Whilst out searching for a holy well I happened to come across the ruins of an old Church. Set just outside the old village of Mullach Eadrad (the hill of the milking place), now modern day Mullhuddart The church rests on a raised mound towards the rear of a rather modern graveyard which over time obviously expanded out from the original ecclesiastic site. With a noticeable curve in the surrounding cemetery wall of the old ruins, I believe that this might indicate that a church was built here during the early Christian period before the arrival of the Normans. The existing church ruins, however, postdate the Anglo-Norman settlement of the area. Known as the Church of Mary, it is shown on old OS maps as being part of the old town land of Buzzardstown. And before you say it, NO, it did not get its name as a result of it being home to a bunch of scavenger birds. Interestingly it takes its name from the family of a William Bossard whom held lands here after the Normans took control of Dublin. Following the spread of Christianity in Ireland circa 500AD there were a number of early churches built around the country. Many of these would have initially been constructed from timber before being upgraded to a stone structure over the following centuries. These early stone structures would have been simple single rooms built with large limestone blocks. It was quite common for them to have been lit by a round headed window in the east, with a square headed door to the west.
The ruin itself is fragmented, and consists of a nave and chancel probably dating to the fourteenth century and a tower possibly a bell-tower built onto the western end of the church at some stage in the fifteenth century. It was built using coursed limestone blocks with dressed quoins. The addition of the tower resulted in the original doorway being closed off and a new doorway being inserted into the northern wall of the Nave. The tower, which is vaulted on the first floor, indicates that it may well have served as a residence for the local clergy, as was a popular practise at the time. There is a splayed window in the west wall. The walls of the east end of the church survive at foundation level. There are a considerable number of burials within the church and a mural tablet on the exterior of the west wall of the tower. The church was first referred to in the early 15th century was being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1532 Henry VIII granted license to found a guild at the site which was known as ‘the guild and fraternity of our Lady of St. Mary of the Church of Mullhuddart’.
Mass was believed to have been said at the church here until the arrival of the reformation in Ireland during the 1540’s. It would seem that a vast majority of the local population remained loyal to the Catholic church and rejected the ‘reformed church’, which resulted in the Guild of St Mary operating up until 1572. Even though they no longer had the use of the church at Buzzardstown mass would be celebrated secretly in private homes around the area. In 1547 Edward VI granted lands in Mullhuddart to a James Walshe for twenty one years under the provision that he installed a suitable cleric for the church. In 1615 the church was said to have been in good condition, but it seems that there were not enough members attending to warrant regular maintenance. The church was said to have been in poor condition by the mid-17th century with only the bare church walls surviving. Sadly there are many signs of vandalism and anti social behaviour around the site including graffiti, damage to headstones and lighting of fires within the structure along with empty beer cans strewn about the place. Despite the church being in ruin, its walls appear to be structurally sound, but the boundary wall is badly in need of some conservation. On a clear day their are some fine views to be had of the Wicklow Mountains in the distance.
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