Location: Knightstown, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry
Church of the Knights of Kerry, St. John’s was built to a design by the great Irish architect, Joseph Wellard, 150 years ago. The earlier church of St John’s at Kilmore having been outgrown by the expansion of the slate quarry and the landing of the Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. Wellard was master of the art of understatement and produced beautiful little churches which sit so well in their setting. St. John’s is no exception, standing as it does at the head of the village.
The Church stood at the very centre of the debate over disestablishment and was the first church to be adversely affected by it in 1869. Over the years it became grandiose with stained glass windows, memorials to the Knights of Kerry and others by Watsons of Youghal, and Heaton, Butler & Bayne of London – some of the most unique to be found anywhere in Ireland.
Three major events in the 20th Century brought on its decline: the closure of the slate quarry; the establishment of the Free State and the closure of the Cable Station. With a dwindling Protestant population, there was little money to maintain it. It is closed to regular worship but opens for two months in the summer to facilitate holiday makers, for an ecumenical Christmas service and regularly hosts musical recitals and lectures.
Created in Knightstown in the grounds of St. Johns Church is a beautiful garden catering for people with disabilities. We all have 5 senses -smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste and it is with this in mind that the garden was established. There is a font on display also depicting various lifestyles over the years of the local people. It was designed by Arthur Shackleton, a grandson of the famous explorer of the same name. It is open to the public.