History of White Church and rectors list, Milltown, County Kerry
County Kerry

History of White Church

Milltown, County Kerry

Contributor John Knightly relates this history of White Church in Milltown. He also provides a list of transcriptions of headstones in the church cemetery, and a list of rectors for both White Church and Kilcoleman Church of Ireland.


The origins of the White Church remain obscure. Many have thought it associated with the nearby Augustinan Priory of Killagha but it is not in the style associated with this Gothic Priory. It may have been built on the foundations of an earlier church and there is some evidence that the earlier village of Milltown was located here notably in the appellation of "Town field" located nearby. When the original church was abandoned is unknown. Smith in 1753 notes 'this church is in ruins but appears to be very ancient. It is built of brown freestone (sandstone) brought a great way from the mountains of which kind of stone, most of our ancient structures were built although a good limestone might be had on the spot'.

As it presently stands (mostly in ruin), the White church is rectangular and very narrow. Originally, there were three large windows on at least one side of the aisle and possibly on the other. There was a large rounded window above the altar. One entered through a large rectangular door above which there is a smaller rounded window. At one time, there was a choir gallery just inside the door. A small bell tower surmounts the front facade. Surviving elements of plaster remain on the interior.

In the late 18th century, the local landlord John Godfrey of Bushfield wished to rebuild the church much to the opposition of the local rector, Rev. Palmer's who in a letter to his primate noted that, "Mr. Godfrey has a mind to have a church near his house in the Parish of Kilcoleman tho there is one at Kiltallow close by the town of Castlemaine not more than half a mile distant from here. The letter goes on to say that the consequence may be that, "Kiltallow may go to ruin" and "there are several parts of the country where churches are more wanted". Eventually the church was rebuilt sometime around 1770. A surviving wall-plaque states "1787, Erected By Edward Godfrey to the memory of his father, John Godfrey of Bushfield Square who on the 17th Day of August, 1782 in the 73rd year of his age departed this life". Later in 1788, Beaufort the well-known traveller and writer noted 'The church stands on the west of the town. Here is also a ruined abbey'.

In 1797, a church inventory noted that "Kilcoleman Church is almost in ruins. The timber is quite rotten, slates ceiling and the East window tumbling down. The congregation will not attend divine Service during the winter, there is no communion plate, no bell, the churchyard is enclosed yet no gate at entrance. Yet the books, surplice and gown are in good order." After Sir William Godfrey, 1st Bart was declared bankrupt in 1793 the entire area was neglected. Beaufort observed on a return visit in 1810 that Bushfield "is nearly a ruin now, the offices all destroyed, the lawns and shrubbery's all defaced, the garden waste.The village exhibits the same type of decay as the landlords mansion". In 1805 John Godfrey donated a plated chalice inscribed "the gift of John Godfrey Esq. to the Parish of Kilcoleman Dec 24th 1805". Also there was a silver platen plated chalice paten and flagon.

From 1794 to 1804, the Rev. William Godfrey was curate at £20 a year. The churchwardens were Anthony Godfrey and Robert Giles, the parish clerk was Edward Jeffcott and the Sunday school master was William Thompson. In 1841, O'Donovan noted in his observations of Kerry that "Dr. Smith in his 'History of Kerry' states that Kilcoleman Church was in ruins in his time and that it appeared to be very ancient. The Church of Kilcoleman now to be seen in ruins is certainty not ancient and may have been erected since Smith's time. It is sixty feet in length and 18 feet, six inches thick and about 12 feet high and built of green stone and brown freestone. All it's features are modern and it was in use till a short time ago." The church was abandoned circa 1810 and soon after the present Protestant Church in Milltown was constructed with a grant from the Board of First Fruits.

This article is copyrighted July, 2001


Rectors of White Church

List of Protestant Rectors of White Church, Kicoleman Parish, Milltown
1691 Josias Kennington, born in Essington, England, Vicar Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel. Died in 1716.
1716 Elias de Butts rector of Killorglin, Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel, Son of Lawrence de Butts, distiller born in Sligo. Died 1734
1735 George Palmer, Rector of Killorglin, Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel. Son of rev. Thomas Palmer of Kenmare, married Margaret daughter of William White of Bantry. Died 1760
1761 William John Bowen, eldest son of Michael Bowen of Bowensfield. Rector of Killorglin, Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel. Died 1762
1763 David Cope, Rector of Killorglin, Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel until 1771
1771 Edward Day Rector of Killorglin, Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel, resigned in 1801, married Barbara Forwall and had issue, Rev Edward Day who became Rector Killorglin in 1801 and Lucy who married in 1796 the Rev. William Godfrey
1776 Impropriate Curate Kilcoleman Fitzmaurice Botel son of John Botel curate 1776 - 1782
1778 James Bland
1796 John Day born in Cork son of John Day, Merchant, Mayor of Cork, married Arabella, Daughter of Sir William Godfrey Bt. And had issue including Jon Godfrey Day, Dean of Ardfert. Appt. Rector of Killorglin, Kiltallagh, Currans, Kilcoleman and Keel in 1809
1807 William Godfrey was curate at £50 per annum. Became rector of Kenmare in 1809. He was second son of Sir William Godfrey first Bt. Was born in 1765 in Co. Kerry, educated by Rev. Mr. Ross entered TCD in Nov. 1781 aged 17. Received BA in 1786, MA in 1809 ordained deacon 1787 priest 1788. Married Lucy, daughter of the Ven. Edward Day in 1796. He died April 6 1847 aged 85. She died in 1861 and had issue a son Edward born 1803 educated by Mr. Mawe entered TCD in Nov 1821, BA in 1826 and Ma 1832. Married Sept 1842, Lucy, daughter of Capt. Crosbie M. Christian and died 1847.
1816 Robert Hewson is appt. perpetual curate (1), son of Francis Hewson died 1840
1840 John Maunsell 1840 - 1864
1865 Abraham Isaacs
1866 William Daniel Wade resigned in 1875 annuity in 1870 £112, 12s. 6d.
1875 Abraham Issacs resigned in 1885
1885 Charles Tyner, rector (2) Kilcoleman 1886 to 1898, Died 1898 and is buried at Kilcoleman
1898 William John King rector of Kilcoleman and Kiltallagh
1926 John Robert champion Rector of Kilcoleman and Kiltallagh
1932 Robert Henry Thompson , Rector of Kilcoleman and Kiltallagh
Christopher Warren
Edward "Ted" Woods
1978 Malcolm Shannon
(1) Perpetual Curate: A priest who is nominated by a lay rector (ie patron) and licensed by a bishop to serve a parish which did not have a vicar. Once appointed such a curate had lifelong tenure.
(2) A person who was appointed to the benefice of the parish and who thus received the tithes of a parishIn time many parishes were appropriated by lay people ie the lord Glendore who kept the tithes and supported a impropriarte curate.

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