ME01641 - SAINTJOHNS - Religious house - Fratres Cruciferi

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This church complex is situated on the S bank of the River Boyne, between a WSW-ENE section of the river c. 10-25m to the N and a low ridge c. 120m to the S. The priory of the Crutched Friars, known as St. John the Baptist’s of Newtown Trim, was possibly founded by Bishop Simon de Rochford, who died in 1224. It was certainly extant by 1281, and the names of some of the priors are known (Cogan 1862-70, 1, 319-21; Gwynn and Hadcock 1970, 215). The priory was suppressed in 1539 when the church and buildings had already been sold and dismantled, but there remained two towers, a hall, a buttery with a kitchen, a brewhouse, two granaries, a dovecote and an empty building with a yard called the Haggard Yard (White 1943, 299). Many of these descriptions can be identified with features on the site. After the Suppression it became the property of the Dillon and later the Ashe families (Conwell 1872-3, 363-7). The demesne consisted of 20 acres on the S bank and 82 on the N bank of the Boyne. Forty eight acres at Saintjohns was leased to Nicholas Lynam, and 48 acres at Little Moieton (Moat Town?) was leased to Nicholas Wafer. Further afield, 140 acres at Clonguffyn were held by four tenants for labour services, there was 100 acres at Longewoode alias Modarvy, 40 acres at Balreren, 20 acres at Huntland in Trym, and 120 acres at the unknown Downekenny. There were many smaller holdings and the total was over 600 acres. They also held the rectories of Tullaghanoge and Fennor. (White 1943, 300-302) The original church, of which only the E wall with three lancet windows survives together with the footings (Wth 0.8-0.9m; H 0.6m) of the S and W walls, was an undivided structure (int. dims 23.2m E-W; 7m N-S), with an entrance (Wth 1.8m) at W. The long walls are aligned ENE-WSW, parallel with the river. The base of an altar (dims 3m x 1.05m) is at the E end. Archaeological excavation in 1984 (E000226) and architectural analysis has elucidated the structural development of the complex, but no evidence of a graveyard or of burial was recovered (Sweetman 1990-1). The N wall of the church was rebuilt in the 15th century with a cross-wall (Wth 0.6m), which separated the chancel (int. dim. 12.2m E-W) from the nave (int. dim. 10.4m E-W). These were now connected by a narrow chancel arch (Wth 0.9m). Attached pillars on the W side of the chancel arch wall, combined with the bases of pilasters placed c. 2m to the W are the only remains of a rood loft. Associated with this secondary phase is a sacristy (int. dims 6.4m E-W; 2.55m N-S) with a groin-vaulted roof in three bays on the N side of the chancel. A doorway (Wth 0.95m) towards the W end of the S wall leads to the church, superseding an earlier one (Wth 1.7m), and a round-headed doorway (Wth 0.63m; H 1.7m) towards the E end of the N wall leads through a porch to the outside and a newel stairs to upper levels that do not survive. There are two lights in the N wall and one double-splay light in the E. A N aisle may have been added to the church with the sacristy, although no physical evidence of one was found. A building (int. dims 13.4m E-W; 5.45m N-S) with a W doorway (Wth 1.3m), represented by wall-footings, was added W of the church in a third phase, but a building E of the sacristy (int. dims 8.15m E-W; 3.95m) pre-dated the construction of the sacristy. The church is at the centre of a confined precinct or bawn (dims c. 60-65m ENE-WSW; c. 45m NNW-SSE) defined by masonry walls that partly survive. There is a circular tower (ext. diam. c. 3.1m) at the SW angle. A lintelled doorway gives access to the ground floor only, while access to the first floor was from the S wall-walk. A newel stairs accesses the second floor which has lights at S and W and a corbelled roof. There are domestic buildings at the W end of the N boundary. Here a rectangular building (ext. dims 18m E-W; 7.9m N-S) has an arcade of two blind arches (Wth 2.55m; D 0.55m) on the outer face of the W wall, reflecting the original round-headed entrance gate (Wth 1.55m; H 2.6m) with a long draw-bar socket in the N jamb that is just S of the W end of the building. There are three vaulted chambers on the ground floor, which may have served as storehouses, and a W-E drain ran under the floors of the W and central chambers. The vaults may be inserted since the dividing walls partly block embrasures on the N external wall. The central chamber has a stairs rising to the refectory or dormitories above that do not survive. A structure or stable (int. dims 11.1m E-W; 4.2m N-S), just to the E and represented by the bases of the walls, has a wide entrance (Wth 2.4m) at the W end of the S wall and two window embrasures in the E wall. These widows became incorporated into the W wall of a tower house (ext. dims 7.5m E-W; 6.35m N-S) that is vaulted over the ground floor and which was built just to the E when the stable was probably defunct. Access to the tower house is through a pointed doorway of rough-cut stone to a newel stair in an attached tower (ext. dims 2.8m N-S; 2.45m E-W) at the N end of the E wall. A lintelled doorway leads to the first floor that has a window on the N wall and a fireplace on the E wall but the S and W walls are entirely missing. Only part of the N wall with a window embrasure survives on the second floor. From the newel stairs between the ground and first floors a doorway led to the wall-walk of the bawn, which does not survive. South of the entrance gateway in the W wall of the bawn is a second tower house of three storeys (ext. dims 8.1m N-S; 7.55m E-W) that is vaulted over the ground floor. It is entered through a pointed doorway in a tower (ext. dims 2.8m E-W; 2.4m N-S) that projects N from the E end of the N wall. At the ground floor (int. dims 5.7m N-S; 5.1m E-W) there are windows in the N and W walls under a N-S barrel vault and inserted doorways in the centre of the E and S walls, probably obliterating earlier lights. A newel stairs in the NE tower leads through a lintelled doorway to the first floor that has windows on every wall except the S, now reduced to blank rectangles, and a fireplace at the N end of the W wall. There is a destroyed garderobe in a tower (ext. dims 2.2m E-W; 0.85m N-S) projecting S from the W end of the S wall, and there are corbels in the N and S walls to support the ceiling. A lintelled doorway from the stairs leads to the second floor that has windows in all walls except the W, which has a fireplace at its S end, and there is a lintelled doorway to the garderobe tower. The stairs continue to the battlements that are destroyed, apart from a rebuilt turret at the SW angle, and the housing over the stairs. Archaeological testing (92E0144) c. 100m to the E produced no related material (Carroll 1992). 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: 18 February 2015

Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage

Monument Details

53.5551, -6.76792

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