Points of Interest


Parish records date back to 1698 and include baptisms, weddings, burials and minutes of vestry meetings. They are all now in the safe keeping of the R.C.B. where they are kept in appropriate conditions and are accessible to the public on request.

The bronze doorway is dedicated to the memory of Augustus Kennedy Kisch who died 6th September 1977. It was designed by Imogen Stuart and is based on the "Canticle of the Sun" by St. Francis of Assisi.

This stained glass window is a memorial to Lord Robert Ponsonby Tottenham, Bishop of Clogher and was erected in 1853 by his sons.

The present organ was constructed by George Benson in Manchester in 1913 for the "Black Church" in Dublin. When that closed in 1962 the organ was presented as a gift to Newcastle Parish.

Was presented in memory of C.I. Tottenham of Woodstock in 1856.

The brass eagle lectern was presented in memory of The Rt. Hon. William Thomas Spencer, Earl Fitzwilliam, K.G. 1815 - 1902. The Fitzwilliams had a long association with the parish and were generous benefactors over the years.

This brass cross, made from an old shell case, was presented by Canon Robert Jennings who brought it back with him from the Korean War where it was placed on the bonnet of his jeep whilst he took services.   

St. Matthew's, Newtown

A Priest, an Altar and a Window
Taken from an article by Canon Robert Jennings

St. Matthew's has memorials to a number of famous people. When it was built in 1836 as a Chapel of Ease for the Parish Church of Newcastle which could no longer accommodate its growing population, it also became the centre of worship for the "gentry" of surrounding parishes. Parish records bear witness to this as parishioners included not only those from the Parish, but also from Glendalough, Ballinastoe, Roundwood, Tinnapark, Dromin, Kilquade, Streamstown, Killincarrig, Delgany and Kilcoole. The morning congregation often numbered 270 and 100 at the evening service. Rented stabling for horses as well as a bicycle shed were provided where Fishers shop now stands.
The church still has the old box pews for which families paid a pew rent. Each pew has a lockable door which gave privacy to the family and inside another small lockable cupboard for hymn books and prayer books and hooks for gentleman's hats and ladies' handbags. At the back of the Church and in the extended gallery were open pews which anyone could use without payment. Even as late as 1900 25 families paid pew rents of between £3.5.0 to 15 shillings per year. Pew rents were later abolished.
The most notable Rector of St. Matthew's was Reverend Henry Irwin who ministered there for 32 years 1863-1895. For 80 years one or more of the Irwin family, father, the Revd. Henry Irwin, son Arthur, a lay reader, and daughter Amy travelled the two miles or so almost daily by pony and trap from their home, Prospect House (for there was no Rectory) to their beloved Church. They took the services, taught in the school and Sunday School, cared for the Church, played the organ, visited the parishioners and the sick and were known and loved by all. Three of the Irwins six children became missionary priests, Henry to Canada, Philip to Florida (where he was once tarred and feathered for befriending the blacks and later became archdeacon of Philadelphia) and Edward to Kimberley, South Africa. Arthur, a lay reader to his father, Amy and Lucy stayed at home in Ireland.

