Holy Cross Church, Tramore
Holy Cross Church forms an important landmark in the town of Tramore. The Gothic Revival style church was constructed between 1856 and 1871.The Church was dedicated on July 29th 1860 and solemnly blessed on July 13th 1862.The tower and the spire were completed in 1881. This protected structure is considered to be of National importance and has been identified by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as a building of architectural, artistic, historical, technical and social significance. The Church was designed by the eminent architect James Joseph (JJ) McCarthy. Tramore Town Council was very fortunate to be contacted by the descendants of the Fagan brothers, the stonemasons who were responsible for the stonework for Holy Cross Church in Tramore. The descendants of the Fagans: Edwin Shelton Prigmore, Susan Kizziah, Cindy Marlowe, Teresa Moody and Malinda Nicholls, very kindly donated the papers of the Fagan brothers relating to their work at Holy Cross Church. Below is a short introduction to Holy Cross Church.
Holy Cross Church is built adjacent to the site of the old thatched chapel that is thought to have been erected in the late 18th century. The parish of Tramore was fortunate in the appointment of the Rev. Nicholas Cantwell in 1830, who served the parish with energy and zeal until 1875. Canon Power reports that “Daniel O’Connell styled Father Cantwell “the tallest and honestest priest in Ireland”. Rev. Cantwell was responsible for raising the money for, and ensuring the building of, Holy Cross Church and he is said to have been particularly concerned with ensuring the new church outshone the Church of Ireland church in Tramore.
At a public meeting in Tramore in January 1856 the sum of £1086 was subscribed toward the new church. The land for the church was donated by Lord Doneraile and building work began in 1856. James Joseph McCarthy was the architect chosen to design and oversee the church. He was one of the most influential and important architects in the 19th century in Ireland. He built in the Gothic Revival Style and was known as the Irish Pugin. In addition to Holy Cross Church he was also the architect responsible for another building of National importance, Saints Quan & Broghan Church in Clonea Power, County Waterford.
James Joseph McCarthy was born in Dublin on 6th January 1817. Following his education at the Christian Brothers’ O’Connell School in North Richmond Street he studied at the Royal Dublin Society. He made a name for himself in ecclesiastical architecture, becoming a founder member of the Irish Ecclesiological Society. He made many contacts with the Catholic clergy and became the leading architect of Irish Catholic churches.
Daniel and Thomas Fagan were stonemasons from Bagenalstown (Muine Bheag). They were the stonemasons engaged to provide the highly decorative and impressively designed stonework for the gothic revival style Holy Cross Church. They were responsible for overseeing a number of stonemasons on this work. Due to the notes taken by Daniel Fagan on the work being carried out at Holy Cross Church we are privileged to have the names of the men who worked on the stonework when building the church. Click on the transcript of his letter to get a transcript of his notes with the names of the stonemasons who worked on Holy Cross Church. Transcript of Fagan Letter 1858 (Transcript of Fagan Letter, 137 kbs)
On 3rd April 1858 Daniel was in Tramore, working on Holy Cross Church, and took the opportunity to write to Messrs. J. Bryant and Son, offering granite from his brother’s quarry in Bagenalstown. “P.S. All The preparations and Executions can Be made you will not have the stone as cheap or as quick as he can give it…PS There cannot be a Better stone gotten than he have to supply to Benefitt the Employer”. This entrepreneurial spirit on the part of the Fagan brothers led them to a new life in the new world and they left Ireland for Birmingham, Alabama in the United States taking with them notes of their work in Ireland.
In 2010 urgently required renovations began on Holy Cross Church. The roof slates that had been in place since 1862 were replaced and the building was extensively and sensitively repaired. In a piece of magnificent timing the then Mayor of Tramore, Cllr. Maxine Keoghan was contacted in 2012 by descendants of the Fagan family who had the records created by Daniel Fagan and members of the family were able to come visit the newly renovated church in 2012. Following Vatican II, the interior of the church was re-ordered which meant that the main altar was moved forward and the altar rails, reredos and other features were removed. However, the stone columns remain and stand as a testament to the quality and craftmanship of the stonemasons who first worked on the building in 1856.