Tuesday 23 September 2014

Blackhall Castle Co Kildare

                                            Above Image: The entrance gate

                                    Above Image: Exposed interior of the West wall

                                               Above Image: The Sheela-na-gig

                              Above 2 Images: The entrance to stairwell & the stairs

Tucked away on a private estate deep in the heart of Kildare stands Blackhall Castle, or at least half of it!
It was constructed by the Eustace family in the 1400’s and stands four storeys high. It pretty much remained mostly intact over the centuries though uninhabited for a long period, until in Feb 1999 a severe storm caused a structural subsidence resulting in the complete collapse of the East section and parts of the North & South walls.
The Castle is located on private property but a sign on the wall at the entrance to the estate advises that visits are allowed during certain months of the year. We visited in May. It is a little difficult to find the entrance to the estate as it looks like a normal pillared gate shaded under a tree but once you do find it then a short drive up to the estate house and castle is all that is needed.
When we approached the ruins a Dog began barking loudly and chasing the car. We drove around to the rear of the house where there was a door open and hoped the barking would alert the owner to our presence. Not wanting to get out of the car we waited until eventually a man appeared and we explained who we were. He grinned and told us that the dog’s bark was worse than his bite and indeed once we were with the owner the dog became the most friendliest of hounds.
The owner, a genial man called Jeff White, took some time to tell us about the castle and its history. He recalled that the damage to the castle occurred while they were on holiday in Australia and after a few weeks away returned to find that that half the castle had collapsed into a pile of rubble in their yard. They thankfully while sifting through the debris found that the renowned "sheela na gig" that had been placed above one of the now destroyed doors had miraculously survived. They also managed to get a grant from the government to restore what was left of the castle and reset the Sheela in a lower spot. Jeff said that cement was literally poured into the wall cavities to strengthen the remains. After taking up what I’m sure was his valuable time Jeff left us to wander around the ruins and take some photos. At one time you could climb the steps inside to the top but unfortunately they had to cordon it off for safety reasons. The lower floor of the castle is now used as a storage space for farm implements.
With the interior of the Castle exposed it gives an interesting aspect on how it is structured. You can ascertain the different floor levels and see a large fireplace on top floor.
It think it’s nice to have the opportunity to see a castle such as this. A lot that lie on private land are inaccessible but thanks to the owners here for putting in the effort into restoring what they could of Blackhall and still allowing access to the public.
To find the ruins take the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway and at junction 11 take the exit for the M9. At junction 2 take the exit for Kilcullen and at the top of the exit ramp turn right and follow the sign pointing to the R448 for Castledermot. Drive for approx. 3.5KM until you see a turn on the left for the L8008 for Calverstown. Take this left hand turn and drive until you have passed through Calverstown Village. Once through the Village and 400m on you will pass over a small stream and pass by a large 5 windowed house on your right with a rounded arch door. Continue on and you will pass a left hand turn. The entrance to Blackhall lies 600m beyond this on the left. As mentioned its shaded by trees but it lies just a few feet past an oval shaped gate entrance with four pillars. The Blackhall entrance has a small sign left of the gate with the opening times. Drive up the driveway and you will find it turns sharply right. Continue on until you see the castle on your left.

The opening times for visits are restricted to the following times
May 1st –May 31st  2pm-6pm.  September 1st –September 30th  2pm-6pm  December 1st-21st   2pm-6pm.

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.