Saturday 26 October 2013

Old Kilmahuddrick Church Co Dublin

                                            Above Image: The central arch

                                       Above Image: Door in the West wall

                                Above 2 Images: The top of the belfry juts out of
                                                         the overgrowth

Constructed in the 15th century on the site of an earlier chapel and affiliated to the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this parish Church was dissolved along with the said Monastery in 1539 at the height of the dissolution. The Church was dedicated to St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (635AD-687AD) a much loved and revered saint. It is located in St Cuthbert's Park, a green area in Deansrath near Clondalkin.
Arriving at the park you would hardly know the ruins were there if not for the top of the belfry tower jutting up from the clump of trees and brambles that it is secluded in. Some years ago the entire Church was more visible but times have changed and some neglect has resulted in today's situation.
The park is surrounded by a large housing estate so it was easy to park and get access to the green area. Its a short walk over to the clump of trees and a foot worn gap in the brambles and nettles gives access to the ruins.
It's a bit of a shock at first sight.
The trees have encroached on the building and the graffiti artists have had a field day. Not only that but parts of the walls inside have been scorched from camp fires burned recklessly. To compound matters further the ground is littered with squashed beer cans, remnants of the type of unsociable activity that are a scourge to sites like these. A very sad case indeed for the ruin hunter to find.
Somehow even considering the above I still find myself drawn to these ruins. They are an ancient oasis in a sea of suburbia and silence permeates these walls as if the Church were in some rural isolation with the only noise heard being the crackling of brambles underfoot as you traverse the site.
The Church itself is large enough measuring 40ft X 17ft consisting of a nave and chancel. The fine central arch has an extension upwards to accommodate two bells
If cleared and cleaned up this would be a formidable ruin and a focal point in the area. A local heritage group was striving to do this a while back with the local council but so far unfortunately, perhaps because of council cutbacks, nothing has been done. Hopefully some success will come soon so future visitors can enjoy it.
Sadly on our visit which was in evening time we felt it better not to hang around too long with light failing and besides the state of the Church was a bit depressing.
 To find the ruins, from the N7 Naas Road take the R113 junction (At Bewley's Hotel) heading northwards (Fonthill Rd) and drive about 1KM until you reach a small roundabout. Go straight through to the next roundabout and turn left onto the R134 New Nangor Road. Continue for approx. 700m until you come to a crossroads. Turn right onto St. Cuthbert's Road and drive until you have gone straight through two small roundabouts. About 150m past the 2nd roundabout turn right onto Deansrath Road. Drive to the end of the road to a T-Junction and turn right. About 50m along this road it bends sharply right. Park just after the bend and you will see the small metal gate to the park behind you at the corner of the bend. follow the footpath towards the clump of trees with the belfry jutting out. You will find a gap in the brambles along the Eastern edge. Wear solid shoes and long sleeves as there are tall nettles in parts.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Slade Castle Co Wexford

