St Thomas’s Church – a brief history
The Parish of St. Thomas was formed out of St. Mary’s Parish by an Act of Parliament in 1749 to cope with increased population in St. Mary’s at the time.
The foundation stone of the Original St. Thomas’ Church, which was adjacent to the present site on (Marlborough Street), was laid in the year 1758. The architect of this church (and of St. Catherine’s in Thomas Street) was Mr. John Smith. The design was from one by Palladio. Two Thousand Pounds was granted by Parliament for the building of the church, and later another One Thousand pounds to finish it off. At the time it was considered to have the most beautiful facade of any church in the city.
The first church, which was in Marlborough Street was consecrated on December 21st (the Feast of St. Thomas), 1762 by the Most Reverend Charles Cobbe, D.D., Lord Archbishop of Dublin.
The church was destroyed by fire which destroyed most of Upper Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) on July 6th 1922 during the Civil War. The Church was not the target. A licence was issued to hold services in the Parochial Hall. The present Church is built on the site of the original parochial hall (1885 – 86) which remained after the ruin of the Church had been swept away. In 1922 the Parish was united with St. Barnabas’s and Trinity Church.
The Most Reverend John Alan Fitzgerald Gregg, D.D. laid the foundation stone of the present church, on 28th June 1930. This stone is to be seen inside the church on the left-hand side of the entrance door. The church was consecrated on St. Thomas’ Day 1931.
The architect of the present church, which was built in the style known as “Lombardic” was Frederick G. Hicks, FRIBA, FRIAI, and ARHA. He was the prestigious Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, designed to promote buildings of exceptional architectural merit and awarded every three years, and a Silver Medal awarded at the Tailtean Exhibition.
At the East End of the church there are three beautiful windows representing “The Way”, “The Truth” and “The Life”. These were designed and executed by Ms. K. O’Brien.
In 1966 the Parish of St.Thomas was separated from St.Barnabas’s and united to St. George’s. When St. Georges closed in 1990, St. Thomas’s became the church of the United Parishes.
So today, the present parish of St. George and St. Thomas covers a geographical area roughly from O’Connell Bridge east to Commons Road and north to Phibsborough. The reason for this is that the current parish incorporates many other parishes which over the years were closed.
Beginning at the northern end of the parish, the parish Church of St. Augustine was situated on the North Circular Road close to Mountjoy Prison. For some years it served as the church for the female penitentiary. In 1911 it became part of St. George’s Parish and was then closed for worship some years later. The building has been demolished.
St. Aidan’s Church was situated on the Drumcondra Road. It was consecrated in 1902 as a Chapel of Ease to St. George’s to serve the increasing population of that residential district. The building was built to accommodate 400 people. Less than a century later, in 1962 the church was closed and demolished and a new Rectory for St George’s parish erected on the site.
St George’s, Hardwicke Place is a distinctive Georgian Building, mentioned in literature including James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. The building was designed by the architect Francis Johnston and consecrated in 1814. It was a fine building and was the place of worship for the many wealthy people who lived in the Georgian Squares and Streets of the area. However, decline in the population of the area, meant that the congregation also declined and it became apparent that the number of people who belonged to the church could no longer sustain the building. The final service was held in St George’s on 29th April 1990. The fine bells were removed to Taney Parish Church. The building has been committed to other uses.
The Free Church was built in 1800 as a Methodist Chapel but was bought by the Church of Ireland and consecrated in 1828. The founders agreed that “The Free Church should not be a Parish Church or a Chapel of Ease to any Parish Church, but that it should continue on and free to all descriptions of persons inhabitants of Dublin, during the time of Divine Service, especially for the accommodation of the poorer classes to inhabitants with liberty of entering therein and occupying the seats and pews”. Again declining numbers meant that the congregation could no longer sustain a large building and the church was closed in 1988. It is appropriate that the Pavee Point organisation which works with travellers now uses the building and so in a different way the ideals of the founders are still being met.
Trinity Church, Lower Gardiner Street was built in 1838 and is still a landmark close to the railway bridge. However, the life of the building as a church was short lived and it was closed in 1916. Most recently it was used as a social welfare office, but a Christian Group has now obtained the building and once again it will function as a place of worship.
St. Thomas’ Church is now Parish Church of St. George and St. Thomas. The only surviving amongst the above mentioned. Consecrated in 1931 it replaced the earlier St Thomas’s destroyed in the Civil War. It is a small interesting building in the heart of the city and the committed congregation hopes that it will continue to thrive and grow in the 21st Century.
Current Parish Church of St. George and St. Thomas, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin 1. Consecreted in 1931.