Abandoned ireland


St Joseph's Convent


Documenting our Heritage

St Joseph's Convent, Kinsale founded by the Sisters of Mercy.

On 19 April 1844, the convent in Kinsale was founded from Limerick. The foundress Mother Mary Ann Burke was accompanied by Mother Francis Bridgeman, (who had worked in the Crimea during the war), Sisters Xavier Daly and Mary Martha. By July of that same year, the foundation stones of schools and part of the convent were laid. On the opening day of the school 700 children enrolled with only 6 sisters to teach them. Along with catering for their educational needs, the sisters supplied food to the children twice daily.

The 1840s were a time of great hardship for most parts of Ireland and Kinsale was not any different. As well as providing education for the children, the sisters provided food and medical aid for those in the town in greatest need, and they served in the local workhouse. They also provided some employment in the town, establishing net-making and rope making for the fishermen, and lace making and embroidery for the women. The lace making industry in Kinsale later gained world renown and survived into the 1950s.

While the convent has closed the sisters still live in Kinsale and some continue to work in education as well as in pastoral and parish work.

The convent is currently being redeveloped, though the many of the original walls of the main convent buildings have still been retained, much of the convent grounds have been cleared and are now unrecognisable from the original layout.

Information on the convent site :-

The Convent site covers 2.96 hectares, and is formed from the complex of convent, industrial school and other school buildings, existing on the western ridge that overlooks the town pier and harbour below O’Connell Street within Kinsale.

The buildings are on the eastern section of the site facing onto The Ramparts and extend a short distance along Rampart Lane to the north. The former national school is located at the northern end along Rampart Lane, the original convent building and chapel adjoin this structure with the former industrial school and further orphanage and some ancillary buildings being located to the south side of these buildings. Further ancillary buildings are located directly at the rear around a small courtyard. An orchard is located in the southern section of the site.

The site was donated to the Sisters of Mercy in 1844. The original dwelling on the site built in the early nineteenth century that was converted into the original convent became known as The Infirmary. This dwelling is the earliest building on site and adjoins the chapel and choir. The chapel and choir are linked but were divided by a timber screen that has been removed. Nineteenth century additions to the main convent building include a new wing, kitchen and dining accommodation, chapel and school buildings, laundry and other structures such as a glass house and several other outbuildings including two cottages and summerhouse ruins. Most of the buildings are shown on the 1883 Ordnance Survey. The gardens include a former rose garden and paths, originally in a formal layout. (This is indicated on earlier OS maps).

The buildings range from one to four storeys in height and on the basis of an external visual inspection are relatively intact and retain most of the original features. The interiors of most of the main buildings, with the exception of the former industrial school buildings at the southern are substantially intact although there are problems of water ingress. Of particular note are the joinery, floor tiles, staircase, fenestration, and in the chapel and choir, the decorative plasterwork. The industrial school buildings are in poor condition but most original features have survived. The industrial school buildings were vacated in the 1980s.

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