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September 2012

September 2012

Earliest Irish Church Directory (1862) digitized and available online

To view 1862 directory, please click here


With the onset of the decade of commemorations, it is appropriate that we should mark the 150th anniversary of the first edition of an auspicious Church of Ireland publication – the Irish Church Directory (now the Church of Ireland Directory) published annually since 1862. For September’s Archive of the Month, the RCB Library has digitized all 192 pages of the very first edition, as published by James Charles, proprietor and publisher of Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette – forerunner of the Church of Ireland Gazette from its premises at 61 Middle Abbey Street Dublin, in 1862.

Publisher Details

As Charles explains in his opening preface (p. 5), the idea for the Directory originated in response to demands from readers of the Gazette (mainly the clergy and laity of the Church of Ireland), and he ‘being anxious to comply with the wishes of his patrons as far as might be in his power…yielded to the oft–repeated request’ for information about the Church’s structures – its parishes, dioceses, clergy and other key personnel. When the Directory was published, the Gazette provided a useful vehicle to promote it, and the first edition soon sold out as the advertisement and testimonials from June issues of the Gazette show.

Advertisement Testimonials

Another important underpinning aim of the earliest edition of the Directory as revealed by Charles’s preface to the first edition was to publish accurate information about the Church’s revenue – by including calculations of the gross and (where possible the) net income of each benefice and diocese – with the aim of correcting the ‘false ideas…afloat as regards her fabulous wealth’. Bearing in mind this was in the run up to Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland from the state in 1871, it was in the interest of clergy and laity alike to show that the actual income of each benefice was not as high as believed, and that individual clergy were not being overpaid (pp 5–6).

Diocesan Section

So in each diocesan section, where details of the incumbent and curate of each benefice are tabulated, the reader will also find a snap–shot view of the acreage and value of the glebe land associated with it, the rent–charge or stipend paid to the incumbent for holding the benefice, additional augmentations (if any) and comparative gross and net calculations – as this example from the Dublin section demonstrates. Unfortunately many of the net returns were not available for the first edition, but the gross figures did help to redress the balance of information and as Charles remarks: ‘refute the misstatements put forth by the enemies of the Church to correct the misconceptions’. Alongside the tables of calculation for each benefice, the patron of each benefice is also listed, as is the accommodation capacity of the church, together with summary details about each incumbent and curate – including their year of ordination, date of admission to the diocese, and date of appointment to either benefice or curacy.


To accumulate accurate data on which these tables were based, Charles sent out ‘query’ forms, some 1,281 of which were returned in time for the publication, besides ‘a large amount of additional information [which] was given by clergymen who called personally at the office of the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette‘. Proof sheets were then forwarded to ‘several clergymen in each diocese and diocesan registrars’ for verification (a painstaking task as each had to be sent out and returned by post) and then the data tables hand–set on the printing presses. Indeed, Charles bemoaned the fact that ‘the arduous nature of such an undertaking’ could have been ‘much lessened [and] the book some months sooner before the public had some of the returns from which it [was] compiled been furnished more promptly’.

The format of his first Directory does not differ too much from the modern edition. The ecclesiastical calendar and lectionary (table of lessons) for the forthcoming year is provided – although at the beginning rather then end of the book (pp 13–19) – where the lectionary may be found in the modern–day version. This is followed by an alphabetical list of the clergy with their post–towns – all that one needed in order to send a letter by post to member of the Church of Ireland clergy in the 19th century (pp 21–32).

Alphabetical List

The diocesan sections then follow, including the benefice summary tables mentioned above, preceded by a summary page including a depiction of the diocesan coat of arms, a breakdown of the number of benefices, their patronage, the geographical extent and counties covered by the diocese, and its overall value. Then as now, brief biographical details about the serving archbishop or bishop, together with a list of dignitaries of each diocesan cathedral are also provided as this example from Armagh shows.

Armagh Page

The diocesan sections in this and subsequent editions of the Directory provide the historian with valuable information about the extent of the Church of Ireland through changing times. In the 1862 edition they account for almost half of the volume (pp 33–99), giving a snap–shot view of the extent of the Church at this moment in time. In the 1897 edition of the Directory, Charles provided this useful reference map showing all of the Church’s dioceses and their geographical extent.

Map of the Diocese

Other useful sections in the Directory that follow the diocesan sections reflect the nature of the Church and its key associations in the mid–19th century. The Church of Ireland’s affiliation with the Anglican Church worldwide, but especially the Church of England, for example, is demonstrated by the listing of the archbishops, bishops and deans of the United Church of England and Ireland together (on p. 100), followed by the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church and ‘the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Empire’, and the Episcopal list for the Church in the United States (pp 101–3).


