The Honans were a family of Cork butter merchants who became very wealthy during the course of the nineteenth century. The last generation of the Honan family consisted of two brothers, Matthew and Robert, and their sister Isabella.
In 1909 Isabella established the Honan scholarships, whereby she made part of her wealth available to students of UCC. Isabella, the last surviving of the three siblings, died in 1913; the executor of her will, Sir John O’Connell, allocated £40,000 of the Honan Estate to UCC, for the building of a hostel for student accommodation. As UCC had no place of worship, he also used some of this money to build a chapel, to cater for the spiritual and religious needs of the students.
Reflecting the Nationalist mood of the time, O’Connell insisted that only should the design of the chapel represent traditional Irish art, but also that only Irish artists and craftsmen should be involved in its construction. He particularly focused on employing Cork craftsmen, in order to provide work for the local community, and also to encourage local talent.
Today the entire funding and maintenance of the chapel is still provided for solely by the Honan Trust.