Situated on a fairly level landscape with a small WNW-ESE stream S of the settlement, known as the Castle Stream, and the site of the castle is on a rise on the S bank c. 100m from the stream. The name ‘Dunboyne’ includes the Gaelic Dún meaning a fort or strong point, and an element that is variously interpreted as the proper name Beithin (Joyce 1996, 44), Boinne from the River Boyne by the Ordinance Survey (Herity 2001, 114) or Buinne, meaning ‘Yellow River’ (Cogan 1862, vol. 1, 188). No early saint is associated with it, and the medieval parish church was dedicated to St. Peter. The barony of Dunboyne was granted by Hugh de Lacy about 1172 to Willaim le Petit, whose caput or principal manor was at Mullingar, Co. Westmeath (WM019-089005-). In 1227 Ralph Petit, bishop of Meath, established the Augustinian priory of the Blessed Virgin at Mullingar (WM019-089009-) and endowed it with the land at Kilbrena (Kilbraynan), now absorbed in the NW part of Dunboyne townland, and the ecclesiastical properties of Dunboyne parish, one of only two in the barony, the other being Kilbride. An early church at Dunboyne is more likely to have been at Kilbraynan (ME050-029----) than where the high medieval settlement developed around the castle, possibly on the site of an earlier rath, and the church. During the reign of Edward II (1307-27) Thomas Butler, the brother of the Earl of Ormonde, married Sinolda, the heiress of Sir William Petit, baron of Dunboyne and Mullingar, and the title of Dunboyne has been held by the Butlers ever since. At the dissolution of the monasteries the Augustinians of Mullingar still held the rectory of Dunboyne together with land at Kylbraynan, Salestown and Dunboyne (White 1943, 288-9). (Cogan 1862, 188-9)
A settlement would certainly have grown up around the parish church and castle, but it was never incorporated as a town. However, in 1423 a Provost or mayor and the commons or house-holders are recorded (Cogan, 1862, 188), testifying to a corporate identity although, without incorporation and a charter, its rights and privileges were never enumerated. Nevertheless, it was granted the right to have a weekly market in 1226, and an annual fair from 1229 (CDI 1875, 210, 250). The fair for horses and cattle, held in July, continued into the nineteenth century (Lewis 1839, vol. 1, 568), and at that time Dunboyne also had a commonage of 40 acres known as the ‘Moor of Meath’ (ibid.), which is still a townland at the S edge of the parish. The settlement might never have been prosperous as, unlike Dunshaughlin, it was not on a major overland route. In the Civil Survey (1654) only one stone house owned by Lord Dunboyne and a mill are specifically mentioned but there were 42 tenements (Simington 1940, 129). The stream below the bridge is depicted as wider than normal on the 1836 and 1908 editions of the OS 6-inch map, perhaps the remnants of a mill-pond.
The Main Street is a fair green and the settlement, as recorded on the 1835 edition of the OS 6-inch map, is arrayed around it, particularly on the S and W sides. Dunboyne Castle, undoubtedly the site of the caput or centre of the Petit and Butler manor of Dunboyne, is on the S side of the stream in Castlefarm townland but it would have been an integral part of the settlement. In its initial form it appears to have been an earthen ringwork castle (ME050-021007-), but it was replaced by a tower house (ME050-021005-) and other structures in the later middle ages. There has been very little archaeological excavation in the core of the settlement but evidence of what is probably a property boundary (ME050-021010-) has been recorded. (Bradley and King 1985, 56-9)
See the attached view of Dunboyne as depicted on the Down Survey (1656-8|) barony map (N at top), courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
Copmiled by: Michael Moore
Date of upload; 29 October 2021Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.