In the beginning
Inspiring Arts - Fostering Heritage
SAINT GEORGE’S ARTS AND HERITAGE CENTRE
MITCHELSTOWN - COUNTY CORK - IRELAND - P67 XC61
Saint George’s is an iconic building in Mitchelstown, where it provides a pivotal point in one of the best planned Irish towns of the Georgian period. It terminates the southern end of George Street. Through its front doors, facing northwards, there is a magnificent view of the Galtee Mountains. The far end of George Street is terminated by the chapel and houses of Kingston College, and King Square. Construction of this square began in 1764. It is regarded as the finest Georgian square in any small town in Ireland. The N73 road, west of Saint George’s, leads to Mallow, Tralee and Killarney. Church Street, to the east, leads to the town centre.
The church was built in 1801-1804 by Caroline, Dowager Countess of Kingston. On her death in 1823, her eldest son, George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, inherited her 40,000 hectare estate which covered significant parts of counties Cork, Limerick and Tipperary. Known as 'Big George,' the third earl regarded the church built by his mother as being too small and too modest for a town the size of Mitchelstown. He had already built Mitchelstown Castle in 1823-’28, which was the largest castellated neo-Gothic house in Ireland and he wanted a parish church to mirror its neo-Gothic style. He commissioned the architects of his castle, James and George Richard Pain, to completely modify and enlarge the existing parish church for the Church of Ireland. Completed in 1830, the edifice was renamed 'Saint George's Church' and it became one of the best ecclesiastical buildings designed by the Pain brothers. The front fascade was designed to impress and give the impression that the building is bigger than it really is. Its 33-metre-tall steeple and many pinnacles, tower over the Mitchelstown skyline. Further impressive alterations were made to the church in 1883-1885, at which time the chancel was extended, the box-pews were removed and features such as the bell and Caen-stone pulpit were added. Two of the three stained glass windows were installed in the 1880s.
One of the first objectives of our restoration of Saint George’s was the reopening of the original glass and timber window in the bellringers' room which looked onto the nave. This had been the original chancel window of the church but was moved to its present location when a new chancel window was erected in 1884. For some inexplicable reason, after it was moved, the old window was completely closed up on one side. When it was re-opened in April 2019, something very unique was revealed. Research by Bill Power suggests that it was made by a Dublin glazier and painter, John Sellery of `Jeervis Street in 1830. There is no other window like it in any other Church of Ireland church. It is made of a combination of crystalline, coloured and painted glass, depicting bread, a chalice, myrtle, passion flowers, grapes and the hHoly Spirit in the form of a dove. Its reopening to the light is symbolic of our aims and objectives for the future of the project.
The congregation went into decline in the late 1800s. This decline continued until, in 2016, the parishioners decided to move Sunday Services to the chapel at Kingston College. Saint George’s Church was deconsecrated in August 2017. It was purchased in April 2019 by Brigown Arts and Heritage Project, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. The Board of Directors have committed themselves to safeguarding Saint George’s for future generations and have given it a new lease of life devoted to the arts, heritage, culture and tourism.
The restoration is dedicated to the memory of Rev. Canon Courtenay Moore, MA, rector of Brigown (Mitchelstown) 1882-1916. Canon Moore was an Ulsterman, Nationalist, antiquarian and prolific writer. He was the driving force behind the refurbishment of the church in 1884. His son, Paddy, was a close friend of C.S. Lewis. His daughter, Mrs Louis Rickard, wrote over thirty books and counted the artist, Sir John Lavery, among her closest friends. Along with others, she helped found The Detection Club, whose members included G.K. Chesterton and Agatha Christie.