                                Above Image: The Tower with machicolation on top

                                            Above Image: A Fireplace within

                              Above Image: Lobster pots at the rear of the Castle

                        Above Image: View of the small harbour from the Castle

The tall crenellated Tower of Slade Castle was constructed sometime during the 15th century by the Laffans, a Norman family who had established themselves in the area. The fortified two storied hall was added in the 16th century also adding crenellations to the top making the Castle a most elaborate affair. The Laffan's ownership ended after the rebellion of 1641 and the Castle took on several guises thereafter including a storehouse for a thriving salt works during the 18th century and as a tenement house in the 19th century. The building was subsequently disused and was taken over by the OPW in the 1940's.
The Castle sits on the harbour side of the charming little fishing village of Slade. At one point there was a key holder but I'm not sure that is the case now as the interior we were told is at the moment inaccessible. However it is known that the Southern wall entrance in the Tower features a murder hole above it and the ground floor and third floor have vaulted ceilings. The Tower consists of four storeys with a mural staircase to the second floor.
The Castle's position on a pier gives it a commanding view of the Celtic sea and the nearby Bannow bay where curiously enough the Normans first landed in 1169AD
The inaccessibility to the interior is a tad disappointing but the exterior is interesting enough to warrant a visit if you happen to be in the area. When we visited it was a very picturesque scene, the tide was low and some of the small colourful fishing boats nearer the pier lay beached under the gaze of the Castle, lobster pots stacked neatly up against one of it's walls. If the Castle is under the auspices of the OPW it would certainly warrant opening to the public perhaps even as a museum to the Norman invasion and subsequent integration. I'm sure that access could be made to the battlements which would afford wonderful views of what is a very striking part of the country's coastline
To find Slade Castle take the N25 heading East from New Ross to Wexford Town and as you leave New Ross look for a turn right onto the R734 heading South. Take this turn and continue on this road until you have entered the Hook peninsula. When you have passed through Fethard-on-sea continue on for about 5KM following the signs for the Ring of Hook until you reach a staggered crossroads with a sign pointing straight ahead for Duncannon. Turn left at these crossroads and drive approx. 4.5KM until you reach a small roundabout (one of those that are painted on the road) and turn left again following the sign for the Ring of Hook. Drive for about 400m and the road turns sharply right. You will see the Castle directly ahead. Park safely anywhere along this road.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Old Coghlanstown West Church Co Kildare

                                           Above Image: The roadside gate

                                           Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                         Above 2 Images The font pedestal

                                       Above 2 Images: The hidden stairwell

                                             Above Image: The cross base

                              Above 2 Images: The Cross at Coghlanstown East

While the exact date of construction of this church is vague there is positioned within it a shaft of a possible font with an inscription "Eustace Lord Portleter" and dated 1462AD.
The church, a local parish building stands now in ruins and has done so for many years. It was listed on an 1897 map as being in a ruinous state at that time. All four walls still stand although they are very much ivy covered. There is also in existence here a holy well dedicated to St James adjacent to the south facing wall which would lead one to suspect that the Church might also have been given that name.
I was advised by a local in Ballymore Eustace that the Church was easily accessed even though it is on private land belonging to a pet farm. The graveyard surrounding it was still in use up to the 20th century so a right of way is allowed to access the graves.
The road leading to Coghlanstown West from Ballymore Eustace was closed temporarily for roadworks at the time of our visit so we had to make a slight diversion but eventually spotted the ruins from the narrow road.
We parked at a black electric gate as there was little or no room to park on the road itself. Beside the gate is a pedestrian gate and a short walk up a gravelled driveway and across a meadow brought us to the boundary enclosure of the graveyard. There were some buildings in the distance behind the Church which we took to be those of the pet farm and in the opposite direction some outbuildings and a farm house. The iron gate of the boundary wall appeared to be locked but it was actually closed with a chain and a simple bolt device. So we were in!
An ivy shroud covers the the interior of the Church giving it a very ancient feel. The entrance door is in the North wall and the West wall has evidence of a belfry. Inside, opposite the door, we found the shaft of an inscribed font which contained some coins, probably as an offering of some sort. Just inside the door to the left is another smaller doorway with some steps leading upwards to what would have been the upper floor. The steps end abruptly leaving you standing in a gap in the wall about 10 feet from the ground. The East gable contains a decorative window which is still clearly visible on the exterior. Underneath this window is a very rudimentary and weather beaten stone cross.
While we were looking around a figure appeared outside and opened the gate to the graveyard. "It'd be great if it had a roof" he said to me. I grinned back at him and told him what we were up to. He seemed relieved as he explained that there had been a number of break-ins locally and he was just checking us out. He said his name was Murray and he took some time to tell us about the Church and particularly the well. He expalined that both the well and Church were regularly visited in the past, the well apparently having  healing powers, but the overgrowth and some fallen trees had buried it. He indicated that if he had the time he would be able to dig it out again. He also said that the feature in the graveyard which we took to be a bullaun stone was in fact the proposed base for a stone cross. This cross was being transported from Coghlanstown East but fell off the cart transporting it and was simply erected where it fell. He gave us directions to its whereabouts and so we paid it a visit on our way back. In regard to visiting the Church ruins he advised that if visiting in Summer months when the cattle are in the pasture the wire perimeters and those at the gate are electrified so anyone visiting should take note. We found this a very rewarding visit and an interesting ruin.
To find the ruins take the N81 South from Blessington and about 5Km on there is a right hand turn just before a Tougher Oil station signposted for Ballymore Eustace (R411). Turn right and drive for approx. 2KM until you reach Ballymore Eustace. Drive straight through the main street and at the end of the village there is a left hand fork onto the L6048 signposted for Kilcullen. Take this turn and continue for approx. 3KM until you reach a black painted electric gate on your left set back from the road. You will spot the ruins in the field just before you reach the gate. For safety park alongside the gate as there are no other areas to park in but do not block entry as this leads to and from a pet farm.
If you wish to see the cross that fell off the cart, it is located about 600m from the Church ruins on the L6048 back towards Ballymore Eustace. You will spot it behind a small wooden fence on the roadside at the entrance to a farmyard on your left. Good hunting!

