Seskinane Church at Knockboy Co Waterford

The medieval  church of  Seskinane/Seskinan is located in the townland of Knockboy Co Waterford about 3/4 mile from Bearys cross, just off the Clonmel-Dungarvan road.  Although a little out-of-the-way the site is signposted from the Clonmel-Dungarvan road so can be found relatively easily.
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Location map showing the site of Seskinane church

In medieval times this church functioned as the parish church for the parish of Seskinane and was part of the prebend of Lismore. It is located in the ancient territory of  Sliabh gCua. By the late sixteenth century it was in a state of ruin and was recorded as derelict in 1588.
According to Power (1952, 56) the placename  Seskinane signifies “Little Sedgy Moor. The  townland today is made up of rough pasture.
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View of mountains from carpark

Medieval Parish Church

 The church is found at the end of a long  narrow winding bohereen.  It is surrounded by a historic graveyard enclosed by a modern earth and stone bank.
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Seskinane medieval parish church surrounded by a historic graveyard

 

The graveyard  surrounding  the church  is filled with graves ranging in date from the 18th century to the present and it possesses  quiet a number of  very finely carved 18th and early 19th century gravestones. The interior of the church is also filled with gravestones of 18th and 19th century date.

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 The church has a rectangular plan  without any internal division. The west gable had a double belfry with pointed arches.  The belfry was badly damaged in storm in the early 1990s and what remains   is covered in ivy. The majority of the wall is still standing although without some intervention it is difficult to know for how much longer.  The west gable wall is in poor condition and slightly bowed,  the ivy that covers it is probably holding it together. The wall has a sign ‘danger falling stones from church building’ . The sign tells of the risk to anyone approaching the church. Those who access the site and enter the church do so at their own risk.
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One of several signs at the sight illustrating the dangers of falling masonry from the church walls.

The  west wall is lit by two ogee-headed windows, placed one above the other.
The east gable of the church is  lit by a central ogee head window and the lower section of  this window has been turned into a small shrine incorporating a  statue of the blessed virgin.
 The walls of the church are built of rubble stone with dressed stones  used for windows and doors.  Two  opposing pointed doorways  provide access into the interior of the church in the north and south walls. At present door in the north wall is partially blocked with masonry from the church.
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Doorway in the south wall of the church

 

Windows survive at the eastern end of the  north and south walls.  Other features include a  cut water stoup inside the south door and an amubrey at the east end of the south wall.

 

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View of the south door in the interior of the church and holy water stoup.

Ogham Stones

This little ruined church is very special as it incorporates six ogham stones within its fabric.
The presence of these ogham stones  has led some  to suggest the  church stands on the site of an earlier church. In the late 19th century traces of a possible ecclesiastical enclosure, no longer  upstanding, were recorded in the field to the south of the church and within the graveyard (Brash 1868-9, 127; Power 1898, 84). There is also very pronounced curve in the field boundary  to the east of the church that along with the 19th century evidence may tentatively suggest the presence of an enclousure.
The majority of  ogham stones at  Seskinane were reused as lintels  and are found in the windows in the north, south and west walls and  in the south door. Two other free-standing stones were also found at the site only one of which is still present at the site. The inscriptions  from the stones were transcribed by Brash (1868-9) and Macalister (1945, vol. 1, 286-9).

The South Wall 

A large greenstone ogham stone acts as the lintel of the southern doorway.  The ogham script is visible along the lower edge of the stone.  A circular hole  pierces the stone at the western end it appears to post date the ogham script as it cuts the some of the ogham letters. Macalister (1945, 287) records the inscription as
Q[E]CC[IAS] M[U]C [OI   B] R[O] E[ NIONAS]
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Ogham stone used as a lintel in the southern doorway. The ogham script is found on the lower edge of the stone.

 seskinane ogham

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A second ogham stone has been used as a lintel in the southern window beside the east gable. Macalister (1945, 286)   transcribed the inscription as
…]RG[…]BRENE [….
One of the voussoirs that make up relieving arch above this lintel also features some ogham script which Macalister transcribed as   CROB (Macalister 1945, 287).
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Ogham stone used as lintel in the southern window beside east gable. The second voussoir on the left also has ogham script.

