Monday, 1 February 2021

Old Rodanstown Church & Rath Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                              Above Image: The church doorway

                                      Above Image: The inner apse in the East wall

                                       Above Image: Belfry & inner West doorway

                                       Above Image: Remnants outside the church

                           Above Image: Plaster remaining on inner curve of doorway

                                         Above Image: The outer walls of apse.

                                                Above Image: The nearby Rath.

We came across this old church while travelling through the backroads of County Meath. It is positioned within an old graveyard at a quiet road junction. This was the summer of 2020 and the country had just relaxed covid lockdown so inter-county travel was possible again albeit for a short time.
The existing ruin is of an 18th century structure and is still fairly solid though roofless, its windows blocked up and sills removed. It was built on the site of the ancient medieval church of St. Rodan which was suppressed in 1540 when the then townland name was Balradan. It was part of the holdings of St Peter's Abbey in Newtown Trim. The older church became ruinous and is now non-extant. Some of its stone may have been incorporated into the later structure. A font from the older church was salvaged and is now located at Milltown near Kells.
The present ruins are rectangular in shape and at its East end form an apse. This a convex shaped wall which I myself have only come across once before in Rathkenny Church (see previous post here). There is  a round headed doorway in the West wall with yew trees forming an arboreal archway toward it. Some of the original plaster work can be seen on the inner curve of the door. At some point the walls were raised by about 3 feet to round-head the windows and include a belfry in the West gable.
The headstones date from the mid eighteenth century to the early twentieth century with a small scattering of more recent stones from approx 40 to 50 tears ago.
We walked around these peaceful grounds which I felt was soaked with atmosphere. It was the the perfect embodiment of a country churchyard that would no doubt have pleased Thomas Gray. We encountered only a groundskeeper on our visit pottering about the gravestones.  
Strewn about the outer base of the ruins were what may be remnants from the medieval church.
About 550m NE of the church ruins you can clearly see an ancient Rath or Ringfort which is a large flat topped grass mound stepped up from ditches and was designed as an early form of defensive structure. This one is located in fairly level surroundings and so is quite prominent. It is now topped with some trees. The Rath probably dates from the period 400-1100AD although there is discussion that some Raths may date back as far as the Iron age. A rather overgrown field gate can be found along the roadside but the Rath looks to be on private land.
To find the ruins take the R125 heading from Kilcock (road opposite Macari takeaway in the village) and drive for approx 320m until you reach a crossroads. Continue straight on through and follow the sign for the L6219 to Dunboyne. Approx 2KM along you will come to a sharp right hand bend. You will see the Rath on your left. Continue on around the bend and drive approx 400m and you will spot the ruins on your right. You can park at the roadside outside the church gate.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

St. David's Castle & Church Co Kildare


                                     Above Image: Castle SW face & gate entrance

                              Above Image: Top of SE face visible from Church Lane

                                       Above Image: NE face seen from churchyard

                                       Above Image: SE doorway of church tower

                                         Above Image: Full SE face of bell tower

                                 Above Image: Entrance to church from Main Street

                                     Above Image: View of tower & attached church

In the centre of Naas town these two sites are adjacent to one another, so it seemed appropriate to document them in the same post. 

The remains of the castle of Naas stands a bit 

forlorn now on a patch of private land. It is slowly falling into disrepair and is in desperate need of care which is a shame as it incorporates parts of one of the oldest Norman structures in the country.

The castle according to local history, which today in its present form is known as St. David's castle, was once called the castle of King John. He had visited Ireland twice once in 1206 and then again four years later. On his subsequent visit it is said that he formed a parliamentary assembly and this is likely to have taken place in the recently built castle.

Naas became a Norman stronghold and was given powers by Henry IV in 1409 that allowed taxes to be collected and to have the town fortified. The castle found itself included in these plans and became a part of the walled structures surrounding the town. The castle was restructured and the town became a vital part of the defence known as "The Pale"

The tower we see today has within it a stone staircase and consists of three storeys. The vaulting is still extant from the original  Norman structure.

In the 1730's it was converted into a dwelling house for the rector of the Church of Ireland and so its association with St. David's came about. A house was also added to the structure around this time.The building's last occupant was a Kildare surgeon but it has not been occupied since his death and the castle and land was sold in the early years of this century.

Today it is heading for ruin but the local council set a feasibility study into  its possible future use but backed off somewhat at the resulting cost of renovation. Apparently during the latter part of 2020 the site was sold to a new owner who wishes to live there. Hopefully this might mean that the owner will conserve and restore this important piece of local history.

