Wednesday 24 February 2016

Old Ballyboughal Church Co Dublin

                                               Above Image: Entrance laneway

                                                   Above Image: East gable

                                                   Above Image: West gable

                                             Above Image: North wall entrance

                                Above Image: South wall entrance looking through to
                                                        North wall entrance

                               Above & Below Images: Traces of the non-extant roof

This Medieval church tucked away in North County Dublln was named Church of the Assumption but is better known as Ballyboughal because of some historical significance attached to it. The name Ballyboughal translated from the Gaelic “Baile Bachaille” means Town of the Staff which refers to the legendary staff carried by St Patrick or the “Bachall Iosa” (staff of Jesus) as it was also known. Legend has it that the staff was given to Patrick by Jesus to aid him in his missionary work. This revered Patrician relic apparently survived the years after Patrick’s death and in 1113 the Archbishop of Armagh commissioned a Church to be constructed to house and protect it and this is believed to be the Church at Ballyboughal. The staff was retained here until 1173 when during the Norman invasion Strongbow  took hold of the Church and confiscated the staff giving it over to Christchurch Cathedral. The staff then remained in Christchurch until 1538 when during the turbulent times of the dissolution it was forcibly taken and burnt by those who removed it. The Church at Ballyboughal fell out of use is recorded as being in ruins by 1630.
Access to the ruin today is by way of a lane way leading in from the main road at the Northern end of Ballyboughal Village. The first sight of the ruin is on your right hand side elevated from the pathway amongst the trees. Indeed this old part is at a slightly higher level than that of the more modern section which is still in use as a cemetery. 
The ruin is in fairly good condition considering its age and all of the walls are upstanding. The most striking features of the Church are its extended West gable with its triple bellcote and the 14th century arched window in the East gable. There are entrance doors positioned opposite each other in both the North and South walls. Within the ruins some burials have taken place and there are some grave markers placed here. The interior consists simply of a nave and chancel undivided and the walls contain some arched recesses within them. There is visible evidence of the non-extant roof on the interior of the West gable beneath the bellcote. The Church is quite long in shape and reminds me a little of St Mary’s Abbey in Howth (See earlier post here ) There are a number of old gravestones around the church, the oldest dating back to 1720 which is located at the West end of the church. Also present is a monument commemorating the United Irishmen of the 1798 rebellion.

To find the ruin you will need to go a little out of the way. Firstly head Northwards on the M50 and take the junction 5 exit and follow the exit ramp marked City R135. This exit ramp curls round in a circle and brings you to a set of lights at Charlestown shopping centre. Turn left at the junction and drive approx. 350m until you reach a junction with The R104 (St Margaret's Rd) Turn left and drive until you reach a roundabout and take the first exit left onto the R122 for St Margaret's. Continue for approx. 2KM until you reach another roundabout and turn right onto the R108. This long road takes you around the perimeter of Dublin airport until you reach a T Junction. Turn right the take the first exit left at the next roundabout. This is the continuation of the R108. Drive for approx. 3KM until you reach another T Junction with the R125. Turn left and a few yards later take the first right turn signposted for Ballyboughal. Drive for approx. 3KM until you enter Ballyboughal. Continue through the village past O’Connor’s Pub on your right. The lane way for the church is approx. 120m past the pub on the left just after a new housing development. It’s a narrow lane and easy to miss but there is a sign opposite directing to Ballyboughal Burial Ground. You can just about park a car adjacent to the lane.

