St. Mary’s Church, Clonsilla

The land on which St Mary’s church stands has an ecclesiastical history going back to 500AD. The last surviving disciple of St Patrick, Saint Machutus the first Abbot of Louth, founded “The White Church of Saint Machutus” (a Benedictine order) in Coolmine early in the first part of the 6th century. Clonsilla was a cell of the Coolmine Church but there is little documentary evidence of a building or church in Clonsilla until 1215/17. The lands were then owned by the “priory of Little Malvern” to which all revenues were sent.

Clonsilla was a place of considerable trouble from the Irish clans in the early 15th century and by 1468 the lands were made over to the Cistercian Abbey of St Mary’s Dublin from the Prior of Little Malvern. For 50 years, St Mary’s held tenure. Following the dissolution of the religious houses, the lands became available to be leased. Chief Justice Luttrell tenanted the lands from 1506 and on his death in 1544 he was buried in the grounds. The Luttrell Family came to Ireland in 1204 and held lands in Clonsilla until the end of the 18th century. The priory church was then known as “The white chapel of St Machtus of Clonsilla”.

The present church was built in 1845 with the tower added in 1850 during the office of Archbishop Whateley (1831 – 1863). The bell in the tower is dated 1747 and was cast in Gloucester. It was a gift from St Werburgh’s church, where it formed part of a ring of six bells. In 1907 Sir Arthur Vickers, the Ulster King at Arms, following the advice of a medium he had consulted, came to Clonsilla to search for the stolen insignia of Saint Patrick (the Irish State Crown Jewels). The visit ended in failure. Rumours still persist that the jewels are hidden somewhere in the grounds.

A stained glass window by Evie Hone, a world-renowned stained glass artist, was installed in the church in 1935. It depicts St Fiacre whose feast day is 1st September and who is the patron saint of gardeners and cab-drivers.

St Mary’s also has an extension to add running water, toilets and the Clonsilla Parish Centre (a room in which the Sunday Club and other groups can meet).

Interesting features

The font and baptistry were renewed and enlarged in 1958 in memory of Mary Elizabeth Maher of Williamstown House, Clonsilla. The pulpit was provided by Mrs Maher as a thanksgiving in November 1946.

The cross was handmade by Mr George Colton from Cork, father of our former Rector The Right Rev. Paul Colton.

The Sanctuary floor was laid in memory of Sir John Arnott, Bt., who died in March 1898 and of his wife Emily Jane was died in October 1938. It was donated by their sons Maxwell and Loftus. The chairs in the sanctuary were donated in memory of Maxwell (died September 1954) and Loftus (died December 1956).

The Rector’s Prayer Desk was presented in memory of Edward Smith of Mount View, Clonsilla, who died in October 1930, and of his wife Hannah Isobel who died in April 1911. The Lectern was presented in memory of James Albert Smith, of Mount View, Clonsilla, in 1949.

The organ was installed in 1992 by Jeffers of Bandon. It is a fine example of an Allen electronic organ and was donated by the Arnott family in memory of Sir John Arnott, Bt.

The new Parish Room was officially opened on the 11th September 2005 by the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Reverend John Neill.

Vicars and Incumbents of Clonsilla

1335 – John Rous1449 – Robert Hay1615 – John Rice1617 – Roger Good*1660 – Patrick Sheridan
1669 – Henry Monypenny1691 – Charles Proby1695 – Philip Whittingham1710 – Thomas Walls1745 – John Towers
1752 – Kene Percival1764 – Richard Godley1767 – John O’Connor1809 – George O’Connor1843 – Samuel Hinds
1848 – Ralph Sadleir1902 – Henry C Browne1922 – Robert Hale Bodel1937 – Leopold A.P.W. Hunter1951 – William W.L Rooke
1961 – Erberto Mahon Neill1975 – Cecil William Bryan1990 – William Paul Colton2000 – Andrew D. H. Orr2009 – Paul Houston