Saturday morning was promised to be a nice day so I headed out to explore the hill of Allen. As it turned out the weather was terrible, with strong winds and dark skies. To make matters worse, when I got to the hill, I could not find a way up. I drove around the hill four or five times before finally giving up. I guess I was just not meant to visit on that day, but I shall return. So I moved on towards Prosperous, a small village in Kildare. Just outside the village in the middle of a large field lies the walled ruins of an old church and graveyard known as Downing’s. It has been sitting on my list for some time know so it was the perfect opportunity.
Surprisingly it looked like a rather interesting place to visit when I observed it on satellite imagery, but sadly once you get there I found it to be rather unimpressive. The site is not signposted but easy enough to find. Once through the gate in the hedgerow there is a little walk before reaching the site. The only redeeming factor to this ruin was that it is the site of one of the earliest religious settlements in Ireland. Dating back to the sixth century, Downing’s was the site of St. Farnans Cell. There is supposed to be a nearby well also associated with St. Farnan. Apparently drinking from this well was said to quench the thirst for alcohol. I was unable to find the said well so I could not confirm the claim.
The circular stone wall enclosure was typical of early Christian burial sites in Ireland. On approach I noticed a pair of billy goats grazing within the confines of the graveyard so after inspecting the site I decided not to disturb their early morning feed. Very little remains of the small church building which was built by the knights Hospitaller. The church itself only measures about 13m by 5m and was constructed with coursed limestone blocks. The east gable is still standing and parts of the exterior walls remain which can be used to make out the original size of the structure. A cross slab which once rested here has been moved to the nearby church in Prosperous. Little else is known regarding this site except for mention of a clergy in 1538, Nicholas O’Hanlon being the Vicar of Downings. By 1837 the church was said to be in ruins according to the Topographical dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis.