Situated on a level landscape. William Scurlag granted the income of a church at Laracor to the Augustinian abbey of St. Thomas in Dublin (DU018-020051-) c. 1177 (Gilbert 1889, 37), probably in the hope that they would build one. The church at Lethercorre is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire., 5, 256). According to Cogan (1862-70, 2, 385) the church was dedicated to St. Peter, and the rectory of Laraghcorre was still amongst the possessions of St. Thomas’ at the Suppression in 1540 (White 1943, 30). Ussher (1622) describes the church as ruinous but the chancel as reasonably repaired (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxxxii). The church and chancel were in disrepair according to Dopping (1682-5), who says it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but repairs were almost completed by the Royal visitation (1693). In the meantime the chapel-of-ease at Summerhill (ME043-031----) was being used (Ellison 1972, 9-10).
Jonathan Swift was the incumbent from 1700 until his death in 1745, and Laracor would have provided his principal income and Irish residence until he became Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral (DU018-020069-) in 1713, after which he employed a curate at Laracor. He also held the smaller parishes of Agher (ME048-009----) and Rathbeggan (ME044-030----). The house Swift is thought to have occupied (ME036-063----) is a castle located c. 150m NW of the church. His lifelong friend Esther Johnson, known as Stella, had a house (ME036-078----) at Knightsbrook, c. 1.2km to the NW of Laracor church, after she first came to Ireland in 1701. (Reynolds 1967, 41-3)
The present church building dates to 1856 and was closed c. 1970, but two sketches dating from the mid-nineteenth century of the older structure show a western porch and two round-headed windows in the W gable, probably the work of the 1690s, under the stump of a belfry (Haworth 2009, figs 2, 3). A two storey building, probably a vestry, was attached to the N side of the church. The site of the medieval parish church is within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 65m NW-SE: c. 55m NE-SW) defined by masonry walls with mature trees within the perimeter and headstones dating from c. 1750-1970. During conversion work c. 1983 part of the N wall (Wth 1-1.2m; L 9m plus; H 0.5-0.6m) of the medieval church with its footing and a blocked doorway (Wth 0.91m) was exposed within the 19th century church. A sandstone jamb with a chamfer was re-used in the fabric of the wall (ibid. 11).
A collection of dressed stones from the graveyard that had been moved off the site are now returned. There is the head of a lancet window of thirteenth century date, and there are fragments that could be combined to make the head of a three-light cinquefoil window within a square head with solid spandrels. This would date to the fifteenth century and might have formed the E window of the medieval church, indicating a major rebuilding. There is also the octagonal base of a font (dims 0.53m x 0.53m; H 0.2m) with a central hour-glass perforation. Another stone from the reveal of a doorway has the remains of a stoup in a D-shaped hollow on one face while another face has a crest in relief that is quartered with a lion or lynx in each quarter, thought to represent the Linehan, Lenihan or Lynam family, who lived in the castle (ME043-063----),
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: 09 November 2017
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.