Saturday, 13 September 2014

Old Bluebell Church Co Dublin

                                          Above Image: The entrance lane way

                                Above Image: The West gable doorway and window

This small medieval ruin dates back to 1254 and was originally the parish Church for the Drimnagh Castle an estate owned by the Barnwalls. The Church measured 27ft x 18ft. It seems to have been in use at least up to 1547 when the dissolution of Abbeys and Churches was in effect. It is recorded as being in ruins by the time of the 1887-1913 ordnance survey map and is surrounded by stones of an ancient graveyard with the earliest stone dated to 1713. A more modern cemetery is now adjacent on the same grounds.
Well I was surprised to find this one as it is surrounded by a large industrial estate and apart from a sign pointing to “Bluebell cemetery” which has been knocked sideways and now points in the wrong direction there is nothing else here to indicate that it exists. I finally realised that a narrow lane way between two industrial units led directly to the site hidden away.
All that remains now are the West gable, fragments of the North and South walls and parts of the East gable. The entrance door has sunk somewhat into the overgrowth but its pointed arch is still plainly visible and there is a window just above this. Records state that the West gable was unusually high in relation to the rest of the building. There is a corbel jutting out inside that leads supposition that a gallery may have been attached.
The ruins sit aloft an area quite overgrown and this has infringed on the entrance door while a few yards away the adjacent graveyard is pristine with cut lawns. I regarded this unkemptness as just another example of the disregard shown to many small historical ruins, but apparently it is deliberate, as the city council has deemed this part of the graveyard as a wildflower meadow. A sign erected illustrates a number of different wildflowers present.  The council made some remedial work on the Church in 1992 and 1993 but nothing more seems to have happened and the Church now lingers as nothing but a large garden ornament amongst the wildflowers.

To find the ruins take the R110 Naas Rd exit from the M50 heading towards the city. At the junction with Kylemore road turn left. Drive approx.. 200m to the next set of lights at a small crossroads (The Kylemore house pub will be on your left). Turn right at the crossroads onto the Old Naas Rd. Drive for approx. 250m until you see a large sign on your left for Bluebell Business Park & Centre. The lane way to the Church is between this and the gates of the next business unit. (You will spot the sign for Bluebell cemetery opposite pointing the wrong way)  You can park along the road here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Lackaghmore Church Co Kildare

                                              Above Image: The entrance gates

                                                  Above Image: Entrance door

                                      Above Image: View up to the bell mechanism

                                                Above Image: Entrance hallway

                                                    Above Image: The fireplace

                                            Above Image: Watch House remains

                                        Above Image: Commemorative plaque

I came across this nice ruin while perusing the Kildare burial ground survey which has aided me in the past in locating some of the older ruins in co Kildare. So on a fine sunny day and being not too far from its location I diverted to have a look.
The Churchyard in which the ruins stand is quite old with stones dating back to the 18th century. A medieval Church once stood here but is now non-extant. The present ruins are of a Church of Ireland Church built in the early 1800’s. Its commencement of register is recorded as 1829 and it looks as if it fell into disuse sometime in the 20th century.
This very picturesque ruin sits in a walled churchyard and has to be one of the quietest and most peaceful locations I have ever visited. The Church has a very distinctive bell tower embellished with with finials and as you enter through the open door at the base of the tower and look upwards you can still see the workings of the bell mechanism although the bell has long since been removed. The entrance corridor has two entries one on either side into the main body of the Church and between them on this wall is a fireplace which is a most unusual thing to find in a Church. Some of the plaster still remains on parts of the walls but being roofless and exposed to the elements it’s in a pretty overgrown state inside. Still the basic structure stands proud and outside is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. On the East wall there is a plaque attached commemorating the people of Lackagh who were transported into slavery to Barbados under the order of Oliver Cromwell in the 1600’s.This would be at a time when the medieval Church was still in existence. Just opposite this plaque in the graveyard are the foundation ruins of what was once a watch house manned to prevent grave robbing which was a frequent scourge in the early to mid 19th century. Indeed the watch house attests to the fact that some grave robbing would have taken place for it to be installed on the grounds in the first place.
At the entrance gate there is also the ruin of what was a caretaker’s cottage looking raggeed and overgrown, no doubt as long out of use as the Church.
A pleasing visit then to a more recent ruin but worth the time to stop and have a look.

To find the ruins take the junction 13 exit of the M7 motorway for Kildare. At the top of the exit ramp turn right at the roundabout and cross the bridge over the motorway. You will need to go straight through the next two two roundabouts. This will lead you to a T-Junction with the R445. Turn left and drive for approx. 2.5KM taking the second right turn off the R445. Drive for approx. 300m until you reach a crossroads. Turn left and drive for approx. 1.5Km and you will see the gates of the churchyard on your left. You can park at the gates and the gate can be opened by unlatching a hooked chain.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Ballylarkin Abbey Co Kilkenny

                                                       Above: Entrance gate

                                              Above Image: The entrance door

                                                   Above Image: Triple Sedilia

                                                 Above Image: Carved plaque

                                               Above Image: East Gothic window

                                      Above Image: Remains of Ballylarkin Castle?

