Thursday, 26 March 2020

Old Killiney Church Co Dublin

                                               Above Image: The entrance gate.

                                          Above Image: The North facing doorway

                                            Above Image: Interior of East gable

                                            Above Image: A worn ancient cross

                                                     Above Image: Stone font

                                              Above image: South facing window

                                        Above Image: West facing lintelled doorway

                                          Above Image: Buttress on East gable

This old parish church ruin is really two churches in one and is one of the most interesting examples of its kind. It is situated in an elevated area within a stone walled graveyard nestled among some private houses in Marino Avenue West.
The church is called Killiney which is derived from the Gaelic "Cill Inion Leinin" which translated is "Church of the daughters of Lenin" (and no, not Vladimir Lenin!). Lenin was the son of Garrchon and his daughters were all saintly ladies who it is thought lived in this area as there has been an ecclesiastical presence here since the 6th century. One of his daughters Bridget (aka Brighit or Briga) was also associated with Tully Church in Loughlinstown (see earlier post here).
As mentioned the church is made up of two sections. The original Section on the South was constructed in the 11th century while the Northern part was added in the 16th century before the dissolution of which it fell victim to in 1541. The lands and church were passed over to the Church of Ireland deanery at Christchurch in Dublin and was manned by clergy from nearby Dalkey. To what extent its usage was is unsure but it is recorded as being in ruin and ivy covered by Samuel Lewis in his 1840 publication "A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" The earliest gravestone found here dates from 1791.
We attempted to visit these ruins in the past but to no avail as the gate was always locked. It was not possible to get a good view from outside but it was surprising when we eventually got inside to see how large it was. Information on how to access the ruins came purely by chance as a reader of this blog put me wise. The key was located behind the counter of the "Cafe de la Gare" at the DART railway station in Killiney. A very helpful lady gave us the key on the promise of bringing it back.
Opening the locked gate felt like entering Hodgson Burnett's secret garden and we were full of anticipation. I have to say we weren't disappointed in the least and particular mention must be made to the grounds inside which are very well maintained.
We entered the Church itself by the Southern doorway which I believe is called the "Choir Arch". Once in here we discovered as mentioned how much larger the interior was than what we expected. Both sections are in remarkably good shape and all walls with small exceptions remain upright and  roofless, although the older part is missing the top half of its West gable. The horrible ivy described by Samuel Lewis in his gazeteer is no longer traceable making the interior open to full inspection. The two sections are divided by the original North wall of the church in which several arched openings were made to provide access to the newer section which seems to have been utilized as an aisle of some sort.
On the West side is a solid lintelled doorway which unusually has (and could be so easily overlooked) a "Greek" styled cross carved on its underside, Also within the older part of the ruins you will find a number of interesting artefacts, There is a plain and very weather worn cross, an old font belonging to the church and a couple of interesting grave slabs.
Altogether this was a really enjoyable visit although re-locking the gate took a little time as the lock had a short shackle and frustratingly needed to be positioned in a particular way to close properly. On returning the key we refreshed ourselves after the lock ordeal with a nice coffee break in the cafe!
To find the ruins, take the M50 motorway Southbound and exit at junction 16 onto the R118. Drive for approx 1.3KM and you will cross a bridge over the N11. About 500m further take the second right hand turn onto Wyattville Road. Follow this road through a small roundabout and a crossroads with Church Road (you will see a stone obelisk monument on the right) Drive straight on through the junction onto Military Road and approx 220m later you will reach a staggered crossroads with the R119 (Killiney Hill Road). From here you can find the ruins by turning left and 150m further take a turn onto the narrow Marino Avenue West. The Gate to the ruins are tucked away on your right between two houses about 260m up the lane. You can park at the gate but be careful not to block any other gates. You will of course need a key. So before you take the left hand turn off Military Road to visit the ruins, continue on straight through the crossroads with Killiney Hill Road to the next junction (very narrow so watch for oncoming vehicles) then turn left onto Strand Road. The DART railway station is on your right about 200m along. There are plenty of disc parking spaces around if you need them. The key is available at the station cafe (Cafe De La Gare). Don't forget to lock the graveyard gate when done and return the key.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Fassaroe Crosses Co Dublin & Co Wicklow

In the area of Rathdown which covers part of both Dublin and Wicklow there are five ancient stone crosses most dating to around the 12th century and bearing carvings of either the Crucifixion or Pagan God heads. They are scattered over the area some having been removed from their original sites but all still visible and well worth your time spending a day seeking them all out. They are known collectively as "The Fassaroe Crosses" and because of the proximity of them to each other it is speculated that a number of them may be the work of the same stonemason. Below I have listed them individually.


