Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Coolbanagher Church Co Laois





                                              Above Image: Entrance gate

   
 
                                             Above Image: Entrance door            

                                         Above Image: Restored central arch



                                            Above Image: The cross slab







I side tracked to this interesting ruin while in the vicinity visiting Morett castle (see earlier post here). These are the remains of a medieval church constructed on the site of an early Christian monastery. The ruins after excavation and renovation in the early 1990’s revealed a construction of several phases the oldest part being of early Christian era with later extensions that included a Chancel in the Romanesque style and even later renovations constructed in the Gothic style. The church remained in use even after the dissolution. On February 2nd 1779 when it was then under the name of St Peter’s and serving the protestant community the thatched roof was set alight burning the church badly. A new and larger Church was built between 1782 and 1785 and subsequently the old church found itself utilized as a farm outbuilding. It was listed on the 1837 ordnance survey map as being in ruin at that time.
The ruins are situated in a very pastoral setting surrounded by meadows and access is easy enough by way of a small iron gate by the roadside. All of the walls and gables are extant and access to the interior is now possible whereas in the past the windows and doors had been blocked up. A clean up was done on the site but the overgrowth inside appears to be taking hold again. The structure consists of a chancel and nave and is quite long at 62 feet. It is approx. 22 feet in width. Entry point is the Romanesque door possibly dating to the 12th century that is positioned in the West facing gable. The once Romanesque dividing arch has only the original base extant but the arch has been restored for some unknown reason in the Gothic style. One interesting little remnant can be found on the interior of the North wall adjacent to the East gable. It is an early Christian cross slab which was removed from its original spot and placed securely on the wall during renovation
Coolbanagher was positioned on the road of the assemblies an important medieval route that stretched between the ancient provinces of Mide and Munster. St Aengus the renowned 9th century Bishop and scribe is said to have stopped at Coolbanagher during a journey and whilst there was inspired to write the FĂ©lire Ă“engusso a register of saints and their feast days.
As a small aside a few metres down the road from the church until recently stood the huge ruin of Coolbanagher Castle. A tall tower house, It was located in the grounds of a private residence but partially collapsed during a bad storm in 2014. It was subsequently demolished and all that unfortunately remains now is a large pile of stones.

To find the ruins head West on the M7 and take the junction 15 exit signposted for Mountmellick. At the top of the exit ramp take the right hand exit of the roundabout which crosses back over the M7. Go straight through the roundabout on the other side and at the subsequent roundabout turn left again following the sign for Mountmellick. Approx 250m on you will reach another roundabout which you go straight through. Continue for approx. 1.8KM and take the third right hand turn (this narrow road is at an angle to the main road). Drive down this road and after approx. 1KM you will reach a crossroads. Go straight across and drive another 600m until you reach a T-Junction. Turn right and approx. 200m on you will spot the ruin on your left. You can park at the verge at the entrance gate. 






























Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Morett Castle Co Laois


                                            Above Image: Field entry gate

                                         Above Image: Remains of East wall

                                 Above Image: View of the North East bartizan

                                Above Image: Possible remains of an entrance



                                 Above Image: The jagged South West remains





I have passed by this dramatic ruin countless times on the M7 but an opportunity recently afforded me the chance to leave the motorway and find the back roads leading to it.
The castle was a huge late medieval residential tower house built by the Fitzgerald's in 1580. Within 200 years it would be abandoned. It stood four storeys high and had semi-circular bartizans on each corner. Several fireplaces on some levels were represented at roof level by four huge chimneys which are still extant.The castle came under attack by Cromwell's forces in 1641 and was forfeited.but eventually returned to the Fitzgerald's in 1660. One oft told tale recounted in depth by Sir Jonah Barrington in his volumes "Personal sketches of his own times"published in 1830 was that of Elizabeth Fitzgerald who in 1690 found herself besieged in the castle by the O'Cahills who had managed to take her husband hostage and threatened his life if she did not render the castle to them. Staunchly defiant Elizabeth proclaimed "Elizabeth Fitzgerald may get another husband but Elizabeth Fitzgerald may not get another castle; so I'll keep what I have; and if you don't get off faster than your legs can readily carry you, my warders will try which is hardest, your skull or a stone bullet" The castle remained intact and in her possession but her unfortunate husband found himself dangling from a gibbet!
An illustration by Francis Grose from his antiquarian tour of Ireland in 1791 depicts the castle in ruins with all walls standing but the roof missing. What caused the massive crumbling that has taken place over the last 200 years is debatable but it has left two tall shards jutting upwards to the sky. The remains existing today consist of about two thirds of the East wall and North East bartizan, a small portion of the North wall and the corner of the South and West walls with its bartizan.
Back to the visit. We found that the ruins were in fact built upon a rocky outcrop that was now on private land. A Nicely built modern house stood in front of them. When we arrived we planned to simply knock on the door and seek permission as there were "No trespassing" signs on the pillars of the entry lane that led to the rear of the house. To further upset our plans there were several temporary signs placed directing traffic towards a funeral gathering it would seem at the house..Bad timing for a visit it would appear. However we did get an answer at the door by a very charming lady who dressed in black and heading for the said funeral still graciously allowed us entry to view the ruins as she said herself that she had a great interest in things historical.
Up the lane way to the right of the house we found a field gate which was unlocked and access was easy. The ground within is overgrown and slopes downward from the ruin.The surrounds showed several signs of dislodged rock from the castle walls so we took some very careful steps on our ascent to reach the interior. Standing within you could really get a sense of the original size of this castle and how strategically it was placed..Remnants of the fireplaces and even an oven area are still visible but the features have been ravaged by time. A nearby castle at Coolbanagher which had been a similar tall strong tower almost totally collapsed during a bad storm in 2014 and was eventually demolished. How Morett in its current state survived that storm is a puzzle but there you have it, the fickle hand of fate. That aside I feel that unfortunately time will eventually take its toll and we will sadly lose this striking structure from the landscape..
To find the ruins head West on the M7 and take the junction 15 exit signposted for Mountmellick. At the top of the exit ramp take the right hand exit of the roundabout which crosses back over the M7. Go straight through the roundabout on the other side and at the subsequent roundabout turn left again following the sign for Mountmellick. Approx 250m on you will reach another roundabout which you go straight through. Drive for approx. 1.3KM and you will reach a left hand turn. Turn left and after you have crossed over the motorway again take the second left hand turn. This is a Cul-de-Sac with a modern house on the left at the top. You can park here and seek permission for entry to the ruins at the house.   . .