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Wicklow Abbey Co Wicklow

                                        Above Image: The South transept

                       Above Image: St Patrick's Church visible through the window

                           Above Image: The site of the nave with only north wall
                                                remaining (right)

                                         Above Image: Possible recesses?

                                                  Above Image: A font?

Founded in the 13th century for the Franciscans and in close proximity to the Black Castle (See earlier post here) this Abbey may have been constructed by the Norman Fitzgeralds who were a prominent family in the area. In the mid 1500's during the dissolution of Abbeys it was seized and utilised as both an armoury and a courthouse. This resulted in the fine buildings being neglected and left somewhat dilapidated. In 1615 a visiting Franciscan noted that's its misuse had caused parts of the structure to fall into ruin. By the late 1700's it had degenerated into roughly what remains today. The ruins became clad with ivy and were only cleared of it in the mid 1950's, the grounds landscaped as part of the present parochial house.
The presence of these ruins is obstructed from view by a high wall surrounding the parochial house in Wicklow Town. The only giveaway that they might exist is the fact that the street outside is called Abbey Street. We had been informed that a gate giving access to the grounds was open to the public so we decided to pay a visit on a n August evening. The gate is located opposite the old Forge pub and within this gate lies a utility building and some picnic tables. A green area led us across to the ruins. The Abbey originally would have been in the shape of a crucifix with the long nave crossed by transepts. While there is not a great deal of the Abbey left what does remain are a series of arches that once formed part of the South transept. All walls in this transept still stand except for the West.
There is a fine window in the Southern wall which from within looks out now upon the elevated St Patrick's Church across the road. The Eastern wall contains two low arches and the North wall a fine high arch that would have led into the nave. All that remains unfortunately of the nave is  a section of the North wall with a small doorway. This part appears to be gathering ivy again. Otherwise the ruins appear to be well maintained and although skeletal in appearance they are pleasing to the eye. The grounds also contain a small babbling stream and some palm trees which lend some ambiance.
When we went to  leave we found the entry gate locked with large electric gates! It was after 8pm so maybe they shut them for the night. Luckily enough we managed to find our way around to the other side of the parochial house and spotted a small garden gate in the wall which was thankfully unlocked.
To find the ruins take the junction 16 exit of the N11 Dublin to Wexford road and follow the signs for Rathnew. In the village you will reach a roundabout. Take a left onto the R750 and drive until you reach Wicklow Town. You will pass the Grand Hotel on your right and then take the next left turn into the public car park. Walk back out to the road and turn right. Walk a short distance until you see the Old Forge Pub across the road. The entry to the parochial grounds is directly opposite on your side of the road