Cruicetown Church & Cemetery

CruicetownCounty Meath

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The ruins of the Cruicetown Church & Cemetery

Cruicetown (Baile Chruis) takes its name from the Norman family of Cruise (de Cruys) who were amongst the first Norman mercenaries to settle in Ireland after the invasion of 1169. The main branch of the family settled at Naol on the Dublin/Meath border, and indeed the possession and advowson of Cruicetown remained with the Cruises of the Naul for many centuries.  Another branch of the family settled at Brittas, and folklore has it that they are descended from Sir Maurice de Cruys who died in 1216, and who is recorded on the tomb of his direct descendant Gerald Cruise in Nobber graveyard which was erected in 1619.  

The first priority for the Norman settlers was that of defence.  The remains of Cruicetown mott-and-bailey are typical of the first military fortifications they erected, made of earthworks and timber rather than stone.  The steep mound of the motte and its attached bailey were protected by a deep fosse or itch and a timber palisade, and the motte was surmounted by a wooden tower or bretesche.  Apart from its function as a safe fortress in hostile and disputed territory, the motte also acted as an administrative centre for the estates of the Cruise manor.  Cruicetown motte, like the nearby mottes of Nobber and Kilbeg was built sometime in the 1180-90s.

The building of Cruicetown church has been dated to the late 12th or early 13th centuries.  The motte and church together formed the nucleus of a classic Norman medieval village.  Many such villages were abandoned in the 1300s due to the combined ravages of the Bruce Invasion, the Great European Famine and the Black Death, but dwelling places were recorded in Cruicetown up as far as the 1650s.  The church functioned as the parish church of the Cruises and their tenants right up to the time of the Protestant Reformation of King Henry VIII in the 1530s.  It was during this period that many churches rapidly fell into disrepair.  In 1576 Sir Henry Sidney reported to Queen Elizabeth that most parish churches in Meath were "ruinous", Cruicetown probably amongst them.  

The graveyard contains a cross in the style of the old Irish high crosses, erected by Patrick Cruise in 1688 and inside the church is an effigal tomb bearing the Cruise and Dalton arms in memory of Patrick's parents Walter Cruise of the Naul branch (died 1663) who married Elizabeth Cruise of the Brittas branch. 

The hinterland around Cruicetown suffered greatly during the rebellion of 1641 which culminated in the victory of Oliver Cromwell, Staunchle Catholic, the Cruises forfeited Brittas to the Adventurer John High.  Christopher Cruice forfeited Cruicetown and Naul and was transplanted to Connacht.  One of his young sons, Lawrence, recovered Cruicetown in 1663.  His descendants held possession of Cruicetown until its sale in 1789 to Colonel Arthur Ahmuty. 


The comments above were copied from the sign that is located at the site of the Cruicetown Church & Cemetery.  This sign also provides a map of the cemetery with numbered plots and corresponding family names, date of death, and age at time of death.  

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