Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Old Mainham Church Co Kildare

                                              Above Image: The roadside gate.

                                       Above Image: The enclosure entrance stile

                                             Above Image: South wall doorway

                                                    Above Image: The interior

                                  Above & Below Images: The entrance to the tower

This medieval Church stands in the very ecclesiastically prolific county of Kildare. It was originally run by the Knights Hospitallers and is recorded as being in ruins by the mid 1600’s. Unlike a lot of other churches of its era this one is distinctive by its castle-like tower. The ruins and old graveyard are dwarfed now by a much larger modern cemetery adjacent. There is a roadside stile to enter the modern cemetery and another in the enclosure wall of the old graveyard although the wall is also breached in the eastern side of the enclosure.
The ruins underwent some restoration and this has had an effect of making the exterior look a bit plain and featureless. Nonetheless it is laudable that people took on this work to preserve what remains. The robust tower which is located on the South Eastern corner contains a spiral stair which is accessed by a small lintelled door within the church. Entry to this door was unfortunately inhibited by a locked gate on our visit but I’m sure a key is available. The ruins measure approx. 65ft x 18ft and can be entered by a door in the South wall. All of the walls are still more or less upstanding. This site is also distinctive as being the only mixed graveyard in the country containing some remains of those of the Greek orthodox faith.
I have to say despite the plainness of this ruin I was really quite impressed by it. On first sight and slightly obscured by trees you would almost be convinced you were about to visit a castle. The tower although not terribly tall seems to loom over you especially if viewed from the Eastern aspect. I can only imagine that a tower of this sort was constructed with the defence of the Knights Hospitallers in view. The interior of the Church like so many Church ruins was seen as consecrated ground and subsequently many graves were placed there. Slightly South of the ruins outside of the enclosure is the large Wogan-Browne mausoleum belonging to the Brownes of Clongowes Wood.
So all in all I found it an interesting visit and well  worth a look if you are in the area. I will certainly return again soon to hopefully gain access to the tower.
To find the ruins take the R407 Northwards out of Clane and drive for approx. 3KM and you will spot a white sign on the grass verge on your left which states “Caution Cemetery entrance ahead”. About 100m past this is a right hand turn that leads directly to the graveyard entrance gate and stile. You can park safely enough at the gate.


  1. This seems to be a very unusual building. Do you have any idea when it was constructed? Is it still in use as a church today?

    1. Hi Libbie

      It was constructed more tha likely in the 14th century but has been in ruins since the mid 1600's and is no longer in use. The interior is now being used as a place for graves.

  2. Im looking for a grave i believe my uncle could be buried here but were not sure and my mother is trying to locate his grave he would of been 6 weeks old when he died in 1939 edward cross

    1. Just before Mainham Cemetery you will find the Cribbin home. Mrs Cribbin has all the grave records going back to the 1930s. She will assist you regarding Mainham and Clane Graveyard. Hope that helps!

    2. Bear in mind that many children that young are not mentioned on headstones. The truth can only be found in the written records.

  3. Lord Walter Fitzgerald described one of the memorials at Mainham, saying: 'By the side of the little trefoil-headed window of the chancel is a small circular mural table with the following inscription: Here lieth ye body of Margrate Dilon who deceased February ye 7th 1816 aged 68 years & also ye body of Danniall Byrn who deceased May ye 30 17[?]8 aged 77 years. Erected by Barnaby Byrn. A small coat-of-arms, of the O’Byrne family is cut in relief below the inscription...' The year that ‘Danniall Byrn’ died is unclear but if the ‘Margrate Dilon’ who is buried with him, is his married daughter, as seems likely, then he may have died in the 1760s or later. The monument itself, however, must date to 1816 or soon after when it would have been commissioned by Barnaby Byrn, presumed son of Daniel Byrn and brother of Margaret Dillon (1748-1816). The armorial design appears to depict a bordure and although it is difficult to make out, the mermaid could be holding a dart rather than a comb. If this is the case, it may be that this Daniel is a grandson of Daniel Byrne of Timogue (d.1684). The memorial shows some degree of artistic inventiveness as the mermaid crest has been placed on the field of the shield rather than above, although a helm is present.