Monday 15 February 2016

Ballymount Castle Co Dublin

                                                 Above Image: Park entrance

                                          Above Image: Rail line pedestrian gates

                                       Above & Below Images: The tower archway

                                             Above Image: Remains of a window

                                          Above 4 Images Interior views of tower

                              Above Image: East view of tower completely overgrown

                           Above & Below Images: Possible remains of courtyard wall

                                       Above Image: Remnant of main building

                       Above Image: More Castle remains. Hole on right leads to cellar

                                        Above & Below Images: Access to cellar

                                        Above & Below Images: Interior of cellar

                                         Above Image: Bronze age burial mound

                                             Above & Below Images: Folly ruins

                                     Above 3 Images: Views among the folly ruins

                                                Above Image: Ballymount Park

                                           Above Image: Sketch map of castle site

Having passed by the ivy coated tower house near the junction 9 exit of the M50 for almost 15 years I felt it was probably about time to investigate it further! The tower stands in an area called Ballymount Great and a public park was created here in 2001 by the local council. The ruins now lie within the confines of the park. I arrived at the site only with the knowledge that the tower is called Ballymount Castle (and sometimes Kingswood Castle by locals) but this unassuming ruin turned out to be just a small part of what was a much greater complex.
Ballymount Castle is believed to have been constructed in 1622 on lands granted by James I to William Parsons the surveyor general of Ireland. Parsons had great plans not only to construct a fortified manor house but to extend it structurally over the years and to landscape the grounds around it. Unfortunately for him the civil war of the 1640’s put paid to his tenure and he fled the country leaving his great house to be burned down by rebel forces in November of 1646 a mere 24 years after its construction. The Castle has never been rebuilt and ruination set in very quickly. Two paintings from the late 1700’s one by Dutchman Gabriel Beranger and another by James Saunders depict the house and ancillary buildings as they were then and gives an insight to nature of the Castle, but today there is very little remaining of these structures. But a little in this case is still nonetheless interesting.
The first thing I found was that the tower house that is visible from the motorway is now isolated in a sliver of land between the motorway and the LUAS light rail system. I was about to be disappointed at not getting closer access but I then discovered two pedestrian swing gates in the perimeter fences along the rail line which allowed you to cross the tracks and access the tower. At this point I must stress that if visiting due caution must be taken crossing the rails as the LUAS can travel quite fast and is quiet running as I found out quickly enough myself, so double check each way before stepping forward onto the tracks.

The ivy covered tower reveals a large archway on its North West face which is not visible from the road and you can actually go inside. There’s really not too much to see in here but it looks as if there was only one storey above the arch. There are a couple of small windows on the ground level and at least another on the top floor. The ivy outside had made quite a bit of encroachment on the top of the interior and may eventually find its way down to the ground on the inside. The Eastern aspect of the tower outside looks to all intents and purposes like a tall unruly bush, no part of the wall underneath visible. This tower was not the castle itself but the original gatehouse to the site and the archway runs straight through it. It’s a pity that the ivy has not been removed and the ground around it cleared as the grass is quite long and rampant in parts, but it is still worth traversing to have a look inside.

If you follow the LUAS perimeter fence heading in a northerly direction away from the swing gate on the tower side you will see an outcrop of wall now daubed with graffiti. The rail line has run right through what was once a part of the manor house, this being a particular section of the building with a lower chamber that is vaulted and would have more than likely been part of the cellars of the castle. If you hop over the perimeter fence of the rail line you can see an access point which is usually fenced up for what I imagine would be for safety reasons but on my visit about half of the fence had fallen in so I could actually get inside on this occasion. I carefully climbed in to find an unusual chamber with two or three apertures of a sort which may or may not originally have been doorways. The fencing had fallen inwards from these also and the sunlight streamed in as much as it could. It felt a bit strange to be standing in the cellar of a building that was no longer there. Unfortunately the scene with its fallen fences was also marred by the presence of a dumped shopping trolley which might explain how the fences got broken in the first place.
On the park side of the tracks you can see a section of wall also daubed liberally with graffiti and judging by the old layout plans from an excavation in 2006 and the aid of an old OS map this looks as if it might possibly be part of the courtyard wall. In the overgrowth of bushes behind this section of wall the ground dips and is madly overgrown but a small jagged portion of another wall juts up and is likely to be remains from one of the manor’s main section. This and the other parts mentioned appear to be the extent of what is left of the castle ruins but it is fascinating to try and ascertain what is what and see how the modern world has encroached upon the site.

A number of excavations took place here over the years that revealed some ancient artefacts. Indeed just a short distance to the northwest of the ruin site is a large mound called The Motte which is actually believed to be a Bronze Age burial mound and not of medieval construction as a true Motte would be. When I spotted this I was surprised to see another ruin sitting on the crest of it, so I enthusiastically followed the track up to the top to discover that this appeared to be the remains of another tower house. While I scouted around the area the weather took a sudden turn and a heavy rain shower powered by the tail end of storm Gertrude lashed against the stones. I actually found shelter among the ruins on the mound proving that even today they still served a purpose. A little research later revealed that these ruins are of a venture known as John Butler’s folly. Butler who in the early 18th century had resided in the nearby Ballymount House and whose family had come into possession of the lands on which Ballymount Castle had stood went about constructing what was basically a fake ruined tower as a centrepiece of his daughter’s wedding so that the gardens still maintained around the ruins could be viewed from aloft. The building was deliberately never finished to give it an authentic ruin appearance and ironically it has fallen into further ruin over the years.

