St. Patrick landed at Inbher Colpa, thought to be the mouth of the River Boyne, on his return to Ireland, and the church of Rath Colpa is thought to have been founded by him, although there is no clear history of it (Cogan 1862-70, 1, 177-8; Waters 1965, 261). Hugh de Lacy granted land at Colp to the Augustinian canons of Llanthony Prima, in Monmouthshire c. 1182. According to a cartulary of 1408 Colp seems to have functioned as a manor with four large tenants and numerous cottiers, although it need not have had a church (Brooks 1953, 147 8). Nevertheless, canons are occasionally recorded and there was a curate at Colp at the time of the Suppression in 1536 (White 1943, 314). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel of Colve as ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxviii). According to Dopping’s Visitation (1682-5) the church, dedicated to St. Columba, was out of repair since 1641 and the graveyard was not enclosed (Ellison 1971, 34). The Down Survey (1656-8) records the walls of an old church at Colpa (Waters 1965, 262). The ruins were described by Cooper c. 1780 (Price 1942, 106) as the side walls with ‘Saxon and Gothic arches’ together with the E and W windows and arches opening to transepts or side chapels to the N and S’, although he may be quoting Archdall. None of this survives, and it was probably removed when the present Church of Ireland church, now closed, was built in 1806 (Lewis (1837, 1, 389-90).
The church is situated on a rise in a level landscape. There are no visible remains of an older structure in a subrectangular graveyard (dims c. 60m NE-SW; c. 35-40m NW-SE) defined by masonry walls, the perimeter at NE and SE forming the townland boundary with Colp East, but all the inscriptions are recorded (Gary 1992-3). In 1981 the head and base of a high cross (ME021-007----) were identified by Canon Ellison. The head was excavated by K. Campbell and ultimately moved to the Church of Ireland church at Julianstown (ME028-001003-). The solid sandstone head (H 0.64m; Wth 0.62m; T 0.2m) has roll moulding with interlace on both faces and the ends of the arms. A boss occupies the centre of the E face and a crucifixion the W. The base (dims of base 0.75m x 0.65m; H c. 0.35m) is subrectangular in plan with slightly curved sides. (Harbison 1992, 1, 59-60)
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.
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of upload/revision: 15 December, 2014Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage