St. Peter’s College - Wexford Guide and Directory, 1885

About “Wexford County Guide and Directory,” 1885

George Henry Bassett produced 7 Irish county directories in the 1880s: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Kilkenny, Louth, Tipperary and Wexford. Each provides useful history of the respective counties as well as lists of office holders, farmers, traders, and other residents of the individual cities, towns and villages.

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The directories are naturally an invaluable resource for those tracing family history. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.

  1. This online version of Bassett’s Wexford County Guide and Directory is designed primarily as a genealogical research tool and therefore the numerous advertisements in the original book, many full page, and quite a few illustrated, have been excluded.
  2. The text has been proofed with due care, but with large bodies of text typographical errors are inevitably bound to occur.
  3. Be aware that there were often inconsistencies in spelling surnames in the 19th century and also that many forenames are abbreviated in Bassett’s directories.

With respect to the last point, surnames which today begin with the “Mc” prefix, for example, were often formerly spelt as “M‘,”. For a list of some of the more common forename abbreviations used in the directory, see Forename Abbreviations.

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THE illustration under the above heading really belongs to the page in which appears the prospectus of St. Peter’s College. This explanation is necessary to satisfy possible speculation as to the reason why illustrations are not general in the Wexford Borough descriptive.

St. Peter’s College stands in a park, containing twenty statute acres, in that part of Wexford which is so appropriately named Summer Hill. It is approached from the main road by a broad avenue, bordered by frequent evidences of cultivated taste. A remarkable freedom from appearance of unnecessary restraint is strikingly manifested at the entrance, which has a handsome gate and inviting lodge. The drive to the front reveals many worthy specimens of the landscape gardener’s art. My visit was in July, and the parterre were then bright with colour, and the foliage plants looked their best. Added to these attractions within the grounds was the far greater one afforded by the incomparably charming view of the harbour and the points of land which are washed by its waters. I was not at all surprised to learn from the Rev. Dr. Kavanagh, the excellent President of the College, that more than one bishop has been sufficiently appreciative of the loveliness of the prospect to wish to make the College his place of residence.

The history of St. Peter’s College, in its narration, will afford the reader an idea of the extent of its buildings. Indirectly, the founder was the Rev. Peter Devereux, P.P., Kilmore. He had a farm in South Shilbeggan, Parish of Hook, for which there was a long lease. By the terms of his will, the amount realized by the sale of this, between £800 and £900, was to be used for the education of students for the priesthood in foreign colleges, as there were not then Irish colleges in proportion to the requirements. Owing to the prevalence of Continental wars, delay occurred in carrying out the wishes of the testator. On the appointment, in 1805, of the Most Rev. Patrick Ryan, D.D., as Coadjutor Bishop of Ferns, he saw at once the need of greater educational facilities. In 1811 he opened, in Michael Street, the first Catholic seminary in the diocese, and the Rev. Myles Murphy, afterwards Bishop of Ferns, became President, and was assisted by Mr. Joseph Clinch, a layman, who died in 1816.

While the seminary was in active progress, the Penal Laws were somewhat relaxed, and Bishop Ryan decided to employ the bequest of the Rev. Peter Devereux as the nucleus of a fund for the erection of a college. A subscription list was opened, and the clergy and laity promptly and generously co-operated. Among the latter, the most prominent was John Hyacinthe Talbot, M.P. for New Ross, Ballytrent, Wexford. He introduced Pugin, the celebrated architect. In April, 1818, the foundation stone of St. Peter’s College was laid by Bishop Ryan, and it was among the last of his important acts, for he died in the following year. In September, 1819, the College was opened, with the very Rev. Myles Murphy as President. It then consisted of the plain four storey building seen in the illustration on the extreme right, for the President and Professors, and class rooms and dormitories at the rere. In 1829, President Murphy was appointed Parish Priest of Tintern, and was succeeded by the Rev. John Sinnott, D.D. Between 1829 and 1832 the eastern wing was added to the College, and the square tower, which is used as a library.

In 1838 the foundation stone was laid, by the Most Rev. James Keating, D.D., of the handsome Church seen in the illustration. Dr. Keating was the successor of Bishop Ryan. The plans were given by Pugin. Mr. Talbot, M.P., strongly interested himself in collecting for the fund from which the cost of the building was taken. The church was consecrated in 1840, and has in its interior some examples of the ecclesiastical ornamentation in which Pugin excelled. It is used for the clergy on retreat, for Church synods, and for public meetings of the clergy of the diocese.

The Rev. Dr. Sinnott succeeded Dr. Murphy in the Presidency of the College. He died in 1850, and was succeeded by the Very Rev. Lawrence Kirwan. In September, 1858, the Very Rev. Patrick C. Sheridan, at present P.P. of Bannow, and Chancellor of the Diocese, was appointed President. Between 1858 and 1861, extra school-rooms, a play hall, and dormitories, were added. In 1873 the Rev. Dr. Kavanagh was appointed President by the late Most Rev. Thomas Furlong, D.D., who resided in the College from 1858 until his death in 1875. In 1877–8, an extension was made to the southern wing, now used as an examination and exhibition hall, over which are rooms for senior students. An extension of the cloister was being made at the time of my visit in July, 1884.

Fresh breezes from the sea sweep through all the dormitories and class-rooms, and a perfect system of drainage, with unlimited flushing power, forms part of the numerous advantages which the College possesses.

An important brick-making industry, giving considerable employment, is being carried on in the College Park, the clay found in which is well adapted for the purpose.

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