Saturday 26 March 2022

The Gothic Arch Templeogue Co Dublin

                                        Above Image:  The arch as it was in 2014

                        Above Image: Templeogue House. Parts of the old castle were 
                                               incorporated into the towers at the back. 

Anyone who would be frequently driving down the N81 towards Templeogue in the last few years would have been surprised recently to see this stone archway appear as if out of nowhere. It has in fact been a feature for centuries but in the years following the 1980's it began to disappear beneath the ivy and bushes that grew alongside the then newly installed Tallaght by-pass. The Gothic style arch has now once again been exposed to the light as it is anticipated that it will become a feature along a new greenway being developed by the County Council.
The arch is not in anyway medieval or nor is it associated with the ruins of the nearby church at the Spawell roundabout (see earlier post here) but in fact a folly built as part of the ornamental landscaped gardens of the former Templeogue house demesne.
The house itself was by built in late Elizabethan times incorporating parts of the towers and subterranean vaulted cellars of the former 16th century Talbot castle. The lands had been granted to Thomas Domvile by James II following the bloody battle of the Boyne and it was Thomas's son Compton Domville who had the gardens laid out. 
Both the Talbots and subsequently the Domviles were stewards of the City watercourse which ran on the North section of their land and Compton sometime following his Father's death in 1721 had several ponds designed in the forested gardens, that drew from the watercourse that connected to each other via a series of steps which had statues placed at each dropping point. At the Southern end he built the tall Gothic arch under which the stream flowed and then dropped as a twenty foot waterfall before rejoining the City watercourse. 
In 1780 the Domviles moved to the lands at Santry and the ornamental statues and indeed an ornamental temple which had stood on a mound were transferred with them. Only the arch remained probably as it was not practical to take it down and try reassemble it. So as the estate waned the arch became a lonely sentinel over the diminishing gardens. Over subsequent years the streams and ponds dried up and disappeared and the mound on which the temple stood was finally levelled in 1972. The house is now utilized as a training centre and has been renamed St Michael's house.
I remember visiting the site of the arch some years back and finding little of it visible. From the roadside it just looked like part of the overgrown bushes. It was a forlorn sight. But now it has returned and serves as a reminder of a more fruitful time in its existence.
To find the arch take the N81 from Tallaght to Templeogue and after the Spawell roundabout look for it on your left behind a fence. Parking is difficult on the dual carriageway but if the gates of St. Michael's house are open (they are a few metres past the arch) you can park in the spaces inside the gate. The arch is fenced off but you can still get very close to it. If you like you can park at the church ruins back at the roundabout and take in both sites on foot.

Friday 18 March 2022

Mount Venus Dolmen Co Dublin


                   Above & Below Image:  The gap between capstone and portal stone

                                      Above & Below Image: The huge capstone

I came across this Dolmen a number of years ago but had a chance more recently to visit again. Situated in Woodtown not far from Rathfarnham it is generally known as the Mount Venus Dolmen.

The dolmen is actually an ancient portal tomb dating to the Neolithic period sometime between 4000BC - 2500BC. Portal tombs generally consist of two or more vertical stones supporting a a larger more flatter capstone. They were often covered over with soil or stones or in some cases laid bare.

The Mount Venus tomb can be found in a bushy and somewhat neglected spot on an earthen bank above the West side of the approach drive into the DSPCA animal shelter. There are a set of steps leading up from the car park to a small recreation area but a small diversion in through a hedgerow brings you to the location. 

I was disappointed to see that the area was still somewhat overgrown but its hard to really miss this huge monument from the past.

The capstone measuring approx 18 feet by 9 feet has partially collapsed off all but one of the portal stones forming a triangular crevasse in between. A smaller stone lies beneath and another portal stone adjacent which is overgrown measures approx 15 feet. The size of the portal stones would indicate quite a high entrance height into the tomb when it was in its complete standing form..

The capstone is considered to weigh an incredible 44 tons!  William Borlase, a British antiquarian in his extensive publication "Dolmens of Ireland" described the dolmen as one of the most magnificent examples he had ever seen.

The dolmen has been in this ruined condition since the mid 18th century and is thought to have collapsed into its current state as a result of shock waves from the huge earthquake that took place in 1755 with its epicentre in Lisbon, Portugal. The shock waves also damaged part of Galway's city wall and some strong tsunami waters hit the peninsula at Auginish in County Clare destroying the central section of the peninsula thus creating an island offshore. 

Even in its current state this portal tomb is worth seeking out. The land it is on is not owned by the DSPCA but I believe by Woodtown Farm. I don't think a close-up look at the dolmen would be an issue.

To find the tomb take the R115 (Stocking Lane) from Ballyboden towards Killakee. Go straight through the roundabout (junction with Stocking Ave) and continue for approx 1.4KM taking a left hand turn onto the L4026 towards Rockbrook. Continue down this road for approx 500m and you will see the entrance to the DSPCA on your right. Drive up the avenue and park anywhere along it. Then walk on toward the wire fence and gates that lead to the Cats and Dogs Home. There is a set of stone steps on your right just before the fence. Climb the steps and walk forward on the path until you reach the fenced hedgerow. Look for a gap near a field gate. The DSPCA gate is usually open between 8.00 - 17.30 Mon - Fri.