Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Cill Eoghan

This week we are in Killowen, an area on the west bank of the River Bann in Coleraine - its name comes from the Gaelic Cill Eoghan (meaning Church of Owen, or Eugene) and seems to have been first mentioned in documents from 1607.

Killowen Church is Church of Ireland and sits more-or-less on the site of the older St Eugene's church, which was built in 1248, in the Norman era.  Now that's not yesterday, by any stretch of the imagination.  Incidentally, that's around the time that the very first bridge across the River Bann was built.

Here's the current 'old' bridge (there is a newer bridge about a mile south built in the '70s when Coleraine expanded beyond recognition).  There was, as you can imagine, a whole dose of protracted negotiations about the building of this older bridge.  Records show that a timber bridge had been built not long after the Plantation, in 1672, but there was no planned maintenance schedule and so by 1718 the bridge was in a poor state of repair.  Eventually enough money was raised - through local taxes and help from The Hon The Irish Society - to build the stone bridge you see here, although it wasn't completed until 1844.

On a good day you might see a kingfisher or two along this stretch of the river - although you have to be quick, since they don't hang about.

The Church was built in 1830, financed by the Clothworkers' Company of London, the Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey (of Mussenden Temple fame), the Irish Society itself and the Board of First Fruits (whoever they were).

I timed that one nicely, just in time to catch Conway's Meat Van entering stage right.  Note the mistletoe, or similar parasitic thing, growing on the tree on the left there.

So that's the back view, which exits onto Strand Road.  See that low building on the right there, all covered with grass and ivy and stuff?  Here it is from the other side:

Interesting little building - I guess it's a crypt.  It's dedicated to the memory of one family, whose name is just illegible on the stone plaque there to the left of the gate.  And check out that that crazy stone work on the Church itself - now I see it, I think that might warrant another visit and maybe a close-up snap.

I do know, or am reliably informed, that a much older religious building was located where this old graveyard is now, namely St John's Monastery, which dates from 1080 and was, apparently, still visible in 1835.  In times past there wasn't much thought given to conservation - more likely thought was given to re-using any timber and masonry that was to hand.  And in any case, around 1835 people in this part of the world had more pressing things on their minds.

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