Situated on a rise overlooking a shallow basin to the W. The parish church of Nobber was within a subcircular graveyard (dims c. 60m E-W; c. 55m N-S) defined by scarps (H c. 1m) that were retained by a low masonry wall (H c. 0.5m), which is still visible at S. This graveyard was extended on all sides (dims c. 75m E-W; c. 50m N-S) except the N after 1836 and it is now defined by masonry walls (H c. 2m). The name ‘Nobber’ is thought to derive from ‘an obair’ meaning the work, probably referring to the Anglo-Norman motte (ME005-070----), c. 300m to the NW, although it might derive from ‘an abar’ meaning the marsh (de hÓir 1965, 98). In any case discovering a pre Anglo-Norman history of what was an early ecclesiastical site is almost impossible (King 2007, 59-62). During the High Middle Ages the location became the parish church of Nobber, which was a prosperous borough, but by the 17th century it was in decline. According to Dopping’s Visitation (1682-5) the church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, it had been in ruins since 1641 and was not enclosed (Ellison 1973, 4). The present Church of Ireland church, now closed, was built in 1771 (Lewis 1837, 1, 443), re-cycling stones from older structures, including a stone head on the S wall.
Three medieval graveslabs (King 1987, 297-99) and an early cross-base had always been in the graveyard or its vicinity (Dargan 1998, 30-2). The effigial tomb-cover of Gerald Cruise and Margaret Plunkett, dated 1619, is set upright on the path into the church. Two others dating from c. 1690-1700, including that of Murtagh, the priest, are nearby in the graveyard. A font, described as a bowl-shaped vessel (ext. diam. 0.42m; int. diam. 0.34m; D 0.18m) that narrowed to the base (diam. 0.26m) and has two lug handles (Roe 1968, 125) was moved c. 1990 to St. Ernon’s Church of Ireland church at Kingscourt, Co. Cavan (CV035-063----) (King 2007, 64), but this is 18th or 19th century in date. The medieval church is represented by the ivy-covered W wall (L 6m) and part of the N wall (L 4.2m) of a belfry tower that was vaulted over the ground floor. The tower has four storeys with small lights on the lower floors and two large pointed openings at the third storey for the belfry stage. It is thought to be 15th century in date and was probably an addition to the medieval church, of which there is no trace. However, a clean-up of the graveyard in 2006 brought many early features to light, which are almost all worked pieces of sandstone (King 2005) and all are still in the graveyard, except one of the high crosses and the cross-slab.
The cross-base is conical (diam. of base 0.84m; diam. of top 0.42m; H 0.6m) with a rectangular mortice (dims 0.26m x0.18m). Two bands of interlace or fret-pattern are separated by two rib-mouldings (King 2005, 21). The solid ringed head of a small high cross (H 0.45m; Wth c. 0.3m) is missing the upper shaft and one arm but has an interlace pattern surrounding a small holed boss at the centre on one face. The upper shaft has roll-moulding framing an interlace pattern with a row of pellets along the top. The other face has a boss at the centre surrounded by eight D-shapes inside the ring with bosses at the cardinal points. The upper shaft has a pattern of knot interlace between roll-mouldings. Part of the shaft (dims 0.26m x 0.14m; H 0.76m) of another cross may have been connected with the cross-base. Its angle moulding is distinctive, and there is a small interlace knot with a fragment of figure sculpture on one face. A cross-slab (L 0.99m x 0.66m; T 0.13m) is decorated on one face with a ringed cross in relief that occupies almost the whole stone, with two winged figures on either side of the stem that appeared to be winged but are cloaked and one has a staff or crozier (King 2005, 22-4; 2007, 43-55).
Seven smaller crosses in the graveyard that are acting as grave-markers could also be early because of the pecking technique to decorate them, but they need not all be very early. The form is of latin crosses (Wth 0.27-40) and the height varies (H 0.25-0.9m) depending on how deeply buried they are. All have incised crosses of one or more lines on their surfaces; one has a circular pecked ring and another has a square one. A fragment of a churchyard cross has recently been identified amongst the architectural fragments. (King 2007, 52-6)
The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Meath' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1987). In this instance the entry has been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Revised by: Paul Walsh
Date of upload: 2 September 2013
Amended by: Michael Moore 10 July, 2014
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.