Fundraising got underway in the early 1840's and the foundation stone was laid in 1844. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated in the church for the first time in 1848. During the construction, Fr. Murphy used every ploy to keep the expenses to a minimum and the locals were totally supportive of the project. In addition to finances and labour, many items of interest were donated by the more affluent members of the community.
Fr. Murphy kept meticulous financial records. These records have survived and provide fascinating reading for anyone even remotely interested in the history of the church.
|The parishioners agreed to pay a tax of 2s-0d per acre in two instalments which amounted to||£285-5-11.|
|Parishioners in easy circumstances, besides paying their portion of this tax, gave voluntary offerings which amounted to||£146-10-6.|
|October 30th A collection of voluntary offerings was made at the chapel door amounting to||£178-1-10.|
|October 10th Another collection of the same kind||£104-3-0.|
|October 8th- the new church was opened and a collection was made which amounted to||£103-19-2.|
|The box collection on Sundays for five years and two months from 1st September 1845 to 1st November 1850 produced||£171-4-7½.|
|This gave a total contribution by parishioners of||£989-5-0½.
||Contributed by non-parishioners
||Clerical contributions amounted to ||£161-10-10
||Protestant residents or landlords || £ 97- 0 - 0
||Catholics, non-parishioners ||£402- 8 - 6
||Nov.30th collection made at chapel of Glynn ||£ 82-14- 5½
||Cards produced ||£ 38- 7 - 0
||Amount contributed by non-parishioners ||£782- 0 - 9½
||By parishioners as above ||£989- 5 - 0½
||Total amount received ||£1771- 5 10
||Total amount expended ||£1723- 9- 1½
||Balance ||£ 4716- 8½
||This balance was transferred to the account of the parochial house.
|Preparatory expenses||£ - s - d|
|Leases and surveying||3 0 0|
|Buying T. Cousin's interest||9 0 0|
|Paid for gate||18 11|
|Building walls and piers||215 0|
|Paid John McGrath for the fee of a plot of land||10 0 0|
|To Martin Edwards for change of bounds||3 0 0|
|To Thomas Breen for a small plot|| 2 2 0
||Total paid for preparatory expenses
|| £3015 11
||£ - s - d
||22 4 11
||Cut and hammered stone
||318 9 - 11½
||41 8 8
||Foreman mason 57 weeks 3 days at £1 1s p.w.
||60 7 6
||182 7 -10½
||91 16 3
||Cost of walls
||£767 12 7
||173 14 8
||Carpenter work of exterior
|| 80 16 0
||6 11 - 6½
||Spikes and nails
||10 16 10
||Slates, laths and ridging stone
||108 - 1 9
||Slating, ridging and plumbing
|| 31 13 0
||Sundries for roof (copper, nails, lead etc.)
||37 11 8
||Making, glazing and putting up 21 sashes
||46 6 -11½
||Cost of roof and windows
||£495 12 - 5
||767 12 7
||Roof and windows
||495 12 5
||Total cost of exterior
||£1,263- 5 0
||Water suites for eave
||7 16 4
||Metal chimney tops
||1 12 0
||Total cost of extra expenses
||£9 8 4
||8 4 6
||Plastering church, vestries and porches
|| 20 0 0
||Laths, nails and attendance
||Staining roof and all the fixed timber
||Mason work and labour
|| 7 7 6
||1 6 6
||Timber (some scaffolding timber was used)
||13 1 2
||42 5 0
||Smith's work and hardware
||8 4- 0
||11 19 6
||Tiles for floor
||44 3 4
||5 12 -9½
||Putting up altar windows
||11 18 6
||11 6 3
||Carriage Exps. & putting up altar & tabernacle
||16 11 3
||Altar of the Blessed Virgin
||9 11 0
||Two stone chimney-pieces for vestries
||1 9 0
||Large holy water font
||4 0 0
||Small holy water font
||1 5 0
||Setting holy water font
||Notice bell for Mass
|| 6 0
||Cost of interior
||£ 255 7 7
||Cost of exterior, as above
||£1,263 5 0
||Sundry small contingents not classified
||8 18 -2½
||Total cost of the building
||£1,527 10 - 9½
||Seats, benches, etc. timber to make them
||29 5 0
||24 1 3
||13 8 11
||Six large altar candlesticks
||12 0 0
||Shields for same
||1 1 0
||3 10 0
||2 10 0
||Cruets and stand
||1 2 0
||Packing cases and freight
||1 8 4
||Curtains for both altars
||4 1 8
||Carpeting for sanctuaries
||5 3 - 7½
||Crucifix for vestry
||Oil cloth for altar
||Chalice (second hand)
||4 10 0
||Amount paid for furniture
||£ 104 10 -10½
||Expenses of enclosing, planting, clearing, draining etc. on the whole
||Expended in 1846
||15 10 3
||20 16 - 4½
||10 11 5
||4 5 4
||Total expended on grounds
||£ 51 3 - 4½
||30 15 11
||Cost of church
||1,527 10 - 7½
||Cost of furniture
||104 10 -10½
||Cost of extras
||9 8 4
||51 3 - 4½
||£1,723 9 - 1½
This was an amazingly small amount of money even in those days. It was due in no small way to the goodwill of the local people who, in their spare time, voluntarily carted the rubble stone from the quarry at Newtown, and gave freely of their labour. Older residents of the parish have said that it was not unusual to see convoys of men with their horses and carts leave for Carlow to collect the cut granite stone. It is of interest to note that the total cost of the church was approximately the same as the cost of buying the cut stone used in the recent erection of the arch at the main entrance.
The following extract is from the 'Wexford Independent', Saturday, 13th September, 1851: -
On Monday last, the solemn and particularly interesting ceremony of dedication of the new Catholic church at Barntown to the service of Almighty God was performed by Right Rev. Dr. Murphy, bishop of this diocese, assisted by the clergy of the town and neighbouring districts. After the dedication ceremony, High Mass was celebrated, followed by Benediction.
The church was crowded by a respectable congregation, embracing several of the gentry and many of our Protestant brethren, who seemed to take a deep interest in the solemn grandeur and exalted piety of all the ceremonies of the day.
Most churches at the time were dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. The honour in the case of Barntown church was shared with St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. This was the first church in Ireland to be dedicated to St. Alphonsus.
St. Alphonsus was born in southern Italy in 1696. Having finished his education at the university, he practised as a lawyer for eight years. He then abandoned law and became a priest. Some years after ordination, he established an order of contemplative nuns and a community of priests, the Redemptorists, who would devote themselves to the work of missions and retreats. When his life's work was complete, he retired to one of his monasteries where he died on August 1st, 1787, in his ninety-second year. He was canonised in 1839, a few years before the erection of the church. His feast day, August 1st, is commemorated each year by a pattern at Barntown.
An account of this mission from chronicles of Mount St. Alphonsus: - The mission was given in the two chapels of the same parish. On the mountain was Fr. Theunis (Superior) with Frs. Petcherin and Vanderae. At Glynn, in the valley, was Fr. Bernard, with Frs. Leo and Coffin. The mission was opened on Saturday, 8th July and closed on 24th. There were 1,500 Communions in both places. We were obliged, many times to preach in the open air, and to have an altar erected for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The church in Barntown is one of the finest specimens of a country church. It was designed by Pugin and in his best style. It was the first church in Ireland dedicated to St. Alphonsus. The parish priest, Very Rev. Dean Murphy, V.G., is a most venerable old man, of seventy years or more. He has been in this parish for more than thirty years. At the farewell sermon, Fr. Bernard bade him rise and show himself to his people. The impression was indescribable. His grey hair and wasted frame spoke of a long life of untiring zeal. Both the flock and the pastor shed tears.
The people of Wexford came in great numbers to the mission at Barntown. They remembered in their grateful hearts the mission at Wexford the previous year. Many people spoke with veneration and love of the late Fr. John Vanantwerpen. 'The Dear Angel' was the name they gave him."
From Fr. Murphy's notes: -
Voluntary offerings before the mission £23 0 0
Received for seats in the chapel during mission £32 15 - 1½
Expended: Travelling expenses of the Fathers £15 0 0
In 1860, a second mission was given at Barntown by the Redemptorist priests at the request of Very Rev. Dean Murphy, P.P., who was now bed-ridden, with many infirmities. However, mindful of his flock, he said 'I want to give them a mission again before I appear before the judgement seat of Christ'. This mission was also a great success.
