Tuesday 28 August 2018

Old Castlerickard Church Co Meath

                                                  Above Image: Entrance gate

                                          Above Image: The approach to the ruins

                                                Above Image: Church entrance

                                  Above Image: View from church entrance of bridge
                                                         over River Blackwater

                                                  Above Image: Church interior

                                    Above Image & Below Image: Swifte Mausoleum

This small but interesting ruin dedicated to St. Nicholas sits upon elevated ground to the East of the nearby Blackwater River. The location was once the site of a medieval church which was in ruin by the mid 1600’s and sadly leaves no traces of  itself behind. The present ruins are that of a later church built for the protestant community on the old catholic church ground. It is thought to have been built during the period of the board of first fruits which began in the late 1790’s. There are records of this church being in existence in 1837 so it certainly fits the brief.  It was still in service until 1910 and was de-consecrated in 1977. It is now roofless, overgrown and in ruin.
This is a particularly atmospheric site tucked away on an intersection of two backroads. From the moment you enter the old entrance gate and ascend to the graveyard it just reeks of antiquity. If you want to demonstrate an example of an ancient burial site that wouldn’t be out of place in a Gothic novel, well Castlerickard ticks all of the boxes and then some. There are ancient table tombs, overgrown Celtic crosses and spectacularly at the rear of the graveyard a huge 12 feet tall pyramid or tetrahedron which was built as a mausoleum for the prominent Swifte family sometime around the 1820’s. It is constructed of limestone blocks and dominates this part of the graveyard acting like a tall black sentinel. The graveyard is mostly overgrown and the ground underfoot uneven, but it holds a fascination somehow, probably due to its location, construction and overall eeriness. We visited on an overcast day between showers which just lent more grimness to the place. If you find yourself anywhere in the area do take some time out to see it. The mausoleum itself is worth the visit.
To find the ruins head West on the M4 and take the junction 8 exit and follow the roundabout around to the third exit signposted for the R148 to Enfield. Continue on this road until you have either driven through or around Enfield. Then continue on the R148 until you see a sign for the L2226 to Longwood. Turn right onto the L2226 and drive for approx. 4.5KM  until you reach a small roundabout in Longwood with an antiques & curios shop opposite. Turn right here onto the R160 and drive for approx. 1.5KM and take the first left hand turn. It is quite well hidden and not signposted but there is a small derelict cottage opposite. Drive up this narrow road for approx. 1.5KM until you reach a T-Junction. Turn left  and continue for approx. 350m then take the first right hand turn. The graveyard gate is on your right a few metres up. It is possible to park snugly at the gate.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Burnchurch Castle & Church Co Kilkenny

                                             Above Image: The tower house

                                           Above Image: Tower house entrance

                                               Above Image: The turret tower

                                               Above Image: Turret entrance

                                               Above Image: Within the turret

                                            Above Image: Burnchurch Church

                                    Above Image: Church with tower house nearby

Situated in Co Kilkenny and not too distant from Callan Friary (see post here) and the expansive Kells Priory (see post here) lie the ruins of Burnchurch castle. This 15th century tower house was built by a branch of the Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds. It consists of six storeys with the uppermost floor serving as a hall. Several flights of stone steps are set into the wall starting from inside the doorway on the North facing wall. On the crenellated top the North and South walls rise to form turrets. The tower house had an attached great hall now non-extant and a surrounding bawn, the only evidence left of this is the 12.5 metre high round turret which lies adjacent with part of the bawn wall still attached. The castle fell into the hands of Col. William Warden during the Cromwellian invasion of the mid 17th century and was granted later in 1666 to Major Francis Flood through his marriage to Anne warden. It continued in use as a residence until 1817.
The castle is clearly on private farmland and a rudimentary sign clearly states no entry but yet there is a pedestrian gate to the left of the large electric gates allowing easy access. An information sign is placed at the doorway to the tower but the doorway is padlocked as is the doorway of the turret. I imagine that the landowner may also be the key holder so a little more research may be needed to gain access to the interiors. I have heard that not so long ago it was possible to climb to the top so I will investigate that for a future visit. Nonetheless both the tower and turret are well worth seeing especially in conjunction with the ruins of the old Church of Ireland building that lies across the road. It was commissioned in 1810 by the board of first fruits which had a long standing building programme for the protestant community. It was built on the site of a former medieval church and so the graveyard consists of of mixed internments. The Church, a single cell Gothic-style structure may have originally had a spire on top of the tower but it along with the roof are now gone. The church in use up until 1947 has now fallen into ruin.
To find this interesting set of ruins take exit 9 of the M9 motorway and follow the signpost for the N10 to Kilkenny. On the N10 take the first left turn signposted for Callan and Danesfort Church. Drive for approx 4.5KM (passing through a crossroads with the R697) and you will spot the ruins on a curve in the road. You can park alongside the gate to the castle but try not to obstruct the gate as it is used by the landowner.