STAPLESTOWN CHAPEL. A HISTORICAL SURVEY

by jdurney on July 26, 2013

The Leinster Leader 22 April 1939.

STAPLESTOWN CHAPEL

A HISTORICAL SURVEY

RECONSTRUCTION DEBT

The Roman Catholic Church at Staplestown is amongst the oldest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. The date of its construction cannot be fixed with certainty, but there is indirect evidence to show that it was in being in 1750. It replaced a ramshackle "Popish Masshouse" (to borrow the official language of those Penal Times) nearby, on the other side of the stream. When it left the hands of the masons, about 1750, it was a small, low, T. shaped structure, and roofed with thatch.
Forty years later, it plays a part in the local history of the period. On the outbreak of the Rebellion, in May 1798, the Barracks at Prosperous was garrisoned by forty men of the North Cork Militia, and twenty of the Ancient British Cavalry, under the command of Captain Swayne. At 2 o’clock in the morning of May 24, 1798, the barracks was stormed by a strong body of United Irishmen. The attack was short and fierce. Scarcely one of the soldiers escaped alive. By way of reprisal, the chapel of Staplestown was burnt down the following day. If local tradition be true (and I believe it is) the interruption of religious service was of brief duration. When the Rebellion subsided, the work of restoration was quickly taken in hand. The walls were raised by three courses, and the thatched roof was replaced by slate. During the next thirty years the population of thie side of the Clane Parish increased so rapidly that the little church of 1750 proved hopelessly inadequate for their accommodation. Not only was the church packed, but the congregation filled the Chapel yard, and overflowed out on to the road. Old men who were living fifty or sixty years ago, were they living to-day could tell us the same story of over-crowded churches, and overflow congregations, throughout the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin. Between the years 1800 and 1830, the population of Ireland increased by over two million. The countryside served by the Chapel at Staplestown, shared to the full in this growth. Hence, we are not surprised to find, from the reports submitted by Father Kearney, to Dr. Doyle (J.K.L.) in 1829, that the church at Staplestown has been "enlarged." But this word does much less than justice to what had been actually done. Accommodation had been more than doubled. Large additions had been made to the nave and transcepts, and each addition was provided with a spacious gallery, entered, at first, from outside, by a stone staircase. The removal of the external plastering, four years ago, revealed some of its past history, and, incidentally, confirmed the accuracy of local tradition. We saw the line of division between the old building and the subsequent enlargements, and the built-up doorways from outside giving entrance to the galleries. And (what I thought was interesting) the three additional courses, by which the original building had been raised, after the burning, in May, 1798, looked as fresh as if they had been there only from last year.
Close on two hundred years of wind and weather, beetles in the woodwork of the roof, a devastating deadly fungus (merulius lachrimans) in the floors and woodwork of the windows, have left this venerable relic of Penal days, in a sorry plight indeed. Its reconstruction has obliged us to replace almost everything except the walls, and entailed an expenditure of well over two thousand pounds. We are now faced with a debt of over £1,200.
May I ask you for support? Help, no matter how small, will be gratefully appreciated.
        L. J. KEHOE, P.P.,
          Clane.
Easter Sunday, 1939.

P.P. ― In connection with this appeal a Sweep on the Irish Derby is being promoted and tickets are obtainable at 1s. each. 1st. prize, £25; 2nd., £15; 3rd., £10; 4th., £5.

 

An article from the Leinster Leader of 22 April 1939 on the reconstruction debt of Staplestown chapel. Re-typed by Chris Holzgräwe

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