Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Grangegeeth Castle Co Meath


                                    Above Image: Remains of East and North walls

                                                     Above Image: West gable

                                          Above Image: Slit window in North wall

                        Above image: Window in separate wall West adjacent to gable

                         Above Image: Castle as was illustrated on Down Survey map
                                                 placed on modern map.

A peculiar site this in the fact that the castle tower that stood here is now non-extant but that the walls of a once attached house appear to remain. 
The possibility of the present ruins here being of a later buildings than the castle cannot be overlooked but judging by reference to old maps there is still a likelihood.that this was part of the castle complex.
The original tower was apparently embellished by four round corner towers and stood a few metres from the roadside directly behind the current ruins and adjacent to it there was also a well. Somebody out there might be able to elaborate upon this and any information is welcome about the origin of these remnants,
The castle would probably have been built in the latter medieval times and the lands were depicted as having a house attached without roofing on a very old hand drawn map made by the Down Survey in 1654. The lands of Grangegeeth were owned by Mellifont Abbey (see earlier post here) but then went to Sir Edward Moore after the dissolution and to his son 1st Viscount Garret Moore in 1603. After Garret's death in 1627 they passed to his son Lord Charles Moore who died in a battle in the Confederate rebellion in 1643. Whatever fate the castle subsequently suffered or who indeed had resided there is not clear but it was certainly non-extant by 1778 according to historical maps of the time. The ordnance survey of 1837 (a most valuable resource) indicates the site of the former castle even going as far to depict a line drawing of the foundations. I checked the field for the possibility of some remains but as expected nothing is visible above ground. 
To find the ruins take the N2 North of the crossroads in Slane village and drive for approx 5KM until you see a crossroads with a left turn onto the L5605. Turn left here and drive down the L5605 for approx 3KM and you will see the ruins by the roadside. You can park beside a field gate here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Old Dulane Church Co Meath

                                         Above Image: Main road entrance gate

                                      Above Image: The entrance gate of enclosure

                                        Above & Below Image: Cylcopean doorway

                                     Above Image: Vertical arrow sharpening marks 

                                           Above & Below Image: Antae on walls

                                           Above Image: Outer Southern doorway

                                           Above Image: Inner Southern doorway

                                                      Above Image: Stone font

                                        Above image: Cross base among bushes

                                           Above Image: possible standing stone?

The very ancient remains of Dulane church have left us little of the building but a number of interesting features. The date of origin of the church is not clear but it is thought to be no later than 919AD. It was dedicated to St Cairnech a son of a British Chieftain who arrived in Ireland not long after St Patrick. He may have founded the site here and a stone church may have been in existence before 919AD. One way or the other it would have been ransacked by the Vikings and later in 1171 by Dermod McMurrough under the Norman invasion. McMurrough would die that year at the very old age especially for that time of 81. By the 13th century Dulane had become a parish church under the auspices of Kells but was out of service and in ruin by the early 17th century.
The remains of the church visible today are standing on elevated ground within a D-shaped graveyard which has now been extended on its Northern end to accommodate more recent burials 
The ruins are situated away from the main road at the end of a narrow laneway and we had no trouble finding parking at the enclosure gate.
My first impression of the ruins which looked rather scant was the type of stones used to construct it. The West wall is constructed of large blocks (Cyclopean is the term I believe for these) particularly the doorway where a lintel is replaced by two huge blocks. The South wall has large blocks on the Antae (extensions of the walls beyond the gable) on Its West end and with tracings on the East end. The Antae of the non-extant North wall is partially present. Both of the extant walls are sunken somewhat below present ground level, although the undulating ground within this graveyard has probably added to this.
A Second doorway is present in the South wall and the wall surrounding it over its arch may have been rebuilt later as the stones are smaller than the blocks at the base of the wall. 
On the interior of the church there is a small stone font set into the wall East of the South doorway 
On the inner right hand side of the West door are long incisions in the upright blocks which are attributed to arrow sharpening.
A couple of other features we spotted here were the base of an old stone cross which is now obsured on either side by some out of control topiary bushes and by a grave stone on the East side. You can just about see it poking through and it lies a few yards North East of the church. Also present is a strange leaning stone with some indents on its East side which could be a standing stone, although it is of a defined shape and although I checked the old ordnance survey maps it doesn't merit a mention.
To find the ruins take the M3 motorway West towards Kells and as the motorway ends just before Kells take the third exit off the roundabout and then the first exit on the following roundabout onto the N52. Continue on this road through the next roundabout and on the subsequent roundabout take the first exit heading Northwards on the R164. Drive for approx 2KM  and when you pass Murray Ward accountants on your left, take the next right turn. Drive down this road for approx 350m and you will see on your left two metal gates between two pillars, The gate on the right is usually unlocked and you just need to open it so you can drive up to the small parking area at the end of the lane.


Friday, 14 August 2020

Rathkenny Churches Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                         Above Image: West wall entrance door

                                Above Image: Fragments, some from medieval church

                                        Above Image: Fireplace in North wall interior

                                                       Above Image: Apse (interior) 

                                                  Above Image: Apse (exterior)

                                              Above Image: Mausaleum remains.

