Valleymount Church, Co. Wicklow

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Where: Wicklow, Ireland

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When: 01 January 1938

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On "All Saints" day we have an image of a church. Not your typical picture postcard church however, but a rather grim looking building that could easily hold the appellation "The Black Church". Taken in Valleymount by Mr. O'Dea in 1938, it must be one of the oldest of his photographs we have ever posted? Does it still stand and has the aspect been improved somewhat in the intervening years?

RorySherlock was quick to confirm that, despite the flooding of lower-lying lands nearby (as part of the Pollaphuca project), this church is still standing. And perhaps looking more inviting than the O'Dea shot suggests. The unusual facade (for this part of the world at any rate) seems to be attributed to (perhaps apocryphal) influences from either Mexico or Malta. Some place beginning with "m" anyway....

Photographer: James P. O'Dea

Collection: James P. O'Dea

Date: c.1938

NLI Ref.: ODEA 3/40

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 12507
jamespo’dea o’deaphotographiccollection nationallibraryofireland valleymount church cowicklow valleymountchurch countywicklow saintjosephscatholicchurch anchrois romancatholicchurch talbotstown moinanbhealaigh stjosephschurch mexico malta 1930s

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    • 01/Nov/2018 09:05:52

    Here it is on Streetview:,-6.5251223,3a,75y,59.61h,9...

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 01/Nov/2018 09:09:56[email protected] Not nearly as grim!!!!

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    • 01/Nov/2018 09:10:49 No - looks much better now!

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    • 01/Nov/2018 09:16:45

    "Valleymount Church, a detached four-bay single-storey Roman Catholic Church was built in 1803. Its exotic style is locally attributed to either a former priest inspired by churches he saw on a visit to Malta, or to parishioners who had visited or worked in New Mexico. The building is a fine example of local building and stone masonry skills. ..." From - Edit - The NIAH says the facade and porch were added c. 1835 -

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    • 01/Nov/2018 09:19:37

    Flickr is sometimes a bit to the left - in 2012 via

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    • 01/Nov/2018 09:29:25

    it definitely needs a bit of sunshine

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    Niall McAuley

    • 01/Nov/2018 09:30:02

    This was during the creation of Blessington reservoir behind the dam at poulaphuca, but Valleymount and this church survived unflooded. The same cannot be said for everything O'Dea captured: Humphreystown Bridge, Blessington, Co. Wicklow. The Púca's Hole

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    • 01/Nov/2018 10:13:16

    Sometimes Always the NLI is amazing! There is also an old map -

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    • 01/Nov/2018 11:53:03

    I was gonna suggest that it looked like a church one might see in the background of a western. But then I read the following in the link added by [] - which offers a possible (if apocryphal) explanation:

    Its exotic style is locally attributed to either a former priest inspired by churches he saw on a visit to Malta, or to parishioners who had visited or worked in New Mexico
    The Valleymount Wikipedia article describes it as being:
    of a traditional Mexican style, a design created when emigrants from the area returned home and adapted the style to the local area
    An unsupported claim which is crying out for a {{citation needed}} tag :)

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    John Spooner

    • 01/Nov/2018 18:53:07

    [[email protected]] [] I'm surprised there isn't a story that the architects got their plans mixed up, and that somewhere in Malta or Mexico there's a traditional Irish church. Similar to the "Balloon House" and other buildings mentioned in the comments Balloon House

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    • 01/Nov/2018 20:16:18

    I had a squiz at the long list of churches in Malta, and the only one with those peculiar pyramid pinnacles is this - From the long list - Another thing - the cross at the street entrance has "1846" and "1875" engraved. What's that all about? Streetview - Glad this little gem wasn't swallowed up by the reservoir.