account of the destruction of the Abbey of Chore (Midleton) during the Elizabethan wars  In the early 17th century A number of larger windows were inserted into Ballinacurra church to allow the incumbent clergyman to read the Prayerbook during services.

Inchinabackey (now Churchtown North, two miles east of Midleton) was a Rectory previously held by All Hallows in Dublin. Sir John Fitzgerald had impropriated or usurped it, and the vicarage. Church up. There was neither vicar nor curate. The ruins of the church, clearly a classic 15th century structure, can still be visited in graveyard beside the N25.

Ballymartery (or Ballymartyr, alias Ballyoughtera, now Castlemartyr) was also a Rectory held by the Priory of All Hallows but was now usurped by Sir John Fitzgerald. The Vicar was William Thomas (see Corkbeg) and Thomas Wentmore (see Kilmahon) served as curate. Value: £6. Church and chancel ‘roofed not covered.’ This parish possessed one of the largest parish churches in the diocese, the ruins of which are still extant. The reference to the roof suggests that the timbers of the roof were present but there was no covering of slate, lead or thatch. This church was the burial place of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly who lived in the adjacent tower house of Castlemartyr.

Magely (Mogeely) was a Rectory formerly held by the Abbot of Chore (Midleton) and held in 1615 by Sir John Fitzgerald. Church and chancel were in ruins. No value given. The vicarage was vacant and usurped by Fitzgerald. There was no curate.

Capella de Dangidonovan (Dangandonovan) was a Rectory held by the Prior of Glassearge (?) but in 1615 held by Thomas Fitzgerald. No value given, Church and chancel down. No curate.

Killogh (Killeagh) was attached to the College of Youghal and the cure was served by Dean Boyle. ‘Church and chancell up and furnished.’

Cahirultan was a Prebend and Rectory held by William Thomas (see Corkbeg). Value £6. No curate. Admonished to provide a curate. Church and chancel ‘repayred cum libris’ (furnished with the correct liturgical books). A prebend was a cathedral stall, so the Rector of Cahirultan also served the Cathedral.

Kilcredan was a Prebend and also a Rectory and was held by Alexander Gough. Church and chancell downe. Value: £3. No curate. The Vicarage belonged to the College of Youghal, William Wood served the cure.

Kilcredan church

The present ruined church at Kilcredan was built in the 1630s by Sir Robert Tynte as the first purpose-built Protestant church in East Cork. The large windows are the result of a later remodelling but it is certain that this simple building had quite large windows when first built. It stands on the site of the ruinous church described in 1615.

Killuradonoge (Kilmacdonoge, now essentially Ballymacoda) was a Prebend held by Manass (Manus?) Marshall, BA and preacher. Value: £24. Church and chancel down. Cure served by Alexander Gough.

Titeskin was a Rectory held by John Twinbrooks, BA and reading minister. Value: £4. Church and chancel down.  Twinbrooks was also the vicar, and he served the cure. This is a wonderful example of an impoverished clergyman making ends meet by economising in his impoverished living.

Clonmell was a Rectory and Prebend attached to the Economy of the Cathedral Chapter.of Cloyne. Valued earlier. Church and chancel in decay. The cure was sometimes served by Israel Taylor. Rector admonished to provide more diligent cure. The Vicar was the same Israel Taylor. Clonmel was the parish that covered the western half of Great Island – Cobh stands in this parish. Templerobin covered the eastern part of the Great Island.


This post first appeared on Midleton With 1 'd' | East Cork And Irish History,, please read the originial post: here

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Church and chancell down – the state of parish churches in South East Cork, 1615


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