Monday, 2 March 2015

Quin Abbey Co Clare

                                          Above Image: Roadside entrance

                                           Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                              Above Image: Double sedilia

                                         Above Image: The ambulatory lawn

                                       Above Image: entrance to the cloister
                                  Below 4 Images: A stroll around the cloister

                                   Above Image: Vaulted room off the cloister

Quin Abbey was constructed in the Gothic style by the prominent MacNamara family on the site of an earlier monastery which was destroyed in 1228. In 1350 a church was the first structure to be built and then using the ruins of a huge Norman castle built by Thomas de Clare (remnants of which can still be seen today) they incorporated them into a further construction. Subsequently a cloister was added in 1402 and a bell tower and Lady chapel in 1432. The site was then given a year later to the Franciscans to establish a friary there.
In 1541 the Abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII and the lands passed to the O’Brians. The monks were allowed to remain in the building by their new landlords but by 1548 and with no financial support the Abbey began to fall into disrepair. After some turbulent times the MacNamaras eventually regained control in 1590 and went about repairing what damage they could.
 The beginning of the end occurred in 1651 when Cromwellian forces destroyed the Abbey and slaughtered the monks. Subsequent years saw other Franciscan monks return on several occasions but the Abbey continued to fall into further ruin and the very last monk to reside there died in 1820. The board of Public works took control of the Abbey in 1880 and set about making it a national monument.
The ruins today which are better preserved than one would have expected given its history lie in a meadow in the quiet village of Quin. A short walk from the roadside brings you to this wonderful Abbey. Although in state care the admission is free of charge and from the moment you step inside the great doorway you are almost magicked away to a different time. A caretaker is on hand at all times who will check any bags you are carrying , I’m not sure why but maybe to make sure you are not carrying anything that might inadvertently cause damage, and he then also patrols the ruins. On our visit and with the Abbey almost empty (even though this was high season) he tended to shadow us especially in the cloister area. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to be intimidating and we eventually lost him along the way.
The great tower apparently has a spiral staircase but we didn’t find any indicators to an entrance. As in most of these large ruins the upper floors tend to be closed off for health & safety reasons. If anyone knows different I would be pleased to know.
The Lady Chapel contains the remains of the MacNamara family with tombs that date back as far as 1450.
To me the most stunning feature has to be the cloister. This ambulatory is in remarkable condition and light streams in through the pillars. It was a joy to walk around and gave a great sense of what it must have been like at the time the monks would have used it, so silent and reflective a place to be.
I think we spent more than an hour wandering around the great arches and alcoves taking in some breathtaking stone masonry. We also discovered that you can access the park where the ruins of St Finghins Church (see earlier post) is standing. So much to see at this site and I really highly recommend a visit.
To find the ruins take the R469 heading East from Station Rd in Ennis and drive for approx. 11KM. As you enter the village you will spot a water tower ahead. The road forks here and you need to swing left. Drive until you have crossed the bridge on the River Rine and just beyond is the entrance to the Abbey field. Parking is available along here.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Old Mainham Church Co Kildare

                                              Above Image: The roadside gate.

                                       Above Image: The enclosure entrance stile

                                             Above Image: South wall doorway

                                                    Above Image: The interior

                                  Above & Below Images: The entrance to the tower

This medieval Church stands in the very ecclesiastically prolific county of Kildare. It was originally run by the Knights Hospitallers and is recorded as being in ruins by the mid 1600’s. Unlike a lot of other churches of its era this one is distinctive by its castle-like tower. The ruins and old graveyard are dwarfed now by a much larger modern cemetery adjacent. There is a roadside stile to enter the modern cemetery and another in the enclosure wall of the old graveyard although the wall is also breached in the eastern side of the enclosure.
The ruins underwent some restoration and this has had an effect of making the exterior look a bit plain and featureless. Nonetheless it is laudable that people took on this work to preserve what remains. The robust tower which is located on the South Eastern corner contains a spiral stair which is accessed by a small lintelled door within the church. Entry to this door was unfortunately inhibited by a locked gate on our visit but I’m sure a key is available. The ruins measure approx. 65ft x 18ft and can be entered by a door in the South wall. All of the walls are still more or less upstanding. This site is also distinctive as being the only mixed graveyard in the country containing some remains of those of the Greek orthodox faith.
I have to say despite the plainness of this ruin I was really quite impressed by it. On first sight and slightly obscured by trees you would almost be convinced you were about to visit a castle. The tower although not terribly tall seems to loom over you especially if viewed from the Eastern aspect. I can only imagine that a tower of this sort was constructed with the defence of the Knights Hospitallers in view. The interior of the Church like so many Church ruins was seen as consecrated ground and subsequently many graves were placed there. Slightly South of the ruins outside of the enclosure is the large Wogan-Browne mausoleum belonging to the Brownes of Clongowes Wood.
So all in all I found it an interesting visit and well  worth a look if you are in the area. I will certainly return again soon to hopefully gain access to the tower.
To find the ruins take the R407 Northwards out of Clane and drive for approx. 3KM and you will spot a white sign on the grass verge on your left which states “Caution Cemetery entrance ahead”. About 100m past this is a right hand turn that leads directly to the graveyard entrance gate and stile. You can park safely enough at the gate.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Deansrath Castle Co Dublin

                                                Above Image: East facing aspect

                                          Above Image: Possible vaulted portion?

A small one to be getting on with.  In a modern housing estate in Clondalkin lie the remains of the Castle of Deansrath. There seems to be a vagueness about its origins but it is recorded to have been owned by Edward Bassenet one of the numerous Deans of St Patrick's Cathedral in the 16th century. Hence probably the origin of the castle’s name. After the dissolution by Henry VIII to which controversially Bassenet actually surrendered the deanery, he took to residing in the Castle when it and its lands were granted to him. In 1641 during the then rebellion the rebels took Clondalkin and were laid siege to by the English forces who burnt the village and destroyed Deansrath Castle.
Only a fragment of the Castle remains now and rather than being demolished when the housing estate was built it has instead been protected by a metal fence and sits on the edge of a green area. Being in an estate I always feel a bit uncomfortable photographing as I’m sure it might make someone think you were up to some suspicious behaviour but in fact I had no trouble at all. There really is only a small portion left to see and the top is now covered in ivy. The Western facing portion appears to have a part of a vault or perhaps maybe a fireplace, otherwise it is hard to ascertain what actual part of the Castle this is that remains. Nonetheless the ruins have an interesting history and it great to see them being preserved.
To find the ruins take the N7 to Newlands Cross and then take the R113 (Fonthill Rd) towards Clondalkin.  After approx. 1.2KM you will reach a small road painted roundabout. Continue on through to the next large roundabout and turn left on the first exit onto the R134 (New Nangor Rd). Drive for approx. 1Km until you reach a junction with St Cuthbert's Rd. Turn right and drive until you reach a small roundabout . Turn right and drive about 60m and you will spot the ruin on your left. You can park anywhere around here.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Gowran Collegiate Church Co Kilkenny

                                            Above Image: Entrance lane & stile

                                             Above Image: The graceful arches

                                          Above Image: The West gable (Interior)

                                      Above image: Some artefacts from the ruins

                                         Above Image: The West gable (Exterior)

The huge Gowran collegiate Church was constructed in 1260AD on the site of an earlier monastery. It was administered by a college of priests rather than being run like a traditional monastery
 Is it a ruin or is it not? Good question. It is really a tale of two Churches.The structure is now divided into two distinct sections. One section is in ruins the other in use. The original chancel and nave were expanded in the 14th century by the addition of the large tower and battlements .The Church fell into ruin after the dissolution but the chancel end was rebuilt upon in the 19th century incorporating the tower and thus creating a new Church of Ireland parish Church of St Marys which is still in use today.
We came across the Church by chance passing through Gowran, the large ruined section being the first thing we spotted. As mentioned the newer Eastern section is in use and the tower contains some very interesting effigies and tombstones but to me really the ruins outside are the more interesting to see.
You can access the ruins through a stile at the end of a walled lane way that leads up from the main street and then by way of a doorway in the south wall. There is some amazing stonework on this Church including the elaborate crenellations on the high North wall. There are many niches for tombs in the South wall and some interesting carved slabs and masks.
The aisle has arched arcades, the North one still intact. Standing in the nave the tower looms above you and is supported by a large buttress. I felt dwarfed walking around this impressive structure. The many arches and windows are a testament to the masons who constructed them.
Near the Western end of the nave is a tomb with a rather creepy shrouded figure upon it, this is the tomb of James Keally and his wives dated 1646.
A very impressive place then and well worth your time to stop and have a look around if in the area.
To find the ruins take the M9 heading South and take the junction 7 exit. At the top of the exit ramp take the first left on the roundabout and continue on straight through the next roundabout. At the third roundabout take the third exit on the right onto the R448. Drive for approx. 5.5KM until you reach the main street of Gowran. Continue up the main street and you can’t miss the tower of the church on your left. Parking is possible by the roadside at the church itself.