Crinken Church History


Crinken Church (St James Church) has had an eventful and exciting ministry since its completion over 180 years ago. As the church was privately funded, its stewardship and ethos are vested in trustees who, since its inception have been committed to evangelical ministry. The ministry commenced in 1840 when two ladies Mrs Hannah Magan and Mrs. Margaret Clarke provided the lands and funds for the building of the church.

But the history of Crinken is not about bricks and mortar – its is about a family of men and women, young people, boys and girls and babies who are bound together by the good news of God’s Love for them, shown supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the focus of our worship, our fellowship, our unity and our witness, in our church and in our community.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”. Romans 10:17

The Beginnings

Two minds with but a single thought, and then- Crinken. The minds were those of two widow ladies, living in adjoining properties at Woodbrook and Corke Farm, Bray; and the thought – to have a church in the neighbourhood. Accordingly one came forward with the land and the other with the money, and the church was built. And here … is the story.

St James Crinken was established and built as a result of the gift of two women, Mrs. Margaret Clarke, then living at Woodbrook, and Mrs. Hannah Georgina Magan, of Killyon Manor, Co. Meath, but residing from time to time at Corke Farm, beside Woodbrook. There had previously been something of an ‘awakening’ amongst evangelical Christians in the local area. The famed Rev. J. N. Darby was curate-in-charge of Calary in 1826-7.Soon afterwards he left the Church of Ireland and became one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren.

Around this time Robert McGhee conducted services and Bible studies in the Bray area. Held at first, apparently, on private premises, they were later housed in a building in Brighton Terrace, Bray. Mr. McGhee was ‘moral and spiritual agent’ for Lord Powerscourt, and in addition to his religious work on the demesne and in Enniskerry, he held these meetings in Bray for the benefit of a number of Church of Ireland members who were seeking to be encouraged from the Scriptures.

As time went on there developed among the worshippers a strong desire to have a proper church building of their own, and that Mr. McGhee, who was now ordained, should be its first clergyman. However, before such a church could be put in hand, Harold’s Cross church, Dublin, was built, and Mr. McGhee accepted an invitation to go there as its first incumbent. This was late in 1836.

During the later years of the ministry of Mr. McGhee, Mrs Clarke and Mrs Magan took a great interest in the gatherings, and also strongly identified themselves with the movement to erect a new building where the services could be carried on in customary church surroundings.

This material is drawn from a parish history entitled St James Crinken 1840-1990. The story of the founding of the church was originally written at the time of the church’s centenary in 1940 by the then incumbent. This was revised and extended on the occasion of the church’s 150th anniversary by ‘a member of the congregation’.

At this time the Magan family possessed a good deal of land in the neighbourhood of Bray, and the site they proposed satisfied the legalities of the matter. The site of the new church was critical. Under the Church law no new church can be built within a parish boundary except by permission of the incumbent; otherwise it must be built not less than a statutory distance from the parish church. In this case the incumbent of Bray, did object, and so Crinken church was located one measured mile from St. Paul’s, Bray.

Margaret Clarke was the eldest daughter of the seventeen children of William Harkness, one of the founders of the Bank of Ireland. Margaret, married Dr. James Clarke, of Dublin, in the year 1817, but lost both father and husband in the same year. Mrs. Clarke then took up residence for a time at Woodbrook, and formed a firm friendship with her neighbour, Mrs. Hannah Magan, also a widow.

At one in their desire to help forward the setting up of a church where they could worship more happily, Mrs. Clarke made an offer of £1,550 to start a building fund. Mrs. Magan added to her generosity in giving the land and by contributing £200.

Along with other donations the total sum of £1,870 was raised to build a church to seat 500. When the question arose as to the name to be given to the church Mrs Clarke asked that her husband’s name should be associated with the dedication, and so the name of Saint James was decided on. James was one of the closest associates of Jesus, along with Peter and John.

Mrs. Clarke later moved to England where, after founding another church in France mainly for the use of some working-class community, she died at Clevedon, in Somerset, at the age of 88 years. Hannah Magan is buried in the crypt of the church.

Early Years

The first minister was Rev. John Winthrop Hackett, who thirty-six years of age when the church began, who was previously curate of St. Michael’s, Cork.

The church opened on Sunday, 28th June 1840. Canon Daly was the preacher. Daly was rector of Powerscourt in Enniskerry and in 1842 became Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, and was appointed Bishop of Cashel in the following year.

Canon Daly’s sermon was based on the text, ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,’ from Matthew 28, and was an encouragement to both evangelism in Ireland and to overseas mission. The following Sunday Mr. Hackett’s preached his first sermon. His text was appropriate for one who was from 2 Corinthians 2:15-16:

  • For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?’

