A transformative project currently underway is turning a derelict and negative landmark on St Luke’s Avenue into a positive statement of renewal and regeneration of Newmarket and The Liberties.
The former church of St Luke’s was built between 1715 and 1716 to serve the growing Church of Ireland community around Newmarket, the then emerging marketplace for the south city. Newmarket and its surrounds formed part of the Earl of Meath’s Liberty and the Brabazons were actively encouraging new residents, and particularly skills artisans and tradesmen, to the area to develop commercial life in what was then a suburb of the city.
The church is attributed to Thomas Burgh, surveyor general, well known for many more prominent buildings in Dublin including Dr Steeven’s Hospital and the Royal Barracks (later Collins Barracks and now the National Museum of Ireland).
St Luke’s was simple and unassuming, a formal carriage path led to its original entrance on The Coombe. Additions included a 19th century entrance onto Newmarket (which still survives) and a porch and chancel apse added in the early 20th century. But like many protestant churches in the city, the 20th century saw declining congregations and funds to support the church and it closed for public worship in 1975. In 1986 a fire ruined the building and left it unusable and inaccessible. In 2002, the completion of the Cork Street/Coombe Relief Road sundered the church from its entrance on The Coombe and left the ruin stranded on a mound above the new roadway, a reminder of the upheaval in the area in recent decades.
In 2004 a conservation plan was prepared for St Luke’s by Dublin City Council and that in turn spawned a proposal to reimagine the church; creating a new use for the building while conserving its remaining fabric. While the recession in 2008 appeared to put pay to the plans, the recent regeneration in Dublin 8, reactivated the project. Since the beginning of 2017, a transformation of St Luke’s has been underway, undertaken by JJ Rhatigan and overseen by Derek Tynan Architects and Carrig Consultants. The building is being converted to a unique and stunning new contemporary office space. A new zinc and glass roof has been added and an innovative modern structure hung from this the roof. The shell of the church has been cleaned and restored and surviving historic features such as the decorative work around the former chancel has been conserved and restored. It is hoped to reinstate the original east window, which has been located elsewhere since the church was ruined in the 1980s. The previously bricked up windows have been opened and the building now stands as a revelation as one turns onto St Luke’s Avenue.
The work is being complemented by two new garden spaces, being developed by Dublin City Council to designs by Bernard Seymour Landscape Architects. To the south of the church, a conserved graveyard will be created with limited access from Newmarket and shares access from the adjoining St Brigid’s School. North of the former church, a new parklet is being developed. Steps and a ramped access will connect to street level, a small play area and a contemporary garden will create a small haven away from the bustle of St Luke’s Avenue.
The project is now nearing completion. Come November, the sparkling ‘new’ addition will be ready for occupation. Its parklets will be places to enjoy and the building will be a positive testament to the change and enhancement of Newmarket currently underway.
More details on the St Luke’s Conservation Plan
More details on DTA including images