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.

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