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Close up of ogham script on the lintel and voussoir in the southern window.

 The North Wall

The  window at the east end  of the north wall of the  church also incorporates a ogham stone of as a lintel. Macalister (1945, 286)recorded the inscription as
…]ER[A]T[I] M[U]C[OI] NETA-S [EGAM] ONAS

The West Wall

The west wall  of the church is covered in thick ivy at present. It contains two windows both of which have ogham stones as lintels.
Macalister (1945, 287-288) noted the upper stone of the  top window had the inscription
…]CIR   MAQI   MUC[…..
and the lower window had the inscription
VORTIGURN
A seventh ogham stone is  located in the northwest corner of the church. Macalister (1945,  286)  recorded the inscription as
…]ER[A]T[I] M[U]C[OI] NETAS[EGAM]ONAS
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Ogham stone in the northwest corner of the church

There was an eight ogham stone at the site, in the past it was moved to a house near Cappoquin but it  has since been lost. It was read by Redmond (1885-6, 418-19) as OMONG EDIAS MAQI MUI BITE, and by Macalister (1945, vol. 1, 289) as [MAQI?] MOnEDIAS MAQI MUIBITI

 The Church and Community in modern times

 The parish of Seskinane was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.  In the past a pattern was held here, it was known locally as La Féilé Mhuire Chnoc Bhuí  and it was celebrated on the 8th of September but over time the tradition died out.
Since 1978 the local community has celebrated mass outside the ruins of church on or as close to the 8th of September (the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin) as possible. It is also a time for the local communities to visit their graves.

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Local Folk Tale:  Seskinane Church and the Bell

A local folk tale recounts that when this the church  was  built it lacked a bell
  to call the faithful to Mass.  It was decided to take a bell from the nearby church at Kilkeany (this church has not survived to the present although its location is still remembered) and  use it at Knockboy. Thus the bell was removed from the belfry of Kilkeany church  and brought to the church at Knockboy.
However, when the bell was brought to Knockboy, it was found that no matter  how hard it was rung the well would not chime. It was  said  that the bell broke from where it was hung and made its way back to Kilkeany, in the middle of the night, chiming the length of the journey and that shrieks of mocking laughter could be heard (Keane 2015, 36).

 To sum up

Seskinane church  preserves  physical evidence of medieval devotional practices within the medieval parish of Seskinane.    The presence and survival of such a large collection of ogham stones is culturally significant at a local and  national level. The presence of the ogham stones within the fabric of the church also tells us a little about medieval ideas of re-use and recycling. Given the state of the fabric of the church and the constant barrage of storms our country is currently experiencing, I do worry for the  future of the site, I really feel that this site is significant to warrants a program of conservation.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about ogham stones check out the wonderful Ogham in 3D website. The site  details the work of the Ogham in 3D project  that is currently  carrying out a  laser-scan  of as many as possible of the approximately four hundred surviving Irish Ogham stones and to make these 3D models available online.  The results of the project to date can be seen on the website.
References
Brash, R. R. 1868-9 ‘On the Seskinan ogham inscriptions, County of Waterford’, JRSAI 10, 118-30.
Keane, T. 2015. ‘Churches Old and New ‘ Sliabh gCua Annual  No.21, 35-36.
Macalister, R. A. S. (1945) (reprint 1949) Corpus inscriptionum insularum Celticarum, 2 vols. Stationery Office, Dublin.
Moore, F. 1999. Archaeological Inventory of County Waterford. Dublin: Stationery Office.
Ogham in 3D:  https://ogham.celt.dias.ie/menu.php?lang=en&menuitem=00
Power, Rev. P. 1898 ‘Ancient ruined churches of Co. Waterford’, WAJ 4, 83-95, 195-219.
Redmond, G. 1885-6. Proceedings – ‘Remarks on an ogham stone lying in Salterbridge Demesne’, JRSAI 17, 418-9.

