Situated on a slight rise in a fairly level landscape, with a slight slope down to the N and a greater slope down to the W where a SSE-NNW section of the River Boyne is c. 100m distant. A church at villa Riparii is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 255). Ussher (1620) describes the church and chancel of Ripperstowne als Balsome as in reasonable repair (Erlington 1847-64, lxiii). According to Dopping (1682-5) the church and chancel were in disrepair since 1641 and it was not enclosed (Ellison 1972, 7). The parish church of Balsoon is now within a neglected rectangular graveyard (dims c. 35m N-S; c. 25m E-W) defined by masonry walls, which has three headstones dating from 1750-1840 (FitzGerald 1904-06, 589).
This is a rectangular building (int. dims 14.45m E-W; 5.25m N-S) represented by the E gable, which has had a large window removed (Wth of embrasure 1.85m), and a portion of the S wall (L c. 4m; H 2.5m) with a rectangular light (Wth 0.35m; H 0.77m) in a lintelled embrasure and the E jamb for a doorway further W. A rounded chancel arch (Wth 1.16m; H 2m) is in an inserted wall that is not bonded to the church walls and divides it into two cells, the W (dim. 7.3m E-W) and the E (dim. 6.55m E-W).
Three fragments of the early 17th century Eliot graveslab (dims 1.03m x 0.95m) were recovered in the graveyard and are now just W of the inserted chancel wall (Ball-Wright 1887-8, 463 5). The Latin inscription, deeply incised in gothic lettering, is running around the edge, with heraldic shields representing the Elliot, Smart, Might, Rochfort and Ussher families at the centre. The graveslab was examined again by FitzGerald (1904-06, 590) who translates the inscription as: ‘..Baron of the Exchequer, and Ismay Rochfort his wife, erected this chapel. She died x..’ Ismay was married to Sir John Eliot who died in 1616.
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: 9 January 2015Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.