Tuesday 29 March 2016

Old Whitestown Church Co Dublin

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                         Above Image: Interior side of the window

                                          Above Image: One of the two apertures

                                                     Above Image: The Plaque

These modest ruins lie in an area called Whitestown roughly half way between Rush and Lusk in North East County Dublin. The Church could possibly date back to the time of the crusades. It is dedicated to St Maur (Maurus, a follower of St Benedict who introduced Benedictine rule into Gaul in the sixth century) Local legend has it that a group of Breton mariners (possibly crusading knights) were caught up in a serious life threatening storm at sea and prayed to St Maur to come to their aid. They vowed to build a Church in honour of him at whatever place he would lead them to safety. They apparently had their prayers answered as they managed to land at Rogerstown later to be called Knightstown (after the crusaders maybe?) and finally as it is called today, Whitestown.

All that remains now of this little Church is the East gable. There is a single arched window in the gable and two small square apertures on either side of it. The most unusual feature is the stepping effect leading up to the apex, not something I’ve seen before. The ruin is positioned on a raised area with none of the foundations showing. It was certainly in ruins by 1654 as it is described as so in a civil survey of that time. It was replaced in 1776 by a newer Church which itself was replaced in 1989. A commemorative plaque has been placed on the outside wall of the gable.   
As I said it is quite a modest little ruin but with some interesting history attached and worth a look if in the area. Just to mention that this area is dotted with many historical ruins and it is possible to see quite a few in a short space of time.
To find the ruin take the R128 from Upper Main Street in Rush heading towards Lusk. Drive for approx. 2.5Km and you will spot the ruin on your left in the graveyard. You can park at the gate safely. Access to the Church is by way of a gate in the boundary wall that also encompasses the more modern cemetery.

Monday 14 March 2016

Old Straffan Church Co Kildare

                                              Above Image: The entrance stile

                                                Above Image: Church doorway

                                              Above Image: Section of the nave

                      Above & Below Image: Interior and exterior of North wall window

                                Above & Below Image: The two South wall windows

                             Above & Below Images: Overgrown East section interior

                                     Above Image: Sunken steps on North section

                                Above Image: Interior of entrance and base of tower

                                             Above Image: East aspect of tower

                                             Above Image: South aspect of tower

                                      Above Image: West & North aspects of tower

                                           Above Image: South wall with breach

                          Above & Below Images: Exterior & interior views of Lychgate

I spotted these ruins one day while heading back through Straffan towards the N7. Not being in any hurry I decided to turn the car around and go have a closer look. The old graveyard in which they stand is situated directly opposite the grounds of the newer Church on Glebe Lane (now signposted as The Boreen Road). Within the graveyard enclosure amongst some ancient stones is what remains of St. Patrick’s Church roughly dating back to the early 13th century. It is recorded that St Patrick’s was incorporated into the Hospitallers of St John in Newgate around 1250AD which would suggest its construction at an earlier time. The church would more than likely have been in use until at least the time of the dissolution which took place in the 1500’s.
The ruins are accessed (if the main gate is locked) by way of a very large stone stile with four steps in the Southern boundary wall just to the left of the gate or alternatively you can access the grounds around the corner on the main street by way of an ornate wooden Lychgate which leads into the more modern section of the graveyard. This type of gate is an unusual feature for an Irish graveyard and much more common in the English countryside. It was built here in 1913.
What is particularly interesting about the ruined church is that it has a fortified tower house attached to its Western end. It comprises of four stages which were both a residence and a safe house for the clergy and it contains a twin bellcote on top. Ivy is beginning to take hold on some sides of the tower and hopefully it will not be allowed to run rampant. The ruins stand on a elevated ground within the graveyard enclosure and the entrance door is on the Southern side. There are also two nice Gothic style windows in this Southern wall and another visible on the Northern wall. Once through the door you will notice that a large portion of the Northern wall has fallen leaving a gaping view out over the modern cemetery. There are a set of slightly sunken steps which lead down to this section. The interior of the tower is unfortunately inaccessible but from within the ruins it looks quite a formidable structure. Part of the Chancel and Nave can be viewed as you enter but the entire Eastern end is bricked up and is clogged with ivy and winding branches. I nearly done myself a mischief trying to clamber in from the old window in the East gable to get access to this section but eventually the overgrowth inside just got the better of me. Facing possible death by a thousand cuts I retreated quickly!
 In regard to the ongoing deterioration of this Church the overgrowth is the real culprit here and it is truly having a serious effect on the remaining walls with a large break now evident in the Southern wall. I really hope that some restoration can take place here soon to preserve this unusual church from collapsing even further.

