Bishopscourt – An Tobar, Ardbraccan

The Church of Ireland ceased being the state church in 1871.  Up until then the church was supported by the State.  We have no state church in Ireland today but some countries such as England and Finland still have state churches.  Following disestablishment of the church of Ireland in 1871 the diocese of Meath moved to the glebe house and demesne to serve as home for the bishop of Meath.  Ardbraccan House had previously served as home of the bishops.

In 1884 Bishop Plunket of Meath was appointed archbishop of Dublin.  So many bishops had died during the nineteenth century that the position had became known as the “Dead See.” The running costs of the large Ardbraccan House were too much and when Bishop Plunket was promoted to archbishop the diocese decided to sell the house, which they did with a loss of nearly 20% of the original purchase price.

The diocese purchased the glebe house of Ardbraccan, where the clergyman who served Ardbraccan lived and made that the home of the bishop.  This house was renamed Bishopscourt.  The parish of Ardbraccan was united with the parishes of Liscarton, Rataine, Churchtown, Martry and Clonmacduff.  The glebe-house is situated about half a mile from the church.  In 1837 the glebe comprised 33 acres of profitable land. In 1868 the rector J. Brownlow, was assisted by a curate who received £80 per annum.

A Commission also noted that there were 267 members of the Established Church resident in the Union of Ardbraccan.  A separate glebehouse for Ardbraccan parish was erected about 1890. Bishopscourt House remained the residence of the bishops of Meath until it was sold in 1958.

Bishopscourt was bought by a religious order, the Holy Ghost Fathers now called Spiritans, who renamed it An Tobar, linking it to St. Ultan's Well at Ardbraccan.  When the vacant Ardbraccan Church underwent some vandalism, one of its valuable stained glass windows were removed by the Church of Ireland and donated to An Tobar.  The Ethel Rhind stained glass window, from 1933 depicting 'The Woman at the Well' was presented to the Holy Ghost Fathers and was restored by the Abbey Stained Glass Studio in Dublin.  Ethel Rhind was a member of the group of stained glass artists called "An Tur Gloine", The Tower of Glass, who radically altered and improved standards of stained glass making in Ireland.