The Honan Chapel & Collection - Essays and Discussion

This collection of essays about the honan serve to provide a forum for discussion, and facilitate in the gathering of knowledge about the chapel and collection.

Short Essays

The Honan Hostel

Catriona Mulcahy, Uiversity Archivist, UCC

The Honan Hostel began its life as Berkeley Hall and was opened in 1884 as a residential hostel for Protestant students attending Queens College Cork. The main driving force behind its construction and establishment was George Webster, the Church of Ireland Dean of Residence in Queens College Cork. He was anxious to have a facility attached to the college where he could carry out religious instruction to the students. It was called Berkeley Hall after George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne on the suggestion of William K Sullivan, President of QCC. It was successfully managed by George Webster and after his death in 1890 by his son G. Arthur Webster but soon after its popularity declined, students stopped enrolling and it was closed in 1897.

The Hostel lay idle for a decade. The then owner, Thomas Donovan – a Lord Mayor of Cork had plans to develop the area along College Road and Fernhurst Avenue – later Donovan’s Road. He proposed turning the building into a terrace of houses and this prompted discussions about the building. In 1909 the Franciscan Order purchased the hall from Thomas Donovan for £6,000 and they re-named it St Anthony’s Hall, a student house for Franciscan clerics and a hostel for students attending UCC – owing to the fact that it was larger than needed for the clerics – this suggestion came from Bertram Windle, President of QCC and from the Archbishop of Cashel. 1

At this stage the building needed some renovation and refurbishment. J F MacMullen (later the architect of the Honan Chapel) was engaged as Architect and John Delaney was employed as Builder. The official opening was on the 6th of October 1909. The first Catholic Dean of Residence was Francis Maher, a Franciscan who was good friend of Windle’s, and he was particularly pleased about this appointment. 2

However the period of influence of the Franciscans did not last too long, there were disagreements within the Order relating to the purchase and the running of the hostel for students and it closed in 1912.

At that time President Windle was particularly concerned about the building. He saw that there was a need for residential accommodation for students, especially Catholic students as this would assist with the number of enrolments and was anxious that the building would once again be put to this use. The college, however, was not in a position to acquire the building for itself.

In 1913 Isabella Honan died – she had established the Honan scholarship at UCC - and she left her fortune in the control of Sir John OConnell (who is discussed elsewhere in these essays) to distribute for charitable and educational purposes. He was friendly with Windle and he immediately made £40,000 available to the President for the development of the college.

Sir John OConnell decided to acquire the hostel and reopen it as the Honan Hostel. He had it remodelled, enlarged to accommodate a Warden and purchased an additional building on College Road to house a Chaplain. Some of the additions and improvements included extra bathrooms, new drains and students rooms were provided with sinks with hot and cold water. The hostel, which could accommodate up to 40 students, was to serve as a residential hall for students of the college where they would live under reasonable discipline and in a religious atmosphere. 3

O’Connell made donations of artwork for the walls - Arundel and Medici prints - which were particularly admired during the tour of the building by the Governors at the first meeting.

The Honan Hostel Cork was incorporated under Royal charter of His Majesty King George V - the first royal charter for a Catholic institution since the reformation and was granted a coat of arms by the Ulster King of Arms;

Vert, in the doorway of an Irish Church or, the figure of Saint Finbarr proper, on a chief of the second, on a pale azure, between two lions passant to the dexter and the sinister respectively of the first, three antique crowns gold and For Motto Go Cum Gloire de agus O nora na hEireann

The management of the Honan funds together with the Honan Hostel and Chapel was vested in a statutory body of governors established by royal charter. The trust is still active and is responsible for decisions about all matters relating to the management of the chapel and its collection. The first meeting of the Governors of Honan Hostel took place on 26th January 1915 and members included the then President of UCC, Sir Bertram Windle, the Archbishop of Cashel, the Bishops of Cork and Cloyne and Sir John O’Connell who had endowed the Hostel. 4

Items on the first agenda included a vote of gratitude to Sir John O’Connell for securing the hostel, discussion relating to the charter, which had been granted to the hostel, the seal and the deeds of conveyance. It was decided that these items would be passed to the Warden for safekeeping and a secure deed box purchased for the purpose. 5 These items are now preserved in the University Archives, UCC.

General regulations were drawn up and it was decided on the following qualifications for the Warden:

No person shall be appointed to the office of Warden of the Honan Hostel unless he shall be a member of the teaching staff of University College Cork; a member of the Roman Catholic Faith; a person of known uprightness and propriety of conduct; and a layman.

The first Warden was Professor Timothy Smiddy, Professor of Economics and Commerce, UCC and he held the post from 1915 until 1923. Later Wardens included Joseph Downey, Secretary and Bursar of the college, Professor M D McCarthy – later President of UCC, Professor Cormac ÓCuilleanain, Professor Sean Teegan, Dr Daniel P OMahony and the last Warden was Professor Finbarr Holland.

The governors had general meetings twice a year with additional meetings convened when necessary. They discussed the general administration of the Hostel although the day to day running of it was left in the hands of the Warden. At each meeting he submitted a report to the Governors relating to the number of students, the standard of discipline maintained, qualifications or results achieved by the students and the financial accounts.

The Hostel held its golden jubilee on Sunday 4th July 1965 and there was a mass of thanksgiving in the Honan Chapel followed by a reception in the hostel. The event included an exhibition of items from the Honan collection and was largely organised by the then Warden, Prof Sean Teegan.

The Hostel enjoyed near full capacity for quite a number of years and it wasnt until the late 20th century that the building and the demand for the Hostel began to decline. At this stage if became more the norm for students to live in rented accommodation and there was less need for residential hostels. There was also a move towards a more modern form of residential halls where students would live in apartment style accommodation. It was decided to close the Hostel in 1991 and University College Cork bought the premises. It was demolished to make way for two new buildings – the ORahilly building and Aras na Mac Léinn to accommodate the Arts faculty and the Student Centre respectively.

The Hostel, in its various guises - The Honan Hostel, St Anthonys Hall, Berkeley Hall was for over a century a permanent feature on the landscape of UCC and for quite a lot of male student Freshers their first home away from home. It is somewhat sad that today, if you questioned students enjoying the atmosphere in the Honan square to point out the site of the Honan Hostel, I imagine the answer would be “What Hostel?"


1Bartholomew Egan, O.F.M, The Friars Minor and the Honan Hostel, University College Cork, Rome, 1980, page 6

2Ibid, page 7

3University College Cork, Official Gazette, Vol iv. No 12, June 1914 The Honan Benefactions, page 105

4UC/MB/HN/1 Minute Book of the Governors of the Honan Hostel, 05.01.1915 – 21.11.1952, page 2

5/MB/HN/1 Minute Book of the Governors of the Honan Hostel, 05.01.1915 – 21.11.1952, page 7

6The Honan Hostel Cork, Bye-Laws, rules and Regulations, Dublin, 1915, page 6

Posted 2006-9-22

Does anyone have any comments to add for discussion?

James Cronin, 2006-11-2