Monday, 21 July 2014

Old Davidstown Church Co Kildare

                                        Above Image: The track to the ruins

                                     Above Image: The Enclosure gate & stile

                                          Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                      Above Image: remains of the Bell cote

                                      Above Image: Unusual stone markings

The Townland of Davidstown lies close to the village of Calverstown in Co Kildare. 
The ruins of the old Church dating to the early 19th century are located in a crop field well isolated from the road. The Church must not have had a long term of use as it is stated as being in ruins on the ordnance survey map of 1897-1913.
The ruins are accessed by way of an iron gate on the roadside which also has an adjacent stile. A pleasant walk along a track of about 300 feet through the field brings you to a walled enclosure also sporting a gate and stile.
The Church a simple rectangular structure with remains of a bell cote lies in a very ruinous state now. All four walls are extant but Vegetation has begun to cling to them and although this graveyard is still open it looks as if the church ruins which are not maintained in any way will eventually succumb to the overgrowth crumbling or disappearing like many of its ilk into obscurity. 
There is a doorway is in the West wall and windows set in the East gable where presumably the altar stood and in the North and South walls.
Isolated from the road the Church is a lonely sentinel to the various grave markers that surround it.  One curious stone lies to the south west of the church and has unusual lettering carved on it. Maybe somebody reading can decipher it.
There is an eerie feel to this place maybe more so a kind of loneliness. The ruins stand in the centre of the enclosure and no longer bear any relatively distinguishing features. A simple church that fell out of use in harder times than these.   
To find the ruins take the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway and at junction 11 take the exit for the M9. At junction 2 take the exit for Kilcullen and at the top of the exit ramp turn right and follow the sign pointing to the R448 for Castledermot. Drive for approx. 3.5KM until you see a turn on the left for the L8008 for Calverstown. Take this left hand turn and drive until you have passed through Calverstown Village. Once through the Village and 400m on you will pass over a small stream and pass by a large five windowed house on your right with a rounded arch door. 100m past this on the left you will spot an iron field gate with a cross inserted in the ironwork. This is the entry point. You can park safely enough just past the gate if you tuck the car in against the hedgerow.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ballinafagh Churches Co Kildare

                                     Above Image: The Entrance from the roadside

                                        Above Image: A view internally of the tower

                                       Above Image: The remains of the sacristy

                       Above Image: Remains of the Medieval Church in middle ground
                       Below 4 Images: Ruins of the Medieval Church

Two ruins for the price of one! 

Just north of the Village of Prosperous in the Ballynafagh Townland lie the ruins of two churches. The larger is the former RC church of Ballynafagh built in the 1830’s and was maintained until the 20th century but then fell into disuse and was eventually de-roofed in 1985. The smaller ruins are the scant remains of the original medieval church which sit on a mound at the South-East corner of the larger church. Both are contained in a rectangular walled enclosure which is located surprisingly like an island in a field of wheat. 
We visited these ruins on two occasions once when the crop was harvested and again when the crop was in full flourish. I think the latter trip was more interesting as the ruins sat in a sea of wheat which undulated in the wind like an ocean. Access is via a gate at the roadside of a narrow lane. A short trek through a trodden pathway in the wheat brings you to the gateway of the enclosure, the gate itself detached and lain against a wall inside.
The large 19th century Church is still upstanding but beginning to show signs of decay and brambles are slowly beginning to take hold. It is a very bold looking ruin, each corner having sharp finials rising to the sky from four of the twelve buttresses. There is a fine large Arch window on the East wall but all of the windows and the door have been partially bricked up so no internal access is available. There are the remains of a sacristy attached to the North wall and the bell tower stands proudly over the whole affair. One lone large tree shelters the North-East end of the enclosure.
On a mound quite close to the South-East corner of the large church lies the remains of the original medieval church, diminished now to its North wall and foundations of the Eastern gable. Scant though its remains are, they are still a visible window on the past. It’s interesting that both ruins are in so close a proximity attesting that maybe this was deemed ancient hallowed ground and also the fact that they are placed in an unusual location.
Spotting the picturesque ruins from the road would surely entice anybody to stop and take a closer look and indeed its aesthetic has provided inspiration for painters and photographers alike. A really interesting visit was had and I would  recommend it to you.

To find the ruins take the Junction 7 exit of the M4 motorway for the R406 heading South for Straffan. Drive for approx. 5KM until you reach a roundabout at Barberstown. Turn right off the roundabout onto the R403 for Clane. Drive until you reach Clane and the road swings left onto the Main Street. Drive about 100M and take the right turn continuation of the R403 at the restaurant called “The Tigger”.  The road is signposted for Prosperous. It is a 4KM drive to reach the crossroads in Prosperous. Turn right here at the church and about 700m along, the road divides. Take the left hand fork and drive for approx. 2.5KM. You will pass a sign for “The Kildare Maze” on your left and the left hand turn for the ruins is about 600m past this. Once on the lane way you can park at the small gate entrance to the field on your right about 300m up the lane.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Old Bannow Church Co Wexford

                                          Above Image: The entrance stile

                                      Above Image: South wall entrance door

                                                 Above Image: The Font

                                             Above Image: Stone coffin

                                           Image Below: The grave slab

                                           Above Image: The East window

                   Above & Below Images: The Prince Michael Sepulchre & Plaque

                   Above & Below Images: Two views of Bannow Bay with the Saltee
                                                       Islands on the horizon