In a letter from Margaret Clarke to Hackett she writes:

  • Fervently I do pray that you my dear Sir may be enabled to carry on the work (committed to your trust) with power, and that you may be made the honoured instrument of leading many sinners to the knowledge of a Saviour.

The first register still exists, but all subsequent registers were destroyed when the vestry, with all its contents, was burned in the summer of 1921,

In this first register the numbers of the congregation are not given, but those of the communicants are. The latter naturally varied very greatly, but it is worth noting, as justifying the building of the church, that in the first 20 years the numbers of the communicants passed the 100 mark no less than 59 times. Holy Communion services were held on the first Sunday of the month.

Hackett’s also had responsibility for services in what was called the Rathmichael Schoolhouse. This schoolhouse came in very useful for the carrying on of services in April 1863, when Crinken church was closed for painting and repairs. Services were also held there after the fire of 1921.
There is a memorial to John Hackett in Crinken church: It reads:

  • This tablet and the neighbouring Memorial Hall were erected in loving remembrance of the Rev. John Winthrop Hackett, M.A., the first minister of this church and for nearly half a century its devoted pastor. Gifted with a rare and persuasive eloquence, his aim was ever to exalt the saviour, win the sinner, and edify the church of God. The cause of Christian missions throughout the world was dear to his heart, but a lover of his country above all; he zealously promoted the work of Scriptural Education in this land, and earnestly laboured for Ireland’s true enlightenment and peace. “To him, to live was Christ, and to die was gain” He entered into rest November 23rd 1888, aged 84 years
Difficult Times

Being a church committed to evangelical ministry and witness has not always been an easy thing in Ireland, and Crinken has been through some very challenging times in the past. St. James’ Crinken is a trustee Church. This means that under the terms of the church’s trust, the trustees decide the vital issue of the appointment of the incumbent, but, once chosen, he cannot seek to attract new members of the church by parish visitation. Historically this has limited the evangelistic work of the church.

On at least three occasions, in 1871,1914, and in 1957 a majority of the congregation was in favour of becoming a parish church. On this last occasion this was driven by the perilous state of the church’s finances.

In 1957, the majority of the congregation, and, (according to the vestry minutes of 15th February, 1957) the entire select vestry with the exception of those trustees who served on it, were agreed on the desirability of vesting St. James’ church in the Representative Church Body. This action would be the preliminary step in bringing the church into amalgamation with Rathmichael.

The trustees, however, didn’t agree with the proposed change of status, saying that they believed “the maintenance of the traditions of Crinken were better ensured by power of trustees.”

Again, on 15th December 1969, “the vestry viewed the bad state of finances with alarm”. There was a deficit for the year of £450, being the culmination of a steady decline over the previous few years. Although the church might obtain temporary assistance by a grant from the central fund, the “present position was untenable in the long term”.

A year later, in November 1970, the continuously shrinking financial support prompted the following letter from the trustees to Sir Desmond Cochrane of Woodbrook, also one of the trustees:

We are in great difficulty on this occasion; as you will remember our accounts for last year showed a deficit of something over £400, and we had to make an appeal to the Poor Churches Fund to make a contribution to meet that deficit. Unless we can offer the New Incumbent a minimum stipend, .it is possible the Archbishop may refuse to give us a licence for another Incumbent. Should this be the case, the logical sequence of this would be that the church would be closed down and pulled down within the next three to four years.

Parish finances subsequently improved but the issue arose again in 1979, when there was again concern that the congregation might not be able to afford a new minister. The incumbent, CAB Williams, agreed to postpone his retirement for two years, so that the congregation would have time to organize their finances to ensure proper provision for Mr. William’s successor.

Ministers at Crinken
John Winthrop Hackett 1840-1883
Thomas Hackett 1883-1903
William Weir 1904-1906
A.J. Culwick 1906-1909
D.H. Gillman 1909-1911
Robert Miller 1911-1916
John Oliver 1916-1922
F.E.Bland 1922-1947
E. Mahon Neil 1947-1961
J. Charles Combe 1961-1966
Frederick Young 1967-1970
C.A.B. Williams 1971-1981
Ken Clarke 1982-1986
Earl Story 1986-1997
Gordon Fyles 1998-2004
Edward Vaughan 2005-2010
Trevor Stevenson 2010-present

Crinken Church | Dublin Road | žBray ž| Co. Wicklow | A98VX58 | Ireland

Registered Charity No. 20003012, CHY No. 2331

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