Tuesday 22 December 2015

Kilbride Pyramid Co Wicklow

                                                Above Image: Entrance track

                                       Above Image: First view of enclosure wall

                                    Above Image: Secondary pillared mausoleum

                                      Above Image: Stone plaque detailing origins

We went looking for a medieval church ruin and found a pyramid!
The old Kilbride graveyard just North of Arklow town is the subject of some ongoing restoration but on our visit the site was still fairly overgrown. The pyramid in question is part of the mausoleum of the Howards of Shelton Abbey which the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman apparently once described as the largest pyramid tomb beyond the banks of the Nile. It was commissioned by Ralph Howard in 1785 and stands roughly fifteen feet in height from its base to its summit. It is constructed using large granite blocks. The pyramid stands on the highest point in the graveyard giving it even more prominence. On a lower level beneath it there is a large pillared portico which looks to all intents and purposes as an entrance to the mausoleum but this in fact is a separate chamber to accommodate associated family members. The original entrance to the pyramid was on its North side which is now sealed up.
As I say we came to see a Church ruin but frankly we searched for it but couldn’t locate it. I’m assured it’s there somewhere but with all the overgrowth it was a trek enough to reach the pyramid. I am informed that in any case there are really only scant remains. However I will return here after the restoration is complete and attempt again to find it. The pyramid is in itself well worth seeing and there is also a plaque detailing its origins attached to it.
This pyramid building is not unique to Kilbride there are several dotted around the country but this is the largest. There is a similar but smaller version of this one in the grounds of Baltinglass Abbey (See previous post) belonging to the then prominent Stratford family and another in the graveyard adjacent to Kilcooley Abbey (also previous post).

To find the pyramid take the M11 Dublin to Wexford motorway and at Junction 20 take the exit and at the roundabout at the top of the exit ramp take the second exit onto the R772. Drive for approx. 1.8KM where you will need to take a turn right onto Beech Road which is part of and industrial park. There is a signpost pointing to Avoca River Park at the junction. Take this right turn and then the first left hand turn thereafter which is just past a small Texaco station. Follow this road around a bend to the right and then a bend to the left. The graveyard is a few yards up on the left opposite a series of semi-circular storage huts. The track starts adjacent to a field gate. You can park safely enough at this point.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Old Clonmantagh Church Co Kilkenny

                                                  Above Image: The East gable

                                               Above Image: Original entrance

                                                   Above Image: Twin bellcote

                                         Above Image: Have no idea what this is!

                                 Above Image & Below 2 Images: Views of the Castle
                                                                                       from the Church

There are few records regarding this larger than usual local medieval church. It is thought to have been constructed as early as the twelfth century and is adjacent to a later fifteenth century Butler tower stronghold which was restored in recent years and so is technically no longer a ruin. The farmhouse nestled at its base is now a B&B.
The church ruins stand within a trapezoidal stone enclosure with access through a twin pillared gate in the Southern wall. A clutter of gravestones are positioned mostly on its West, Northern and Southern sides with some dating back to the mid eighteenth century. The Western gable has an extended twin bellcote with one side partially crumbled away. The interior side of the tower gable shows evidence of the former apex roof. The Eastern gable though a bit ragged still stands to its full height and contains two long narrow windows. The church has somewhat sunk in to the ground so that the entrance in the Southern wall is now a smaller aperture but there is a larger aperture in the North wall. The view out from within the walls through this aperture perfectly frames the nearby castle tower. No graves have been placed within the Church and so the ground is grassy and uneven underfoot. I like the overall aspect of this Church as it has pleasing lines to the eye. While taking a photo outside of the Eastern gable something dashed through the section with longer grass near the enclosure wall. I decided in my mind that it was a rabbit or a hare but it could easily have been something nastier like a rat. I stuck to the shorter grass after that.
Well worth a stop to view as access is so easy and in an area that is well stocked with ruins. We also visited on the same day Urlingford Chuch & Castle (see post here) and Three Castles Church & Castle (see post here)
To find the ruins of Clonmantagh take the R693 heading West from Freshford towards Urlingford and drive for approx. 6.5KM You will eventually spot the ruins on your right hand side. You can park directly across the road in the hard shoulder. Be careful crossing though as this is a long straight country road and traffic tends to approach often and at speed.