Faithlegg Spire - a spire that spiralled out of control

Over the past month I have commenced a new part time role with Faithlegg House Hotel.  Under the direction of the hotels senior management team we have initiated a process including amongst other elements, gathering the stories of the residents/employees of the estate. This will assist in the current heritage re-brand of the hotel which seeks to showcase the amazing history of the area. To whet appetites here is just one story that has emerged giving a greater insight into the building that is Faithlegg Church.
Early 20th Century postcard of the two churches via Tomás Sullivan
We have spoken before about Faithlegg Church, built in 1824 under the direction of the new landlord to Faithlegg, Nicholas Mahon Power. Nicholas died 1873, which corresponded to completion of a refurbishment, similar in most respects to the church that we see today including its impressive spire and belfry. But the work was not without it's problems and thanks to a legal squabble afterwards(1), we can now look more closely into the project.

Faithlegg church was originally a much smaller, more modest building which was intended as a chapel of ease for the workers and tenants of the Faithlegg estate. However on the 27th June 1871 the local Landlord contracted a builder from Portlaw Co Waterford, Michael Broderick, to make some additions to the building at an agreed tender of £1,170
A modern view of the spire.  Photo credit Hannah Doherty
As often occurs, not long into the building project new ideas surfaced. It was claimed the Power sisters, Nicholas' daughters, cajoled their father into extending the build. The plan for an 80 foot spire was increased to 120 foot. It was claimed in court that this was to compete with a neighbouring church and to ensure Faithlegg would be more beautiful, more imposing and to ensure it would outshine it. Nicholas it was said was not known for "being liberal when it came to improvements" but the ladies got around him to "flatter their tastes".

According to an additional tender of January 1872 the costs then rose to £1,620.  In June the Power ladies were at it again apparently. At this stage a request was made to add a private seating area or chapel as it was referred to in the spire, and a gallery, new altar and a sacristy to boot!  A sum of £165 was requested, but after the intervention of the families head gardener and land steward, Thomas Power, a lesser sum of £145 was agreed.(2)
The gallery and behind the doors the private seating area of the Power family.
Photo credit Hannah Doherty
But the demands were not yet finished.  Apparently a belfry was an after thought. As it was at this point a new bell was requested costing £75 and an extra £10 to hang it.  And still more adornments to to the spire costing £44 12s, which one imagines must have been the alteration and louvered timbers to emit the sound. The work was completed by a new mausoleum to the family and a walled in space to set it apart from the rest. This was said to cost £30. Still to be seen on the right as you walk in the main gates. 

It would appear that Nicholas never lived to see the entire project completed, he died in February 1873.  But in 1876 Broderick took a case against the estate to secure monies owed from the drawn out and every changing refurbishment.  His day in court saw him demand a sum of  £207 10s 1d as a balance of his account.  A decision was returned in his favour, but for a sum of £160.

Although some of his workmanship was called into question in court the Buildings of Ireland has stated in their appraisal "...The construction of the tower attests to high quality local stone masonry and craftsmanship, which is especially evident in the fine carved detailing throughout..." And whatever the claims in court in relation to the wants and desires of Nicholas' daughters, and the spire that spiralled out of control, their vision and resolve to cajole their aging father has left us a building that is a gem and has become one of the countries wedding venues of choice.

If you have a story, an insight or a family connection to Faithlegg or the house you can contact me by emailing russianside@gmail.com 

(1) Waterford Standard 19th July 1876. P.2.
(2) For the work described this seems a small sum.


My book on growing up in a fishing village is now published.     



Details of online purchases, local stockists or ebook store available here

         

Comments