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Situated just off the crest of a shelf on a SW-facing slope with a small SE-NW stream c. 120m to the SW, and it is located c. 450m SE of where this stream enters a SW-NE section of the River Boyne. The parish of Dowdstown was established before 1250 (O’Neill 2002, fig. 5), and the church of the vill of Duffe is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire, 5, 255). At some point it was presented to the Cistercian abbey of St. Mary's (DU018-020048-), and the church of Duffeton was still in their possession at the suppression in 1540 (White 1943, 18). Ussher (1622) describes the church of Donestowne as ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxxvi). According to Dopping (1682-5) the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Dowestown or Duffstown had been unrepaired since 1641 and it was not enclosed (Ellison 1972, 6).
Only the tower (ext. dims 5.7m N-S; 4.25m E-W) at the W end of the church is visible, surviving to the first floor level. The ground floor originally has small lights on the W and S walls and there is a single light surviving in the N wall at the first floor, but upper storeys do not survive. There is no trace of the church within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 33m E-W; c. 25m N-S) defined by masonry walls in which only one headstone with an illegible inscription survives.
Archaeological testing (04E1499) by R. Tobin on the line of a sewer pipe that came within 40m of the graveyard encountered evidence of medieval settlement over an extensive area. This was confirmed in further testing (051138; excavations.ie 2005:1172) by L. McGowan during 2005 which demonstrated the archaeological material was even more extensive, but details on both excavations are lacking. In the later excavation some prehistoric pits were present but the bulk of the material was associated with metal slag, green-glazed pottery and both drystone-built and masonry structures. There was also evidence of a post-medieval field system, but the plans for the sewage pipe were altered and the archaeological remains are preserved in situ.
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: 9 January 2015
Amended: 15 February 2021
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.