His health for several years had been failing and he was obliged to confine himself to his bedroom. He resolved to tender his resignation, but parishioners begged that he might still rule over them even though he resided in Wexford. Very Rev. Dr. Furlong presided at this Office and High Mass, in the church of the Immaculate Conception, Rowe St., Wexford. There were fifty clergy present.
The funeral which left Wexford for Barntown, had a numerous and highly respectable attendance. Upwards of 200 vehicles filed along the road and these, together with the horsemen and those who attended on foot, made up a funeral cortege which extended beyond a mile. A considerable number of Protestant gentlemen also attended. Several Protestant gentlemen contributed dues to him up to the time of his death.
His remains were laid in a vault at the right of the altar.
The death of Fr. Murphy heralded the end of an era for the people of Barntown. He was deeply committed to both the people and the development of the church.
During the time of his residency here the seat of the parish transferred from Glynn to Barntown. After his death, Fr. Foley, the then curate of Glynn, became his successor and the seat of the parish reverted back to Glynn.
On March 10th, 1899 the church grounds were purchased out in fee simple by Rev. J.F. Canon Doyle, P.P., from the representatives of James Howlin through the Landed Estates Court.
As the land on which the church stood was not legally owned by the church authorities until 1899, the consecration was delayed until that year.
The first major renovations to the church were carried out at this time, which included the erection of a reredos of marble and highly carved Caen stone to enhance the beautiful original carved Caen stone altar. The timber altar rails were removed and were replaced by brown marble rails which matched the brown marble of the reredos.
John Sinnott, Keelogues, presented an ornately carved wooden pulpit which was erected by Len Stone, Barntown. The walls were wainscoted for the first time and this work was completed by Joe Jackman, Newtown. A brass candelabra was donated by John and Julia Whelan, Holmestown. As donations were received from generous parishioners the lattice windows were, in turn, replaced by stained glass windows. Among the donors were the Hayes, Sinnott, Kehoe, Lambert, Byrne, Whelan and Brennan families.
The interior of the church was completely redecorated for the consecration ceremony. (Note: During the recent extensive renovations the names of John Sinnott, William Duggan and James Evoy, painters, were discovered written on a roof beam dated March 1898.)
On September 12th, 1899, the church was consecrated to the service
of the Lord by the Bishop Most Rev. Dr. Browne.
The following extract from 'The People' newspaper, September 16th,
The consecration of a church in a land where Catholics are only just recovering from penal laws is no common event and, to many of the onlookers, the ceremony must have been bewildering.
The bishop commenced by reciting the seven Penitential Psalms and chanting the Litany of the Saints at the main entrance. With blessed salt and water, he blessed the outer walls and cemetery
The bishop blessed a mixture of salt, water, wine and ashes and sprinkled the walls of the church within. He then consecrated the High Altar and placed the relics of St. Victor and St. Lucy in the altar . The Mass was celebrated by the bishop himself. This long and imposing ceremony began at eight o'clock and concluded about midday
The bishop was assisted throughout the ceremony by Rev. J. Rossiter, C.C., as deacon, and Rev. J. Howell, C.C.. as sub-deacon. The place of the deacon, to whom the care of the church previous to its consecration is entrusted, was taken by Rev. J. Murphy, C.C. Rev. J. M. Browne, C.C., acted as master of ceremonies. The clergy present in the church were: Very Rev. S. Canon Cloney, P.P., Castlebridge; Very Rev. J. Canon O'Brien, P.P., Ballymurn; Very Rev. P. D. Kehoe, Grantstown; Rev. J. F. Doyle, P.P., Glynn; Rev. Wm. Fortune P.P., Piercestown; Rev. J. Corish, P.P., Ballymore; Rev. J. Kehoe OSA, Grantstown; Rev. J. Busher MSS, Enniscorthy; Rev. James Murphy, C.C., Crossabeg; Rev. J. Rossiter, C.C., Wexford.
There was also a large number of the parishioners present who
followed, with much interest and attention, the entire ceremony."
Eyewitnesses spoke of a severe thunder and lightning storm, which coincided with the ceremonies and added greatly to the awe and wonderment of the occasion.
Mr Martin Pierce of Park House and owner of Pierces' iron foundry, Wexford generously defrayed the legal expenses of the land transaction and also a large proportion of the cost of the extensive renovations of the time.
