December 1781, James Gandon the architect was invited
to spend Christmas with Lord Carlow and his family at
Lady Carlow wrote in her diary on New Year’s Eve 1781: “ some of our party are broken up already, Mr Dawson and Mr Gandon being gone. I cannot say I regret them very much.” Perhaps Lord Carlow, Mr Dawson and Mr Gandon had spent Christmas discussing the plans for the church.
to local tradition, the previous church at Coolbanagher
had been burned down on
Carlow was concerned that the new church should reflect the classical good
taste of the time, and he was convinced that James Gandon
was the architect to do this. Work began in the spring of 1782, and continued
until the end of 1783, when Lord Carlow wrote to his wife in
Gandon himself did not visit the site
very often, as he was fully occupied with the building of the Four Courts in
March 1785 Lady Carlow wrote to her sister in
We are going to have great doings here next week. The new church is to be consecrated on Tuesday; the Bishop and all the clergy in the neighbourhood are to attend, besides all the country, I suppose, and Lord Carlow will ask them all to dinner both on that day and the next, as there are races within three miles of us. I own I am sorry to begin all this sort of work so soon, but there is no help for it.
A mausoleum was designed by Gandon and later built beside the church. It is inscribed 1788 and Lord Carlow who died in 1798 (by then the Earl of Portarlington) was buried there.
some changes to the barrel-vaulted ceiling were made. In 1963 the parishioners
spent £650 on repairs to the steeple and roof, and in 1972 a careful programme
of restoration was initiated following an estimate of £7000 for the total
restoration of the church. Now, apart from the roof, the church is very close
to Gandon’s original design. “Nobly simple” and
“calmly grand” are words that have been used to describe
Urns donated by Mr Cholmeley-Harrison
1981, urns, similar to those in the original plan, were placed in the niches by
Mr Cholmeley-Harrison who found the empty niches
“rather depressing”. He found a firm in
own ashes. Two of these urns were
In the entrance porch to Coolbanagher, there is a copy of an eighteenth century view of the church attributed to James Malton. James Gandon is seen discussing the church with Lord Carlow and Mr Dawson, the rector.
back of the church, there is an ancient font which was rescued in 1927 from
Edward McParland: James Gandon, Vitruvius Hibernicus (
Hugo Duffy: James Gandon and his Times (Gandon Editions, 1999) pp146 - 152