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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Roof Over Clerical Heads - Archive of the Month from the RCB Library

Front elevation of Ballysakeery Glebe House,drawn c. 1815,
from the portfolio of Glebe House and Rectory Drawings,
RCB Library GH/1.
A Roof Over Clerical Heads is the working title of a new online exhibition (and Archive of the Month) from the Church of Ireland’s RCB Library, showcasing the Library’s small but significant collection of architectural drawings of glebe houses from various parts of the country. Many former glebe houses are now in private ownership so the exhibition should be of particular interest to those who live in such houses, or whose ancestors lived in them.

The collection consists of some 70 sets of drawings – 280 drawings in all, some with related specifications. Some 28 of these sets are C20th, mainly from the 1960s, while most of the remainder date from the early C19th.

These drawings forms one component of the Library’s extensive collection of architectural drawings of churches, cathedrals and clergy residences which are being catalogued, imaged, and web-published as part of the Church of Ireland's Architectural Drawings Project. This project is being carried out by the architectural historian Dr Michael O'Neill.

A glebe house is a residence provided in each parish (or parish union) for the clergy man or woman and his or her family. In the past, glebe land (farm land) was also provided for the rector, vicar or curate of rural parishes; the clergyman up to the late 19th century was often also a farmer or leased out farmland.

By 1832, some 829 glebe houses had been built across Ireland. It is likely that most of their architectural maps, plans and drawings were lodged in the local diocesan registry when the building was completed; these diocesan registry collection were subsequently moved to the Public Record Office of Ireland and lost the in the 1922 Fire. What survives prior to 1922 is therefore all the more precious.

The online exhibition brings these and other examples of glebe houses and rectories to light, adding 280 drawings to the viewable online catalogue, and demonstrating their unique visual impact on the Irish landscape. A standalone list of the glebe house drawings is available for download.