Portnahinch Church, Laois, Ireland

Portnahinch Church is situated on the south bank of the River Barrow were the river divides Laois and Offaly. It is situated very close to an 18th century bridge that replaced and earlier 16th century structure. This has always been a traditional fording point across the Barrow but the position but an earlier road may have taken more consideration of the church as the new road that runs past the gable end of the church leaves very little space between the graveyard and the road. The actual dating of the church is quite difficult as the stone-dressing that surrounds the window would suggest it dates from the 14th century, however there is no mention of the church in the Down Survey of 1655-66. It is possible that this church dates from the 17th century plantation of Laois and was built by new settlers to this region. The area around this part of the Barrow is prone to flooding, which was evident on the day of my visit, and the fact that the structure still stands on such sodden soil is a testament to its builders. Its uncertain when the church stopped being used as a place of worship but is described on 1851 OS maps as ‘Church (in ruins)’, however burials continued into the 20th century. It is recorded that a Sheela na Gig was once a feature of he church but was taken to the nearby Tinnakill castle and farmyard and was one of two Sheela na Gigs that were visible in the entrance wall of Tinnakill up to 1918, it is believed they were destroyed by ‘misfortune with a truck’, other stories suggest they were broken up and buried.

GPS: 53.13842, -7.26841

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