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The Chapel at Dr Steevens’ Hospital

‘My will is that the said interest or rent shall be applied to the maintenance of a Chaplain in the Hospital founded by Dr. Richard Steevens, aforesaid,  to be paid to the said Chaplain every year, at Lady Day and Michaelmas by equal portions, on condition that the said Chaplain shall read prayers out of the common prayer-book now established and one other every day at ten or eleven of the clock in the morning, and preach every second Lord’s day in the Chapel or other place appointed for Divine Service in the said Hospital…’

Extract from the will of Esther Johnson (Swift’s Stella), 1727.*

Photograph of the old chapel (taken from Kirkpatrick’s History).

Esther Johnson (1681–1728) may have left a benefaction (along with detailed instructions) as to how the chaplain at Dr Steevens’ Hospital should behave, but it took rather longer to finish the chapel itself at the hospital, for while provision had been made for religious instruction, and an apartment had been built for the appointed chaplain, the completion of the chapel itself proved more difficult. It was certainly planned from the beginning as part of the east range and, when built, was originally located in the south-east corner block. However, it was only completed in 1761 and, as Kirkpatrick (1924) argues, this was undoubtedly because another woman, Mrs Ann Chaloner, who had been the first matron and was the widow of the first steward of the hospital, George Chaloner, stipulated in her will of 1756 that her body be ‘decently interred in the Chapel of Dr Steevens’ Hospital in a brick vault to be built therein and that the bodys of my late dear husband George Chaloner of his father and of Mrs. Steevens may be removed and placed in said vault together with mine and when the said Chappell is finished I likewise devise that the painted monument I have by me may be there placed.’


Photograph of the old chapel gallery (taken from Kirkpatrick’s History).

Hugh Wilson, the ubiquitous carpenter at Dr Steevens’ was deputised to undertake the task and by August 1761 the chapel was to all intents and purposes ready for service. As Kirkpatrick (1924) dryly notes, ‘the chapel thus fitted up for the Hospital made no pretension to artistic decoration or architectural embellishment.’ Located at the south-east corner of the building it occupied two stories and incorporated an eighteenth-century organ. The delay in its completion was unfortunately matched by a lack of interest in its maintenance, the Governors evidently feeling that the proceeds from Esther Johnson’s bequest should cover any expenses in that regard. As Casey (2005) notes, the original chapel was converted in 1909 into wards and a new building replaced it at the north-west corner (this was demolished in the 1980s during the remodelling of the north range).


Detail of Book of Common Prayer belonging to Reverend Sillery.

* Quoted from Croker-King, Samuel (1854), A Short History of the Hospital founded by Doctor Richard Steevens, near the City of Dublin, from its establishment in the year 1717 to the present time 1785 (Dublin), pp. 30-33.


Casey, Christine (2005), The Buildings of Ireland. Dublin (Yale University Press).
Casey, Noreen (1984), ‘Hospital Architecture in Dublin’ in Eoin O’Brien, Anne Crookshank and Sir Gordon Wolstenholme, A Portrait of Irish Medicine. An Illustrated History of Medicine in Ireland (Dublin: Ward River Press, 1984), pp. 215- 260.
Croker-King, Samuel (1854), A Short History of the Hospital founded by Doctor Richard Steevens, near the City of Dublin, from its establishment in the year 1717 to the present time 1785 (Dublin).
Kirkpatrick, T. P. C. (1924; reprinted 2008) The History of Doctor Steevens’ Hospital Dublin, 1720-1920 (Dublin).
Probyn, Clive (2004), ‘Johnson, Esther [Stella] (1681–1728)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press).

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