Saturday, 3 November 2018
Situated a short distance from the megalithic tomb of Dowth this often named Dowth abbey is actually a former parish church which was constructed in the late 14th century. It is thought to incorporate some portions of an earlier church on the site. The extant ruins consist of a nave and chancel with a double belfry on the extended Western tower gable.
It was built next to the estate of the Netterville family and fell into ruin due to extensive damage during the rebellion of 1641. The grounds in subsequent centuries have been used as a burial ground. One of the more noted features here is that of a memorial for John Boyle O'Reilly, an Irish patriot who had been transported to Australia in 1868 and managed to escape to the United States where in Boston he made a successful career as a writer and journalist. He is buried in Holyhood cemetery in Massachusetts. A large and impressive memorial now stands in this cemetery at Dowth, his place of birth, Behind the monument on the side with the effigy of a dog are the faint remains of a Sheela-na-gig set in the wall.
When visiting I was impressed that for such an ancient church that all the walls were still standing although some repairs appear to have been made. It is also quite a long structure and has two doorways in the nave on opposite walls.
Nearby as mentioned is the ancient tomb of Dowth which I will cover in a future post. Ideally you can visit both it and the church in the same trip.
To find the ruins take the M1 heading North and at junction 10 just after the Boyne bridge take the exit for the N51 to Navan. Drive approx 1.8KM until you pass the gates of Townley Hall on your right. Take the next left hand turn onto the L1607. Drive down this road for about 1.8KM until you have passed two sharp bends to the right. Continue on for another 1KM and you will see an entrance on the left to Netterville house with a sign pointing to the O'Reilly memorial. Drive up the narrow avenue and you will find limited parking space at the church gate.