Adjacent to the castle is St David's Church. This was originally the site of an early Christian building but was replaced by the Normans with a church dedicated to the Welsh Saint 'St David'. In the early 13th century it was recorded as being a possession of the Knights Hospitallers. The church in existence today was constructed in 1620 and incorporated a good deal of the old Norman building. Roughly 150 years later the steeple of this church had become ruinous and rather than repair it a decision was made to demolish it. 

In 1781 the 3rd Earl of Mayo Joseph Bourke (1736-1794) who was bishop of Ferns and Leighlin and soon to be Archbishop of Tuam planned to replace the old steeple with a very impressive tall new structure that would be visible for miles. Bourke's family were from Naas and this may have been a pet project for him. Construction began but for some reason (probably the cost of such a venture) it remained uncompleted leaving only a roofless tower without a steeple. The bell placed inside the tower is said to date back to 1674. A plaque on an inner wall provides a quote from Bourke from 1783  "I found a ruin and left a steeple".Sadly his proclamation was a tad optimistic it seems. 

To find the ruins take the junction 10 exit from the M7 motorway and follow the signs for the R445 to Naas. Once you cross over the motorway bridge travel straight through the next three small roundabouts following the R445 and drive until you reach a T-junction with South Main Street in Naas. Turn left here and continue until you pass Naas Town Hall on your left. The white pillared gates of St. David's Church are a few metres further and on the right hand side between two small shops. A pedestrian gate is usually open to visit the church grounds and while the bell tower is easily accessible the castle is only partially visible from the church grounds where it is fenced off or from the gate on nearby Church Lane that borders the grounds. In relation to parking there are several disc parking spaces available on sections of the Main Street,

Friday, 4 December 2020

Old Killary Church Co Meath


                                          Above Image: The roadside entrance

                                              Above Image: Graveyard entrance

                                               Above Image: North gate (exterior)

                                               Above Image: South gate (interior)

                                          Above Image: Cross base within church

                                              Above Image: Gate of mausoleum

                                      Above Image: Three stone steps in North wall

                                             Above Image: South gate (exterior)

                                           Above Image: High cross shaft & base

                                            Above Image: Cross shaft West face

                                            Above Image: Cross shaft East face

                                                 Above Image: Standing stone

                                     Above Image: Damage marks on face of stone

                                     Above Image: Skull & crossbones grave slab

This medieval church dates back prior to the 14th century as it was mentioned in the ecclesiastical taxation report for Pope Nicholas IV made during the period 1302-1306.
It was a functioning parish church at least up to the dissolution and was dedicated to St Ivarii. The church was in ruins by the time of the Irish confederate war in the 1640's
We have come across quite a few church ruins in County Meath during our summer expeditions between the Covid lockdowns this year. Quite a number are on back roads or in this case secreted away from the road up a narrow laneway. We chose to visit this one in particular because the grounds also contained a few interesting features.
Firstly. the church ruins which are positioned in the centre of an walled enclosure, consist of a divided nave and chancel with a great deal of the walls still extant apart from the East wall which is now at foundation level. Two doorways stand opposite each other in the North and South walls with the remains of the base of a high cross just inside the Southern doorway. The absence of a church roof ensures this base is always full of water in the aperture at the top where the shaft was formerly inserted giving it the look of either a font of a large bullaun stone.
A little set of three stone steps lead up through the North wall which may have been another doorway to the exterior or a now non-extant extension. A mausoleum with a lintelled doorway and a dedication from 1818 to one Patrick Russell is located within the North was on the East end of the ruins.
Within the grounds just to the North West of the church are the remains of a high cross. What is present is the base and shaft. There are some interesting depictions from the Old Testament carved on the East face namely from bottom to top Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark ,The sacrificing of Isaac and Daniel in the Lion's den. The West face depicts scenes from the New Testament which are The annunciation to the Shepherds, Jesus's baptism, Adoration of the Magi and the Marriage at Cana. 
Elsewhere in the grounds you can find a curious grave slab located just South of the church walls possibly two to three centuries old which has carved upon it a skull and crossbones with a heart in the centre and also just about visible beneath the bird droppings an hour glass and a bell. I have come across similar stones such as these around the country and they apparently are supposed to depict mortality and a reminder to those viewing that they too will one day succumb to inevitable demise.
One last item we came across was a standing stone located on the perimeter path to the South of the ruins. It is leaning at a slight angle and stands approx one metre in height. The surface on its West face appears to have been damaged by some implement or other as someone tried unsuccessfully to forcibly remove it.
The ruins and indeed the graveyard lie silent and we were not disturbed during our visit as we have been on occasion in the past when visiting out of the way sites, usually by well-meaning locals who are just curious as to what you are up to.
To find the ruins take the N52 heading North East from Kells towards Ardee.and drive for aprox 22KM then take a right turn onto the L1604 signposted for Lobinstown. Continue for approx 2.2KM and look for a narrow laneway on your left with a single stone pillar and open metal gate. it can be easily missed on this narrow winding road so drive slowly and you should spot it eventually. There is a photo of the lane entrance above for reference. Drive up the lane and you can park outside the graveyard at the top,

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Dunseverick Castle Co Antrim

                                    Above Image: The ruins on the basalt outcrop.