Situated in South County Dublin this small charming cross was initially slightly difficult to locate. We eventually found it nestling in some bracken and wildflowers up a narrow lane. It stands approx 100cm high on a base that is between 50-80cm high. The cross has very distinct carvings of the Crucifixion on both sides. On the South-Eastern facing side which first greets you the figure is in relief while on the North-Western face it is in false relief. The cross, along with the Kiltuck Cross (see below) were originally to be found together at the Shanganagh Demesne in an ancient Church which is now, if even still extant, lost amongst overgrowth and surrounded by a modern housing development. The cross was moved to its current location when the base was discovered here and takes its name now from the proximity it has with Old Rathmichael Church (see previous post here.)
While not off the beaten track it still amazes me that such an ancient monument such as this is not signposted so that people can view it.
To find Rathmichael Cross take these directions. From the wooden Church of  Our Lady of the Wayside in Kilternan heading towards Enniskerry take the left hand turn after the Church onto Ballycorus Road (R116) and drive approx 600m until you have driven under the motorway underpass. Once you reach the next roundabout turn right onto Mullinastill Road. Two more roundabouts follow and on the second on turn right onto Stonebridge Road (following the sign for Rathmichael). Once over the motorway bridge go straight through the following roundabout onto Ferndale Road. Drive past the entrances to two private housing developments "Rathmichael Dale" and "Hillfield" both on your right and then 200m later you will see an entrance to a development called "Castlegate". We parked alongside a stone wall just inside the road and walked back a couple of metres to a narrow lane just previous to "Castlegate". You will find the cross about 125m up this lane on your right hand side just past the entrance to a bungalow.


This much taller cross standing at a little over 1.4m is situated  just a small distance over the county border into Wicklow from the Rathmichael Cross. It is commonly known as St. Valery's Cross as it is close to a once thriving estate of the same name. The house  "St/ Valery" which is an early 19th century construct Gothic revival in style is a protected structure but there have been applications made to redevelop it as offices which would be a shame. The cross had been situated on the estate in the 19th century after initially being removed from a woodland area but was moved again to this site to make it more accessible to the public after some infringements had been made on the private land. It now finds itself positioned in a paved area at the side of a roundabout at Fassaroe.
The Western face of the ring of the cross has a Crucifixion scene similar to Rathmichael's and almost Templar in design. The Eastern face has two protruding heads well weather worn but both appear to sport beards and one a Bishop's mitre. Two more protruding heads can be found, one on the South side of the unpierced ring and the other on the strong base of the cross.
The cross while made of granite, a stone readily found in this area, has a diagonal strip of quartz running across the Western side of the shaft.
We visited here of a late spring evening and the roundabout not being a major one was quiet and so we could park easily.
To find St. Valery's Cross take the N11 heading South from Dublin and at junction 6 exit take the 3rd exit on the roundabout following the sign for Fassaroe. cross over the motorway bridge and at the next roundabout go straight through to the following roundabout where you take the 1st exit to the left signposted for Berryfield.. Drive approx 160m to the next roundabout and you will see the cross on an area off the roundabout on your left. There is only cycle and pedestrian access to it but as stated we just parked on the grass margin on the edge of the roundabout as it was quiet



