WherePeter's Hill Drogheda Louth
St. Peter’s Church of Ireland
Following the history of the parish church of St Peter
There has been a church on this hill for over 800 years. The first was founded by Hugh de Lacy, a powerful Anglo-Norman magnate who accompanied Henry II to Ireland in 1171. Endowed by wealthy merchants, the church grew as the town expanded, becoming an extensive structure with at least three chancels, arcaded aisles, and a central tower. There were 14 chapels whose dedications included the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Laurence and St Patrick. Almost nothing remains of this earlier magnificent building except the large stone font at the west end of the present church. It is decorated with the twelve apostles, who stand solemnly within round-arched niches, under which angels, carved at an angle, are poised to fly.
Like most buildings it underwent cycles of repair. It was very badly damaged in September 1649 when Cromwell’s troops bombarded the body of the church and set fire to the timber steeple where Royalist soldiers had sought refuge. Many were burnt and many more killed as they fled. The ruined church, partly restored for services, was a stark reminder of this episode for over 100 years until the present structure was erected.
The old building was demolished in 1748 and the present church constructed. It has a fine façade of smooth limestone, a poised symmetry and a carefully calibrated tower, behind which the large body of the church is constructed in irregular limestone blocks.
Inside, is one of the most evocative eighteenth-century church interiors in Ireland, with its oak gallery and, in the chancel, baroque plasterwork decorated with fruits and flowers, and two great birds hovering on either side of the east window.
St John’s Poorhouse
Funded by Drogheda Corporation and private bequests, these almshouses were first established in 1540. This building was erected in 1816. In 1844 the inhabitants received £7.10 a fortnight. Admission was a lottery: after petitioning the council to add your name to the list, a ballot decided who would be admitted.
‘The Alleys’ or ‘Widows’ houses’
These almshouses were built between c.1729 and 1739 in four terraces off Church Lane. They can be seen over the wall at the rear of St Peter’s graveyard. They were built by the charity for the widows of Armagh clergymen, founded in c.1706 by Narcissus Marsh when he was Archbishop of Armagh.