Kilronan medieval church & holy well at Glebe, Co Waterford.

A few days ago, I visited one of County Waterford’s hidden treasures, the medieval  parish church of Kilronan.  I am in the process of doing some historical research into this site but  here are some of my initial  observations.

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Kilronan medieval parish church at Glebe, Co. Waterford.

Location

Kilronan church is located in the townland of Glebe,   in the barony of Glenihery, close to the Tipperary Waterford country boundary. It is a short drive from the town of Clonmel (c. 6km), just off the  Dungarvan-Clonmel near the crossroads at Kilmanahan.  This area is in the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, which came in to existence in the later medieval period following the amalgamation of  the dioceses of Waterford, Lismore and Ardmore .

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Map showing Kilronan church and holy well taken from Bing maps.

Placename

The name  Kilronan or Cill Rónáin means the Church of Ronan which suggests there was an early medieval church of some sort in the area.   There are several saints called Ronan listed in the early medieval calendars of  Irish saints, however there is no way of knowing which of them was connected to this area.   There is no trace of an early medieval church at the site or anywhere else in the parish. The diocesan system in Ireland came into being in the 12th century and the present  church was built after the 12th century,  it may be possible it was built on an earlier church. The townland name Glebe, refer’s to church land. Glebe  land  was used to support the parish priest.  According the  Ordnance Survey Letters of the 1840’s the church  was remodeled in the 15th century, when it and the parish were re-dedicated to St Laurence.

The Church

Kilronan church  sits  in a rectangular graveyard with  gravestones range from  late 1700’s to modern times.   19th century farm buildings are built  against the church on the north and west side. It is surprising that there has been little academic discussion of Kilronan as it has some very unusual  and interesting architectural features.

East gable and south wall of Kilronan church

East and south wall of Kilronan church

As you can see from the photo above a  layer of very thick  ivy  covers much of the  walls of the church.  It is difficult to accurately date the church as it is so over grown but it is mentioned in a document written by Pope Nicholas’s   in 1291, which suggests it was constructed prior to the late 13th century. The original building was altered   in the 15th century  and  a number of  new windows and a door  were added.

The church is built of sandstone and is entered through a door at the west end of the south wall.  The door way is a lovely 15th  century hooded  moulded doorway. If you look closely at the photo you can see the  door way was inserted into an earlier larger doorway.

Doorway in the south wall of the church

Doorway in the south wall of Kilronan church

It is difficult to see all the windows with the ivy. Rev. P.  Power, the former head of Archaeology at UCC, writing in 1938 counted 6 windows and suggest there was at least one more.  I noticed  two window (one blocked) on the  west side of the doorway, and a twin-light, cusped ogee-headed window at the east end of the south wall. There is a blocked windows in the north wall. All the windows have very wide embrasures.

Kilronan windows

Photo of the ogee head window at the east end of the south wall in 1938 (Power 1938, 63)

The largest  and most elaborate window  is found in east  wall of the church. It is a  three lights window with switch line tracery. Today it is  covered in ivy so  below is a photo of the east wall and window taken in 1938.

Image of east wall of church taken in 1938

Image of east wall of church taken in 1938 (Power 1938, 63).

The church has a simple rectangular plan, the interior it is now filled  with 18th and 19th century burials and heavy vegetation growth. There is no evidence of any internal division between the chancel and nave.

View of east wall of church

View of east wall of church

The Archaeological Inventory of   Co. Waterford  noted there was  ‘ traces of rood-screen sockets towards the E end of the long walls’ .  In the south-east corner of the church,  the  ivy free sections of the wall shows the upper courses leaning inwards which may suggest evidence of  vaulting.

Power noted that notable individual details is the evidence of a former double roof; this is voussoirs of the inner vault plainly visible on the south side (interior) of the building. No doubt there was, as in Cormac’s Chapel, a chamber for lodging of the priest, above the barrel vault, and in this connection, note the putlog beside the entrance door, clearly the door way  was fastened from within, i.e., the ecclesiastic lived in the church.