Back into County Dublin and in the grounds of St. Anne's Church in Shankill is where you will find the present location of the Kiltuck Cross. This cross along with the Rathmichael Cross were originally situated in the ruins of Kiltuck Church in Shanganagh Demesne a now non-extant medieval church dedicated to St Tucka which was at it's peak during the Norman times. I can find no real information on this Saint other than the name of the church is derived from "Church of Tucka" - Kil-Tuck. The cross was later discovered in a bad state of repair alongside the Rathmichael cross but was rescued and in 1983 was given a permanent spot in St. Anne's grounds. Unfortunately the original base and cross were then cemented to a rather rashly produced plinth made of what looks to be modern breeze blocks which to me detracts from the ancient and artistic stone masonry above.
The original cross and base stand at approx 1.2m high and the ring contains a crucifixion carving on the Western facing side and a single carved head on the East side.
The cross is on a grassy area with an adjacent car park and is easy to access but unfortunately of late since I photographed it a small fence has been erected around it with small bushes growing about the base. In some ways this is a godsend as it hides the unsightly plinth.
To find Kiltuck Cross take the N11 heading South from Dublin. When you have reached the roundabout at Loughlinstown where the M11 motorway begins take the left hand exit for Shankill (R837) and drive for approx 1KM where you will see the entrance to St. Annes on your left. Ample parking available in the grounds.


This cross while part of the Fassaroe group may actually date earlier to the three posted above. Some think it could have originated in the eight or ninth century.
The cross has led a nomadic existence beginning it is thought as part of the settlement of St Mochanna (see previous post here). It is known to have been moved to Blackrock when the Cheevers of Monkstown Castle (see post here) brought it there in 1678. It was passed on through the Byrne family and was utilized later sometime after 1765 as a marker for the then city limits of Dublin. In 1870 when boundaries changed it found itself embroiled in a removal issue as local authorities deemed it to be an obstruction. Locals saved it from destruction and it stands today, minus the large cylindrical base which it had stood on, replaced by a long and leaner stand. It is situated on a plaza in front of the Bank of Ireland on the Southern end of the main street.
The cross itself measures 76cm high and has no ring. There is however a carved head in relief similar to the one on The Kiltuck Cross but because of the speculation on the date of the Blackrock Cross it has been suggested it may be that of a Pagan God.
Being located on a fairly busy street made parking a little difficult but there are disc parking spaces along the main street so if you visit outside of rush hour traffic you should be O.K.
To find the cross take the N31 exit onto Mount Merrion Avenue from the N11 and drive the length of the avenue until you reach a T-Junction with the R118. At the traffic lights here turn right keeping to the left lane and a few metres on take the left turn signposted for the L1009 for Blackrock. This leads onto the Main Street. The cross is located at the end of this street on your left just before the junction with Carysfort Avenue. There are disc parking spaces along the street prior to the location of the Cross.


Back over the county border into Wicklow this last cross is probably the remotest of the Fassaroe group and will take the most time to get to. It is to be found on the Western end of the ruins of the old Killegar Church which is a bit off the beaten track in fields between the Monastery and Killegar roads near Enniskerry.
All that remains of the cross is the cross-head which has been placed on a large rounded stone base.
The cross-head measures approx 43cm in width and 22cm in height. The West face has a Boss (a term for a rounded protrusion) surrounded by rings, both of them in relief.
A roughly written description has been made on the base proclaiming it to be the remains of a "Tau" cross. Tau crosses are more likely made of wood but not exclusively and are quite rare in stone form in Ireland. The name is derived from the shape of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the nineteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. Basically a T shape. While this cross-head looks very much like a Tau it is quite possible that since it is missing its shaft it could also have lost the upper part as well. The declaration on the base may simply have been down to the perception of the individual who discovered it and what the particular state it was in upon discovery. If it is indeed a Tau then it makes it very interesting indeed.
As I have mentioned access to the site while not difficult is more time consuming. There are a couple of routes available one of which means traversing farmland. The route I followed was by way of an old "mass path" leading from a roadside stile on Monastery Road. For details of this route follow the directions given in my previous post on Killegar Church ruins (here)


So there you have it. A fine collection of ancient crosses some definitely from the same period and showing more than a passing resemblance to each other. All are worth seeing and if in the same day can be quite rewarding. Probably the best order to see them logistically speaking would be Blackrock, Kiltuck, St. Valery's, Rathmichael and  then Killegar. But however you choose to do it, Enjoy!

