Situated between the mountains and the sea and between the city and the country, Kilternan has many unique attractions. To the west, the landscape is dominated by the bulk of Three Rock mountain which gives panoramic views of Dublin Bay to the north and the Scalp to the south-east. The features of the landscape were carved out by glaciers during the last Ice Age which ended over 10,000 years ago.
Three Rock gets its name from the massive granite rocks at its summit. It was not covered by ice during the last incursion of glaciers but the exposed granite rocks were severely weathered by rain and frost to leave the prominent masses of solid rock known as 'tors' that are visible from miles away. The natural ravine known as the Scalp owes its existence to glacier meltwater cutting a channel in the rock as it flowed south.
During the relatively warm period at the end of the last Ice Age, Giant Deer inhabited Ireland from 11,750 to 10,950 years ago. The Giant Deer is extinct but the most famous site for fossil remains is Ballybetagh Bog where skeletons of more than 100 deer were recovered. The male deer had huge antlers up to four metres in width, the largest of any known deer, living or extinct.
In 1934 the layers of Ballybetagh Bog were investigated by Prof. Knud Jessen of Copenhagen. By counting the numbers of fossil pollen in each layer, Jessen was able to build up a picture of the phases of woodland development since the Ice Age.
Some 150 cromlechs have been recorded in Ireland and the second largest is situated in the grounds of Kilternan Abbey, to the west of the Golden Ball. The impressive capstone of the cromlech is nearly seven metres long. This Neolithic tomb is only one of a number of megalithic monuments in the neighbourhood which indicate a long history of human habitation.
The name 'Kilternan Abbey' is a misnomer as there was never an abbey in the district. It was formerly known as 'Kilternan House' and the name was changed by ladies named Strong who lived there.
The earliest mention of the name Kilternan occurs in the Papal Taxation Rolls of 1306. The first record of the parish as being the property of St Mary's Abbey, Dublin is in a charter dated 1406; the connection probably goes back to 1185 at least. The only visible remains of that early period is the small ruined church on Bishop's Lane off the road to Glencullen.
After the Dissolution of the Monastries in 1540, the lands and rectory of Kilternan passed into the hands of the Dean of St Patricks who granted them to the FitzWilliam family. By 1630 the Parish of Kilternan had been joined to Bray and the old church became a ruin. After the 1641 rebellion Kilternan probably became part of the Loughlinstown estates of Sir William Domville. In 1776 the Glebe of Kilternan was assigned to the use of the incumbent of Kilgobbin.
The story of the present Parish Church of Kilternan begins with the union of the parishes of Kilgobbin and Kilternan by Act of Parliament in 1824. Kilgobbin church had been rebuilt on the old pre-Norman site in 1703 and it is reputed to have been the first church erected in Ireland after the Reformation. One of its most notable incumbents was Mervyn Archdall (1723-1791), the renowned antiquary, who served there from 1753 to 1758.
By 1818, Kilgobbin Church was in poor repair and too small for its congregation. The authorities would not sanction a loan to carry out repairs or enlargement and the decision to build a church on a new site was included in the 1824 Act. The new church was designed by John Semple who was also the architect for Whitechurch, Donnybrook, Tallaght, Rathmines and the Black Church in Dorset Street. Kilternan Church was built by John Richardson on a site donated by Elizabeth and Susan Anderson. The Church was consecrated on 10 December 1826.
Over the years, Kilternan Church has been improved and enhanced through the generosity of the members of the congregation. Some highlights include:
Kilternan Church has some fine stained glass windows, most of which were installed during the early years of the 20th century.
The three-light east window in the chancel was erected in 1908 in memory of Hugh Stuart Moore, a solicitor who lived in The Grange, Kilternan. Its style is typically Edwardian and it depicts Christ's ascension with two angels, one on each side. The scene in the lower part of the window depicts the landscape surrounding the Church.
The smaller windows in the chancel have a Christmas theme and were erected in memory of Ellen Empson of Firmount, Kilternan. The north window depicts the shepherds and the angels singing "Good tidings of great joy". The south window shows the Magi bearing gifts on their journey to Bethlehem.
The first window on the north wall of the nave commemorates Lieutenant Edmund Trouton who was killed on active service in France in 1916, aged 24. King Arthur, clad as a soldier, appears below a contemporary clean-shaven Christ holding the flag of St George. The borders are decorated with crowns and Christ's monogram and are headed with Trouton's regimental colours and motto.
The next window on the north side was erected in 1913 by the children of Hewitt Poole Jellett, K.C. It shows the vision of St John; the saint is seated beside his symbol, the eagle, and is being instructed to write to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.
The first window on the south side of the nave is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Arthur The O'Morchoe who was rector for 28 years until 1921. It shows St Paul preaching at Athens with the Acropolis behind him.
The second window on the south side is in memory of Judge James Murphy of Glencairn. Moses is shown holding the tablets of the law above the Four Courts and the idealised blue waters of the Liffey.
The third window commemorates various members of the Murphy family who were at school at Charterhouse in London. The central bearded figure is Thomas Sutton (1532-1611), the benefactor of the School and Hospital for Old Gentlemen at Charterhouse.
Beneath the gallery on the south side is a small panel presented by Major and Mrs Green of Sandyford in 1963 and fixed over the plain window. Reputably made by Elizabeth Yeats, it depicts the 'Searcher after Wisdom', clad in a magnificent gold brocade cape, peering through the darkness. He is tempted on his right by a robed and crowned figure holding out a golden casket and on his left by a turbaned figure holding a skull, symbolising decadence
On the window opposite is a diamond-shaped panel taken from the East Window of St. Feighan's Church, Barbaville, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath. It was originally presented by Mrs. E. O. Lyster-MacKenzie, the wife of Rear Admiral Sir Kenneth MacKenzie, Bart., one time Admiral Superintendent of Malta.
A History of the County Dublin, by F.E. Ball, 1902-20. Lewis' Dublin, a topographical dictionary of the parishes, towns and villages of Dublin City and County compiled by Christopher Ryan, Collins Press, 2001
The Neighbourhood of Dublin, its topography, antiquities and historical associations by Weston St. John Joyce, 1939.
Kilternan Church 1826-1876, published by Kilternan Parish in 1976.
The Way that I Followed by Frank Mitchell, Country House, 1990.
On the Border of the Pale by Robin Goodbody, 1993.
Between the Mountains and the Sea by Peter Pearson, the O'Brien Press, 2001.
The New Neighbourhood of Dublin by Joseph Hone, Maurice Craig and Michael Fewer, A & A Farmar, Dublin, 2002.
Dundrum, Stillorgan and Rathfarnham, Gateway to the Mountains. Paintings by Olivia Hayes, text by Christopher Ryan, Cottage Publications, 2002.