The Church’s close association with Dublin University – where by tradition the clergy were trained for ordination – is emphasized by the extensive chunks reproduced from the University Calendar (pp 102–32) while elsewhere the clerical electors (those entitled to vote for the MP representing the University are marked with an asterisk (*) in the clergy listing, with an additional full list of lay electors appearing towards the end of the volume (pp 102–132). The 1862 Directory is also crammed with information deemed useful for the clergy and laity alike, but which will also provide the modern researcher with insights about the Church’s focus of interest at this period. Covering education, the university and main colleges in England are listed, with two pages devoted the Queen’s universities in Belfast, Dublin and Galway (pp 133–134), and a complete listing of public schools, including the Royal Schools, under Church of Ireland patronage (p. 135). Controversially, the existence of the Irish Missionary College in Ballinasloe (for the missionary work amongst the Roman Catholic population of Ireland according to the Directory (although other contemporary publications state its remit: ‘for the education of Irish–speaking clergymen’) is given an individual entry (on p. 136), before the section‘Society &c’ (pp 136–144) which lists a host of societies and institutions connected with the Church of Ireland, their officers and addresses.

Public Schools

The next section, entitled simply ‘Statistics’ (pp 145–160) includes background on the value of the Church’s provinces and dioceses, including the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the year 1860, detailing structural changes and significant events that occurred in that year. For example, the destruction by fire of St Andrew’s Church in Dublin in January 1860 is recorded, with the various steps taken to pay for its restoration in accordance with the wishes of parishioners (p. 147). The religious summary of the Census of Ireland for the year 1861 follows (pp 151–159), and after this a useful section entitled ‘Forms’ being the main forms and documents to be returned to the diocesan authorities by candidates for holy orders, the newly ordained, as well as incumbents wishing to carry out alterations to the church fabric (pp 160–163).

There are notices about how to send communications to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners – the state body with responsibility for the Church, and a warning ‘all communications should be prepaid’ – a sign of things to come – and there are ‘orders requiring alterations in the prayers for the royal family (p. 164). Regulations for army chaplains follow on p. 165, postage rates and money order information (pp 166–170), and reflecting duty to queen and country, lists of chaplains to the Lord Lieutenant, military chaplains and the ministers and officers of state, Poor Law Commissioners, the courts and other offices of state follow (pp 171–173). After the lay electors for Dublin University listing, the directory concludes with a couple of pages of advertisements, and a list of publications useful to clergy (pp 174–192) – the adverts being then as now a vital source of revenue to defray the costs of printing the volume.

James Charles & Son, PrintingNumber 61 Middle Abbey Street was the location for the editing and printing of the Directory right up to 1962. Like the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, it was printed by Charles and Son until 1897, when the task was taken up by a new company called Church of Ireland Printing and Publishing Ltd. In 1966 this company moved its operation to 16–17 Mark Street, Dublin, and the following year the publication was renamed the Church of Ireland Directory, Desk Diary and Lectionary and brought under ‘the control of the Standing Committee of the General Synod’ for the first time in 1967, after which the publishing and printing work was carried out variously by the Christian Knowledge Press, and then Irish Church Publications, operating from a premises in Merrion Square Dublin.

1961 Edition 1967 Edition

1973 editionIn 1973, the Church of Ireland began its association with Styletype Printing Ltd (now DCG Publications Ireland), based in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, where the annual directory has been produced ever since. The production is today an example of top–quality printing, and the Church of Ireland Directory 2013 which will be in print at the end of the year will mark the 40th anniversary of DCG’s work. It will also mark an unbroken run of 151 years, and it is appropriate that this will be the first time the entire production – including the lectionary – is produced in full–colour throughout.

2013 DirectoryIn recent years, responsibility for editing this ever–increasing volume (now twice the size of the original and over 400 pages) has fallen to the Representative Church Body Library, which holds the only complete set of the full run of directories dating back to 1862. Having collated various clerical changes and other amendments through the preceding year, September is normally the month when final proofs are checked by diocesan authorities, and returned to the Library before the final version is sent off for printing to DCG. The complete task remains as Charles described it in 1862: ‘arduous’! However, the revolution in electronic printing and availability of flexible publishing software, makes it easier to insert last–minute changes, and also for printing to be delayed to as late possible in year – luxuries not available to Charles in 1862, with the result that the edition for 1862 was printed in May, and, according to the title page the text was ‘corrected to April’ of that year only.

Today the Church of Ireland Directory remains an essential source of reference especially for members of boards of nomination who leaf its pages in the hopes of finding suitable rectors, and clergy seeking new colleagues, as well as general researchers interested in the workings of the Church and its contact information. 

Directory 1862To view the digitized 1862–edition of the Irish Church Directory click here.



For further information, please contact the current editor of the Directory:

Dr Susan Hood
RCB Library
Braemor Park
Dublin 14
Tel: 01–4923979
Fax: 01–4924770
E–mail: susan.hood@rcbdub.org