Father Pat, Missionary Priest

Henry Irwin, or Father Pat as he was affectionately known all his adult life, was born on 2nd August 1859 at Prospect house, Newtownmountkenedy. As mentioned above, he was the eldest son of Henry Irwin. His grandfather was chaplain to the primate, Lord John Beresford. At the age of 12 young Henry went to St. Colomba's College at Rathfarnham. The Warden of St Colomba's said of him "From the very first Henry showed high and strong principle, ever ready with his work, ever near the front in the playing field, ever attentive and devout in Chapel". It is reported by some of his peers of those days that on one occasion " a ball from Henry's cricket bat just missed striking the head of Mrs Parnell, mother of Charles Stuart Parnell and also of Henry Tudor Parnell, a student with Henry at the time in St Colomba's." In 1878 he entered Keble College, Oxford where he kept up his reputation as an athlete, rowing in the Torpids and Eights, and playing football and rugby. When he graduated from Oxford he went to Ely Theological College and in 1883 was appointed Curate of Rugby. Just 120 years ago, he followed a long-felt call and crossed the Atlantic to British Colombia. His parish there was almost as big as the whole of Ireland, 300 miles north to south and 100 miles east to west. In the tradition of many another from Co. Wicklow, he was a good horseman and travelled the whole of his parish on horseback. There, as a missionary priest, he ministered to the miners, railroad builders and scattered settlers and pioneers of this rough country. They all knew him as "Father Pat", friend and messenger of God. Many stories are told of his bravery in rescuing men in that wild country and of his love and compassion for all men.
In 1887 the Revd. Henry Irwin was moved from the rolling foothills of the Kamloops area to the railway town of Donald between the Colombia river and the towering rocky mountains. The railroad workmen in the winter were in constant peril from avalanche of snow, rock and trees. On one occasion 6 of 16 men were buried in a snow-slide and their bodies recovered and carried back to Donald. Father Pat Irwin was in the rescue party.
On another occasion an engine and snowplough were engulfed and with them a conductor, Mr Green. Father Pat heard of the accident and hurried to the spot. The conductor's body was recovered and placed on a toboggan and alone and single handed Fr. Pat hauled the sleigh from the pass over the desolate and dangerous trail to Donald. The journey took two days.
He built a number of small wooden churches where services were held on Sundays. It sounds amusing now but at the time it was far from amusing when one of his churches was literally stolen and used elsewhere. In 1890 he met and married Frances Innes at St. Paul's Church, Esquimalt on Vancouver Island. Her father was the superintendent of H.M. Naval establishment. His bride was described as a charming lady, soft curling brown hair, expressive blue eyes and a sweet childlike smile. They were very happy for just eleven months until both Frances and their only baby died within a few days of each other.
Father Pat was left to labour on alone once more. At Rossland he opened a free library and reading room for miners and rail road workers. He built churches and called to one and all to come and worship God. For a short period he returned to Ireland and helped his father at St. Matthew's, but he was restless and returned once more to British Colombia. He died at the young age of 43. In Rossland today there stands a monumental lamp and drinking fountain. It tells symbolically of the "Light" this man of God from Newtonmountkennedy had followed and of the "Water of Light" which he gave men to drink. On the stone fountain are written the words "His home was known to all the vagrant train; he chid their wandering and relieved their pain." On the east side "I was thirsty and ye gave me to drink". On the west side; "I was hungered and ye gave me to eat." On the north side "In Memoriam Father Pat." On the south side; "A man he was to all the country dear. Requiescat in Pace." Close by is another memorial, perhaps as eloquent and even more touching: a cairn erected to Fr. Pat's memory by the miners themselves, consisting of specimens of all the rich and valued ores produced by the mines of Rossland, each labelled with the name of the mine.
In a corner of the beautiful little cemetery at Sapperton near Montreal above the Frazer river there is a semi-circular headstone very low and small. In its centre is the cross enclosed in a circle. It is the grave of the nameless little one who never saw light; and beneath the symbol are these touching lines:

"No name had I, O Christ, to offer thee, nor from thy font received thy sacred sign;
yet in thy book of life remember me, I plead my saviour's name instead of mine."
CHILD of H and F S Irwin

Not far off lie the parents in one grave with two white marble crosses at head and foot. In 1907 a beautiful east window was erected in St. Matthew's Church, Newtownmountkennedy in memory of Father Pat. There is another memorial window in St Colomba's College Chapel, Rathfarnham.
Father Pat's dedicated life and work is still so revered in Canada that he is commemorated and named in the Canadian Church Calendar every January 14, the date of his death. A verse from a poem by a Rossland miner pays this tribute to Father Pat:

He wore the Church of England brand,
but didn't bank on creeds;
His way to hearts was not with words,
But helpful, loving deeds.
Though we were hard to work upon
not readily enticed
We called him the first Christian
That ever lived - since Christ.