If Power is correct then the priest live within the church  above a vaulted ceiling.  In medieval times the priest  often lived at or in the church,  in accommodation above the west and sometime the east end of the church,  in an upper story apartment  or in accommodation attached to one side of the gable end of the church, or in residential towers attached to the church (Birmingham 2006, 169).  Less commonly the priest could live in a free-standing house were also used (ibid.). The use of vaulting is not unheard of in creating an upper floor for the priest residence  and examples of vaulted medieval parish churches are found at Kilbride Co. Offaly,  Gallon and Raffony, Co Cavan & Leighmore Co Tipperary (ibid., 173-174).

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Piscina in the east wall of Kilronan church

The east wall of the church is the least affected by ivy which is fortuitous as some of the  churches most interesting features are located within this wall. At the south end is a piscina,  a recess with a shallow basin used to  wash the communion vessels. The upper section of the Kilronan piscina has an elaborate trefoil-head, a shelf  and the basin  has an   incised petal  design.

Modern memorial cross inserted into aumbry in east wall

Modern memorial cross inserted into aumbry in east wall

At the north side of the main east window  a modern memorial cross has been inserted into one of several   aumbry that are found within the church.  An aumbry is  a fancy word for a  cupboard. There is a small pointed finely cut sandstone door way which leads into a tiny room (dims. 2.03m x 0.85m) that is built into the east wall.

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The room is tiny, a stone seat is built against the north wall  and aumbry (cupboard) is found in the eastern corner of the south wall. The room is roofed with flat lintels and  small square window is found in the center of the east wall.  This is a very unusual feature which I have not found at any other church perhaps the  closest parallel  I can find is  Okyle church and anchorite cell.  I am very curious as to what the function of this room.  It is a tiny room  so would an anchorite be able to stay here ? Does it have a penitential purpose?  I plan to look into this further and I will keep you posted on my findings.

Holy Well

Close to the church c.  60-70 m away   is lovely looking holy well.  The well is  a  semi circular superstructure with a large brick cross on top.

Kilronan Holy Well

Kilronan Holy Well

The  Ordnance Survey Letters of 1840  do not record   any saint associated with the well  nor does Power writing in the early 20th century.  It is always simply referred to as the ‘Holy Well’. According to Power the holy well was venerated up to the 1930’s but he gives no further information. The stagnant water within the well suggests is no longer visited.

I would love to hear from anyone who  knows any history of the well or its traditions and I will come back to Kilronan again and share any new findings on its history and architecture.

© Louise Nugent 2013

References

Birmingham. H. 2006, ‘Priests’ residences in later medieval Ireland’, in Fitzpatrick, E. & Gillespie, R. (ed.) The Parish in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland.Dublin: Four Courts Press, 168-185.

O’ Flanagan, Rev. M. (Complier) 1929. Letters containing information relative to the   

  antiquities of the county of Waterford collected during the progress of the

  Ordnance Survey in 1841. Bray: Typescript.

Moore, M. 1999. Archaeological Inventory of County Waterford. Dublin: Stationery

Office.

Power, Rev. P. 1937. Waterford and Lismore; a compendious history of the united

  dioceses. Cork: Cork University Press.

Power, P. 1938. ‘Some Old Churches of Decies’, JRSAI, Vol. 8, 55-68.

Graveyard recording at Newcastle

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/).

The Medieval Church and graveyard at Middlequarter, Newcastle, image taken from Bing maps

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.

View of Newcastle castle from the nearby graveyard

The historic graveyard  surrounds  a 12th /13th century church, which functioned as the medieval parish/manorial church .

The medieval church at Newcastle

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.

Southern doorway of the 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.

The North doorway of the church at Newcastle

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)

View from window at NE end of the church

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 .

Volunteers recording gravestones at Newcastle

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.

Volunteers recording a gravestone

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.

A simple gravestone dating to 1755

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.

Crucifixion imagery on the gravestone of Daniel Long of Neddins died 1817

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.

Chest tomb of Jeffery Prendergast

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.

Crest on the Prendergast grave slab

© Louise Nugent 2012

References

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.