                                            Above Image: Possible old gate posts?

                                        Above Image: Remains of 1869 Church

                                  Above & Below Images: Main doorway of church

                                     Above & Below Images: Unidentified fragments

                                       Above & Below Images: The medieval font


This was originally to be two separate posts but I discovered that they are linked by one feature.
The old church ruin in Rathkenny's older graveyard is recorded as being an 18th century Church of Ireland construct which was built upon the site of a former medieval church dating back prior to the 14th century. The older church which had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary was in ruins by 1682 and is now non-extant although locals have said that grave digging in the cemetery has exposed  possible foundations that give the impression that the medieval church may have been bigger than the later extant ruins. (There was also said to have been another old church 900m East of the this graveyard opposite the Lacken Bar that shows absolutely no trace of itself today.) 
The only remains from the medieval church visible in the graveyard are some small fragments from a door projection and part of a sill. These appear to have been placed within the 18th century church along with some other odds and ends. 
The extant ruins of the later COI church are situated on elevated ground with a back drop of nearby Simpson's mountain. The church has all walls intact and has at its Eastern face an apse in the wall. This is the first large apse I have encountered as most of the small church ruins I have visited have flat walls. The apse is a semicircular recess which is concave within the church and concave on the exterior. There is a large window in the centre of this.
The entrance in the West wall has a nicely decorative Georgian style doorway with steps leading up to it. Both North and South walls have two windows each while unusually there is a fireplace in the interior North wall. 
Outside on the South East corner of the apse there are the remains of a barrel-vaulted mausoleum which has been blocked up with rubble and this sits atop a chamber which is a few feet underground.
The 18th century ruins are within an enclosed graveyard on a quiet side road. Approx 330m Southwest is another graveyard this one more modern which contains the impressive remains of the entire South wall of the 19th century Rathkenny church built in 1869 but disused and dismantelled in 1974. A new modern church lies a short distance South of this. What remains are two tall square towers on either side of a decorative central arch. There is a central doorway and two porch recesses, one in the base of each tower. the Western recess has a grotto installed while the Eastern recess holds a connection to the old medieval church just up the road. This one last remnant from the said church is part of the underside and partially damaged basin of a stone font which has been given a home here as its parent structure no longer exists. It was once believed it might have come from the other older church to the East which there is no trace of but it's more likely from the nearer medieval site. This font was to me the highlight of the visit as it ties together the ecclesiastical history of Rathkenny. 
This was a particularly enjoyable visit as we were allowed to travel outside our county for the first time since the covid lockdown. As for social distancing you can't get better than being the only two visitors!  
Rathkenny lies in a very picturesque part of County Meath and both church sites are well worth taking time out to see.
To find the ruins take the N2 North toward Slane and when you reach the main crossroads in Slane village (crossing with the N51) turn left and drive for approx 1.8KM and take a right hand turn onto the R163 (which is opposite the gate into Slane castle). Continue on this road for approx 5.2KM and you will reach a crossroads with a pub and shop on the left hand corner. Turn left here and drive for approx 4KM and you will reach Rathkenny Cross. The Twin towered church remains with the font are on you right hand side while the 18th century ruins are 1KM up the right hand turn at the crossroads, Parking is not a problem at both sites. Access to both graveyards are by unlocked gates although there is the addition of an elaborate stile at the medieval site.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Ballyhack Castle Co Wexford