These interesting ruins are located on a sandy headland overlooking Bannow bay where the Normans first invaded Ireland in 1169. The Church constructed in the 13th century in a Romanesque style is the only remnant of the lost Norman town of Bannow which is said to have sunk beneath the sands in the 16th century when the silt in the bay rose and swept over Bannow Island. The town which was of some importance and had nine ‘named’ streets disappeared with the exception of the top of the chimney of the town hall. The church only survived because it was positioned 30 feet above sea level.
The Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary consists of a nave and chancel and is now surrounded by a more modern graveyard enclosure. The walls of the Church are crenellated giving it a very fortified appearance.
We came across this ruin purely by accident. We had taken a trip down to Bannow Bay to see where the Norman invasion had initiated and spotted the large structure in the distance on our way back. Never one to turn down an opportunity to see a good ruin I diverted us to have a look. A small sandy car park is provided as the Church is surrounded by a graveyard still in use. A stile gives you access and you enter the ruins by a doorway in the South wall of the nave. A small font lies just inside but apparently a more ornate font was removed in the past and now resides in the Church in Danescastle.
There are some interesting artefacts to see within including a large stone 14th century grave slab and an open stone coffin. The chancel area contains a large arched East window and some tombs.
Outside the walls a portion of the North wall has been smoothed for it seems to use as a hand ball court. I have noticed this several times before in places such as Newtown Church in Co. Kilkenny (See earlier post) Is this a peculiarly Irish thing?
At the North eastern end a large sepulchre stands attached with a memorial plaque dedicated to Prince Michael of The Saltee Islands and his wife Anne. In 1956 Michael Neale a colourful and quite wealthy character self declared himself Prince of the offshore Islands which he had purchased in 1943 and subsequently turned into a bird sanctuary. He and his wife lived periodically in this self styled micronation until their deaths in the 1990’s and his son Prince Michael II has now taken up the mantle. Visitors are allowed to visit the Great Saltee Island only during certain daytime hours.
So this small diversion turned out to be a quite interesting visit. The Church of Bannow stands silently now alone on its windswept location the only testament to the lost town but I have to say it was well worth the time to make a visit in what is a very historical area.
To find the ruins take the R736 south from Wellingtonbridge and drive for approx. 4.5KM until you reach a T-Junction. Turn right following the sign for “The Bannow Drive” and continue for approx. 4KM until you reach a fork in the road with two signs one pointing right to “Bannow Island” and the left for the “Bannow Drive”. Follow the right for “Bannow Island”. Approx. 400m later there is another fork in the road and you will see the ruins in the distance on your left. Follow the left track and it will lead you to the car park.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Rathmore Motte Co Kildare

                            Above Image: The lane way between Church & Motte

                                           Above Image: The entrance stile

                    Above Image: The sweeping dip between Motte & Embankment

                      Above Image: "Soil creep" give the North slope a rippling effect

                         Above Image: The South slope with burrow visible near top.

                                               Above Image: The burrow

                                  Above Image: View from the top Westwards

                                 Above Image View To the approach road below

                                  Above Image: View from the adjacent Church

                     Above Image: Aeriel view of the Motte with Church to the South

This very prominent Motte is located in a field beside a Church in Rathmore in North Co. Kildare.

 A Motte is a mound which was usually artificially built or in some cases an existing mound was expanded upon. A wooden or stone fort was then placed upon the flattened top and a fortified enclosure called a bailey at the base. They were easily built but formidable structures. This Motte is thought to date to the late 12th century and was a stronghold for the Fitzgeralds. It was designed to defend an important pass through the hills. In the 1890’s it was the subject of some excavation work after a landslide exposed a burial chamber with a skeleton dating to the Bronze Age. Indeed some Mottes were often built upon barrows so this was nothing too unusual.

The Motte is on farmland and the field gate on the main road is locked. However in a laneway that runs between the Motte and the adjacent Episcoplalian Church of St Columbkille there is a stile for access. It is a bit hidden and easy to miss but is located in the hedgerow just a few yards up the lane on the right hand side.  One of the steps on the stile is broken leaving it a bit awkward to cross but once over there is a track that leads you around the base of this great Motte. You will notice that there is also a large embankment on its East side which would have been an added defence against attack.

 I really felt dwarfed by its size but getting to the top wasn’t too hard although it would appear to be easier for the many sheep who seem to like the view from there and scurry away as you approach. There are some quite steep parts so if climbing wear boots or good grip shoes. The Northern slope has a rippled effect which is a result of subsidence. This could have been partly caused by the fact that the Motte once faced a sand pit and was partially excavated for gravel. Near the top there appears to be a burrow of some sort hollowed into the hill. What might reside there I don’t know but I wasn’t sticking my hand in to find out. The view is really good from up here and it’s not hard to imagine that from the fort that you could see for miles in all directions and be forewarned of an impending attack.  A very interesting and atmospheric place and well worth a visit on a fine day.

To find the Motte take the N81 South from Brittas towards Blessington and approx. 5KM out of Brittas you will see a right hand turn with a grotto and statue of Our Lady on the corner. Turn right onto this road and follow it for approx. 5KM until you come to a T-Junction. The lane way leading to the stile is directly opposite and you can park alongside the wall on that side of the road.