Donard Medieval Church and Graveyard

Medieval Church and Graveyard, Donard
Jim Butler © 2022
Groundplan of Donard old graveyard
© Donard Imaal History Archive
Numerical list of burial plots in Donard old graveyard
© Donard Imaal History Archive
Medieval grave slab. Donard old graveyard. No. 54 on the map
Jim Butler © 2023
Graveyard, old Donard church
Oonagh McElligott © 2023
Anthony Bollard headstone. No. 40 on graveyard map, Donard
Oonagh McElligott © 2023
Allen headstone. Number 84 on graveyard map, Donard
Oonagh McElligott © 2023

(Note:  To view graveyard map in close up, click on yellow circle at bottom R of photo. Then, on mobile phone use your fingers to expand image.  On a laptop, click yellow circle and hover mouse over map.  This will allow you to read the grave numbers.)

The remains of the old Church of Ireland in the village of Donard is situated on a quiet by-road off the main street.  It dates from the 15th or 16th century and includes an old graveyard.  The Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow gives an interesting account of both this medieval church and graveyard:

“Situated on level ground at a break in a S/SW-facing slope.  A fifteenth or sixteenth-century nave and chancel parish church (ext. dims. 12m x 6.5m) built of uncoursed masonry with punch-dressed quoins.   The W wall has a bellcote and a central door with a possibly later porch.  The window in the E wall has glazing-bar-holes and the internal tracery has been removed.  Lying on the floor of the church at the W end is a late medieval graveslab (L 1.79m; Wth 0.53-0.74m; T 0.19m) with bevelled edges.  The upper face has the outline of a cross at either end joined by a shaft.  A second tapering  graveslab (min. L 1.06m; Wth at top 0.54m; T 0.28m) stands upright against the outer face of the E wall.  The ornament is similar to the former but is more crudely executed.  There is no trace of the inscribed granite slab described by Walsh (1931, 139-140).  The church stands towards the N side of a rectangular graveyard (dims. 45m NE-SW; 40m NW-SE) defined by a modern stone wall.  A motte (1115) lies 75m to the SW.”

Quoins are the stones, usually dressed, at the angles of a building.

Bellcote is a small structure, usually of stone, housing a bell on a roof.

There is also an interesting account of the church written in 1969 by the Revd. Norman P. Styles who served in the Donoughmore/Donard parish for 21 years:

“In the village of Donard there is the remains of the old Church of Ireland parish church.  The date of the building of this church is unknown but it was probably much earlier than the church at Donoughmore.   During the troubled years around 1798 this church was occupied as a garrison by the local Yeomanry, who, it is stated, left the building in a very bad condition.  Attempts were made to make the building serviceable but these were unsuccessful and in the year 1835, after many applications to central church funds, the Board of First Fruits made a grant of £850 available for the building of a new church.  This church has been kept in good repair and this year (1969) work has been carried out on the tower and exterior walls of the church.” 

Board of First Fruits was an institution of the Church of Ireland set up in 1711 by Queen Anne of Great Britain to build and maintain the churches and rectories in Ireland. It was funded from taxes collected on clerical incomes which were funded by tithes.

From July to November 1993, the medieval church and graveyard was surveyed for a FAS training project sponsored by Donard Tidy Towns Association.

The resulting map is a valuable resource of information and outlines in numerical order a list of the burial plots.  For safe keeping, the original map has been digitized by Catherine Wright, Archivist, Wicklow Archives Service and is stored at Wicklow Town County Library.

Eoin Grogan, Annaba Kilfeather: Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow (Ireland 1997). Government of Ireland.

The Revd. Norman P. Styles: “The Inheritance of My Fathers” A History of Donoughmore with Donard in the Diocese of Glendalough during the period 1669 to 1969.  Publisher unknown.

Comments about this page

  • I always enjoy your writings Oonagh. I visited several times during Covid when researching my book Beyond The Glen of Imaal which covers my own ancestry in the Glen.

    By Maura Murphy Gibson (30/09/2023)

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