The parish church of Balfeaghan is located at the W edge of a fold in a gentle S-facing slope and is within a subrectangular graveyard (dims c. 53m NW-SE; c. 20m NW-SE at NE to c. 35m NW-SE at SW), with the NW-SE Summerhill to Kilcock road (R158) outside on the SW side. The headstones date mostly from c. AD 1850 to 2000, but there is one dated 1724. The parish was created out of Galtrim parish after 1250 (O’Neill 2002, Fig. 5), but it is not listed separately in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire., 5, 255-6). The chapel is amongst the possessions of St Peter’s abbey at Newtown Trim (ME036-049003-) at its suppression in 1540 (White 1940, 294). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel as ruinous (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxxviii). According to the Dopping visitation (1682-5) the church was dedicated to St. Feighin, and both the church and chancel were destroyed. At that time the graveyard was not enclosed (Ellison 1972, 5). The saint is probably St. Féichín of Fore, Co. Westmeath.
The scant remains of the church have been conserved, probably in the 1830s when a burial enclosure (int. dims 5.1m N-S; 3.7m E-W) with memorials from that period was built against the W side of the E gable wall. No original features are evident, but sections of the N (L c. 2m; H c. 1.3m; T 0.68m) and S (L c. 2m; H c. 1.3m; T 0.74m) walls are conserved further W, and a scarp (H c. 0.3m) may indicate the W wall. The church would appear to have been an undivided structure (int. dims 18.3m E-W; 5.1m N-S), although Cogan (1862-70, 2, 359-60) provides measurements of ’44 feet by 16 feet (c. 13.4m x c. 4.9m)’. Two fragments of a cusped ogee-headed window and a fragment of a sandstone font are secured in the burial enclosure. The font fragment (max. dim 0.54m; H 0.17m) is displayed upside down, showing the circular rim of its underside (ext. diam. 0.37m), a sunken area (diam. 0.27m) for the attachment of a shaft, and its drain-hole (diam. 0.12m). Three of an original four lug-like protrusions rise from the outside of the basin.
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: 10 April, 2015Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.