Parish History – Ashford

Parish History – Ashford

The contract to build the Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Ashford was signed on 27 January 1915.  Three months later, on 13 June 1915, the foundation stone was laid.  Building work was completed in 1917 but the dedication ceremony did not take place until Sunday, 27 October 1918.  The church was designed by Mr. P.J. Munden, a Dublin based architect and the building contractor was Kinlen & Co., Rathgar, Dublin.

From the early 1900s it was generally accepted that the existing church building, which dated from 1803, was too small and also in poor structural condition.  However, the cost of renovating the church was deemed to be excessive and it was felt that the best option was to build a new church.

Unfortunately, before work commenced the parish priest, Fr. Farrelly, died and the project was deferred.  His successor, Fr. Pierce O’Donnell, was committed to the project but he was concerned that the cost of building a new church, estimated at €4,000 – €5,000, would impose a huge financial burden on Ashford which was then a relatively poor parish.  However, after extensive consultation with his parishioners, it was agreed to proceed and on 1 November 1914, at a meeting of parishioners, “it was unanimously decided, with great enthusiasm, that the arduous work of building a new church should be undertaken”.

Despite receiving several generous contributions including a site on generous terms from the local landlord, Colonel Charles Tottenham, financing the project imposed a significant strain on the parish finances during the construction phase and for some time afterwards. To reduce costs, locally produced material was used wherever possible.  Bricks came from the brickworks at Ballymerrigan, Rathnew.  Locally quarried stone, sand and gravel were gifted by parishioners and carted to the site free of charge.

The members of the Church Building Committee were: Fr. P. O’Donnell (Chairman), Fr. C. Skehan, Mr. L. Cullen, William Byrne, W. Byrne, J. Cunniam, Wm. Hender, M. Gifney, P. Tyrrell, W. Clarke, C.M. Byrne and J. Dempsey (Secretary).  The work of organising concerts, sports day and other fundraising events was undertaken by an enthusiastic and dedicated committee. Soon afterwards, all the preliminaries were completed and the contract to design and build the church was signed on 27 January 1915.

The Dublin based architect P.J. Munden was engaged to design the church and Kinlen & Co., of Rathgar, Dublin, was selected as the building contractor.  In a letter to the Archbishop, dated 16 March, 1915, Fr. O’Donnell wrote:

“I am happy to inform your Grace that the good work of building a new Parochial Church in Ashford commenced on last Thursday afternoon”.

The work of building proceeded apace and just three months later, on Sunday, 13 June 1915, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, blessed and laid the foundation stone.  Works were completed in 1917 and the church came into use. However, the official dedication did not take place until Sunday, 27 October 1918, when the new church was solemnly blessed by Very Rev. John Staples, P.P. (Wicklow) in the unavoidable absence of His Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin.

The following report appeared in The Wicklow Newsletter on 28 July, 1917:

“The new Church, which is now completed, is prettily situated on rising ground as you approach the village of Ashford from Bray. The building is cruciform in shape and in the early English style of Gothic architecture, comprising nave, two transepts, sanctuary, sacristy and organ loft. The main entrance is facing the county road, and is approached from same by an avenue and flight of steps, bringing one on to the terrace which surrounds the church. The structure is of rubble masonry, the stone being local, and supplied as the gift of the parishioners. The jambs and doors and the buttresses are in Rathnew brick, plastered externally in cement with County Dublin granite dressings to windows, buttresses and belfry. The roof is covered with green slates. The church internally is plastered white and has a pitch pine roof and ceiling, the floor having tiled passages. The windows are fitted with steel frames and Cathedral glass.

The building was erected by Mr. P. J. Kinlen; the iron and steel work was carried out by Messrs. J. & C. McGloughlin Ltd., and glazing by Messrs. Campbell, Dublin. The High Altar is the work of Mr. George Smyth, the Altar rail of Mr. Cullen, Dublin and the seating was erected by Messrs. Kane Bros., Wicklow. Mr. Patrick Toole, Kiltimon, Ashford, is erecting the boundary wall, and Messrs. Smith and Pearson, Dawson Street, Dublin, are manufacturing the entrance gates. The entire work has been carried out under the supervision and from the designs of Mr. P. J. Munden, Architect, 5 Trinity Street, Dublin. The work reflects the greatest credit upon architect and contractors alike.”

The parish of Ashford was formed in 1864 when it split from Wicklow to become a separate parish. It includes the entire civil parish of Killiskey together with part of the civil parishes of Rathnew, Glenealy, Kilcommon, Derrylossary, and Upper & Lower Newcastle. The parish covers an area of approx. 10,200ha.

You will find a detailed history of Ashford church in our recently published book:
Holy Rosary Church, Ashford – 100 years
It is available from the Parish Office, Ashford. Price €10.