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John Callery

St. Jude’s Church (Spire) Inchicore Road, Kilmainham.
Architects Welland and Gillespie .
John Callery, July 2000.

St. JUDE’S CHURCH was opened for public worship on 2nd January, 1864.
This church was fortunate (as it seemed) to have been built in one of the most historic districts in Ireland. It had a very noble and historical past but unfortunately St. Jude’s was destined to suffer a most ignoble and barbaric end.

St. Jude’s was founded as a direct result of the efforts of the Rev.Thomas Mills who was born in Longford in 1825, educated in Trinity College and who was minister in Golden Bridge in the late 1850s. Mainly because of the increase in the numbers in the locality as a result of the coming of the Great Southern and Western Railway to Inchicore, the Rev. T. Mills felt the need for a parish church to be built near at hand. Mostly due his personal influence in the locality, St. Jude’s was built and opened for public worship on Saturday 2nd January 1864, and was consecrated by the Rev. Richard Chenevix Trench (late Dean of Westminister), who was the previous day consecrated Archbishop of Dublin. The Irish Times of Monday 4th January 1864 describes the church as “beautiful and perfect in design” also it is reported that.
“St. Jude’s Church occupies a very pleasant and picturesque site on the road leading directly from the Royal Hospital to Richmond”. The consecration was the first official act of Archbishop Trench.

The laying of the foundation stone for the new church was the last official act performed by Archbishop Whately (who was then Archbishop of Dublin) on Friday October 24th 1863. Also among a very numerous and respectable assemblage was Sir Robert Peel, Chief Secretary for Ireland who resided in the vicinity and who said the following (an extract) on the occasion of laying the stone.

“ It is to me a very pleasing task, and under any circumstances I should be very glad to have witnessed this ceremony, because it has reference to the erection of a church for the benefit of and the spiritual wants of those who reside in the immediate vicinity of the place in which I also live; and I am happy to say there is nothing inconsistent with the most strict and impartial discharge, of the official duties of which I am charged, that I should co-operate with my neighbours in so interesting a work”

(Applause) A voice- “ Three cheers for Sir Robert Peel”. (Loud applause)

It was also here that the Rev. Archbishop Plunkett preached his first sermon as Archbishop of Dublin. St. Jude’s was also the first church in Ireland in which a public
Harvest Thanksgiving Service was held.

A war memorial subscription was opened in March 1919, for a suitably designed marble tablet in memory of those members of the parish who died in the Great War.
During the 1914-1918 War, 24 young men from St. Jude’s parish gave their lives.

The history of the church mirrors the rise and fall of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. Which like railway tracks runs in parallel to the coming to the district of Inchicore / Kilmainham of Dublin’s first, if not the South’s first industrial heavy engineering workers. These workers came with their skills from the great industrial cities (Crewe, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool) of England to build Dublin’s set piece of the industrial revolution , the trains, tracks and all the ancillary and associated developments of the G.S.& W.R. company. Many of their descendants still live in the district.

The congregation of St. Jude’s faded with the passing of time and the political changes in the country after independence. Their church would have been a fitting memorial to the heritage of the pioneer railway workers and subsequent generations of Inchicore railway workers and engineers if St. Jude’s had not been demolished in 1988. The greatest irony of all is that it now stands in Straffan Co. Kildare having been “rebuilt in a form”and is called “The Steam Museum”. !! The saddest and most confusing thing of all is to read the plaque mounted on the wall of the “transplanted” St. Jude’s:

“ This heritage building is reinstated from the architectural details of the church of St. Jude where many 19th century steam engineers associated with the railway works at Inchicore worshipped”.

This “heritage building”!! in Straffan contains among other things a collection of model railway engines and artefacts from the railways, it should more aptly be called the Inchicore Heritage Museum and there it stands today on private lands in a rural, non industrial non tourist area, some 30 miles from where it was built while the Spire remains standing defiantly/proudly alone on Inchicore Road adjacent to Dublin’s foremost historical tourist attraction Kilmainham Gaol/Museum. Robert Guinness availed of Bord Failte and E.U. funding to “reinstate” in a form (minus the spire and integrity of St. Jude’s) this heritage centre. What a great and necessary tourist attraction was denied Kilmainham. This “ Inchicore industrial heritage museum” in Co. Kildare was officially opened by the president of the time, President Mary Robinson on July 9th 1991. Do we remember her gallant fight to save Wood Quay!!

Agreed, it sounds like a story straight out of fiction!!

Tony Byrne optimistically states in his article (written in 1990) that the lesson to be learned from the senseless destruction of St. Jude’s is that “it will be some time before a developer or the Corporation take it upon themselves to knock down a church in Dublin again”.

In less than 6 years (some time indeed !!) after the main body of St. Jude’s was destroyed, the former Methodist Church that stood on Tyreconnell Road, Inchicore opposite the TSB bank was also demolished no more than 500 yds from the remaining Spire of St. Jude’s !!! This church like St. Jude’s was also built to serve the spiritual needs of the pioneer Victorian railway workers who lived in the district. Another “railway church”/ potential heritage centre for our historic area was destroyed by a JCB at 3am on a Sunday morning.

I know, it defies belief !!

The potential for our district in terms of tourism and heritage (despite the wanton destruction and neglect of the so recent past) has yet to be realised. On our doorstep we have a wide range of architectural styles and types. Kilmainham Gaol, The Memorial Park, the Royal Hospital, The Richmond Tower, the Railway Works, what remains of the old Richmond Barracks, and all adjacent to where the waters flow of the Liffey, Camac and the Grand Canal. No place in Dublin is blessed with as many historical attractions or examples of the finest of Victorian vernacular architecture as our place.

I too like Tony Byrne want to be optimistic for the future. Surely by now lessons have been learned. It will be interesting to read another article written maybe a decade from now on how our district has progressed / regressed. I am still very concerned for the future, as only this beautiful evening (July 20th 2000) I was out pushing my 14th month son ( Gavin John) past Kilmainham Jail on our way to the Memorial Park, when I noticed a planning application for a proposed three no. 6 storey office block development (57,000 m sq !!!) right opposite Kilmainham Gaol. Surely a developer will not be allowed to out-scale Kilmainham Jail and The Richmond Tower by the building of these proposed glass towers and destroy a most perfect tourism site. What an eternal waste of such a magnificent site this would be. Time will tell!! If ever a perfect heritage site for Kilmainham / Inchicore if not the city existed is here opposite the Jail, where every serious tourist to Dublin comes to visit , only to hang about aimlessly after visiting the Jail. Check back in 2010 !!

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