An Altar

In the sanctuary of St. Matthew's Church is a black oak and extensively carved altar known as Ridley's altar on which Holy Communion has been celebrated for hundreds of years.
Nicholas Ridley 1500 - 1553, an English bishop, reformer and martyr was educated at the Universities of Cambridge, Paris and Leuven. In 1537, having shown leanings towards the Reformation he was made chaplain to Cambridge University, later chaplain to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed chaplain to King Henry VIII in 1541. Ridley helped Cranmer to complete the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles of Religion. On the death of Edward VI Ridley supported Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne but was arrested by Mary, a Roman Catholic, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Here he wrote statements defending his religious opinions. In 1554, refusing to recant, he was declared a heretic and excommunicated. He was tried under the penal laws instituted by the Catholic Queen, which provided for the execution of heretics. Ridley was burned at the stake in Oxford with fellow Bishop, Hugh Latimer in 1555.
At the Reformation and as Bishop of London, and elsewhere, Ridley encouraged the abandonment of the existing high stone altars, remote and screened from the people, and their replacement by wooden tables or altars situated in the body of the church so that worshippers could stand or kneel around it to receive the sacrament. Such destruction of high altars appear today to be acts of vandalism, but its purpose in part helped the church to discover how the congregation could take their part in the Eucharist which is still being explored and implemented today in so many realistic ways.
The altar in St Matthew's conforms in a remarkable way to this significant alteration in the position of the altar. Instead of just being ornamentally carved at the front, where it could be seen by the congregation as is usual, it is also carved at the north and south ends and each side of the four legs are also carved. This suggests that worshippers standing or kneeling all around the wooden altar could view the carved decorations.
An extract from the "Architectural Setting of Anglican Worship" in describing altars in England and Ireland says "The Church of Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow, possesses a communion table known as Ridley's altar, which is said to have been used by him in celebrating the Holy Communion. The table was brought from England by William Sewells, one of the founders of St Colomba's College, Rathfarnham in the middle of the 19th century and used as an altar in the College Chapel. Later it was purchased by a Rector of Newtownmountkennedy for his church. No evidence is forthcoming as to the history of the table before it came to Ireland, or how it became connected with Ridley's Name. The table might be 16th century. It is 5ft 2 in long, 2ft 4in wide and 2ft 8in high". It has elaborate carving to the front and sides with Latin and Jerusalem carved crosses, crowns, and significantly, Bishop's mitres etc.
Rev. William Sewell and others in 1843 established the Eton type College of St Colomba's College at Stackallan, Co. Meath. It was however Irish orientated and the prayer book used in the College Chapel had English on one side and Irish on the other so that the boys might more easily learn their native language. A Chapel was converted from an old coach house and various pieces of church and school furnishings were bought or acquired by Sewell in England to help furnish the new Chapel and school. Most of these can still be seen in the present College. These pieces are mentioned by name except for what is called "a valuable gift" from Magdalene College, Oxford, where William Sewell's brother Richard was a Fellow and Vice Principal. One may speculate if this was the altar. In 1848 the College moved to a new site at Rathfarnham where a wooden Chapel was built. This was replaced in 1880 and the old furnishings listed as stalls, Pulpit, organ and lectern were moved to the new Chapel. There is no mention of the altar because it was at this time the latter was acquired by the Rev Henry Irwin for St. Matthew's. A stone cross inset on the terrace at St Colomba's marks the spot where the altar stood.
Without any more definite evidence to link the altar with Nicholas Ridley, its connection with him can unfortunately only be speculation.

The Grimshaw Window

Also in St Matthew's Church there is a lovely stained glass window. It depicts the healing of the lame man by our Lord at the Pool of Bethzatha. (St John, Ch 5). The inscription on the window is as follows:

In memory of Elizabeth Dorothia Grimshaw who worshipped in this church for nine years.
Died August 17th 1906
Also her husband Wrigley Grimshaw F.R.C.S.I.
died June 1878

Wrigley Grimshaw was Dental Surgeon to Steeven's and St Mark's Hospital and the Pitt St Institution for Diseases of Children in Dublin.
Dr Thomas Grimshaw, who erected this window, was born near Belfast in 1839. His great-grandfather had come from Lancashire and founded the Calico printing industry in Ireland using machinery for the spinners. Thomas Grimshaw studied medicine and many other related disciplines at Trinity College Dublin, gaining many distinctions and honours. He was visiting physician to Steeven's Hospital, Cork St. Fever Hospital, National Hospital for Consumption at Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, Sir Patrick Dun's and also a lecturer and writer of medical journals. In 1879 he was appointed Registrar-General for Ireland which included overseeing the Census of 1881 and 1891. He was a member of two committees of enquiry; 1) the Dietary of Irish Prisons and 2) The Sanitary conditions of the Royal Barracks. In 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, he was awarded Companionship of the Bath. He married Sarah, daughter of Rev Thomas and they had a family of 12. Some died at an early age while the others distinguished themselves in colonial service and three as officers in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Perhaps Dr. Thomas Grimshaw's greatest achievement was in persuading the city authorities to install underground sewerage. With his close association with hospitals and widespread disease he was the ideal person to instigate a whole new system for the disposal of sewerage. Before his intervention household waste and sewage was thrown into open surface drains that ran down to the Liffey. With his wide knowledge and research he found that cholera, typhoid and enteric fever were prevalent in the houses that adjoined open drains. He called them "fever nests". Around this time clean water, replacing old water pumps, was now available from the Vartry reservoir. A clean water supply and underground piped sewage made a vast improvement to the health and well being of the citizens of Dublin.
In recognition of his many talents and achievements the Tourist Board placed a plaque on 13 Molesworth St in 1990 where he and his family lived for many years. The plaque says:

Thomas Wrigely Grimshaw
1839 - 1900
Physician and Philanthropist
Lived on this site
1861 - 1881.

Thomas Grimshaw was the great grandfather of Sir Nicholas Thomas Grimshaw who is the architect of the Eden Project in Cornwall, the Eurostar Terminal in London and the glass box development of the historic Spas in Bath.                                                                          

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