                                                Above Image: Scant remains

          Above Image: Print by Jean Watson circa 1879 displaying parts now non-extant

Set strategically on a large basalt rock outcrop on the dramatic Northern Irish coast lie the scant remains of Dunseverick Castle. It is thought to have been constructed in the the 15th century by the O'Donnell's who were preceded by the O'Cathain's and McQuillan's. Indeed the O'Cathain's held ownership here from 1000AD for over 300 years then regaining control in the mid 16th century. 

In 1642 General Robert Munro, a veteran of the Thirty Years War, took hold of the Castle by force as he did with many castles in his Ulster campaign during the Irish Confederate wars and almost destroyed it. An attack occurred again in the early 1650's when Cromwellian troops completed the task leaving only the remains of a gatehouse and small tower which they had failed to uproot from the ground. The remains suffered another loss in 1978 when subsidence caused the collapse of a small attached tower into sea below.

The site at Dunseverick is a very old an important one in that it was the terminal point of the fifth ancient road from Tara, seat of the High Kings. It was known as the Slige Miiuachra. Legend has it that St Patrick also passed through here in the 5th century.

It is possible to get up close to the ruins by way of a rough track leading from the wooden stile at the roadside just before a car parking area which is adjacent to the rocky outcrop. The route is an offshoot of the causeway cliff walk and although it's only a short walk to the castle it is quite a steep walk up a grassy track to get to the rocky summit. I wouldn't advise doing so after rainfall or in any windy weather as it could increase the chance of losing your foothold. But if you do reach the ruins you will find it worth the effort if only for the dramatic sea views from there.

Not much remains now of the castle just a few shards of former walls. The the small tower that appears to be attached in older prints subsided into the sea in the same manner as the kitchen of nearby and very striking Dunluce Castle (see earlier post here) I am led to believe that a well also existed on the northern side of the former castle but it too seems to have succumbed to the ravages of time and no doubt the earlier destruction of the castle.

The causeway coast is so rich in history and antiquity and is worth spending a few days exploring. The seascapes are also very dramatic looking out where the North Channel joins the North Atlantic.

To find the ruins take the B15 out of Ballycastle and continue on to Ballintoy. Drive through Ballintoy and the road becomes the B147 so continue on for approx 9.5KM until you see a sign pointing right for the R146 to Dunseverick. Turn right here and continue for approx 1.8KM and you will eventually spot the ruins on your right. There are a small group of bungalows at the roadside and a parking area is signposted to the right just past them. Then to get to the ruins simply walk a short distance back along the road you came and you will see the wooden stile beside a field gate that allows access.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Grangegeeth Castle Co Meath


                                    Above Image: Remains of East and North walls

                                                     Above Image: West gable

                                          Above Image: Slit window in North wall

                        Above image: Window in separate wall West adjacent to gable

                         Above Image: Castle as was illustrated on Down Survey map
                                                 placed on modern map.

A peculiar site this in the fact that the castle tower that stood here is now non-extant but that the walls of a once attached house appear to remain. 
The possibility of the present ruins here being of a later buildings than the castle cannot be overlooked but judging by reference to old maps there is still a likelihood.that this was part of the castle complex.
The original tower was apparently embellished by four round corner towers and stood a few metres from the roadside directly behind the current ruins and adjacent to it there was also a well. Somebody out there might be able to elaborate upon this and any information is welcome about the origin of these remnants,
The castle would probably have been built in the latter medieval times and the lands were depicted as having a house attached without roofing on a very old hand drawn map made by the Down Survey in 1654. The lands of Grangegeeth were owned by Mellifont Abbey (see earlier post here) but then went to Sir Edward Moore after the dissolution and to his son 1st Viscount Garret Moore in 1603. After Garret's death in 1627 they passed to his son Lord Charles Moore who died in a battle in the Confederate rebellion in 1643. Whatever fate the castle subsequently suffered or who indeed had resided there is not clear but it was certainly non-extant by 1778 according to historical maps of the time. The ordnance survey of 1837 (a most valuable resource) indicates the site of the former castle even going as far to depict a line drawing of the foundations. I checked the field for the possibility of some remains but as expected nothing is visible above ground. 
To find the ruins take the N2 North of the crossroads in Slane village and drive for approx 5KM until you see a crossroads with a left turn onto the L5605. Turn left here and drive down the L5605 for approx 3KM and you will see the ruins by the roadside. You can park beside a field gate here.