Situated about 3KM South West of Freshford this interesting ruin lies a little bit off the beaten path.
Locally called Ballylarkin Abbey it is in fact a parish church believed to have been built in 1350AD by the Shorthall family who came to Ireland during the Norman conquest. They ousted the resident O’Lorcains from Ballyarkin Castle in 1326. (Ballylarkin translates to Town Of Larkin)
The Church’s sturdy design gives it a robust fortified look and it even sported a defensive wall walk  but it does nonetheless contain some interesting and more ecclesiastical features.

The Church stands on private land but there is public access by way of a small iron pedestrian gate and stone stile at the roadside. The field in which it stands is a grazing ground for sheep but they tend to scurry away when somebody approaches. It is of an unusual design not really resembling other Churches of the period and its damaged West gable gives it an awkward look. There is a single entry door in the northern wall with a V-stile to prevent those pesky sheep from entering! Standing inside you get a full view of the large Gothic cut stone window a little ragged now from erosion. Beneath this in the South east corner is the real gem an almost perfectly preserved triple sedila with arches and carvings which was designed as seating for officiating clergy. A small arched alcove is next to this and a window on its other side. A nicely carved plaque is also present but I’m not sure of its origin. Most of what I can only assume was an extension for a bell tower still stands but a pile of rubble at its base and evidence of a possible attached building to this gable might change this assumption.
There appears to be some partial ruins in the field on the opposite side of the road from the Church and I suspect these may have been from Ballylarkin Castle as the site appears on the ordnance survey map of 1887-1913. An image on Google maps street view from 2011 shows them in a less diminished form than they are today. 

To find Ballylarkin Abbey, take Bohercrussia Street heading West out of Freshford and follow this road for approx. 3KM. You will spot the ruins in a field on your left. You can park along the road a little past the entrance stile.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Scariff Water Tower Co Clare

                                Above Image: The Scariff river adjacent to the tower.

We were driving from Gort to Tuamgraney via Scariff when on entering the village of Scariff we spotted this tall tower across the river. It looked like an interesting ruin so we sought about locating it. As it turned out it was not a Castle tower but a 19th century water tower built to supply the infamous Scariff workhouse.
The workhouse was built in 1841 with the intention of accommodating 600 inmates but with the onset of the famine in 1847 things grew out of proportion so much so that by 1851 there were 3212 inmates with little or no food or water and disease rampant. The workhouse was finally destroyed by the East Clare brigade of the IRA in 1921 to avoid it being used as a Black and Tan barracks. Curiously enough the tower was left mostly undamaged.
We found a public park that led us to a point directly across the river from the tower. From there we could see it was fenced off on all three land sides and the only access would be to row across (if you had a boat) or swim! Still from this position you can see what a nicely constructed structure it is and would fool anyone into thinking it was a late medieval castle. A local informed us that a preservation order was put on it and some restoration would take place. It is also apparently a nesting spot for Barn Owls which are a protected species. Worth a look then if in the area and for a closer look bring your bathing suit!

From Gort take the R458 South and about 5Km along there is a left hand turn for the R461. Take this turn and continue to follow the R461 to Scariff (About 29KM). As you enter the town the road runs parallel to the river Scariff and you will see the tower on the other side. About 100m past the tower is a turn in to a public car park. You can park here and follow the river down to the tower.



Sunday, 10 August 2014

Muckinish Castle Co Clare

                                               Above Image: West facing view

                                    Above & Below Images: Semi-blocked entrance

                                             Above Image: Ground floor interior

                                     Above Image: Debris from collapsed North wall

This five storey tower stands on the coast between Kinvarra and Ballyvaughan. Known as Muckinish Castle (Muckinish being translated from Gaelic as Pig island) the Castle is also sometimes referred to as Ballynacregga. The Castle was built c.1450 by the O’Loughlins and is now in a ruinous state, a testament no doubt to a turbulent past. Now the only full wall standing is the South wall. Portions of the West and a good deal of the East remain but the entire North facing wall has collapsed into rubble on the strand below. The ruins remaining stand seventy four feet high and there is a machiolation for defence purposes on the parapet of the South wall.
It’s hard to miss this ruin as it is just off the coast road a little out of Ballyvaughan. A lane way provides access from the main road. Just adjacent to the ruins a series of holiday homes have been built and so parking is easy in the landscaped area just in front of the Castle. When we visited I was struck by the familiarity of the place and realised that I had actually been here before back in the early 1990’s. Nothing seems to have changed much although a little more wall may have fallen and there was as before virtually nobody else around.

The ruins are striking, standing tall over the bay and it is possible to clamber over the edge of the West facing side and climb down to a small entrance just above the beach which is now impeded by the fallen masonry. But still you can get a look inside at the ground floor through one of the windows adjacent.
Standing down on the beach below and with the whole North wall collapsed you can see the innards of the tower. You can clearly see that the first and third floors were vaulted. The Castle sits on a narrow part of an isthmus jutting into Pouldoody bay and definitely would have held a very strategic position.
An interesting site then but I wonder how much more subsidence will take place in the foreseeable future. The landward side seems solid enough but as for the seaward….

To find the ruins take the N67 from Ballyvaughan towards Kinvarra and after about 4KM you will spot the Castle ruins on your left down towards the bay below. A walled lane way brings you directly to them and you can park in front of the Castle.