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St. Anne's Church, Strandhill
Co. Sligo, Ireland
info@coneyislandchallenge.net
087 2439445



St Anne’s Parish

St Anne’s Knocknarea Diocese of Elphin

St Anne’s Knocknarea, Diocese of Elphin, Sligo

Location
St Anne’s Knocknarea, in the Diocese of Elphin, is a beautiful small church located in the ancient small parish of Killaspugbrone, over five miles west of Sligo on the road to Strandhill. It is situated close to the shoreline in a most scenic area below Knocknarea, on the top of which, according to legend, is the burial place of Maeve, Queen of Connacht. It forms an attractive grouping with the nearby coachhouse and glebe house.

St. Annes stained glass window

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The building of the churchIn the 1830s, Divine Services for members of the Church of Ireland living in the two small parishes in the area were held in private houses or in a small school somewhere close to the site of the present church. The proposal to build a church in the parish was made initially in 1835 and six years later fund-raising commenced. The appeal in 1841 was made to ‘Protestants of the Empire’ to build a church at the foot of Knocknarea (Cnoc na Riadh — variously translated as ‘the hill of execution, of the moon and of the kings and the smooth hill).

The main reasons given for building a new church were that it would provide a place of worship for Church of Ireland families in the Strandhill area who lived at a considerable walking distance from the nearest parish churches at Sligo and Ballysodare and who were also reluctant to attend either church because of the contrast of ‘their rustic garb with that of the better clad citizens’ of those towns.

By 1843 the required endowment of £1250 had been raised, almost all of which came from the local gentry who eventually were made trustees of the church. With further fund-raising by trustees and a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, work on the building commenced and the foundation stone of the building was laid on 29 September 1843. Almost two years later it was consecrated and dedicated to St Anne, as shown on the inscription above the porch door:

IN HONOREM B. ANNE DEO O.M. DEDICATA ERE PRIVATORUM COLLATO EDIFICATA A.D. MDCCCXLIII.

There is no extant record explaining the choice of dedication although as the wives and mothers of two of the most generous benefactors were both named Anne this may have been influential. The church was designed by John Benson, architect and engineer, of Sligo, who was later awarded a knighthood for his design of the buildings for the Irish Industrial Exhibition, Dublin, 1852.

St. Anne's Church drawing

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Style and features
The original small church was built in Gothic Revival style, with a three-bay nave, a lower and narrower structural chancel east of a chancel arch, a south facing porch and pointed openings. The nave was extended westwards by one bay in the mid 1860s with the architects, WeIland and Gillespie, adhering to the design of the original building. The walls, apart from the north face, are of limestone ashlar, which most likely came from quarries near Ballysodare. On the north face there are no windows, as in many other churches of that period, and the wall is rendered. The south, east and west walls which were visible from the old road have attractive features, with buttresses, hood mouldings on openings and tracery, stone mullions and dressed stone surrounds on the windows.

The gable of the attractive porch on the south wall is pierced by a trefoil shaped decoration. A stepped bell gable, containing a small bell with the inscription ‘Sheridan, Dublin, 1843, surmounts the roof at the east end of the nave and there are small decorative features on the gable tops. The ridge tiles have a decorative motif and the roof has bands of patterned slates. Unfortunately the very attractive south face of the building is not seen as the improved road now runs to the north of the church exposing the rendered wall and a recently built Sunday School extension to passing traffic.

Inside, the church is simple and mainly glazed with diamond panes of clear glass but it contains several most attractive fittings and features. There is stained glass in the three-light east window (1873) depicting Biblical scenes, the lancet on the south wall of the sanctuary and the twin windows on the west wall which contain the coat of arms and crest of one of founding families of the church. The altar, of ‘Neo-Elizabethan’ design (Williams), the marble and alabaster reredos, the ornately carved granite font, the carved oak pulpit, chairs and roof trusses, the wooden paneled ceiling, and the beautifully carved corbels with angels painted in blue and gold are, perhaps, the most decorative features. The pews bear names scratched by pupils of Primrose Grange School, which was situated in and had strong links with the parish until it moved in 1906 to become Silo Grammar School.

Memorials
There are many memorials in the church most of which commemorate members of the families of three original trustees (Wood, Walker and Phibbs) whose interest and constant generosity has done much to ensure the continuing redecoration and repair of the fabric, to adorn the building and, in the nineteenth century, to augment the stipend of the rector.

Only one of the descendants of those families now live in the parish but one maintains links and contributed very generously to the restoration of the church in the 1960s and gave a new organ in 1985. Many other families have also contributed over the years to the adornment and repair of the church, as has the local community (through fund raising events) and the Heritage Council.

Parish history
From 1681 until the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1870, Killaspugbrone and Kilmacowen, the two small ancient parishes ‘on the Strandhill peninsula’, were united to and were a perpetual curacy within Sligo Parish. That union of parishes was dissolved in 1871 and St Anne’s became the parish church for the area but only for just over fifty years until 1923, when the parishes were united once again. Possible closure of St Anne’s, threatened for a period of time due to lack of clergy during a lengthy interregnum in the early 1980s, was thankfully avoided mainly due to the efforts of a lay reader who faithfully conducted Morning Prayer each Sunday during that time.

The parish is now part of the United Parish of Sligo, Rosses Point and Strandhill and the Dean of Sligo leads a small clergy team providing services to all three.

Recent conservation work
Recent conservation work started on the church in July of 2011 and involved completely stripping the roof in order to repair leaks and install a new ceiling. The vast majority of the beautiful, scalloped, blue Bangor slates which adorned the south facing roof, were reused and the roof restored to its former state. A new ceiling designed to be in keeping with a church of this period has also been put in place. Appropriate insulation has also been inserted where none existed before.

The badly degraded west gable, both interior and exterior, has been repaired and most of the church interior sensitively re-plastered and the south window reveals repaired. All the work on the church has been carried out with regard to best conservation practice.
Having temporarily removed all the church furniture and lifted the carpet a lovely wooden and stone-flagged floor was discovered and that has also been cleaned and restored.
Further reading: Dedicated to St Anne by Duncan Scarlett

Services

Services are held every Sunday at 12 noon.
All are welcome to services at St Anne’s.

For more information on services contact:
Dean Arfon Williams, The Deanery, Strandhill Rd, Sligo
www.sligocathedral.elphin.anglican.org/
email: info@coneyislandchallenge.net 


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