Friday 25 April 2014

Malahide Abbey Co Dublin

                                  Above Image: The first view of the Abbey

                                       Above Image: The South doorway

                                           Above Image: The East window

                            Above Image: View of the tower from the South side

                                Image Below: The lawn. Follow the wall into the
                                                     bushes on the right.

Situated in the picturesque grounds of Malahide Castle which was built for Richard Talbot by Henry II in 1185 are the ruins of Malahide Abbey. There was an ancient Church nearby to the Castle called St. Fenweis but this large later medieval structure may have been built upon this site. the Abbey flourished under the influence of the Talbots and was probably used as a parish church until the dissolution.
I had visited Malahide Castle many years ago and wasn't aware then of the existence of the Abbey ruins so when an opportunity arose recently and on a sunny late spring morning, I found myself amongst the throng of visitors wandering around.
These attractive ruins are very striking on first view, so full of anticipation I was suddenly disappointed to find the access gates well and truly locked. The enclosure wall wasn't too high but I don't think that the wardens would be in favour of someone clambering over it. So leaving the tourists frustratedly trying to get the best photos they could, I took a stroll around the perimeter finally finding a grassy lawn on the side near the Castle entrance. I continued to follow the line of the Abbey wall until nearly three quarters the way around it disappeared into some bushes. I followed suit through the bushes and found that the ground level here was much more in height to the wall. This spot was adjacent to the lane way that led from the car park to the ruins so I waited for some people to pass and then quickly hopped over the wall. I'm sure as I headed around to the Abbey doorway that some people were probably wondering how I got in. I moved swiftly so not to draw as little attention as possible.
The Abbey grounds contain the family tomb of the Talbots and within the ruins also is the tomb of Maud Plunkett who married Richard Talbot and died in 1482. All of the Abbey walls stand and contain a nave and chancel handsomely divided by a Gothic arch. There is a fine decorative East window and a second Gothic window beneath the belfry tower. The tower itself rises majestically jutting above the surrounding trees outside. The ruins are often referred to as an Abbey but it more likely that this in its time was more of a large Church. The affluent Talbot family would no doubt have been patrons.
I took some time to have a good look around discovering other things such as a mitred head carved above the Southern doorway. I would have liked to have stayed there longer as it was so peaceful and great to see the ruins without distraction, but I thought it probably wise to move back to my exit point as I had achieved what I had come to do. I don't know if it's the Castle's policy to keep the Abbey gate locked at all times but I really don't think it would present a problem for people to have a closer look
To find the ruins take the M50 motorway Northbound and at Junction 3 take the exit for the R139. 400m later go straight through the next big roundabout and continue on down the R139 until you reach a crossroads with the R107 (Malahide Road). Turn left here and drive for approx.5KM until you see a right hand turn with the gates and a colourful sign for Malahide Castle & Park. Turn right but do not enter the gates here. Continue on this road which is called the Back Road for approx. 700m and you will see the entrance drive to the Castle on your left. At the end of the drive there is a free car park on the right. Walk back out of the car park and follow the lane to the right towards the walled garden. You will eventually see the Abbey ruins on your left.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Great Connell Abbey & Church Co Kildare

                                          Above Image: The last remains

                                   Above Image: Entrance to Abbey graveyard

                       Above & Below Images: View of the Abbey remains from
                                                          within the graveyard

                                        Above Image: The ruined Church

                                  Above Image: Entrance gate & stile to Church

                                            Above Image: Entrance porch

                                      Above & Below 2 Images: The Interior

Founded in 1202 by Myler Fitzhenry for the an Augustinian order from Wales, Great Connell Abbey was built near a ford in the River Liffey called Connell Ford, which being an important crossing point may also have possibly been a part of the Slighe Dhala one of the five ancient routes from Tara. The Abbey was dedicated to St Mary and St David and was to become the principal Abbey of The Pale acquiring a great deal of land and wealth. Fitzhenry himself spent the last four years of his life within the monastery until his death in 1220.
In 1380 Richard II passed a law which forbade Great Connell from admitting any Irishmen into it's order but there is evidence that this was not always the case. When the Suppression of Abbeys arrived, Great Connell became one of its victims being dissolved in 1541 and the lands being passed to John Sutton. The Abbey slowly fell into a ruinous state and is documented in 1781 to have little of note upstanding and indeed within 20 years most of the stone remaining was removed to construct the British Cavalry barracks in nearby Newbridge.
The remains of the Abbey today are scant but along with a small ruin of a later Church adjacent, are well worth seeking out.
A country road from Newbridge called Connell Drive will get you to the right spot. There is a large gateway blocking a lane way which has a pedestrian stile in it. About 100m up this lane on the left lies an old graveyard which is enclosed by four walls. The Western wall has an arched gateway through which you can enter. What remains of the Abbey forms the Eastern boundary wall. The ancient stones have vegetation springing up from them but are obviously of older origin than the other walls. This wall that is left is believed to be the Eastern wall of the Abbey's Lady Chapel. Standing in this old graveyard on a golden sunlit day with the light reflecting on this wall really evoked a sense of history about it.
Back out at the roadside and to the right of the lane way gate is another graveyard of Victorian age with a walled enclosure. There is a small set of iron gates in the wall which when we visited were only tied up with a piece of cloth. There is an overgrown stile to the left of the gate but it's bottom step is missing.
Inside the enclosure amongst the ancient stones an overgrown pathway leads to the ruins of an 18th century Catholic Church. The windows on the East and North have been barred up but a single window on the South remains open. We walked around the perimeter of the Church and it looked as if there was no way to get a look inside except through the window but then we came across a gap in the overgrowth on the West side which gave access to a small porch entrance where the door had been knocked aside. Inside the Church the floor is strewn with plaster and wood mostly from the latticed ceiling which is till about 60% intact. Also in evidence some empty beer cans, the remnants of some other Un-Church like activity.
The sunlight streamed in through the gaps in the roof and the open window illuminating the interior and showing that this must at one time been a very attractive place especially judging by the plasterwork.
I couldn't find out much about this ruin but it still appeared on the 1897-1913 Ordnance Survey map as "Church". Usually if abandoned it would state "In Ruins". So it may have still been in use up to then. Maybe somebody out there can shed a little more light on this?
To find Great Connell ruins take the M7 from Dublin and take the exit at Junction 10. At the top of the exit ramp turn left and at the following roundabout take the 3rd exit on the right onto the R445 for Newbridge, Drive for approx. 6.5KM and along the way you will encounter two more roundabouts. On the second of these take the first left turn, this is Connell Drive. Continue on down this road straight through the next roundabout and approx. 600m later you come to lane way on your right with a wide closed gate. This is the entry to the Abbey ruins. The gate to the small Church is to the right of this. You can safely park at this spot.


                                     Above Image: An added arch to the entrance

                          Above 3 Images: Some unusual monuments. the cross above
                                                       consists of two logs.

I was passing Great Connell recently and haven't been there since 2014 so I nipped into the old graveyard which is now sporting a new arch with its year of foundation 1736. On my previous visit I was able to gain access to the interior of the old church but this time it was so overgrown at the back and not having a machete with me I decided not to proceed further! If you make a visit bring something to break down the vegetation. I found a number of unusual monuments at the site that I missed first time round. This is a very very atmospheric spot indeed.