Baltinglass Tower

Baltinglass Tower

A short walk from Baltinglass Abbey lies, an interesting tower, situated in the middle of St. Josephs cemetery on Chapel Hill. It is a very interesting Tower in that it was built independently from any other structure. It is believed to date from Penal times. Throughout most of the eighteenth century the Penal Laws were in force in Ireland. They were aimed at bolstering the position of the Protestant ruling class and they restricted the religious practices of Roman Catholic and Protestant Non-Conformist denominations. One of these laws forbade priests from officiating in a chapel with a steeple or bell. Luke Gardiner’s second Catholic Relief Act, passed in 1782, removed many restrictions on priests and Catholic worship but retained the prohibition regarding a steeple or bell.

Baltinglass Tower 1

Baltinglass Tower 2

Baltinglass Tower 4

Throughout the period of the Penal Laws their enforcement depended very much on the attitude of those in power locally. By the late eighteenth century most of the laws had been dismantled and those that remained could be flouted in many cases. It is probably in these circumstances that the bell tower was first constructed. It was built several yards away from the chapel so that, technically, no law was being broken. Chapel Hill was an established place-name by 1802 but the chapel may not have been very old by then, as it was called ‘the new chapel’ in a deed of 1799. The tower may well have been built at the same time as the chapel.

Baltinglass Tower 5

Baltinglass Tower 9

Baltinglass Tower 10

The Tower lies in the centre of the graveyard. When the graveyard was extended up the hill in 1938 the Tower formed part of the boundary wall. Before 1903 you would have entered the graveyard through the gateway in what was the south-west corner. This gate still stands above the rows of crooked granite steps. In its heyday this would have been the main entrance to the chapel. There are no signs of the chapel which once stood here.

Baltinglass Tower  6

Baltinglass Tower 11

Baltinglass Tower 12

In the 1850s, when the present St. Joseph’s church was ready for divine worship, the decaying chapel on Chapel Hill was abandoned. The clock tower of the new church was not completed until the 1890s. Up to that point the bell in the tower in the graveyard continued to be rung to summon parishioners to Mass. The 1829 bell was then transferred to the church in Stratford, where it remained in use until the 1930s. When Catholic Emancipation was enacted in 1829 it removed all remaining restrictions on Catholic worship. Rev. Henry Young, a charismatic missionary priest, is said to have been responsible for raising funds locally for a new bell, made in Dublin that year. It is said that at the same time the tower was raised to its present height, with the castellated finish. The Parish Priest responsible for this was Rev. John Shea, who had been in Baltinglass for over twenty years.

Baltinglass Tower  8

Baltinglass Tower 14

Baltinglass Tower

At some stage, not necessarily in 1829, a rectangular plaque was placed on the tower. At its centre is a cross. Above that is an inscription in Greek which apparently translates as ‘Glory to God in the highest’. Below the cross is the very strange ‘Shea Mont Castle’ and below that ‘Anno Domini 1829’. What exactly was meant by the words ‘Shea Mont Castle’ is uncertain but the inscription is clearly in English and is not an abbreviation of a longer text. Presumably it relates to Father Shea’s building up of the tower, but it has given rise to the mistaken belief that the tower is that of a castle called ‘Shea Mont’. There is also a Neolithic passage grave to be found further up the hill but I had to cut my journey due to interference from my old nemesis the ‘Irish Weather’. Hopefully I will get back down here before the end of the summer as I really want to see this Neolithic Tomb and revisit the Abbey ruins, with any luck the restoration works should be completed on the front of the Abbey.

Baltinglass Tower 15

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Historical, Landscape, Photography, Places of Interest, Ruins and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Baltinglass Tower

  1. Mikels Skele says:

    Fascinating. Could “Shea Mont Castle” be simple irony?

  2. I really love the shot of the stairs leading to the tower in the back. Looks like a really fun place to explore.

    • It sure is Lysa, The abbey is a two minute walk away and one of my personal favorite sites, then there is the tower in the surrounding graveyard, then if you are adventurous a further climb up the hill leads you to a Neolithic Tomb. Well worth a day trip, Baltinglass is a lovely little town, Thanks for stopping by, 🙂

  3. choppy123 says:

    Love the first one and the last one, oh and all the ones inbetween 😉

  4. such atmospheric photos 🙂

  5. Paul Cahill says:

    Very cool subject and composition.

  6. Red Hen says:

    Great photos.Love reading all that history too.The church often managed to land itself near some Neolithic monuments or places of significance.Lots to learn from this post.Thank you!

    • Thank you, Your quite right, the early church in Ireland was quite different from the rest of europe as they mixed the new beliefs with the old ways. Often churches were built upon existing pagan temples.:-)

  7. KristerP says:

    Ah! these are wonderful photos 🙂

  8. motopsyco says:

    Wonderful pictures, and a great history lesson too. Thank you

  9. out10about says:

    Great photos and well researched. Thanks for sharing.

  10. MoreThanACat says:

    I enjoyed reading this; the photos are superb…. TY for sharing

  11. Another nice and informative post. Seems like people have always been looking for ways to skirt the law by using technicalities. Especially like the shots that include the graves, road and tower.

  12. Ah, the weather. There is nothing more calculated to put an end to a satisfying outing with a camera. But you got some amazing shots while the weather behaved. What an intriguing place, Ed.

  13. PK says:

    Loved that these were in b&w, great perspective too. I especially like that you wrote about your subjects. And thanks for popping by my blog too. Cheers!

  14. Elaine says:

    I love the history you have included with the photographs.I really like the opening shot of the tower – very atmospheric.

  15. DNamto says:

    Black n white pics are more dramatic than color one… gr8

  16. Jo Woolf says:

    That is very interesting! What a picturesque old tower. I am intrigued to know what the inscription ‘Shea Mont Castle’ is all about. I wonder if some stones were removed from an old castle site to build the tower? I look forward to hearing about the Neolithic tomb as well.

  17. Inky Vampire says:

    You always make the reader feel like were there with you. Super pictures, again. Can’t wait for the updates too.

  18. Friends of UNESCO World Heritage St Lucia says:

    Hauntingly beautiful photos and intriguing historical account. I also look forward to hearing more about the Neolithic tomb when the Irish weather allows. I agree with other comments. You make us feel as though we take the journey with you to the site – and back in time!

  19. linktay says:

    I enjoy your photography! It is very cool 🙂

  20. curlykiwi says:

    It looks like you do a fair amount of research to accompany each post!

    • Yeah sometimes its easier to find these places than get info on them. Now and again you bump into a local who can tell some great stories, Thanks for having a look.

      • curlykiwi says:

        I wondered what your main source/sources were…whether the locals, or the town hall records, internet or…either way, it’s interesting. I wouldn’t mind hearing about the locals, if they consent to you writing about them, you must meet some great characters.

        • Normally I would start with a quick search on the Google machine, then its hit the library. Once I can confirm info from three different sources im happy with my work. By the time thats done the camera batteries are normally recharged and im off out exploring again.

  21. ae.i says:

    That’s a great photo series. I think Black & White was a very good choice.

  22. Love this! Between the photos and the history, this is an amazing post and blog! Thanks for sharing!
    All My Best,
    Jill

  23. Reblogged this on Arthurian Romances and commented:
    Another amazing post by edmooneyphoto.wordpress.com! Enjoy!

  24. Pingback: Capturing History Challenge Week 15 | Ed Mooney Photography

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