Situated on a slight rise at the SW foothills of the E-W Loughcrew Hills. A church at Lougherew is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 259) but traditionally, the parish church was built by Christopher Plunkett c. 1520, and it was added to by John, who died in 1588 and was the father of St Oliver Plunkett (O’Reilly 1958). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel as ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, cxix). According to Dopping’s Visitation (1682-5) the church and chancel were repaired and the graveyard was walled (Ellison 1975, 10). The church is depicted as roofed on a map of 1788 in NLI (Hanly 1965, Pl. 2), and it continued to be used for Protestant services into the 1830s (Lewis 1837, 2, 313). The church was dedicated to St. Kieran (Cogan 1862-70, 2, 334) or Caomhán Breac, the local saint, whose church at Clonabreany (ME015-056001-) is c. 5km to the ESE. The motte (ME015-026----) is c. 200m to the W, and the remains of the 17th century house (ME015-119003-) of the Naper family and its walled garden (ME015-119001-) together with the reconstructed gateway from the house (ME015-119002-) are c. 100-200m to the NW. All the features are within the restored gardens of Loughcrew and there may be an entry charge. See this web-page accessed on 11 December, 2014: http://loughcrew.com/loughcrew-gardens/
The church is a fortified church consisting of an undivided nave and chancel (ext. dims 20.5m E-W; 6.5-7m N-S), with a fortified tower (ext. dims 8.2m E-W; 7.1m N-S) incorporated into the W end of the nave and a S transept (ext. dims 4.27m N-S; 4.87M E-W) placed about half way along the S wall of the church. It is situated in a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 54m E-W; c. 43-50m N-S) defined by masonry walls. The church was adapted in the 18th century and no original features survive, except the base of a doorway (Wth 0.7m) in the W wall of the transept and the remains of a two-light window in its S wall. Four large round-headed windows (Wth c. 1.3m) were placed in the N wall, the two central being only half as tall as the others, and two were placed in the S wall. The E wall is provided with three tall round-headed windows, and a lintelled doorway, now blocked, was inserted in the W end of the N wall.
The church has a residential tower (ext. dims 8.2m E-W; 7.1m N-S) of three storeys attached at the W end, with a pointed doorway at W (Wth 1.2m; H 2m) that has punch-dressed decoration. A lintelled doorway at E communicates with the W end of the church. Apart from the doorways the ground floor is featureless, and its ceiling was supported on rebates on the four walls. An added stone stairs against the N wall now leads to the first floor, which has blocked single-light windows in the N and W walls with seats in the embrasures. The embrasure and window in the S wall were widened. Two corbels in the E wall would have supported the ceiling, with help from others, not now in evidence. A lintelled doorway, now blocked, at the S end of the E wall leads to a garderobe, while a lintelled doorway at the N end of the E wall would have communicated with a gallery at the W end of the church, although there is no other evidence of a gallery.
A mural stairs in the E wall emerges through a lintelled doorway at the S end of the E wall to the second floor of the tower where there are single lights on the N and S walls, but the window on the W wall has been enlarged. A lintelled doorway at the N end of the E wall leads to a garderobe, while outside the entrance doorway a lintelled doorway leads to the wall-walk of the church, now removed. From the SE angle of the tower the stairs becomes a newel stairs, emerging onto the S battlements of the tower, which only partly survive. A machicolation on the S wall is a false feature as there is no fireplace in the tower or doorway beneath it, but masonry rising over the E wall of the tower, consisting of four piers, may be a belfry.
An armorial crest is inserted over the S window of the transept under a square hood-moulding. This may have come from another site as the complicated crest includes bearings of the Naper family, who were awarded the Plunkett lands in the 1650s, and what may be Barnwell. There is a graveslab (dims 1.5m x 0.84m) of Mrs Elizabeth Duddel dated 1676 in the tower, but a memorial (dims 1.88m x 0.8-0.9m) of Philip Tuite from Drumsawry with the date 1692 (Ball-Wright 1908-09)was removed to St. Kaernan's Church of Ireland church (ME015-022----), c. 700m to the NW (O’Reilly 1958, 52) until that church was sold in the 1990s when the memorial was moved to St. Bridget’s church in Oldcastle (ME009-018003-).
The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Meath' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1987). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
See the attached images of the W doorway (028) and general view from the SW (033).
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of revision: 12 December, 2014
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.