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October 2012

Archive of the Month

Architectural Drawings Archive

To access website, please click here

Detail from longitudinal section of Kilfinanne church county Limerick by Welland Architect (RCB Library PF22)

Holy Trinity, Rathmines, by John Semple & Son (RCB Library Ms 934/4)
List for MS 934

The Representative Church Body Library holds several collections of architectural drawings which are of value both for historical and architectural purposes. These drawings are used by students, academics, local historians and increasingly by those who have purchased former Church of Ireland churches and rectories and are anxious to know more about their new homes. They are also an important source for architects, increasingly those engaged in conservation architecture, and thus are a valuable heritage resource. Some of the drawings are the work of distinguished Irish architects such as John Semple, James Pain and Joseph Welland, and are works of considerable beauty as well as utility. Others are clearly working drawings, often traced on gun paper and so very fragile.

The smallest collection comprises eleven sets of drawings by the Dublin firm of John Semple & Son, architects for the Board of First Fruits for the province of Dublin, covering the period 1824 to 1831. These were separated from the Dublin diocesan archives. The collection includes drawings for some of the famous Dublin churches associated with Semple: for example, Holy Trinity–Rathmines, St Mary–Donnybrook and St Maeluain–Tallaght as well as churches in Cos Carlow, Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

More substantial is the six volume survey of churches by James Pain (c.1779–1877) who was successively architect for the Board of First Fruits and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the province of Cashel. The drawings, which cover the period 1826 to 1841, relate to churches in the dioceses of Cashel & Emly, Cloyne, Cork & Ross, Killaloe & Kilfenora, Limerick & Ardfert and Waterford & Lismore.

Brinny parish church by John Pain (RCB Library MS 138/ 3/10)
List for MS 138

In a simliar vein is the four volume set of drawings of churches mainly by Joseph Welland (1798–1860) who was architect of the Board of First Fruits and then the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the province of Tuam. The drawings cover the period 1850 to 1861. Volumes 1 & 2 are surveys of churches in the dioceses of Killala & Achonry, Ardagh, Elphin & Kilmore, Meath, Tuam, and Clonfert & Kilmacduagh. Volumes 3 & 4 are working drawings for churches in different parts of the country.

Magherafelt parish church by Joseph Welland (RCB Library MS 139//4/5)
List for MS 139

The miscellaneous dimension is evident also in a collection of drawings of glebe houses, deaneries and episcopal residences. These have largely been separated from parochial and diocesan collections or have been acquired from architectural practices. Covering the period 1807 to 1981, the collection includes work by some well know architects such as John Bowden and Thomas Drew and more modern firms with strong Church of Ireland associations such as McDonnell & Dixon and Donnelly & Henry. Unlike the previously described collections they also include some specifications which add considerably to the informational value of the drawings.

Glebe House
Mayo glebe house by Joseph Welland (RCB Library GH/60)

List GH/1–

By far the largest collection consists of 27 portfolios of 19th century drawings of churches from every diocese in the Church of Ireland. The provenance of this collection is uncertain but it seems likely that it was part of the archives of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners which was transferred to the Representative Church Body at disestablishment and to which drawings, often from diocesan architects, have subsequently been added. The collection includes the work of architects who are little represented in the other collections such as William Atkins, James Rawston Carroll and Frederick Darley. These drawings are being digitized and catalogued by the architectural historian, Dr Michael O’Neill FSA, and the first phase of the catalogue, which includes drawings from the dioceses of Achonry, Ardagh, Ardfert, Armagh, Cashel, Clogher, Clonfert and Cloyne are now freely available at www.archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org

Abington parish church county Limerick by Joseph Welland (RCB Library PF 17)

The Library’s Architectural Drawings website has now been featured by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as “Building of the Month” on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage website, with interesting photographs of finished buildings matching drawings featured in the inventory. See this link:


For further information, please contact:

Dr Raymond Refaussé
RCB Library
Braemor Park
Dublin 14
Tel: 01–4923979
Fax: 01–4924770
E–mail: raymond.refausse@rcbdub.org