Around 1180 Hugh de Lacy granted extensive lands in east Meath to the two Augustinian houses of Llanthony, in Monmothshire (Prima) and the second, in Gloucestershire (Seconda). Llanthony Seconda established a priory at Duleek around a church of St. Michael south of the ecclesiastical enclosure, which they ran as a grange or out-farm of the Gloucestershire house. A cartulary, or charter, of their lands made in 1381 describes the precinct in detail (Brooks 1953). The chapel of St. Michael had an extra territorial status and Mass could be celebrated there even if the whole of Ireland was under an interdict.
On the E side there was an old ruined hall with a closet or garderobe. Adjacent to the hall was the knight’s room with a pantry below, while under the hall was a stable for the proctor’s, or agent’s, horses. On the S of the court were a bakery with an oven and brew-house that had its own kiln and a loft for malt. A granary for storing ground corn and a trough for pouring out the malt were attached. At the end of the row was a pigsty, and all the structures were roofed with tiles. Attached on the W side was a stone gatehouse with a thatched room above, and beyond the gate lay a haggard where hay and corn were stacked and there was a kiln and a dovecote. Beside the gatehouse on the W side of the court or bawn was a granary with a pigsty for farrowing sows beneath it. Attached to the granary was a long, thatched byre for cattle. On the N side was a sheep-pen, a long thatched stable and a stone gate called the High Gate, roofed with tiles, which had two rooms for guests above the gate-keeper’s room. The corner between the High gate and the kitchen on the E side was closed off with a wall, and E of the chapel and hall was a garden that extended to the Nanny Water, where there was a mill, and the King’s high road. The demesne land amounting to 233 acres is described in detail, together with the rents and services provided by tenants and cottiers. (Brooks 1953a 143-5)
The remains cannot be reconciled easily to the elaborate description provided by the cartulary but a church with a W tower, a gatehouse and earthworks indicating some settlement survive. Of the church only the E wall (int. L 6.) and part of N wall survive (int. dims 14.9m E-W; 6.3m N-S). The E wall has a large pointed window with fragments of tracery remaining. The church is situated at the S edge of a plateau at the edge of the flood-plain of the Nanny, which is c. 150m to the SE. There is a structure (ext. dims c. 4.3m E-W; c. 5m N-S) just to the W, which has been interpreted as a gateway (Bradley and King 1985, 48) but is more likely to be a tower of the church (Roycroft 2014). The ground floor has a barrel vault and a lintelled doorway on the S side leads to a newel stairs in a turret at the SW angle, while a pointed doorway at the E end on the S side now leads to a short passage.
About 25m SE of the church is a gatehouse (ext. dims 5.4m N-S; 5.7m E-W) that has a barrel-vaulted E-W passage (Wth 3.2m) narrowing at the E end. A mural stairs (Wth 0.6m) in the NW pier, which was entered by a lintelled doorway from the outside at W leads to the first floor over the vault, which has large openings on every wall except the N, and there is a fireplace at the SE angle. This gatehouse is attached to a fragment of a wall extending S from the SE angle, although this may be a support for the fireplace at the first floor. N of the gatehouse is the corner of a building that is now destroyed.
About 20m W of the gatehouse two low parallel scarps indicate a roadway (Wth c. 5-10m) and c. 35m SW of the gatehouse are the foundations of a rectangular building (dims c. 15m x c. 10m) that might be one of the buildings described in the cartulary as being on the S side of a rectangular area (dims c. 62m N-S; c. 54m E-W). (Bradley and King 1985, 48)
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 revision: 27 November, 2014Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage