St Anne’s Church and Graveyard


st anne side

By 1185 the Anglo-Normans were in control of Mallow. During their conquest they failed to subdue the O'Callaghan tribe of Clonmeen, some seven miles west of Mallow. The O'Callaghans and their supporters were now to become a continual threat from the west. The Le Flemmings are the first mentioned family to be in control of the town and of the Barony of Fermoy.

The Anglo-Norman custom was to make use of any existing buildings and churches in the area they conquered for worship for a short period and then build their own church to an English or European design.

St Anne's Church was built in the twelfth century, and evidence suggests it was completed by 1190. During its construction the builders incorporated a wall of a previous church into the west wall of the new church. The visible door openings, now blocked up, of this previous church have "inclined door jambs". This indicates that the wall was of a church, loosely termed, from "The Gaelic Church Period" and it is likely to have been built between the years 1000 and 1100 AD.

A unique feature of St Anne’s was incorporated to counteract the problem posed to the town by the O’Callaghans. A tower/belfry was built to a two stage height, positioned at the centre of the west church wall. This tower protected the existing door opening. In operation, the bell, located on the first floor (or stage as it is called in a tower), was to be rung for Mass and also when necessary, to ring out a coded number of times to warn the Castle of movement from the west. The second stage was a look-out post for the soldiers offering excellent views to the west. (The castle being on lower ground and guarding the river crossing had no view to the west.) The top of the tower was castellated with some form of a roof for protection from the elements. While many churches had towers, having such on the west wall, and of such design, made St Annes unique.

In the Plea Roll transcripts of 1301, it is recorded that a John Scorlag fled to the church after killing a Christia de Nangle and sought sanctuary from the law. As this church was a parish church and not within a set distance from a Bishop’s residence, it did not have the power of sanctuary. Sanctuary was applied for to the King of England and was granted.

In 1306 the church underwent a major reconstruction. The roof had been of thatch. This was removed and the height of the walls was increased. The new roof was slated. A chancel was constructed in the " fashion of the day". At this period, Basilica's and Cathedrals in England were being constructed with the chancel in a semi-circle design known as an Apse, which is the symbol of sanctuary, and the Bishops Chair or Throne is placed within the Apse. As the Bishop held his Court and administration here during the medieval period, the Architecture of the Cathedrals, with the apse, signified that the power of sanctuary was held in this church. When the work was completed at St Anne's the chancel was of this design making it one of very few parish churches to have the power of Sanctuary.

In 1584 St Anne's Church was confiscated during the time of the Munster Plantation and was taken over by the Reformed Church or the Church established by English Law. The Roman Catholic community continued their worship in humble buildings, out of view from the main street of the town. Chapel Lane (alongside the Hibernian Hotel) was the site of one such Mass House.

The town was attacked by Irish and Old English forces in 1598 so as to regain their lost properties from the Elizabethan Planters. Attempts were made by the Irish to burn the town.

On the Royal Visitation of Bishop Lyons in 1615 a report states "The Church and Chancel were up" (meaning they were in good structural condition).

In 1642 the church was damaged during a battle for Mallow Town in the Confederate War. Then again in 1690 the church was badly damaged during a battle in the Long Meadow, (Town Park), in the Williamite-Jacobite War. Following this battle a report stated that the church was much “damdefied”, that the Castle was burned and damaged beyond repair, and that the lower part of the town was also burned.

In 1692 the Church was reported to be in “full repair”.

Plans were again made to "blow up" this church on Sunday May 5th 1799 by soldiers of the Royal Meath Militia, (who were sworn members of the United Irishmen), and were assisted by some townspeople of Mallow , also members of the United Irishmen. Intervention by Fr. J Barry prevented this from happening, thus saving the church from destruction.

In 1814 Thomas Davis, Irish Patriot, Poet and essayist was baptised in this church.(The baptismal font can be seen in St.James' Church where it is still in use.) Then shortly after, in 1821, St Anne's Church was closed due to the high cost of constant repairs, and the steady increase in the Church of Ireland population.

On completion of its construction alongside St Anne’s in 1824, St. James' Church was consecrated. St Annes was left to the elements and became the ruin that it is today, although in recent times a number of projects have been mooted which would have partially or wholly returned the building to use, notably a proposal by our Society to create a Heritage Centre here.