To find the ruins take the N7 heading West from Dublin and exit at junction 7 signposted for Kill and Straffan. At the top of the ramp take the third exit on the roundabout that crosses over the N7. On the following roundabout take the exit for Straffan then drive until you reach a smaller roundabout. Turn right here onto Straffan Road. Drive for approx. 7.5Km until you reach Straffan itself. When you enter the village you will see the large 19th century stone church on your left with a Mace service station opposite. Turn left directly after the church onto the Glebe (Boreen Road). You will spot the old graveyard on your right just past some cottages. The only real places to park are at the railings of the newer Church or up slightly on the footpath at the gates of the graveyard. It is not really that busy a lane so you should be okay for a short visit. I’ve been here twice and encountered no problem.

Friday 4 March 2016

Ballymaise Passage Tomb Co Dublin

                         Above Image: Entrance gate (taken during a recent snowfall)

                                                   Above Image: The old shed

                                  Above Image: Kerb stones nestled on the outcrop

                                                  Above Image: The Guardians

                                             Above Image: © Google Maps 2016

This Neolithic passage tomb which may date back as far as 2000BC is only identified now by its remaining line of kerb stones. It lies on the slopes of Knockannavea Hill in an area of forest re-plantation. There are times that this area is clear of fully grown trees but equally it can be the opposite. In all cases those replanting seem careful not interfere with the stones and so they can be found with a little searching and are really worth your time to locate.
The tomb appears to have been deliberately set into an outcrop which can offer at times a really good overlook of Dublin Bay. In particular there are good views of Howth and Lambay Island and it is possible that the tomb is aligned to the summits of either or both. Many of these types of ancient sites can be aligned in some way to other sites or even cairns on the summits of nearby mountains.
When we visited the forest was at full height and we had to follow a rudimentary track in a gap in the trees which eventually opened out into a clear area. There was a perimeter fence of a local farm and a large shed at the edge which would aid in identifying that you are in the right spot if visiting. The tomb lies about 25m North West of this shed. A couple of isolated trees sprout out of the tomb site like lonely guardians. The shape that the stones form is a little difficult to ascertain at first but by following them around it does appear circular in fashion. An aerial view confirms this.
We visited on a early Summer evening about an hour before dusk and the site seem to bristle with atmosphere. I have found that in some cases these ancient stones seem to exude their antiquity to where it is almost palpable and there was definitely a strong feeling of something ancient here. We encountered no one else while there and there was no movement in the farm adjacent. Totally peaceful. Though the track up Knockannavea is well trodden by walkers I wonder how many are aware of this interesting site just off the beaten track.

To find the tomb take the R114 heading West from the Old Mill Pub in Old Bawn Tallaght and drive for approx. 1.7Km until you have crossed the narrow Fort stone bridge. From the bridge continue up through the mountain pass until you reach the third right hand turn at Ballinascorney signposted as the L7045. Turn right and drive for approx. 800m on a narrow road through the trees (which may be at full height or newly replanted) until you reach a small clearing with a black barrier gate on your left. There is also a Coillte Information sign here (although it is now defaced with grafitti). You can park at the gate. Once through the gate follow the track up a gentle incline for approx. 200m until you reach a small oval shaped widening of the track. Turn right here onto the small track into the trees (If you consider the oval shape as a clock face then the track would be at Two O’Clock).  Walk for about 70m and you will eventually spot the shed on your right. The tomb remains are to the left of this on a small outcrop.