St Werburgh’s is named after Werburgh, Abbess of Ely who died around 700 AD. The body of the church is by Thomas Burgh although it is believed that the main west facade may have been designed by Alessandro Galilei during his visit in Ireland to design Castletown House in County Kildare. The facade is more detailed than Burgh’s usual treatment. The church was damaged by fire in 1754 which left only the tower and facade intact.
St Werburgh’s once boasted a fine tower and spire. However it was removed in the late 1836 by the authorities in the nearby Dublin Castle which it overlooked. They feared that it could be used by subversives or during a rebellion as a sniper position. At the time they claimed that it was removed on safety grounds and ignored the architect Richard Johnston’s offer to make it safe. Despite the truncated façade (the steeple was removed in 1810 and the tower (and pedimented second storey) in 1836, and the lack of a proper vista, the west front is impressive.
The church has a fine galleried interior with oak panelling. Many of the original features remain including the clear glazing. Positioned in a relatively unfashionable area, the building escaped the attentions of the Victorian ‘restorers’. The fine gothic pulpit was originally designed by Richard Johnston for the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle. The interior of the church was re-modeled in 1877 by the architect William Welland, when the parish was united with that of St. John the Evangelist.
For years the area’s fire engines were stored in the church porch and two survivors can be seen there today.