The work commenced in 1946. The walls were made structurally sound by pointing the exterior stone work and plastering the interior walls. The repainting of the interior did not include stencil work which was a feature of the church until then. The roof was repaired, the slates cleaned and the bells restored. New gates were fitted at the main entrance. Part of the floor was laid with pitchpine.
Works of art installed in the chapel at the time include: -
Carved marble statute of Our Lady of Fatima Italian
The Triple Message of Fatima Rosary window Harry Clarke Studio
The Blessed Virgin and Three Children of Fatima window Harry Clarke Studio
The Assumption of Our Lady and Apparition window Harry Clarke Studio
The chancel floor bears two mosaic panels representing the sacrifice of Abraham and Melchisedech - Abraham signifying the Old Law and Melchisedech the New Law.
On the sanctuary floor are four mosaic medallions representing the emblems of the four evangelists, the authors of the four versions of the Gospel of Christ Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The mosaic work was carried out by Italian craftsmen.
Episcopal chair, screen, shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour William Kane
The altar-rails, Our Lady's altar and baptistery font Earley and Co.
The Sanctuary lamp by Gunning and Co. was originally made for the Franciscan friary in Wexford. It is hand-made in bronze, decorated in leaves and semi-precious stones. It is gilt all over with 24-carat fine gold and is hand-burnished. Seven Franciscan saints and St. Aidan of Ferns are depicted in panels on the under side of the lamp. These panels are enamelled onto copper.
The pulpit was mainly composed of Carrara marble with a base of Lavento, Galway green and Sicilian marbles. It was octagonal in shape, seven panels had carvings and mosaics, the eighth formed the entrance. The interior was lined with Sicilian marble. The steps were Sicilian marble with bronze hand rails by Gunning and Co. The mosaic panels depicted the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The pulpit was made by Earley and Co. This pulpit replaced the former timber pulpit.
An extract from 'The People' newspaper October 1948: -
The centenary of Barntown church was celebrated on Sunday with an impressive ceremony in the beautiful building recently renovated and decorated. The church was thronged by a congregation including many from other parishes who came to associate themselves with an occasion of great joy for the pastor of Glynn, Rev. P. Murphy and the curate of Barntown, Rev. J. Breen.
The church presented a lovely picture in its well-kept grounds under a brilliant Autumn sun. The grounds and vicinity were decorated for the great occasion.
Solemn High Mass was celebrated at which Most Rev. Dr. Staunton presided. The sermon was preached by Rev. John Kelly, C.S.S.R., and His Lordship ascended the pulpit and also addressed the congregation. A choir of students from St. Peter's College sang at High Mass. Barntown church choir sang for Solemn Benediction.
Arrangements for the accommodation of the large congregation were
supervised by Frs. Murphy and Breen. Members of the Civic Guard
were in attendance for the control of traffic and direction of people who
attended the ceremonies.
Miss O'Ryan, M.C.C., represented the President, Mr. Sean T. O'Kelly. The attendance also included Mr. T. D. Sinnott, County Manager, and Mr. & Mrs. P. B. Pierce."
Seating for the ceremony was by ticket only, at a cost of half a crown.
Once again a member of the Pierce family, Mr. Philip Pierce of Park House (now occupied by Mr. Tomαs Williams and family) defrayed the cost of a major portion of the work.
A local firm, Cleary and Doyle, were hired as the main contractors for the project.
When work began, major structural damage was discovered in the roof beams and walls, which was more extensive than anticipated. When carrying out these repairs it was necessary to cover the beautiful original plastered and stencilled ceiling.
Some of the other major works carried out include: -
Converting the altar boys' vestry into a beautiful Oratory;
Re-styling of the Sanctuary area which included carpeting,
lowering the reredos, installing a front altar and ambo;
Renewing the heating, lighting and public address systems;
Replacing the wainscoting and confessional;
Repainting roof timbers, ceiling and walls which included stencilling the walls with the original pattern;
Restoring some of the older stained glass windows;
General improvements to the priest's vestry, baptismal area and porches;
Sandblasting the exterior stonework;
Repairing the bells;
Building an external workhouse and toilets.
The cost of all this work was enormous and fundraising in the parish will occupy the committee for some time.
