Singing for its Supper: The Choir of Christ Church Pays Homage to the Court of Exchequer, 1851

From the Belfast News-Letter, 1 December 1851:

“In the Court of Exchequer, on Saturday week, the clergymen and choristers from Christ Church Cathedral appeared and performed their accustomed homage, by singing an anthem and saying prayers. At the entrance of the minister and choristers the barons arose and continued standing during the ceremony.”

The Court of Exchequer was where Court 3 is today, charmingly located over a cesspit only cleaned out properly later in the century. Its location on the river-side of the Round Hall also added the additional flavour of the Liffey stench. Hopefully the choristers and vicars were not too discommoded!

The practice of attending at the Four Courts, or more specifically the Court of Exchequer, four times a year, was a continuance of an older practice which had existed when the courts were previously at Christchurch, and indeed even before that time. It was in thanksgiving for an annual stipend which had been granted out of the Exchequer in 1547, hence the Court of Exchequer being the only court visited. Hopefully the other courts did not feel left out! Possibly they were happy for the opportunity to get on with business.

Another report in the Belfast News-Letter of 26 October 1898 describes the songs sung as the ‘Te Deum’ and the ‘Jubilate.’ Some nostalgia attaches to this account, since the enactment of the Irish Church Act 1869, disestablishing the Church of Ireland, had had the effect of bringing an end to these visits, which some wags remarked were the closest many barristers came to attending religious services.

Of course, there is nothing to stop the choir visits from being reinstated again on a voluntary basis – four times a year might be a bit much, but perhaps some Christmas carols?

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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