St. Doulough's HOWTH in the 1830s

1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

DOULOUGH'S (ST.), a parish, in the barony of COOLOCK, county of DUBLIN, and the province of LEINSTER, 5.50 miles (N. E ) from Dublin, on the road to Malahide, containing 345 inhabitants. The land in this parish is of good quality and the soil favourable to the growth of corn, of which large crops are raised ; the system of agriculture is improved, and there is an abundance of limestone, which is quarried for agricultural and other uses, and in some of which varieties of fossils are found. The surrounding scenery is pleasingly and richly diversified. and from its elevation the parish commands extensive and beautiful views of the sea and the mountains in the neighbourhood.

The principal seats, all of which command interesting prospects, are

  • St. Doulough's Lodge, the residence of J. Rutherfoord, Esq, ;
  • St. Doulough's, of Mrs. Shaw;
  • Lime Hill, of the Rev. P. Ryan, A. M ; and
  • Spring Hill, of H. Parsons, Esq.

It is a curacy, in the diocese of Dublin, and in the patronage of the Precentor of the cathedral of Christchurch, to whom the rectory is appropriate: the tithes amount to £160, payable to the incumbent. The church is a neat modern edifice, adjoining the ancient structure, which is still preserved as a singular and interesting relic of antiquity.

In the Roman Catholic divisions, it forms part of the union or district of Baldoyle and Howth. About 60 children are taught in the parochial school, which is supported by subscription, aided by the incumbent.

The ancient church of St. Doulough, which is still tolerably entire, is one of the oldest and most singular religious edifices in the country: it is situated on an eminence at the extremity of an avenue about 50 yards in length, at the entrance of which is a low granite cross supposed to have been originally placed over the south porch. The church is about 45 feet long and 18 feet wide, with a massive square embattled tower, and is built of the limestone found in the neighbourhood, with the exception of the mullions of the windowed the keystones of the arched roofs and the more ornamental details, which are of oolite or fine freestone, probably imported in a previously finished state from Normandy or England. The south porch, which rises like a vast buttress at the south-eastern angle of the tower, contains a low and imperfectly pointed doorway leading into a crypt with a spine roof groaned and divided into two small apartments, one of which is almost entirely occupied with the altar-tomb of St. Doulough, the staircase leading to the tower, and the pillars supporting the roof. From this, a low doorway leads into the eastern portion of the church, which is 22 feet long and 12 feet wide, lighted at the east end. by a trefoiled window, and two smaller windows on the south and one on the north side. This part of the church and also the tower are evidently of much later date than the rest of the building, which is supposed to have been erected in the 10th century; the graining of the roof, the tracery of the windows, and other details contrasting strongly with the ruder portions of the structure. Between the south windows of the church, and projecting into its area, is the staircase leading through the upper portion of the porch to the tower. and opening into a small apartment with two pointed windows, beyond which is an apartment immediately under the roof, 36 feet in length and very narrow, having that portion of it which is under the tower rudely groined. In the south porch a staircase leads from the apartment in which is St. Doulough's tomb, to a very small apartment, called St. Doulough's bed, 5 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2.50 feet high, and lighted only by a loophole; the entrance is extremely low and narrow; the roof is vaulted, and in the floor is a small hole, through which a bell-rope appears to have passed. The roof of the church forms a very acute angle, and the stones of which it is constructed are so firmly cemented that it is impervious to water, though it has been exposed to the weather for eight or nine centuries. This singular edifice comprises within its narrow limits seven different apartments, two staircases, and a great variety of windows of various designs, and doorcases all differing in character. Near the church is a well, dedicated to St. Catharine, enclosed within an octagonal building with a groined roof of stone; of this building, with which a subterraneous passage communicated from the crypt in which is St, Doulough's tomb, the faces towards the cardinal points, in which are loopholes, are raised to a second story an crowned with a pediment, in which is a lancet-shaped window; the door is on the south side, and the whole is finished with a pyramidal dome, of which the upper part is wanting, The interior of the building is circular, and has three deep recesses in the walls, m which are stone seats. In the centre of tile area is the well, encircled by a ring of stone two feet in depth, and. 5 inches thick on the edge. In each spandril of the arched ceiling, and over each recess in the walls, is a sunken panel, and the interior was formerly decorated with paintings of scriptural subjects.

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