                                               Above Image: The entrance door

                                    Above Image: Machicolation on fourth floor wall

                                           Above Image: The Ruinous top floors

Ballyhack castle is a five storey tower house situated on the Hook Peninsula that was constructed by the Knights Hospitallers of St John one of the two crusading orders of the early Norman period, the other being The Knights Templar. The order of St John had a Preceptory on this site since the beginning of the thirteenth century and they controlled the movement of traffic on the Barrow estuary. They also introduced a ferry system. While the order of St John went about their business their rivals the Templar's were settled across the estuary in Crooke in County Waterford. But in 1308 the well established and very wealthy Templar order was put under threat when the Pope resulting from demands of the then King of France, Philip, ordered their dissolution. The King owed the Templar's a vast sum of money (they were also very notably the inventors of modern banking) and started a campaign accusing them of gross misdeeds.There were accusations which included heresy and they were rounded up, tortured and put to death all across Europe and by 1312 they had been completely disbanded and their lands and wealth confiscated.
The less ambitious Knights of St John built the tower house at Ballyhack in 1450 and fortified it with a portcullis, a murder hole located just inside the entrance and a machicolation above the entrance door on the West wall of the fourth floor. Battlements and a walkway were also constructed. The Knights continued to thrive in this area until the dissolution of monasteries and churches in 1536 when the tower and lands were given to the Etchingham's who lived there until they moved to Dunbrody in the mid eighteenth century.
During the Cromwellian invasion the castle was taken by Cromwell's men and the battlements destroyed and as a result of the act of Settlement in 1652 the tower was used as a point of transportation for those who lost homes and land.
In the 1800's Arthur Chichester built the estate village of Arthurstown as the land lay on the Dunbrody estate. A pier was built in 1829 and the town thrived. The castle stood still and uninhabited on the slopes of the village at Ballyhack for many years until it was partially restored by the OPW and made open to the public. This occurs annually May to August from Saturdays to Wednesdays 9.30-17.00,
Although you can self tour I would recommend taking the guided tour by one of the staff as they are very knowledgeable and also admission is free. You can of course leave a discretionary donation if you wish.
We were informed that the ground floor was the most defensively sound and was generally used for storage and servant sleeping quarters. There are a set of steep stone stairs that lead you upwards and features include some period furniture and knights attire within the floors that have had some restoration done. The top two floors while accessible are still ruinous and shell marks from cannon fire were pointed out to us. The views over the estuary from the high vantage point are spectacular and there is also an opportunity to see the dungeon!
I have to say I myself like my castles ruined where you can explore inside yourself see what damage time has done but sometimes now and again it's good to see a castle that is not inhabited but mostly intact just to get a feel for what they actually looked like in their day. Ballyhack is one of those castles and I found the visit very pleasing and informative.
To find the Castle take the N25 heading West from Wexford Town towards New Ross. After approx 25KM you will pass through the village of Ballinaboola. 4KM out of Ballinaboola you reach a major roundabout (Ballymacar Roundabout) and you take the first exit left (a continuation of the N25).
Drive for approx 5KM and take the slip road following the sign for Arthurstown (R733). At the T-junction on the end of the slip road turn right following the R733 and drive for approx 1.7KM until you reach another right hand turn, a continuation of the R733. Drive for 7KM and then turn right again following the R733. It is 7KM more from here to Arthurstown and when you reach it take a right hand turn onto the coast road and take a short drive towards the ferry pier at Ballyhack. There is parking available in this area and you will see the castle up the hill a little from the pier.
Alternatively if coming from Waterford City take the R683 to Passage East and you can cross on the ferry directly to the pier at Ballyhack. (Cost for car & passengers 8.00 Euro single trip, 12.00 Euro return, Foot passengers 1.50 Euro, return 2.00 Euro)

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Moyglare Castle Co Meath

                                 Above Image: North-West & South-East facing walls

                                           Above Image: South-East facing wall

                                        Above Image: Close-up of North-West wall

                                           Above Image: Bases of existing walls

                                                Above Image: Moyglare Church


Moyglare Road meanders Northwards out of Maynooth. Along its route, virtually unnoticeable unless you are actually looking for it, lies the remains of Moyglare Castle. The history regarding the origin of this castle appears to be lost in the swirling sands of time.
The Castle, bearing in mind its size and location, has all the attributes of the result of the statute decreed by Henry VI in 1429 stating that in order to protect the pale from marauding Irish clans a sum of £10 would be paid to any supporter of the crown who would build a fortified tower of specific dimensions on or along the borders of the pale. That's an equivalent of £6,250 by today's standards. Taking into consideration that today the remains of Moyglare only ascend to the first floor above the entrance, its dimensions otherwise fit the bill of the King's suggested castle specifications and also  the fact that its location is near Kilcock (which was on the border of the pale) increases the possibility further.
As to its fate and eventual ruination, the only other piece of information I could garner from research is that the land was owned in 1640 by one George Wentworth. This was just before the time of the  English civil war. George Wentworth went on to fight in that war on the side of the Royalists, He was the brother of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford who was himself a Royalist and also Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1632 to 1640. It would then be of no surprise if Cromwell's forces on moving towards Drogheda in 1649 and taking into account Moyglare's Royalist owner would most probably have left Moyglare castle destroyed in their wake. The gaping hole on the South-Eastern wall looks to all intents and purposes like the result of cannon fire.
The remnants of the castle today are slowly being engulfed by ivy and encroaching trees. The walls though crumbling away at the top appear defensively thicker at their bases. Within the scant walls of the first floor there are the remains of a fireplace.
We would like to have gotten closer to the ruins but they appear to stand now on private land belonging to Moyglare Stud Farm one of many horse breeding farms in the area. As a result of this, especially in Summer and the proximity of the farms, there is an abundance of flies ready to lay siege upon the unsuspecting visitor who dares to exit their cars or stand still in any one spot too long.
A short distance from the castle is the church of St. Paul, which has a nicely designed tower and spire which was built in 1870. The church sits upon the site of an ancient medieval church built prior to 1300 which remained partially in ruin since the 1640's but was eventually demolished to make way for the new church. No traces remain of the medieval structure and the new church itself is now privately owned. Behind Moyglare Stud Farm there also lies oddly enough an airstrip (just in case you are travelling in by Cessna!).
To find the ruins take the junction 7 exit for Maynooth from the M4 onto the R406, When you reach the traffic lights at the T-junction with the R148 in Maynooth turn left and then take the first turn right and drive for approx 2.8KM along Moyglare Road. Keep an eye out on your left for a green sign welcoming you to County Meath and then about 200m on take the next left turn.(there are the remains of a wall based postbox on the corner). 200m along there is a fork in the road. On the left fork is Moyglare church while about 70m down the right hand fork is the castle. It is situated behind a fence and hedgerow. Its a quiet enough road and we parked at the edge with no problem.Watch out though for those pesky horseflies!