Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Old Kilchreest Church Co Galway

                                           Above Image: Roadside entrance gate

                                      Above Image: The West gable and bell cote

                                                  Above Image: East gable

I came across this church ruin on the road between Gort and Loughrea in Co Galway. It looked quite striking sitting atop the elevated ground within the graveyard and I wasn't going to pass it by without having a look.
There is little information available regarding the history of this church. It is most certainly medieval in origin and the place name "Kilchreest" translates to Christchurch which may have some link to the more famous Christchurch in Dublin. The townland that contains the church was part of the lands owned by the Persse family of Roxborough, their great house being the family seat for 245 years. Their is among their history as landlords the eviction of village tenants which would not have sat well over subsequent years and indeed Roxborough was burned in the civil war of 1922.
The church at Kilchreest is listed as being Roman Catholic and in ruins on the 1837 ordnance survey map. It is quite possible that this church could have been abandoned as far back as the dissolution in the mid 16th century.
As I say the ruins are quite striking when viewed from the road. Most of the North and South walls have disappeared leaving the church in two distinct sections. A single bell cote is evident on the extended West gable and there is a single window in the East gable which would have been the chancel. A further look around the graveyard revealed a few very interesting grave slabs.
To find the ruin take the R380 out of Gort towards Loughrea and drive for approx 20KM until you see the sign on your left that you are entering Kilchreest. The graveyard and ruin are approx 450m past this sign on the left hand side. You can park at the roadside wall.         

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Castletown Kilpatrick Church Co Meath

                                        Above Image: The approach from the gate.

                                 Above & Blow Image: The pedimented doorway and
                                                                       medieval stone head

                                     Image Below; The East gable tomb fragment

                           Above Image: The double ogee-headed window and above
                                                    it the other tomb fragment set in the wall.

                              Above & Below Image: The remaining West and North
                                                                     medieval windows.

                                         Above Image: The Latin Cross grave slab

                                 Above Image: A view upwards inside the bell tower

                                Above Image & 2 Images Below: The ruinous interior

                                                Above Image: The mausoleum

Again in a lonely place, this time in Co Meath we come across another abandoned Church of Ireland church standing derelict in an ancient graveyard. This was once the site of a medieval church which was in ruin by the early 1640's. This new Church was commissioned in 1820 by the then Lord Bishop of Meath Thomas Lewis O'Beirne who ran a Church building programme over a 25 year period starting in 1798. Some fragments of the medieval Church were included in the new building and these are as follows: the Pedimented entrance door, a atone head that projects from the wall to the right of the entrance door, three arched windows in the middle section of the bell tower and some fragments from a chest tomb, one in the East gable above the window and the other above the double ogee-headed window over the entrance door. The new Church was kept in use until services ended in the mid 1960's and it has now subsequently began to fall badly into ruin.
The Ruin of the church which was dedicated to St Patrick is accessible up a side road from the main road into the village of Nobber. The actual lane way leading up to the graveyard is what I term a "Hairy road" which is nothing more than a gravel track with a bank of grass running up along the middle. It was not a very comfortable drive up and an car exhaust problem (loose & missing brackets) a few days after the visit I think I can attribute to this road. If you are lucky to own an SUV then it's a doddle but be careful driving up otherwise.
My first impression of the ruin was how a bit uninviting it looked. I will admit I'm not prone to any form of psychic sensitivity but I got a feeling here that I have had in several other places and it is a bit unsettling. However I have never shirked from continuing an investigation uncomfortable or not and so onward we went regardless.
As the ground of the graveyard is at a higher level than that of the church the pathway leading up to it is walled on both sides. This brings you to the door and above it is a plaque dedicated to those involved in the church construction. The curious stone head is at a height to the right of the door protruding as if like a watchful sentinel. The wooden door is still mostly extant frame-wise anyway and has been forced open. It is jammed halfway due to fallen rubble from the bell tower and indeed stepping in and looking up there is still much loose debris to be seen. I am quite surprised that the doorway has not been bricked up for safety reasons as something could easily come down upon you. However I was also a bit glad that we could still get inside to have a look.
The interior of the church is now a mess of  fallen rafters and crumbling plaster. The roof is fifty percent gone and the rest probably wont be too far behind. It looked to be well lit building in its time with light streaming in from the large arched windows in the South wall and East gable. It seems a sad place now and quite desolate only echoing within its walls the sound of some birds in the bell tower.
We walked outside and my son went to investigate the sunken mausoleum at the rear of the graveyard which has steps leading down allowing you to walk around its perimeter. I remained standing outside the Church door and again I got that unsettling feeling especially as there came what sounded like footfalls on the debris in the Church interior coming closer towards the doorway behind me. I stood and waited for the arrival of  whomever or whatever it was but no one came. The footfalls ceased and the atmosphere returned again to just the distant sound of the bell tower birds. Definitely a little eerie I might say.
Opposite the bell tower's West side among the ancient graves is a excellent stone grave slab standing about a metre high engraved with a simple framed Latin cross. It was a particularly interesting find in this somewhat foreboding location. I found the visit here very interesting and atmospheric especially with the additions of the medieval remnants. Apparently there is also a stone Knights foot part of an effigy from the medieval period somewhere in the graveyard but it unfortunately remains elusive at the moment.

To find the ruin take the M3 heading North and after junction 10 the motorway ends at a roundabout.
Take the third exit on this roundabout and then the first exit on the subsequent roundabout following the signs for the N52 to Dundalk. Drive straight through the next two roundabouts and then on the third take a left again following the N52 for Dundalk. Continue on this road for approx 12KM  through Carlanstown and Staholmog until you reach a T-junction with the R162. Turn right here and bypass the immediate left turn for the N52 taking the next left turn about 200m ahead. This is Castletown Court. Drive for approx. 600m and you will come across a narrow lane way on you left adjacent to a bungalow with a conservatory. Turn up the lane way and drive carefully to the top where there is room to park at the entrance gate. The gate is unlocked so out of courtesy close it again when leaving.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Aghaviller Church & Round Tower Co Kilkenny

                                         Above Image: The entrance gate & stile.

                                Above Image: Light streams into the chancel through
                                                        the South facing doorway

                                                    Above Image: The chancel

                                                Above Image: The vaulted ceiling

                                              Above Image: The West doorway

                                            Above Image: Stairs to the upper floor

                                          Above & Below image: The passageway

                                  Above Image & 2 Below Images: The great chimney
                                                                                         & fireplace

                     Above Image: The round tower viewed from the church upper floor

                                             Above Image: Remains of the nave

                                      Above Image: Strange stone in the nave area

                                  Above Image: View out from within the round tower

                                  Above Image: View upwards within the round tower

A couple of mysteries surround this site which lies tucked away in the Kilkenny countryside and which I can safely say was one of the most interesting places I've visited.
An early Christian monastery was founded here but by whom is unclear. The Church is dedicated to St Brendan of Birr so perhaps he may have been the originator. Little is known too of the origins of the round tower but it most certainly was part of the monastic site and could possibly date as far back as the 9th century. The original church was built here in the 12th century and consisted of the lower section of the present tower which was the chancel and also the nave which today all that remains are the foundations. You can still see the remnants of the roof by the triangular shape on the West facing wall. The residential section was added above a vaulted ceiling over the chancel in the 15th century.
I have to say I was very excited to find the open doorways in the South and West walls that led into the chancel and its amazing vaulted ceiling. There may be few cracks in it though as there were frequent droplets of water kissing the top of my head as I walked around. Another plus was the discovery of a steep stone stairs in the corner of the North wall. These led up to the floor above the vault which is now exposed to the elements. To the right at the top of the stairs is a passageway and then there area a couple more steps up into the once residential floor. This floor on a sunny day is a virtual suntrap the stone floor was hot to the touch. The area is dominated by a huge fireplace and a tall chimney giving an idea of how high the walls must have been. From a window in the West wall you can actually look down upon the adjacent round tower which in its time would have loomed over the church but is now diminished to less than 30 feet.The tower is unusual in the way that it sports two doorways, one at ground level and the other in a more usual fashion at approx 13 feet from the ground. The tower is also built unusually upon  a stone plinth. Access through the ground level doorway is now possible as at one time it had been blocked up. It's fascinating to stand inside and look upwards through the tower innards to the sky.
This one of my favourite sites and is well worth a trip to seek it out. We were lucky with the weather a warm sunny day but I would imagine that these ruins could take on a much more ominous aspect on a darker cloudier day. Go soon you won't be disappointed.
To find the ruins take the M9 exit 10 and join the R699 heading West towards Callan. After approx. 850m you will reach a fork in the road. Take the left hand road which is the R701. Continue for approx. 1.2KM until you see a turn right signposted for Carrick On Suir. Turn right here and then immediately left down a narrow road. (you can clearly see the ruins now). You can park at the entrance gate quite safely.

