I have visited this small church at Great Connell a couple of times over the past four years as it is incredibly overgrown and I was hoping that visiting in summer and then winter might make the site and its headstones far more visible but I was wrong! The rapidly dilapidating church at Great Connell is believed to date from the late 18th century, there are conflicting reports some stating that its a Catholic church and other stating its origins as a Protestant place of worship. It does appear however that there are both Catholic and Protestant burials in the graveyard that surrounds the church. The history of Great Connell goes back much further than the 18th century and remnants of this can be seen a little bit further down the track that runs beside the churchyard. These remnants are one wall of Great Connell Priory a house of Augustinian canons founded in 1202 by Meyler Fitzhenry. The priory is situated just north of a ford across the River Liffey and held extensive lands, by the mid 15th century the priory had 1260 acres of land, 6 churches and a mill. It was stated that the church only accepted English monks however this does not seem to have always been the case, but when threatened with closure in 1537 the prior Walter Wellesley assured Thomas Cromwell that no Irish had ever been admitted. Wellesley was appointed prior around 1520 and held the position until his death in 1539, he also served as Bishop of Kildare. He was a well respected man and held sway with Henry VIII so much so that during the suppression of the monasteries he managed to save Great Connell. However only a couple of years after his death the priory was suppressed and the last prior Robert Wellesley was forced to hand over the lands. Its tragic that not much remains of the priory as most of the stone was removed in the early 19th century to assist with the construction of the British Cavalry Barracks in Newbridge, the tomb of Walter Wellesley was removed in 1971 and placed in Kildare Cathedral.
The church itself is not documented to a high degree and as stated earlier its uncertain if it is a Catholic or Protestant structure, its ruinous state is only going to get worse as for some reason its not listed as a protected structure by Kildare County Council not does it feature on the National Monuments Service website. Care is very much advised when visiting Great Connell as the roof is almost entirely collapsed and the amount of debris and overgrowth in the graveyard makes for some fairly unsteady footing!
GPS: 53.17246, -6.77559