Monday, 17 December 2012

Armagh Palace

Dedicated to the Most Reverend Dr Richard Lionel Clarke, 105th Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan, during whose period in office this article was written.


ARCHBISHOPS OF ARMAGH LIVED MUCH OF THEIR TIME IN DROGHEDA OR DUBLIN (WHERE THEY ATTENDED THE HOUSE OF LORDS) AND STAYED AT ARMAGH ONLY WHEN NECESSARY

ARCHBISHOP ROBINSON, HOWEVER, DETERMINED TO STAY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN ARMAGH. HE DISLIKED THE HOUSE THEN PROVIDED FOR THE LORD PRIMATES AND, ALTHOUGH HE HAD IT RENOVATED, IT STILL DID NOT MEET HIS EXPECTATIONS. 

HE DECIDED TO HAVE A NEW PALACE BUILT ON 300 ACRES OF CHURCH LAND TO THE SOUTH OF THE CITY.


The Palace, Armagh, built in 1770, is described by Mark Bence-Jones as a plain, dignified 18th century block.

It is of nine bays, the side elevation being five bays..

The Palace was originally two storeys over a high, rusticated basement.

It was erected to the design of Thomas Cooley, by Archbishop Robinson, afterwards elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Rokeby.


A third storey was added in 1786.

Some time later, a substantial enclosed porch was added, with pairs of Ionic columns set at an angle to the front.

Adjacent to the entrance front is the Primatial Chapel, a separate building in the style of an Ionic temple. Its exterior, also by Cooley, is of 1770; though the interior was fitted out three years later, in 1784, by Francis Johnston.


The chapel's interior is said to be one of the most beautiful surviving Irish ecclesiastical interiors, boasting a coffered, barrel-vaulted ceiling; a delicate frieze; Corinthian pilasters; a gallery; magnificent panelling; and pews.



UNTIL the time of Primate Robinson, the archbishops of Armagh were not provided with a place of residence in keeping with the revenues of the office.

During less peaceful times, when nothing was left of either city or churches, a precedent was formed for living elsewhere in the diocese, and for a considerable space the Primates had palaces at Drogheda and Termonfeckin, County Louth.

During St Patrick 's time, the Primatial residence was situated on a part of the hill crowned by the Cathedral.

Bishopscourt, in Mullinure, north-northeast of the city, was a residence, and it is recorded that there were rooms for the Archbishop in the Culdee Priory.

When Dr Robinson was appointed Primate, the residence was in English Street. Ninety-one numerous plantations then started in the splendid demesne, adding greatly to the beauty of the scenery surrounding the city.

Primate Stuart walled the demesne at a cost of £20,000, reserving for his successors in the See the privilege of sharing in this needful expenditure.

Lord John George Beresford, appointed to the Primacy in 1822, raised the palace from three to four stories, thereby greatly increasing the dignity of the structure.


At the upper end of the demesne, the ground ascends to a point called Knox 's Hill.

On this there is an obelisk, erected by Primate Robinson in 1783, to perpetuate the memory of his intimacy with the 1st Duke of Northumberland (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), through whose instrumentality he had been translated to Armagh from the bishopric of Kildare.

The obelisk is 113 feet in height, and it is due to Dr. Robinson 's memory to say that its erection was suggested as a means of honourable employment for the people of Armagh during a time of severe distress.

The lands surrounding the palace became a demesne by Act of Council, dated 1769. Until then, the residence of the archbishops had not been legally transferred from Drogheda.

Archbishop Knox, in order that the Palace may be available for residence by his successors, began a fund in 1888. This was rendered necessary through changes arising out of the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

The Mall, before Primate Robinson tenure, was a swampy common and the road now surrounding it was a race-course. By an Act of GEORGE III it was granted to the Lord Primate for useful purposes.

In 1797, Primate Newoombe, successor of Primate Robinson, leased it to the Sovereign and Burgesses of Armagh, for the purpose of being transformed into "a public walk for the people." This was accomplished by subscription, in a creditable manner.

The Most Rev George Otto Simms was the last Archbishop to live at the Palace. Fourteen of the one hundred and four archbishops have resided at the palace.

The archiepiscopal palace is now the council offices of Armagh Council.

The walled demesne referred to by Inglis in 1834 as, ‘… in excellent order … laid out with much taste …’ is largely parkland.

The ground undulates and the palace is on high ground, with fine views of the city and the Anglican cathedral.

The original planting set off the house and the vistas. To the north it is now a public grassed area, with mature parkland trees (chiefly sycamore); and to the south it is grazing, with a stand of 19th century exotic trees near the house.


A belt of woodland on high ground to the west of the northern section of the parkland affords necessary protection.

A golf course now occupies the northeastern section.

The walled garden is at the north end, with a garden house. It is not cultivated but used by the rugby club.

There are modern ornamental gardens on the south side of the palace, and a 1990s garden on the west side, near the primatial chapel.

A fine 19th century glasshouse and ice house also lie to the west of the house and there is another ice house near the main entrance.

The stables and coach yard  have been converted for tourism.

The entrance gates were moved when the road was altered and this unfortunate development effectively cut the demesne off from the city, though the grounds are open to the general public.

The 18th century gate lodge has been demolished and only one of three remains.


UNTIL the early 19th century, the Primate's Castle, Termonfeckin, County Louth, was used for several centuries by archbishops of Armagh as an auxiliary residence to their archiepiscopal quarters in nearby Drogheda.

After the Reformation, several of the archbishops of the established church resided periodically at Termonfeckin.

The castle's most famous occupant at that time was the Most Rev James Ussher, Lord Archbishop of Armagh from 1625-56. He used the castle in Termonfeckin for much of his term until 1640, when he departed for England, never to return.

The castle was damaged in the Irish rebellion of 1641 and was not repaired. It fell into disuse and was eventually demolished ca 1830.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least the good Archbishop had the money to do i, as we and the papists were tithed 10% to maintain a man and church to which we have no loyalty