A mixed bag then but a really interesting visit and surprising to find more than the tower I initially came to see. Best time to visit I would suggest is on a weekday morning as the park can be quite busy at other times. Not that it would interfere with you looking around but it’s more atmospheric I think when there are fewer visitors about. I don’t think I met more than 4 or 5 people on my visit mainly dog walkers.

To find the ruins head North on the M50 and take the Junction 10 exit for Ballymount. At the top of the exit ramp take the left hand slip road onto the R838. Follow this road which is parallel to the LUAS rail line until you reach a set of traffic lights. Turn right at this junction onto Sylvan Drive. Follow this road and take the third turn right onto Ballymount road. Then drive until you reach the third left turn that leads onto Kingswood Castle and simply continue to the end of this road which leads directly to the gates of the park. You can park alongside the pavement at the entrance gates. Once through the gates take the first path right which is a few yards inside and you will see the tower across an expanse of grass. Once you have reached the perimeter fence of the rail line look for the pedestrian gates to access the tower. To find the mound with its ruin simply follow the line of the aforementioned courtyard wall in a Westerly direction and you will see a gap through the bushes that leads to a tarmac pathway. Turn right onto the pathway and follow it on until you see the mound in an area just past the bushes on your left.               


As you can see above the local council took a notion one day and cleared the ivy off the gatehouse tower. This was done a while back but I've only had a chance recently to repay a visit. It certainly looks a whole lot better. I was informed that the whole area around the tower was cleared in 2020 to make it more amenable and more aesthetically pleasing. But since then the grass and bushes are growing wild again in the area around it's base. The proximity to the rail tracks and LUAS trams that appear silently at speed might have put a health and safety warning in their minds, so this may be the extent of the clean up. I'm happy though to finally see the brickwork again instead of a jungly nightmare!

Thursday 4 February 2016

Old Timahoe East Church Co Kildare

               Above Image: View of possible foundations leading from South wall. They
                                       do not appear to be the same width as partial remains of
                                       the West wall facing out.

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                         Above Image: Commemorative plaque

                              Above Image: South wall & partial remains of West wall

                                                     Above Image Stone font

Some ruins are so small and so out of the way that unless you are a local you would bypass them without even noticing. In this particular case there are only scant remains of a medieval church located at the bottom of a quite narrow lane way in Timahoe East. There are no directional signs to it so you would hardly know it was there. The Church is described as being in ruins on the 1897-1913 ordnance survey map although given its current condition it is more likely that it has been ruinous for several hundred years.
The lane way leading in from the road is as mentioned fairly narrow and is dotted sporadically with potholes .The graveyard lies at a small junction about halfway down this lane. An atmospheric creaky gate in the boundary wall leads you into the graveyard enclosure and the ground inside is elevated from that of the roadside. The ruin is located on the North end of the enclosure and the area around it has been landscaped to some extent to preserve what does remain. Indeed today only the Southern wall is now upstanding and it measures approx. 18 feet in length and 6 feet in height. A single small window is its only extant feature. Partial remains of the West wall are also in evidence in the form of a corner meeting with the South wall. What looks to be foundations of the West and North wall stream out from the ruin but are not the same width as the partial West wall suggesting the possibility that these may have been later additions and not the original walls. Hidden behind the South wall is an information plaque attached to a plinth but it is fairly well obliterated now by bird droppings. Beside it is a stone font which more than likely came from the church. It appears to be in quite good condition given its age. This is a somewhat lonely little ruin huddled in the corner as if keeping a very low profile from the modern world.
Of historical interest there is a plaque on the boundary wall to the left of the entrance gate that commemorates some of the United Irishmen of the 1798 rebellion led by William Aylmer who took refuge here in June of that year at the battle of Ovidstown.
To find the ruin head West on the M4 motorway and exit at junction 9. On the top of the exit ramp take the first left exit onto the R402. This will bring you to a second roundabout. Take the second exit to the right following the R402 to Johnstown Bridge. Drive for approx. 9.5KM until you reach a small crossroads with a thatched cottage on the right. There is a sign pointing left for Timahoe. Turn down this road and drive for approx. 7KM until you reach a T-Junction with a sign pointing left for Kilcock. Turn left and approx. 100m further there is a right hand turn onto a narrow lane. Drive down this lane until you see the graveyard boundary wall on your left. You can park at the derelict cottages adjacent.