coming of the Normans to Ireland a man named Aylward was granted the lands of Faithlegg in 1177 and this led to the establishment of a parish. At the heart of this parish system was an early church close by to which was a Motte and Baily castle. This would have been the centre of administration and control associated with governing the area.
|Faithlegg Churches 1928|
According to Julian Walton there is a written record
of this church in the 12th century, however what we know as Old Faithlegg Church has been dated as 13th or possibly 14th Century. An older church on the site may have been a timber construction, the remains of which would have
quickly disappeared. It is also a matter of local speculation that the site of the old church is in fact the ruins of two seperate
The older part, it is speculated, is located
furthest from the road. This measures
6.8m by 5.2m and has been referred to as the “Chancel” or “Sanctuary”. The entrance to this is via a Romanesque
style arch which dates it earlier than the main church and belfry gable beside
it. The other features that would suggest this are; a different roof pitch, a different wall size and when the building became undermined in the 1990’s it was the chancel that was most seriously damaged. (The very obvious difference in roof pitch is still visible in the inside gable to the left of the Romanesque arched doorway)
On the western side, facing the road is the “Church”. This measures 13m by 6.5m and is in
the Venetian Gothic style which is a later style. The windows are also of a different design, although some have speculated that these may have been added at a later stage. The roof would have been of thatch.
|Faithlegg 1888 – Lapham Collection
Sourced from Tomás Sullivan
It is probably that the church would have given a couple of hundred years of service to Catholics despite the upheavals in the country with the Reformation in England and the uncertainty this would have brought. It was most certainly closed when in 1649 the Aylwards were finally removed as landlords of the parish and replaced by Captain WIlliam Bolton. Bolton was described as a “stern old puritan” and the likelihood of a church surviving under his stewardship would be unthinkable. Locally there is a story that before the Cromwellian Army marched on Faithlegg the Priest of the Church buried his vestments with the church silver vowing that they would be recovered once the invaders had been vanquished. Alas, the Cromwellian’s won out, and the Faithlegg treasure remains hidden.
was “out of repair” and down through the years it has remained as such, although this did not prevent the Bolton family of Faithlegg and some of their relations being interred in the chapel of the church. At one point it also held a bell in the eastern gable, as depicted in a drawing by Charles Newport Bolton in 1843, presumably this was the church bell up until the new Spire and Belfry was added to the New Faithlegg Church in 1873.
|Sketch by Charles Newport Bolton 1843
(Who is interred in the church with his Bolton relatives)
Sourced from Tomás Sullivan
As a child I remember the graveyard men – at the time Martin Nugent and my mothers Uncle, Paddy Moran- used to store their tools in the old church behind a padlocked gate. Once the graveyard committee was established and work proceeded on developing and enhancing the graveyard, the old church became a focus of attention and numerous letters were written to seek state support in preserving the building. However, this met with no success and by the mid 1990’s part of the chancel wall collapsed and it
became increasingly hazardous. There was a genuine fear that the whole building could collapse.
|Photo copied from Kevin Ryan original 1999 of the collapse|
In 1999 Kevin Ryan began a survey of the
building with a view to determine how best
to structurally secure it. Kevin’s survey work combined with others enthusiasm formed the
basis of a successful application for funding. £10,000 was granted by the Heritage Council
of Ireland and a further £15,000 raised locally to carry out the necessary
works. The resulting work has served to protect the building and make it safe and accessible to the present and future generations.
Another mystery of course is what happened to the bell that hung in the gable of the old church. The new belfry got a new bell so where is the old one, and how old was it?…but that’s another story for another time
|Visitors can now access the old church in safety and with ease
Photo credit: Hannah Doherty
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