On the death of Fr. David Kent, the following obituary appeared in The People newspaper, 13th July, 1878: -
Fr. Kent died at his residence, Barntown, early on Friday morning. He was over 73 years of age. He was ordained priest about 1836. He served in many parishes before being transferred to Barntown about a year and a half ago. He had been ill for a few days. He was interred in Barntown church."
The death of Fr. Gaul at such a young age caused widespread grief in the parish. The following is his obituary, which appeared in The People newspaper on 20th January 1926.
Great surprise and sorrow were expressed on Sunday night when it was learned the Rev. James Gaul, C.C., Barntown had passed away that evening. Fr. Gaul was son of Patrick Gaul, Waterloo Rd., Wexford, and was in his 49th year. He was ordained in 1902 and transferred to Barntown in 1919. His health had not been good for some years and his death will be keenly regretted. The interment took place on Tuesday in the church grounds.
The last priest to die while serving in the curacy was Rev. Patrick Browne, C.C. His obituary appeared in 'The People' newspaper, 26th February 1944.
It is with deep regret that we announce the death of a well known and well beloved priest of the diocese of Ferns, Rev. Patrick Browne, C.C., Barntown, which took place at his residence early on Monday morning last. Fr. Browne was born in Ballywilliam 53 years ago. He was ordained a priest in 1917 by the late Most Rev. Dr. Browne. He succeeded Very Rev. R. Hickey, president, St. Peter's College, in Barntown where he remained till his death. In his priestly career, Fr. Browne was ever zealous for the salvation of the souls entrusted to him, a fact which was realised by the people, and made him beloved by all. He was also noted for his charity to the deserving poor, who never failed to find in him a friend. He was responsible for the introduction of the Legion of Mary to the Barntown district. Since the commencement of the Emergency, he had done his utmost to promote the interests of the social services in his area. The trying days of his last illness were borne with great Christian fortitude and patience, which will ever serve as an example to the people. The report of his passing away on Monday last at a comparatively early age was universally regretted. The remains were transferred to the church on Monday evening and were attended by a large number of parishioners and friends. The solemn requiem Mass and Office were offered on Wednesday. The remains were interred in the priest's plot. The bishop recited the funeral service. The local L.D.F. lined the route of the funeral procession. Among the chief mourners were Mr. Sean T. O'Kelly and Mr. Eoin O'Ryan representing Dr. Ryan, T.D., Minister for Agriculture.
The following are the priests who served in St. Alphonsus' church throughout its long history: -
|Rev. Patrick Murphy, P.P.||1841-1867|
|Rev. William Furlong, C.C.||1845-1867|
|Rev. James Browne, C.C.||1867-1869|
|Rev. John Parker, C.C.||1869-1872|
|Rev. James Kavanagh, C.C.||1872-1877|
|Rev. David Kent, C.C.||1877-1878|
|Rev. Matthew Kavanagh, C.C.||1878-1886|
|Rev. Edward Brennan, C.C.||1886-1888|
|Rev. Jeremiah O'Connor, C.C.||1888-1893|
|Rev. John Browne, C.C.||1893-1900|
|Rev. James Hartley, C.C.||1900-1910|
|Rev. Henry Lambert, C.C.||1910-1919|
|Rev. James Gaul, C.C.||1919-1926|
|Rev. Robert Hickey, C.C.||1926-1932|
|Rev. Patrick Browne, C.C.||1932-1944|
|Rev. John Breen, C.C.||1944-1960|
|Rev. M. Lorenzo Cleary, C.C.||1960-1972|
|Rev. Robert Nolan, C.C.||1972-1976|
|Rev. Fredrick Hammel, C.C.||1976-1979|
|Rev. Gerard O'Leary, C.C.||1979-1980|
|Rev. Richard Hayes, C.C.||1980-1991|
|Rev. Martin Nolan, C.C.||1991-1995|
|Rev. Sιan Gorman, C.C.||1995 to date|
All the above have left their own indelible mark on both the church building and its people. Some have gone to their eternal reward but none should be forgotten for their contribution to the pastoral life of the parish.
The people of Barntown are extremely proud of their church, which is a fitting monument to their ancestors who sacrificed so much to provide this beautiful edifice in poorer times. It attracts numerous visitors who come to view its restored glory and who are overwhelmed by the beauty of this country church. In its lovely setting overlooking the river Slaney, St. Alphonsus' church is indeed the 'Gem of the Diocese of Ferns'.