The Jacobean Church, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan, Ireland

This fine example of Jacobean Architecture lies in the middle of the town of Killeshandra, 10kms from Cavan town. The church was built in 1688 making its style quite unique since it was built 60 years after the height of the Jacobean era. An earlier pre-reformation church is thought to have existed on the site since early medieval times, this church was known as ‘The Church of the Fort’ (‘Cill na Seanratha’ in Irish). This previous church was mentioned as early as 1436 in the Calender of Papal Registers. Prior to this church there was an old fort (rath in Irish) on the site, hence the name ‘Cill na Seanratha’ which phonetically at least lends itself to the later named Killeshandra.

After the reformation the town of Killeshandra grew up around the old Church after Sir Alexander Hamilton of Innerwick, Scotland was granted lands by the crown to build a castle and create a strong Protestant community in the area during the Ulster Plantations. In 1619 the church had its first Protestant Minister. The 1641 rising caused the town of Killeshandra to be practically burnt to the ground to prevent it falling into Irish hands, however the lands of both the Hamilton’s and another local Protestant family fell under the control of the O’Reillys. It was not until 1660 that Sir Francis Hamilton regained control of the area and set about rebuilding the town with Scottish planters and migrant Huguenot settlers.

In 1688 the church was completely rebuilt by another resident of Castle Hamilton, Lord Southwell. It was in use until 1841 when it became dilapdated and a new church was built nearby. The Hamilton family coat of arms can still be seen on the front wall of the church. Inside the church are two 19th century vaults created after the building of the new local Protestant church. The Hamilton Vault (on your left when you enter the structure) is now in quite a state of disrepair however the Martin maursoleum to the right is still in decent shape. I think the gates here are locked all the time, they certainly were the day we went so hopping a wall is necessary or a stroll around the back gives easier access also.

GPS: 54.01677, -7.53161

2 thoughts on “The Jacobean Church, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan, Ireland

  1. No more ‘hopping over the wall’ as the gate is now (2013) open daily during the summer months. Described in the Pevsner Architectural Guide for South Ulster as- “arguably the finest restoration building in Ulster”. The original church referred to above was known as the ‘Church of the old Rath’ whereupon parts of the rath ditch are still visible on the western side of the graveyard. The church was probably built some time during the mid fourteenth century as a dependency of the nearby Augustinian Drumlane priory possibly as a result of the great plague of 1348 when large swathes of the Irish population died leading also to the decline of Norman influence in the region. During the time of the Ulster Plantation the church was mentioned in the civil survey of 1622 as having been repaired and then used for protestant worship. With the growth of the new town of Killeshandra, in 1688 the church was rebuilt with the addition of a south facing transept influenced by the ruling Hamilton family whom embellished the gable wall with their own coat of arms. In around 1842 when a new Episcopalian church was built further up the street and the old church de-consecrated, the Hamilton funeral memorials were removed from the old church and reinstated within the new church.

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