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Robertstown Castle Co Meath

                                Above Image: The Bartizan at the South-East Corner

Robertstown is a Barnwall Castle that is believed to have been constructed in the early 17th century. According to the civil survey conducted between 1654 and 1656 one Margaret Barnwall gave a deposition of ownership which included mention of a castle. The castle was a three storied fortified manor house with a North wing added later and was most certainly ruinous by the time of the ordnance survey mapping in 1837. 
The building is a long rectangular shape and two of the ground floor chambers are barrel-vaulted. The original lintelled entrance door was in the North wall. One of the most unusual features are the two projecting Bartizans positioned on the original South-East and North-West Corners. They are supported by corbelling which is more indicative of castles in Scotland.
We came across the ruins completely by accident while scouting the area and saw that it was located on farmland. A local graveyard groundskeeper informed us that it was unfortunately off limits but he gave us a name to inquire with but unfortunately the said person was out of the country at that time. We will certainly follow it up for a future visit.
An interesting local folk tale about the castle that arose out of the research of The Irish Folklore Commission founded in 1935 by James H Delargy was that of an occupant who would position himself at one of the castle windows with a gun and open fire on unfortunate passers-by. This rather unhinged individual was finally caught off-guard outside of the castle by a parish priest who shot him dead thus ridding the area of this menace. Better turn up for service at his church, eh!
To find the ruins (and they are worth seeing if you are anywhere near the area) take the N2 out of Kells for Ardee. Drive along this road passing through Carlanstown and Staholmog (there is a service station and mace store here, good for refreshments) and continue for approx 350m passing through a small crossroads with the L47111. Drive another 650m and take the next left hand turn (there are a set of pillared gates opposite it) Drive though the next two small crossroads, the second being signposted for Cormeen. The castle is 700m further on and located on your right hand side. We just parked at the gate to view it.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Old Holmpatrick Church Co Dublin

                                                 Above Image: Entrance gate

                                       Above Image: Southern aspect with spire of
                                                               new church behind trees

                                                 Above Image: Eastern aspect

Situated on elevated ground within a cemetery in Skerries this tower is all that remains of the old parish church belonging to the Church of Ireland. The church dedicated to St. Patrick was constructed in 1722 at the behest of the new owners of the Holmpatrick estate who had acquired the lands from the Earls of Thomond in 1720. It remained in service until the early 1860's when it was torn down to make way for the new church which was completed in 1865 on lands adjacent. It was decided to leave the old tower untouched as it's position made it a clear landmark for shipping in the nearby Irish Sea making it a form of inland lighthouse if you like. It stands as a solitary sentinel over the gravestones.
The tower comprised of three levels and has crenellations on top. I'm not sure if there was originally a spire but if there was it was removed. Perhaps someone reading can attest to this. Attached to the base of the Southern wall of the tower are the only known remnants of the medieval priory that preceded this church. They are known locally as the Abbot's Headstone and the Delahide Stone. Surrounding the tower given it's location are a number of stones marking those involved in maritime fatalities.
To find the ruin take the M1 Northward and exit at junction 4 crossing over the motorway and following the signs for the R132 to Balbriggan. Drive as far as Blake's Cross and then take the right hand turn at Ace Express Freight for the R127 to Skerries. Continue on the R127 by-passing Lusk until you have went through the small railway bridge tunnel just outside Skerries. Beyond this is a small roundabout at which you turn right onto Miller's Lane. Drive for approx 500m until you reach a small crossroads with Miller's Lane/Golf Links Rd. Turn left here and drive for approx 400m until you see the new church on your right hand side. The entrance gate to the cemetery is just past this and there is room to park outside.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Kells Monastic Site Co Meath

                                            Above Image: The South cross

                                 Above Image & Below Image: The West cross

                                            Above Image: The East cross

                        Above Image & Below Image: Remains of the North cross

                                                 Above Image: A Font?

