Sunday 31 March 2024

St Maelruan's Tower & Monastery Site Co Dublin


                                            Above Image: View from main gate

                                        Above Image: Exterior steps to first floor

                                        Above Image: Granite cross West facing.

                                          Above Image: Granite cross East facing.


                                       Above & Below Images: St Maelruan's Losset

                       Above Image: Part of the remains of the monastery embankment

                         Above Image: Tallaght Castle now incorporated into the priory


There is an abundance of history in and around the village of Tallaght and the Dominican priory at it's centre is the tail end of almost 1300 years of ecclesiastical history in the village which began in 769AD with the foundation of a monastery by St. Maelruan. In 1223 the Archbishop commissioned a palace to be built which in 1329 fortified against attack from the Wicklow clans. A tall castle tower was also constructed for further protection. The monastery slowly deteriorated over the years until in 1720 the then Archbishop had all but the castle tower torn down and a new Archbishops residence built. The castle tower now is the only remaining construct of the old site and has been incorporated into the current priory buildings.
Adjacent to the monastery site lies the church of St Maelruan which was constructed in 1829 by the board of first fruits and standing beside it is the tower of the non-extant medieval parish church. The tower stands four stories high with an external stairs leading to the first floor. Within, a spiral stairs reaches to the other floors. The third floor has a vaulted ceiling and above it a bell cote. The interior of the tower is generally not open to view.
Within the church grounds left of the main gate are a couple of remnants from the old monastic site. The first is the 60" wide St. Maelruan's Losset. It was probably named so as it's shape rembles that of an old wooden utensil for kneading bread. This granite losset was more than likely originally a font. The second item is just South of the Losset and is a 36" high granite cross on a circular base with an arm width of approx 22". Local lore is that it marks St. Maelruans burial spot.
As an aside, part of the old fosse embankment belonging to the monastery is still visible from the car park of the retail area behind the church. I eventually located it between DID electrical and Smyth's Toys. A small OPW plaque had been placed to mark it but had been moved further down by the property management just causing confusion. But eventually I informed them of it's relation to the monastery and they seemed surprised but said they would move it back. The tower of the Tallaght castle can be seen from the private car park of the retreat house in the priory grounds. We entered not by the main gate to the priory but through the side gate down the laneway on the Eastern boundary. We didn't meet any opposition to us photographing it and our visit was brief.

To find the site take the N81 towards Tallaght and upon reaching the junction with Old Bawn Road (R113) turn right into the village. Continue straight on through the next two sets of traffic lights and you will find the church gates on your left just past Fanagan's funeral home. You can park safely enough just outside the gate.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Old Knocksink Dam Co Wicklow


                                             Above Image: The track entrance

                                          Above & Below Image: The forest track

                                         Above Image: First sight of the remains

                                         Above & Below Images The Dam remains

                                     Above Image: Arch below the Knocksink bridge


                      Above Image: A fallen tree in Bog Meadow gives the appearance 

                                             of some huge sylvan creature grazing

I have always found that half of the joy in ruin hunting is finding historical remains no matter how large or small in hidden spots or out of sight in normal everyday places. Knocksink dam falls directly into this category.
The Knocksink bridge (1859) is located on the cusp of Enniskerry where the Glencullen river beneath winds through the extensive Knocksink woods from the Dublin mountains.
Probably no more than 100 metres West of the bridge are the scant but still significant remains of a small dam.
The dam in question was part of a hydro-electric system and apparently was linked in its day to providing electricity to Powerscourt Estate, seat of the Wingfields, the Viscounts of Powerscourt. 

The Enniskerry Electric Supply Co-op supplied local businesses and homes with power until the ESB took over in the mid 1940's. Enniskerry was incorporated into the Shannon electric system around 1942 and it was sometime following that the small dam on the river was deemed unecessary and was dynamited leaving only partial remains on the riverbank.
Though not a remarkable ruin it is well worth your while on nice dry day to take the rough track that leads from the top of the bridge adjacent to the Parish house and then begin to descend through a landscape of leafy ferns and bushes down a slope towards the river. At times it is stoney and uneven underfoot and be wary of a small concrete ridge that lurks under the vegetation. I tripped once or twice on this. Eventually if you track close to the river, which is barely more than a stream at one point you will find the dam remains. Down in the small gorge it is like another world and seems far away from the busier world above. The Knocksink bridge stands high in the distance dividing the woods from the area known as Bog Meadow, which is a wonderful public amenity.

To find the ruin, take the R117 from Kilternan towards Enniskerry. As you near Enniskerry you will pass a small sliproad on the right signposted for Knocksink Woods nature reserve. Drive on across the walled bridge and park at the main entrance to St. Mary's Parish Church. Then walk back to the entry to the old parish house and you will find the track entrance at the roadside to the right of the parish house entry. It has a streetlight pole beside it. Follow the track adjacent to the parish house wall and the begin to descend towards the river,