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Kilfinaghty Parish Church

Kilfinaghty Parish Church is located on Church St., Sixmilebridge. It, and its predecessor on the same site, served the Church of Ireland community in the district for over 300 years up to its closure in 1970. It is named after St. Finaghta the patron saint of Sixmilebridge parish, who also gave his name to the ecclesiastical and civil parish of Kilfinaghta.

The present church was built in approximately 1736. Dr. Richard Pococke, Archdeacon of Dublin, in his tour of 1752 arrived in Sixmilebridge from Quin. He found a small neat town on a fine rivulet. A handsome new church and near it Mr. Ievers has a pleasant new built house. Since Mount Ievers court was finished in 1736 we assume the completion date for the church was around the same time. The church was built to serve the spiritual needs of the rapidly expanding Protestant population of Sixmilebridge. It is a standard Board of First Fruits church capable of accommodating 400 people. It comprises of a simple rectangular hall with a tower on the West side and a semi oval sanctuary on the East. It is built of coursed rubble stone. Corner stones are dressed. The interior walls are rendered in lime plaster. Four large windows are located on the South side of the building with two smaller ones on the North side. The walls of the church are 600mm thick. Their foundations are approximately 2m below the internal floor level of the church. Five separate crypts are located inside the church walls within this 2m depth. The church is surrounded by a burial ground containing about 60 burial plots.

Memorial tablets inserted in the North wall of the church commemorate local Protestant families. The four memorials neatly demonstrate the different ethnic origins of settlers who came to the Sixmilebridge area in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The D’Esterres were Huguenots, the Vandeleurs were Dutch Protestants, Wilsons were what is termed New English and Butlers were Old English. A particularly impressive memorial is that of Captain Arthur Vandeleur of Rahlahine who died in an explosion in Woolwich, outside London, in 1860.

The next building phase occurred in or about 1810. The level of the public road outside the East wall was lowered by 1.5m. Steps and an entrance gate were erected. A stone plaque over the gateway warns

Any person injuring gate or wall or putting manure near the churchyard will be punished as the law directs by Michael D’Alton.
AD 1810; Henry Butler, CW

The glebe house was built in 1812 with money from the Board of First Fruits. It is located about mid-way between Sixmilebridge and Bunratty in an area now known as the Minister’s Cross.

In 1837, Samuel Lewis reported in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland that Sixmilebridge has been long declining. The Church is an old edifice, the tower was taken down a few years ago. For rebuilding the Ecclesiastical Church Commissioners have recently granted 542. The Architect James Pain was appointed to design the renovations. His drawings have survived and are preserved in the Representative Church Body library in Dublin. The drawings are undated but other drawings by him relating to Killaloe diocese are dated between 1837 and 1841. A new tower, vestry and an internal gallery to accommodate a harmonium were constructed, presumably in the 1840s.

In 1906, a stained glass window in three panels, manufactured by the Dublin workshop of An Tur Gloine and donated by the Ievers family, was inserted into the East Gable. When the church was closed in 1970 the window was removed for safekeeping, restored and installed in St. Cronan’s church, Tuamgraney in 1990.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, church attendance unremittingly declined reflecting the drop in the local Church of Ireland population. The only registers to survive and be deposited in the RCB library are the marriage registers for 1862 to 1939. From 1862 to 1899, 12 marriages were celebrated. From 1900 to 1939 the number had dropped to 7. The church closed in the 1940s. The parish was united with Kilnasoolagh in 1949. The church reopened in 1963. The preacher’s book for this period shows that an average of six people came to the Sunday morning service and 12 to the evening service. This low level of attendance could not be sustained and the church closed permanently for religious services in 1970. The bell, inscribed The gift of Col. Augustine Fitzgerald to the parish of Sixmilebridge, 1771 was taken down and given to the Catholic Church in Shannon. The stained glass windows were removed and the windows and doors were blocked up to inhibit vandalism. Thus the church remained until 1996 when the present conservation and conversion to a library project commenced.

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