Some weeks ago, the sad present state of a Penal-era Roman Catholic chapel in County Cavan was featured here (see A Sorrowful Sight « The Irish Aesthete). Here is another such building, thankfully this one in much better condition. St James’s in Grange, County Louth dates from 1762, meaning that this year marks its 260th anniversary. It is likely that when first erected, the chapel consisted simply of one long hall running north to south, with separate entrances for men and women at either end, and an altar in the middle of the east wall, as at Holy Trinity in Kildoagh At the start of the 19th century, extensions were made to west and east, the former running back to create a third arm and convert the building into the typical T-plan form, while a belfry tower was built at the centre of the eastern side incorporating a sacristy. It has been proposed that the original chapel was designed by a local architect and builder called Thaddeus Gallagher whose son James emigrated to the United States where he changed his surname to Gallier and enjoyed a successful architectural career in New Orleans; in his autobiography of 1864 he claimed to have re-roofed the chapel at Grange around 1818, which is likely when the other alterations were made.
The interior of the chapel still retains much of its original character. At the end of each arm are panelled timber galleries, although that in the western, later section has taller panels with a slightly different frieze below (compare the first and last pictures above). Each gallery is supported by elaborate plaster brackets at either end, and a pair of columns with Ionic capitals that reflect the building’s location by incorporating scallop shells suspended from strings of beads. The interior is lit by tall, round-headed windows with their Georgian glazing and there are charming fanlights over the two porch doors. At some date in the post-Vatican II era, the sacristy behind the altar was opened to create a new sanctuary space. The present arrangement there, with the end wall featuring an aedicule and Ionic columns, appears to incorporate at least elements of the former design.
Just a few miles away from Grange stands another old Catholic chapel, but this one is poor repair. It is located in a townland called Lordship, its title derived from the pre-Reformation period when this part of the country was owned by the Lord Abbot of Mellifont. The chapel forms one element of what seems to have been a group of buildings, including a national school and another property (today in use as a creche). Some time ago the old national school was converted into a local credit union: Irish readers may remember it was here that Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was fatally shot during an armed robbery almost exactly nine years ago. There is little information available about this disused chapel, but apparently it was on the site of a place of Catholic worship during the penal era. Today it stands abandoned and derelict.