Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Connolly's Folly Co Kildare

                                    Above & Below Images: Pineapples and eagles

                             Above Image: Photo from Autumn 2017 for comparison

This unique and imposing structure can be found along a very narrow laneway not too far from Leixlip. To be honest unless you were deliberately looking for it you would never know it was there.
Following a bitter winter and a hard hitting famine in 1740  Katherine Connolly, the widow of the famed William “Speaker” Connolly, who was of a very humanitarian disposition commissioned the renowned architect Richard Cassels whose work has included Leinster House and Powerscourt House to design an elaborate structure that would also serve as a rear entrance gatehouse for Castletown estate. The locals could then be employed to construct it thus giving them a source of income to navigate the hard times.
The structure when completed cost a hefty £400 and stood 140 feet in height. It is composed of several arches and a very tall obelisk stretching skywards. There are adornments of eagles and of pineapples. The inclusion of pineapples represents at the time a sign of affluence as this fruit was exotic and much sought after. The actual position of the structure left it actually in the end not on Castletown estate but on the adjoining lands of Carton House thus it became known as Connolly's folly. Nonetheless this incredible monument has stood for nearly 300 years but did over time fall into disrepair. To prevent it becoming ruinous it was acquired and eventually restored in 1965 by the Irish Georgian Society and it is now under the auspices of the OPW.
Unfortunately these days it is surrounded by an ugly looking fence with a large padlock but it still does not deter from the majesty of this monument. There are rails visible above the main arches and I wonder are they merely an adornment or was there actually access inside to reach these. Standing at the base and looking up you really feel dwarfed by it. I visited briefly last Autumn but on this visit recent snowy conditions really brought definition to the structure.
Katherine Connolly also commissioned another folly on Castletown Estate known as The Wonderful Barn. You can see my previous post here Thanks to Karine Demeure for suggesting a visit to Connolly's folly.
To find the folly take the M4 heading West and exit at Junction 6 for Leixlip. At the top of the exit ramp follow the roundabout around to the right and take the exit for the R449 again for Leixlip. Continue on this road and on the second roundabout encountered turn left onto the R148. Drive through two sets of traffic lights and after the second take the small laneway on the left signposted as the L81206 (Obelisk Lane). About halfway down this long lane you will reach a fork in the road. Keep to the right hand lane and continue on for approx. 1.7KM until the road bends sharply to the left. The folly is approx. 100m along on the left. You can park at the gate which though locked has a small pedestrian entry point to the right of it.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Ballyowen Castle Co Dublin

                                      Above Image: North & West facing walls

                                         Above Image: North & East facing walls

                                     Above Image: Old print showing original castle

You never know when you are going to come across some hidden historical site that is literally under your nose. I had been aware that there had been in the past a castle at Ballyowen but with all the development of the area in the closing years of the last century I imagined it had disappeared into rubble. Well thanks to Kevin Andrew for mentioning it’s existence on the comments in the Old Irishtown Castle post.(see here)
Only a portion remains today and it has been incorporated into Ballyowen shopping centre and is currently in use as a solicitor's office.
The castle originally dates back to the 16th century but there is not a lot of information relating to it other than it was occupied in the 16th century by the Taylors and subsequently by the Nottinghams and the Rochforts in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Looking at the structure now really the only original remains are of part of the tower. If you look at some old prints depicting the castle you will notice it was L-shaped. The tower was also much taller standing at three storeys. The building attached to the tower today is probably the remains of the later added farm house building.

While not the most spectacular of sites it is still interesting to see how the past can be incorporated into the present and form a function.

To find the Castle remains take the N4 west from Dublin and exit at junction 3 for Ballyowen. At the traffic lights at the top of the exit ramp turn left onto the R136. Drive on through the next major junction and continue on until you pass The Penny Hill Bar on you left. At the next junction just past the bar turn left and then take the first left into the car park. The castle building is at the bottom of the park beside the Eurospar shop. 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Old Cannistown Church Co Meath

                                            Above Image: Entrance gate

                                             Above Image: Entrance door

                                              Above Image: Ancient arch

                              Above & Below Images: Decorative carvings on arch

                                      Above Image; Bullaun & other remnants

                                          Above Image: Remains of a font

                         Above Image: West gable as seen through the East gable

                                              Above Image: East gable

The site on which this Church was constructed is believed to be that of a monastery founded in the 6th century by St Finian of Clonard. The ruins we see today are the remains of a Church built by the Norman family De Angelu or the Nangles. They had been granted the land by Hugh De Lacy who was then Lord of Meath. It became the local parish church of St. Brigid in the 13th century and a lot of rebuilding was done over the next two centuries before it finally became a victim of the reformation. It is listed as being in ruins in 1612.
What we can see today are the remains of the chancel and nave. Within are the remains of a very fine arch  with decorative carvings on either side. Really well worth having a look at.  Both gables are quite tall and the West gable has the remains of a bell cote. It is a very lengthy  building and probably was quite important in its time. On the visit I came across a number of interesting remnants including a small bullaun stone in the nave and also a font. The grounds are well maintained and is a very peaceful site.
To find the ruins take the N3 heading North and exit at junction 8. The circular slip road leads you onto the Navan South road. Continue on this road until you reach a roundabout just past an overhead footbridge. Turn right off this roundabout onto the R147 and take the second turn right just past the Old Bridge Inn. Drive for approx. 1.2KM until you pass Keating’s Oil on your right. Just past Keating’s there is a turn right with a sign pointing to Bective GFC.  Turn down this road and after approx. 300m you will see the Church grounds gate on your left. You can park on the footpath here.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Old Sleaty Church Co Laois

                                               Above Image: Roadside Gate

                                                Above Image: Enclosure entry

                                              Above Image: Southern Entrance

                                                    Above Image: Stone font

                                                Above Image: St Fiacc's cross

                                     Above 2 Images: Second early Christian cross

Tucked away in the backwaters of South county Laois, this small but nonetheless interesting Church ruin was constructed in medieval times on the foundation of a once important early Christian site associated with St. Fiacc, the Bishop of Leinster. It measures approx. 14m x 9m with the East gable seeming to be of later construction
The ruins are enclosed by a boundary wall which is set back from the road in a field. Access is easy by way of a roadway gate and a stile in the boundary wall. 
While the ruins themselves are nothing extraordinary there are some interesting things to see here. Within the wall by the Southern door is a large font looking not unlike a large bullaun stone. Outside the West wall is a tall rather worn looking cross. This is actually St Fiacc’s cross and is a remnant of the older foundation here and is believed to be over 1400 years old. Its plainness belays its antiquity but it is still nonetheless striking. It stands at nearly 3M high. A second smaller cross  standing at approx. 1.5m in height is located in the area adjacent to the Southern wall. It too has suffered the sands of time and is also a remnant of the earlier site.
It still amazes me when I come across these genuine antiquities that lie hidden in out of the way places and this particular place is worth seeking out.
To find the ruins take the M7 heading South and exit at Junction 3. At the top of the ramp turn right on the roundabout and cross over the motorway. On the next roundabout take the exit for the N78 for Athy. After you enter Athy take a left turn at the town square for the R417 to Carlow and drive for approx. 9.5km until you reach Maganey. At the crossroads here take a turn right and cross over the stone bridge on the river. Following the bridge take the next left turn and drive down this country road for approx. 5km.Keep an eye out on the left for the field gate and the ruins just beyond. they are easy to miss. For parking there is just enough room opposite on a grass verge.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Jumping Church Co Louth

                                    Above Image: The entrance gate & stile

                                           Above Image: The West gable

                                   Above Image: Remains of South doorway

                                Above Image & 2 Below Images: Ancient stones

                                Above Image: The jumping wall. you can see its
                                                     foundations to the left.

There are many strange myths and legends scattered across this country and one of the most mystifying lies in the backwaters of Co Louth near Ardee.
On a narrow country lane a walled enclosure surrounds the graveyard and the ruins of the 14th century church of Kilmedock, dedicated to St. Diomoc an early disciple of St Patrick.. The ruins are of a long building bigger than most of theparish  church ruins one would normally come across and has been ruinous for several hundred years but this particular church also contains a genuine mystery.
Access to the graveyard is by way of a roadside gate and the first thing to meet your eye is the remains of the West gable. This gable is the subject of the mystery here because it apparently moved by itself three feet to the East of its foundations without falling. The story behind this phenomenon is that this unnatural movement occurred during a severe storm in 1715 but it is hard to imagine a wall of great weight such as this shifting from its foundations without crumbling apart. A stormy wind would more than likely have caused the collapse of the wall rather than magically push it off its foundations. The local legend is that the wall "jumped" supernaturally following the burial of a local mason who had previously abandoned his faith but was still buried within the church beside the West gable. Apparently overnight it jumped to exclude him from the consecrated ground within and this is what the locals found the next morning. A tall story maybe but still  we are left without a logical explanation for this event. Both the storm and the burial did take place but this event remains a tantalising mystery to this day.
The location even with this supernatural baggage is still a very tranquil spot and the grounds are well kept. There are many ancient stones here and within the church a chart depicting the layout of the ruin and the names of many of those interned are listed and mapped out. Most of the gravestones are illegible so this is a great source for those maybe trying to locate the resting place of a relative.
The grounds also contain a couple of interesting 13th century carved stones. 
I stood there for quite a while trying to imagine how this jumping wall came to be and I left none the wiser. But it is a site well worth visiting and I'm really glad I saw it for myself. For families you can regale your kids of ghostly moving walls. They'll love it!
To find Kilmedock ruins take the N2 heading North towards Ardee. About 6.2KM North of Collon you will pass the Hunterstown Inn on your Right. About 300m further on you will reach a crossroads with a right hand turn onto the L5256. Turn right here and continue for approx 600m where you will reach a fork in the road. Keep to the left road and continue on (ignore the pillared lane way on the right, keep to the left hand road) Approx. 550m further you will see the graveyard entrance on your right. There is room to park at the gate.