Situated on a level landscape with a small W-E stream, which feeds into the NW-SE Tolka river c. 1.5km to the E, c. 80m to the S. The name Dunboyne – Dún Buí – is thought to mean the fort of the yellow river (Cogan 1862-70, 1, 188), although no name is known for the stream. The territories of Dunboyne and Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, were granted by Hugh de Lacy to the Petit family in 1172, and in 1227 when Ralph Petit, bishop of Meath, founded an Augustinian priory dedicated to the Blessed Virgin at Mullingar (WM019-089009-) he endowed it with the large parish of Dunboyne amongst other properties (ibid. 188-9). Early in the 14th century Thomas Butler, a brother of the first Earl of Ormonde, acquired the land of both parishes through marriage with Sinolda, the heiress of Sir William Petit, baron of Dunboyne and Mullingar. There were no Butlers or Petits amongst the landowners of Dunboyne in the Civil Survey (1654-6) (Simington 1940, 130), but the rectory was still amongst the abbey’s possessions at its suppression in 1540 (White 1943, 288).
Dunboyne developed into a town (Bradley and King 1985, 56), and this is reflected in its church, which is listed as the second most wealthy in the deanery after Ratoath (ME044-034003-) at 40 marks, in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire., 5, 254). Ussher (1622) describes it as a ‘great parish church’ but both the church and chancel were ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxix). According to the Dopping (1682-5) and Royal visitations (1693) the church of SS Peter and Paul was reduced to the standing walls, although the chancel was tolerably repaired. There were slates on its roof and glass in the windows but the floor was clay, and the graveyard was enclosed (Ellison 1971, 38). This chancel was still in use when Butler visited c. 1749 and described the font (1892, 15-16), and it continued to be used until the present Church of Ireland church was built in 1866 c. 10m N of the site of the medieval church.
The church is in a subrectangular graveyard (dims c. 80m N-S; c. 70m E-W) defined by earthen banks (Wth c. 5m; H 0.5-01m), with a N-S stream outside the perimeter at N and W. The headstones date from c. 1780 to the present. Cogan (ibid. 189-91) identifies nine chapels-of-ease in the parish at Vessingtown (ME050-009----); Rathleek (ME053-004----); Jarretstown (ME053-005----); Loughsallagh (ME051-006----); Clonee (ME051-007----); and Salestown (ME050-025----). Only those at Portane, Cushinstown, and Kilbraynan, a part of Dunboyne townland, cannot be identified.
The remains of the parish church consist of the W tower (ext. dims 7.5m N-S; 6.5m E-W) which is obscured by ivy and now made inaccessible, and wall-footings (Wth 1m; H 0.3m) of the NE angle of the church (L c. 33m E-W). The E-W vault over the ground floor of the tower has collapsed and the ground floor is buried. The N wall is missing but the first floor has a single-light ogee-headed window on the W wall, a blocked doorway in the E wall, which would have led to a gallery at the W end of the nave, and a fireplace at the E end of the S wall. A doorway at the W end of the S wall leads to a newel stairs at the SE angle, which gives access to the second and third floors that are now inaccessible. These upper floors have window embrasures in their S and W walls and a parapet above. Architectural fragments now in the church porch suggest a 15th or 16th century date for much of the church. (Bradley and King 1985, 56-7)
The late 16th century limestone font is still functioning in the present church (Roe 1968, 46-8). It is octagonal (ext. dim. 0.68m; H 0.51m) with a flat-bottomed basin (int. diam. 0.48m; D 0.22m) and chamfered under-panels. The shaft (H 0.34m) is octagonal on top with plain stops on four of its sides merging into a rectangle at the bottom (dims 0.4m x 0.4m), which rests on a modern base (total H 1.05m). The inscription in initials with the date 1579 is in false relief and runs across four of the upper panels. A second, plain font (ibid. 115) is in the porch. It is rectangular (ext. dims 0.54m; H 0.4m) with a circular, flat-bottomed basin (int. diam. 0.4m; D 0.17m plus). It has hollow chamfers at the angles, so it appears octagonal from above and the form morphs to circular at the bottom (diam. c. 0.4m).
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.
Date of revision: 13 April, 2015
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.