Saint George's Parish Church, Goresbridge [Grange Sylvae]


Grange Sylvae church was built around 1807 as a replacement of the old church situated in the precincts of the abbey. The present building was grant-aided by the Board of First Fruits and is constructed in the typical unadorned three-bay hall and tower pattern. An elegant spire was part of the original plans but this was never built. The building work was continually disrupted by financial problems and thefts. Unsurprisingly, major repairs were necessary fifteen years after its consecration. The church was designed by Frances Johnstone [1760-1829] who was one of the most significant architects of his day. He was architect to Archbishop Robinson and his work includes Dublin's General Post Office, Saint George's Church, Hardwicke Place and the chapel of Dublin Castle. His secular buildings include the Armagh Observatory and the conversion of the Irish Parliament buildings for the use of the Bank of Ireland. A curious and interesting aspect of his work was his appointment as architect to the Commissioners for the Erection of Lunatic Asylums. With his cousin, William Murray, he designed the general plan for the new asylums which were erected during the 1820s in Belfast, Carlow, Armagh and Derry. he parish of Clonagoose worships in the chapel of Saint Moling which is the private chapel of Borris House. It is a stunning example of the Tudor Revival architectural style and has been recently restored. The chapel is a detached single-cell construction built around 1820 and incorporates an undercroft, buttresses, turret and truncated tower. The interior retains the original apse with minor balconies, west gallery and rib-vaulted ceiling. The communion rail and gallery are similar in design to that of the staircase in the main house. On the west gallery there is a striking abstract mural, The Tree of Life, by the British-born Irish artist, Barrie Cook. The chapel is set in the beautiful grounds of Borris House, accessed through the imposing Tudor gates off the main thoroughfare of the village.

Grange Sylvae church is elegant in its simplicity. It has gothic arch windows and doorways with modest architectural flourishes on the tower. These include hooded mouldings and pinnacles. The north windows have all been in-filled presumably to conserve heat. Grange Sylvae houses a striking monument to Colonel Arthur Gore who fought in the Napoleonic War. The monument depicts Gore’s military trophies and has a relief of the battle of Bergen-op-Zoom. It is included in Homan Potterton’s book on notable church monuments. Another important artefact is the remarkable 13th font.

The church was closed for almost ten years in the 1960's due to its dilapidated state. Remarkably, it was re-opened and re-consecrated after extensive fundraising and repairs. These efforts were initiated by the small but highly committed group of parishioners of which the Whitford family are a driving influence. Grange Sylvae is beautifully maintained both inside and out.

VISITING US: The church is not open outside times of worship. To gain access to the church please contact the dean or Ms Emily Whitford-McDonald.