                                        Above Image: Base of church tower

                              Above Image: Remnants at the church tower base

        Above Image: Carving and inscription on church tower

                                 Above Image & Image Below: The church tower

                                         Above Image: St Columbs Oratory

                                           Above Image: Interior of oratory

The name "Kells" is derived from the Gaelic "Ceanannas Mor" which translated means "Great Residence". Indeed Kells was a very important town during the Anglo-Norman times.
The first religious settlement here was founded by St Columba (or St Colmcille as he was also known) in 550AD. Thirteen years later he went into exile finding himself on the Scottish island of Iona where he created another successful settlement. But in 795AD it was attacked by Viking raiders and underwent several more raids in subsequent years leading to the relocation of the monks back to Kells where lands were given to them to avoid further attacks and slaughter. Things remained calm for over a century until in 919AD the Vikings began raiding Kells.
The first church in Kells had been completed in 814AD and later the relics of St Columba were transferred from Iona. The great round tower was constructed during the 10th century more than likely acting as a safe haven during Viking raids.
The famous and beautifully crafted "Book of Kells" is thought to have been at least started here in Kells during the 9th century but historians are unsure regarding it's completion as this may have taken place elsewhere.
The 26m high round tower dominates the site and sports the unusual feature of having five windows instead of the usual four. The doorway was originally 12 feet above ground as the street level is higher these days and was accessed by way of a wooden ladder which would have been withdrawn into the tower during attacks. The conical cap is missing and this is generally put down to damage possibly from lightning strikes. The tower has some bloody history to it in the fact that in 1076AD one Murcadh MacFlann, a former King of Mide was brutally murdered in the tower by Olaf son of Maelan and King of Galenga, a small kingdom North of the River Liffey on the East coast. But Murcadh's death was swiftly avenged as Olaf himself was slain by Maoiseachlainn who within twenty years would himself become King of Mide.
This site is really interesting to walk around as there are quite a few historical items to view. Probably the most notable are the High Crosses. There were originally five, one, known as the Market cross, stood at a different location outside the courthouse in the town but was removed due to frequent damage from traffic. The other four are in the grounds of the current church (built in 1778) which serves the Church of Ireland community. Only the base remains of the North cross but the South cross is intact. It is known as the Cross of St Patrick and St. Columba and contains various carved biblical scenes.
The West cross or "ruined cross" has been badly damaged and only the base and most of the shaft remain. There is a nasty looking fissure halfway up the shaft. It was thought to have been damaged by Viking raiders but it is more likely to have suffered under Cromwellian forces.
The last cross which is the East cross to me is the most dramatic. It is known as the "unfinished cross" as the top section has been left undone giving it an unusual aspect.
We really spent quite some time here as there was a list of items to find including a font and a sundial.
Just a few metres North of the current church is a standalone bell tower. This is the last remains of a medieval church and a spire was added the tower much later. There are some nicely carved heads above the South doorway of the bell tower and a gated vault room within stores some further artefacts.
When you have had a good look around the monastic site take the main gate which is to the East of the new church that leads onto Church Lane. Turn left as you exit the gate and walk along the boundary wall of the graveyard for approx 180m and you will see the ruins of the Oratory of St Columba, a small stone structure with a steep bevelled roof. The building dates back to the 9th/10th century and may have been used to house the relics of Columba when they were retrieved from Iona. The doorway that you can enter by today is not the original one.The original doorway (now bricked up) was in the West wall. A key for access can be obtained from a house near the main gate of the church (details are posted on a sign on the oratory gate).
So quite a bit to be seen then and on a good day it is a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two. If you have children, make up a list of things to find in the grounds, they'll have plenty of fun running here and there trying to locate them.
To find the ruins take the M3 motorway heading North and continue until you reach the end of motorway sign. Just beyond this is a roundabout, Take the third exit to the right signposted N52 for Dundalk and then take the first exit on the subsequent roundabout again for the N52. Drive for approx 1KM until you come to another roundabout. Take the third exit signposted for the R147 to Kells and drive approx 500m until you see a Supervalu store on your right. Just past this take a right hand turn onto Circular Road. Follow this road down to the junction with Cannon Street (R163). Turn left and drive approx 200m up Cannon Street and you will  see the round tower on your left. Public parking is available on this street and there is an an entrance gate by the round tower. If it is closed the main entrance is on the junction of Market Street and Church lane.