Well it’s a New Year and to start of I decided that the ongoing lack of transport and a camera will not disturb my Ruin hunting activities. So for a while I will be sharing some of the early sites I have explored over the years, which did not get the exposure that they deserved. First up is the old church ruins of St. Columba. I found this little hidden gem tucked away in the far corner of a graveyard in Confey, just outside Leixlip in Kildare. During my late teens and early twenties I left home and moved out to Leixlip where I finished serving my time as an apprentice. These were good times, and as I passed through the town all these memories came flooding back. It was here that I began to recall some history of the area of which had some strong Viking connections. During the summer months Leixlip would hold its annual Salmon festival. I remember my first year living there, and on the last day of the festival a replica Viking Long ship was burned in the river Liffey. It was amazing how this not so little town has grown since I last lived there over fifteen years ago.
Leixlip or to give it its original Norse name “Lax-hlaup” which means ‘Salmon Leap’. In fact it is said to be the only inland town known to have a Norse name. Although a Viking settlement, evidence has been discovered that the area was inhabited since the Stone Age. The town was also home to Arthur Guinness’s first brewery back in 1755 before moving to its present location at the famous James Gate in Dublin. But back to the Viking connection. Situated on the banks where the River Liffey meets the Rye, it became an important area due to the fact that this was the furthest point to which the Viking Long ships could be rowed. It also was the scene of a famous battle, where in 917AD the Viking King of Dublin Sigtrygg Caech won a short lived victory over Augaire mac Ailella the King of Leinster.
Well the ruins of the old Confey church also known as St. Columba’s Church was quite easily found in the north-east corner of the current modern Confey cemetery. As I passed through the modern graveyard I noticed an unusual amount of graves of children I guess you could call this the ‘Holy Angels’ section. During the flu pandemic of 1918/19 many local children died and were quickly buried in mass graves in the oldest part of the cemetery.
Upon entering the site the first thing which you will notice is a plaque left during some restoration works carried out by Kildare County Council back in 2000-2001. It’s a rather poor rectangular structure which has been overgrown by ivy in parts and surrounded by some rather decrepit looking trees. Although the church was said to have been is use by 1200AD, it appears to have been built in three different periods. The original structure believed to date back to the 11th century would have been nothing more than a single cell structure. So the chances of this site having any direct connection to Columbus whom was also known in Ireland as Colmcille are rather slim considering that he died in 597AD.
This structure was then converted into a nave followed by the addition of a chancel and chancel arch to its eastern end in the 12th-century. The extension of the Nave to the west was the final stage of its construction which is believed to have taken place in the 15th century. This final addition to the west end of the nave has since collapsed, but there is surviving evidence of a doorway with segmented arch in the west end of the south wall, along with traces of a possible opposing bricked up doorway in the north wall.
The nave is lit by two extremely narrow windows at the east end of the south wall, one of which is lintelled, while the other is round-arched with a tympanum-stone under the arch giving a square-headed ope. There are two further windows in the chancel, near the east end of its north and south walls, with a third and final window in the east gable wall of the nave. The interior contains a number of 18th/19th century burials marked by headstones, and piles of collapsed masonry.
Whilst it is possible to walk around the entire structure once you leave the relative safety of the stone slabs the ground becomes quite deceivingly uneven. The graveyard contains a various assortment of cut-stone grave markers from the 18th-20th centuries, along with some intriguing Crosses. Although the site is surrounded by woodland which gives a rather deceiving impression of seclusion there is a gap in the trees to the north of the chancery, where you will find a rather precarious ditch which once crossed leads you to an adjacent field where you can find the ruins of Confey Castle to the North East. Now unfortunately as is the case, Time had gotten the better of me and I was unable to make my way to explore what remains are left of this ruined castle but rest assured I shall return and my findings shall be posted here.
These ruins are a great find and well worth a visit, unfortunately even though set in a lovely secluded area surrounded by trees, I did not enjoy my visit here as much as I would have expected. A rather unpleasant & unexplainable feeling overcame me whilst on the grounds which overshadowed what would have normally been an enjoyable time for me. Now I am not easily creeped out or spooked by things but my gut told me that something here was just not right. After I put this down to perhaps the children’s graveyard had had some sort of negative effect on me but who knows? When I come back to explore the Castle ruins I intend to spend more time at the site of the church to try to figure out what had caused this unusual experience.