Would you believe it if you were told that Clongriffin Town is part of something much, much, older? Gannon Homes may have first broken ground for Clongriffin Town back in 2002, but we are by no means the first to ever call it home.
Nestled between the outskirts of Clongriffin Town and neighbouring Donaghmede is Grange Abbey; an eye-grabbing treasure trove of local lore, mystery and more.
Today you’re most likely to see joggers or local school children exploring the ruins, but a few hundred years ago this was the centre of the universe for a small group of monks.
With a history going all the way back to the middle ages with Diarmuid MacMurrough, the once King of Leinster and brother-in-law of St. Laurence O’Toole, this provocative ruin is a bridge between Clongriffin Town and our ancient past.
But Grange Abbey is not just an old building…
Grange Abbey was once the property of the Priory of All Hallows; a Dublin-based monastic order founded in 1166 by Diarmuid MacMurrough (one of his final acts as king).
It isn’t clear when the chapel was constructed: the earliest reference to a church existing on the grounds was to a parliament held by the Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1369; however, it is believed to have been used for service up until the year 1615. The building had long since fallen into disuse but managed to stand undisturbed up until the modern age.
Despite being largely untended, Grange Abbey continued on as a focal point in the community. According to the Old Dublin Society’s journal, Visitors would often remark on the striking vision of the church walls standing among the sycamore trees.
The fact that these walls still stand is a testament to the solid craftsmanship of their limestone masonry. Most buildings were made from whatever material was readily available, but churches were special. Once built, no stone would be reused in the construction of another building for fear of invoking bad luck.
The word ‘Grange’ (coming from the Latin ‘granum’ meaning ‘grain’) indicates that this was the site of a farm. The monks would have lived in a fairly self-contained way, living off of the grains and tubers that they grew themselves. They may have even kept a few chickens for eggs, or a cow for milk and butter to trade.
It would have been quite serene to see how the monks spent their time wandering amongst the trees, lost in self-reflection. Sources talk of beautiful horse-chestnut, lime and sycamore trees that once surrounded the walls.
The area is not without mystery, either…
Local rumours speak of secret underground tunnels connecting Grange Abbey to Grange House — a large stone house that once stood in the locale, but has since been lost to fire.
The very same rumours link up these secret passageways with St. Doulagh’s Church in Fingal! An impressive feat of medieval engineering, if it is to be believed.
It isn’t uncommon to find mention of secret tunnels in folklore throughout the country.
On a more startling note, there exists a very real tradition of burying animals in the foundations of Irish churches in order to properly bless them. This could range from a small dog or chicken to an entire horse’s head!
What secrets might still lay buried beneath Grange Abbey’s flagstones?
Beneath our feet
In 1986, an archaeological investigation into this monastic site by AnCo (an Irish State body) uncovered a rich and mysterious history hidden right beneath our feet.
This archaeological dig uncovered a multitude of bone fragments and a hoard of 41 gold sovereigns, which could be worth somewhere around €10,000 today depending on the mint.
Who hid such a large amount of money here, and why were they hiding it? The earliest gold sovereign coin only came into use in the final years before Grange Abbey ceased service in 1615!
The idea of someone hiding a fortune in the grounds of the old church evokes images of rogues and pirates in the same vein as the Irish ‘Pirate Queen’ Grace O’Malley!
Intriguing stuff, right?
A changing place
Perhaps one of the most intriguing things uncovered by the 1986 dig was the fact that the chapel had undergone a number of alterations over the course of its lifetime.
Doorways were relocated, thatch would have been replaced and repaired, while other small changes were also carried out.
The ground itself had been disturbed so many times that it was difficult for archaeologists to know exactly what was buried here and when!
Even something that we now may see as a fixed part of our landscape once had to change and evolve to suit the needs of a growing community. And change is ongoing even today.
In addition to some minor restoration work carried out by AnCo in 1986, recent years have seen the introduction of two sculptures flanking the entrance to the site.
A modern interpretation of a traditional scene: these sculptures depict King Diarmuid MacMurrough and the Priory of All Hallows in one panel, and the priory monks going about their duties in the other.
Today, Grange Abbey enjoys protected status as our very own local national monument.
The old ruin is at the centre of a living breathing community, with a number of local secondary schools and national schools nearby. Grange Abbey is a piece of history that can be enjoyed by anyone free of charge! It is frequently the site of field trips for the nearby primary schools.
Here’s how to get there:
Tucked in along the outskirts of Clongriffin Town, Grange Abbey is easily accessible to all Clongriffin Town residents.
Situated on the corner of Hole in The Wall Road & Grange Road, the site is just a short 15-minute walk from the Clongriffin Town railway line.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling from the city centre, the site is serviced directly by the number 15 and 29a bus routes. Now that you know a bit about its background, maybe you’ll notice Grange Abbey that little bit more when you pass it on your way to work.
We’d love to hear more about your own experiences with Grange Abbey. Send on your local history, legends and pictures of Grange Abbey and we may put them in a future blog!
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