P.S. I have recently added second visits to the following posts: Termonfeckin Castle, Great Connell Abbey & Church, Old Kilcullen Church & Tower, The Black Castle and Old Castlemacadam Church.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Jerpoint Abbey Co Kilkenny

                                     Above Image: The great tower of Jerpoint

                                  Above Image: East door leading to the cloister

                                  Above Image & Below 2 Images: The cloister

                                       Above Image: West gable of the nave

                                                 Above Image: A Sedilia

                                       Above Image: Effigy of St Christopher

                                  Above Image: The great arches below the tower

                               Above Image: Rooftop above the South Transept

                    Above Image & Below 2 Images: Some of the artifacts to be seen

Jerpoint Abbey was founded c.1160AD probably by the Bishop of Ossory Donal MacGillapatrick.
The Cistercian order originally founded in France in 1098AD became its occupants in 1180AD.
By the time the great tower was added in the 15th century Jerpoint was thriving under its patrons the Butlers of Kilkenny. Although a victim of the dissolution in the mid 1500's the Butlers still maintained possession until the mid 1600's. In its heyday there was even a town at Jerpoint but later it would disappear leaving only a few foundations visible today. The abbey came into state care in 1880 and is managed today by the OPW who have strived to maintain the building from further decay.
When we visited the entrance in the North wall of the nave was inaccessible as works were in place but we had easy access through the East door leading to the impressive cloister.
The abbey is littered with interesting carvings, tombs and effigy's and it took us quite a while to take it all in. An exciting discovery was a stairs leading up onto the roof over the South transept which gives you a wonderful view of the nave and cloister below and indeed the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately another stairs giving access to the tower was at this time inaccessible.
In some of the rooms off the East of the cloister are many historical artefacts on display even a very impressive ogham stone.
The very austere practices of the early Cistercians or "White Monks" made it forbidden to construct a stone tower to the abbey. but this changed in the 15th century when the austerity waned and the Butler patronage was in place.The massive tower is supported by four huge piers and has very decorative vaulting.The top of the tower has a fortified appearance with its battlements designed in  the Irish fashion.
The cloister had a little reconstruction work done in 1953 and this area is a most interesting section. Filled with carvings of Knights, Bishops and odd looking creatures all to be found in various nooks and crannies..
All in all we spent some very worthwhile time there and although there is an entrance fee it is really nominal at around €4-€5 This of course helps with the maintenance of the site. Do yourself a favour and try to make a visit when you can.
To find the ruins of Jerpoint head South on the M9 and take the junction 9 exit. At the top of the exit ramp take the first left turn off the roundabout onto the R713. Continue for approx 5KM until you reach Stoneyford. Drive through the village and as you exit you will find a fork in the road. Take the left hand fork onto the L4206 and continue for approx 4.5KM until you reach a staggered crossroads with the R448. Turn left here and continue for approx 700m. You will see the abbey on your right. There is a car park for visitors 50m past the abbey.