The current church, St John’s, was built in 1826 on the site of an older church, St Mary’s, which was built ca 1698. It continued in use until it was partially closed in 1980. It is currently under the care of the Friends of St John’s who maintain it in excellent order, and use it for community events.
St John’s was built at a time when the Andersons, John (1747-1820) and his son, James Caleb (1792-1861), were responsible for the increased wealth and redevelopment of the town.
St John’s Church cost £1,476 18s and was financed by local contributions and a loan from the Board of First Fruits. The First Fruits as a body was “responsible for financing by loans, the construction and repair of parish churches and glebe houses” (Lee 44).
In 1837, Samuel Lewis, a famous editor and publisher of topographical dictionaries, published A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. In this, he described St John’s Church of Ireland church as follows:
“The church is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower surmounted by a finely proportioned spire: it is situated near the river and within the castle demesne, and was built in 1826, near the site of an ancient church, of which there are still some remains, and on the site of another of more recent date; the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £1600 for its erection …”
Features of St John’s Church
St John’s became the place of worship for the larger Buttevant Union, especially as Bregoge, Kilbroney and Cahirduggan had joined the Buttevant Union in 1820. Indeed, several families from Doneraile, including Viscount Doneraile, Rev. F. Crofts and James Grove White joined the Buttevant community following an argument with their rector in Doneraile, Rev. H. Somerville.
The south-facing window is significant. It depicts the Sermon on the Mount and is reputed to be the work of Stephen Adams Junior, whose father was a renowned stained glass artist and designer and co-founder of the School of Arts and Crafts at Glasgow. The window is dedicated to those “who formerly worshipped in this Church”. This window also contains a section of the window from Rheims Cathedral that was destroyed during World War 1.
The Kilbolane Hatchment
Saint John’s Church has in its possession an early 18th century hatchment, which is believed to have originally hung in the now demolished church of Kilbolane, near Milford.
Hatchments are diamond shaped, usually of wood or canvass, and painted with the arms of a deceased person. They were displayed upon a period of mourning above the entrance to the family home. Afterwards, they were usually hung up in the local church where they remained on permanent display.
Although common in England, they are somewhat rare in Ireland. The Kilbolane Hatchment has recently been studied by the heraldic specialist, Gerard Crotty, who has identified it as the impaled arms of Rev. Jonathan Bruce and his wife, Mary, a daughter of the Rev. Lewis Prytherick. Rev. Bruce was curate of Kilbolane from 1708 to 1729, and also Dean of Kilfenora. His wife, for whom the hatchment was made, died in 1731.
Church Plate used at St John’s
Important pieces of plate associated with St Johns:
Pewter collection plate, Christopher Crofts, 1848
Buttevant Chalice, Viscountess Lanesborough, 1698: an early example of English plate by W. M. Gibson
Broheny Chalice by Lord Egmont, Churchtown used in Castletownroche