About Villierstown Church

Building of the church was completed in 1748 and remained outside the general Protestant administration and had the status of Chapel of Ease.  Marriage services could not be performed without special licence.  After the death in 1846 of Rev. Philip Homan, Baron Stuart De Decies attempted to appoint a successor and The Bishop of Cashel and Emly opposed that move, resulting in a protracted argument which the bishop won on the grounds that only he had the final say on clerical appointments.  Shortly afterwards came the Act of Disestablishment separating the Church of Ireland from the Church of England and no longer having the English monarch head of the Church of Ireland at that time too, all chapels and churches not under church control were taken into the Church of Ireland.  Private ownership of churches was no longer permitted.

By 1920 the Church of Ireland decided it was no longer viable to have a curate solely for Villierstown and so it was tended by the Cappoquin curate.  That situation continued until 1955 when the numbers attending fell to about six people.

The Church of Ireland sparsely populated commission finally closed the church in 1958 and thus began the legal problems in regard to the property.

The commission had recommended removal of the roof and capping the walls and retaining the porch as a mortuary chapel for the cemetery.  The Villiers Stuart family were not happy with that outcome and so after meeting with the Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Dr. Cohalan, it was agreed that the diocese would take it as a catholic church for the people of Villierstown.  This was agreed to by the Church of Ireland, the first time a Church of Ireland Church was given to a Catholic Parish.

Fate intervened with the death of Dr. Cohalan and around the same time the parish priest Fr. Hackett also died.  The new catholic bishop and parish priest were not so enthusiastic deciding that three existing churches were enough for the parish.

During all this time the church building continued to deteriorate, even more so after the removal of its furnishings by the Dean of Lismore.

In the late 1960’s the parish of Aglish transferred the church to Helen Villiers Stuart who was then living in Dromana house and some works were carried out with the assistance of the State Training Agency (ANO).

After Helen’s death in 1986 her family agreed to a transfer of the church to a charitable trust to hopefully secure its future, and some important improvements were undertaken; the central crossing of the roof structure was replaced, also re-wiring of the building, toilets and heating system were installed allowing more use of the building.  This was the case for aprox 20 years.  By then many members of that trust had passed away leading to a situation of legal limbo.  However as of September 2010 a new Villierstown Church Company is in place, formed by 3 remaining members of the old trust company, and 4 new members having received consent from the relevant authorities.  And now is about to plan for the future of Villierstown Church in the community in what will be its sixth stage of life since 1750.

Points of Interest.

The Rev. Philip Homan is buried in a specially constructed vault within the church.  He died on November 20th 1846 having contracted Famine Fever while ministering to the sick of all denominations.  Referred to as a saintly man he was mourned by rich and poor who attended his funeral in large numbers.

In the graveyard there is a poignant reminder of Villierstowns close association with the River Blackwater.  The inscription on a slab of Welsh slate reads:  In remembrance of Thomas Parry son on Hugh Parry, Upper Bangor, Wales who was accidentally drowned in the Blackwater River whilst trying to save the boat of the vessel Kate Sept 3rd 1904 aged 30 years.

The limestone Celtic cross memorial in front of the church gates reads Henry Villiers Baron Stuart De Decies Died January 23rd 1874 and his wife Therse Pauline Lady Stuart De Decies who died August 7th 1867.  The monument was erected by their son in affectionate remembrance.  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord