This week I headed along to another historic graveyard at Middlequarter, Newcastle, Co. Tipperary. The old graveyard at Newcastle along with the graveyards at Molough, Shanrahan and Tubrid, are currently being recorded by local community groups trained by Historic Graves (http://historicgraves.ie/).
Newcastle graveyard is located close to the Anglo-Norman castle which gives its name to the area. The remains of the castle consist of a hall house with a vaulted roof, a tower and a bawn. The castle is strategically located on the banks of the River Suir close to the fording point . The castle is part of a group of 12th -13th castles built in a line along foothills of the Knockmealdown mountains. This area was the frontier between the Anglo-Norman territory and the Gaelic territory of the Déises . Newcastle was in the control of the Prendergast family from the 13th to the 17th century, it then passed into the hands of the Perry’s family.
The historic graveyard surrounds a 12th /13th century church, which functioned as the medieval parish/manorial church .
Newcastle church is one of the largest medieval parish churches in the surrounding area, being 29m in length and 10m in width. Any past dedication to a saint has long been forgotten and today the church is simply known as the old church.
The church is entered through two ornate doorways at the west end of the church, located in the north and south wall. The south doorway is simpler in design with a moulded surround. The north doorway is slightly taller and has roll and fillet-mouldings with traces of hood- moulding over the apex of the door. Both doors are directly opposite each other.
There is no evidence of an internal division between the chancel and the nave within the church, nor is there any traces of a choir.
The east gable of the church is now partially collapsed. Luckily the Ordnance Survey Letters of 1840 provide the following decription
Its east window is in the pointed style and constructed of brownish sandstone chiselled… 6 feet in height and 1 foot 8 inches in width. It is divided into two compartments the stone which separates them has been removed (O’Flanagan 1930 Vol.1, 22)
The Ordnance Survey letters also state that ‘ the church was burnt by a Prendergast who lived in Curraghcloney Castle’ (O’Flanagan 1930, vol. 1, 23). However today many local people tell the tale, that it was Cromwell who burned the church .
The graveyard has a mixture of 18th , 19th and 20th century graves, including some very recent ones. In total there are 204 grave markers in the graveyard.
It is difficult to decide which gravestones to include here as there are so many interesting ones. The stone below was carved in 1755 to commemorate the death of Denis Morison.
Some of the early gravestones have lovely decoration. The stone below depicts the crucifixion scene and a stone by the same mason has been identified in Shanrahan & Tullaghmelan graveyards.
The interior of the church is packed with approximately 60 burials. At the east end are three unusual burials. A chest tomb sits in the NE corner of the church. The inscription of the tomb is worn away and impossible to read. O’ Hallian in his book Tales from the Deise gives the following account of the inscription
Here lyeth the body of Jeffry Prendergast of Mullough in the county of Tipperary who served in Flanders as Captain under the Great Duke of Marlbourugh, from whom he had the honour of reciting public thanks for his services at the siege of Ayr in 1710. Died 1713. he was an affectionate husband and tender father, in friendship steady and sincere; to all beneath him courteous, truly just and therefore universally esteemed and beloved. He lived under the influence of religion and died cheerfully supported by it the 27th day of March in the 64th year of his life.
John Burke’s A Genealogical and Heraldic History of Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies….. records that Jeffrey’s father Thomas Prendergast, esq was born in 1614 and married Elinor the sister of Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond. The text also says Thomas died in 1725, aged 111 years ‘as appears on his tombstone at Newcastle, near Clonmel’. Once the survey is complete if the tombstone commemorating Thomas survives I am sure the volunteers will uncover it. I would wonder if he was not interred with his son Jeffery.
Beside the Prendergast tomb are two grave slabs which I recorded as part of a project for college in 1998. The inscription on slabs have deteriorated since I last visited here. One has a motif of a horse standing on its hind legs in an oval frame. This is the grave of Samuel Hobson sq of Muckridge, who died in 1782. The second slab records the burial of ‘Lieu Henry Prendergast of Mulough’ and his wife who died in 1776 , along with their a coat of arms.
© Louise Nugent 2012
Hallinan, M, 1996. Tales from the Deise: an anthology on the history and heritage of Newcastle, the Nire Valley, and especially the Parish of Newcastle and Four-Mile-Water. Dublin: Kincora Press.
O’ Flanagan, Rev. M. (compiler) 1930. Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the county of Tipperary collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1840. 3 Vols. Bray: Typescript.
Power, Rev. P. 1937. Waterford and Lismore; a compendious history of the united
dioceses. Cork: Cork University Press.