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Printable version

September 2012 Archive of the Month – Earliest Irish Church Directory online

RCB Library Notes

Added on 03/09/2012

September ArchiveWith the onset of the decade of commemorations, the Church of Ireland’s RCB Library is marking the 150th anniversary of publication of The Irish Church Directory (now the Church of Ireland Directory) published annually since 1862, by digitizing the first edition. This will appear online for the first time, but in the original format that it was published by James Charles, the 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, from Monday the 3rd September, and is the Library’s September Archive of the Month feature.

The layout of the 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, 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 members of the Church of Ireland clergy in the 19th century) and then the diocesan sections. These provide the meat of the volume and give the interested modern reader a fascinating snap–shot view of the Church of Ireland at this time – a ‘who’s who’ of its personnel, precise information about its size and geographical extent, and also an insight to the value of its benefices.

There is a depiction of each diocesan coat of arms, a breakdown of the number of benefices, their patronage, and the counties covered within each one, as well as the 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 provided, before each individual benefice is scrutinized in tabular form, naming each incumbent and curate (with career details including year of ordination, date of admission to the diocese, and date of appointment to either benefice or curacy of each); the acreage and value of the glebe land associated with the it; the rent–charge or stipend paid to the incumbent for holding it as well additional augmentations (if any) and comparative gross and net calculations of value (where available). Also listed are the name of the patron of each benefice, and the accommodation capacity of the church or churches within it.

In the preface to the volume James Charles reveals that an important underpinning motivation in the initial directory project 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 interests of both clergy and laity to show that the actual income of each benefice was not as high as believed, and that individual clergy were not being overpaid.

Other useful sections in the Directory reflect the nature of the Church and its key associations (including schools, charities and other organizations) in the mid–19th century – providing the historian with valuable information about the extent of the Church of Ireland through changing times.

In 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 directories dating back to 1862. 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 essential contact information.

To view the digitized 1862–edition of the Irish Church Directory from Monday the 3rd of September please see: www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

For further information please contact the current editor of the Church of Ireland Directory:
Dr Susan Hood
RCB Library
Braemor Park
Churchtown
Dublin 14
Tel: 01–4923979
Fax: 01–4924770
E–mail: susan.hood@rcbdub.org