Dunganstown Heritage Trail

Dunganstown Castle
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014
The Hornbeam Tree 400years old & the oldest living exotic tree in Ireland
Anne Mc Donald Dunganstown Castle 2014
Dunganstown Church
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014
The Knights Templar
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014
What Dunganstown main street might have looked like
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014
St Kevin at his well
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014
Ilex Altaclarensis 'Hendersonii Hodgins Hollies
Messrs Hodgins Nurseries ( 16 acers ) 1838 OS map
OS 1838
The Old Forge
By The Pupils Of Brittas Bay School 2014

Dunganstown Castle  No. 1

*Please note that this property is in private ownership and is not publically accessible

The castle as can be seen today was built around 1610 by Sir John Hoey & strictly speaking is a fortified house. Previously to this it was owned by a man called Dongan described in 1542 as a rich Dublin merchant & it is likely how Dunganstown got its name.

There have been a number of famous visitors to Dunganstown Castle;- King James II is said to have visited on his retreat from the Battle of the Boyne 1690 & is said to have sat in the garden on the “wishing chair”.

Sir Francis Bacon is supposed to have resided here for a time & some say he was the real writer of some of Shakespeare’s plays. Could they have been written here ?

Lord Effingham, High Admiral of the Fleet, took advantage of Dunganstown for his naval campaign in Irish waters against the Spaniards. Also Sir Walter Raleigh of tobacco & potato fame is reputed to have resided here occasionally.

The castle was destroyed in the 1600s during a rebellion & was never rebuilt.


 The Vista ( Long Avenue ) No. 2

”The Long Avenue” which was originally designed as a wide tree lined “vista” to be viewed from the castle and facing upwards to Castletimon Hill which was the castle’s deer park.

One of the rare trees in Dunganstown is the Hornbeam thought to be 400 years old and the oldest living exotic tree in Ireland.If it had eyes, it would have seen the 1641 rebellion, the burning of the castle, the Cromwellian wars, the flight of King James from the Battle of the Boyne, the rebellion of 1798,the famine and many other historical events.

There is also a number of yew trees of great age planted around 1740 and a Yew Tree Walk connecting the church to the castle.

Dunganstown Church & The Knights Templar No. 3

Dunganstown Church occupies the site of an early foundation of the Knights Templar. A religious order which dates back to the Crusades, they were also known as the Poor Knights of Christ. They were granted lands around Dunganstown by

Reginald Palmer, Earl Strongbow’s chaplin between 1172-7, & went on to hold monastic lands here for three centuries.

The stained glass windows in the church are;- The Parable Of the Good Samaritan by O’Connor 1872 & Christ Blessing Children by Catherine O Brien. They were commissioned by the Hoey family who built the castle. The family vault also is in the graveyard.

The date 1740 over the door commemorates the construction of the tower only.

In the 1950’s the church was almost completely covered in ivy except for a hole where the key of the door was kept.

It is also said that Cecil Frances Alexander, who was born in Redcross & the authoress of the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, worshiped in Dunganstown church.


 St Kevin’s Lane  No. 4

Long ago, Dunganstown was full of tree lined avenues, of which St. Kevin’s lane is one. Half way along St Kevin’s lane is another lane known as the Doctor’s Avenue. As part of our research we discovered lost folklore;-

“It is said that a doctor who was drunk one night fell over & drowned in a puddle. The story goes that his ghost can be seen as you go by at certain times of night. It became a habit for most locals that they would make sure that they had a good look over their shoulders when passing this point”.

Dunganstown was intended to be a planted town with the straight St.Kevin’s Lane possibly being the Main Street


 St Kevin No. 5

St Kevin was born in the year 498AD & some historians say that there is a strong tradition that he may have been born in Dunganstown & not far from St. Kevin’s Church. Who knows possibly here on the site of the old school.

He was famous for his closeness to nature & animals & is said that a blackbird nested in his outstretched arms while he was praying. Also when an infant, a mysterious white cow came to his parent’s house every morning & supplied milk for the baby.

There is a St Kevin’s well here & up until the 1860’s pilgrimages were held on the 24th June & sickly children were bathed there.


 Hodgins & His Hollies No. 6

While researching the rare trees in Dunganstown we have rediscovered an internationally famous nursery man, Edward Hodgins ( 1750 -1840 ) who had a large 16 acre nursery here on this site. He would have supplied the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Trinity College Dublin, Kilmacurragh Botanical Gardens Wicklow, most large estates on the east coast & even Kew Botanical Gardens in London, Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, Liverpool Botanical Gardens & other newly established nursery gardens around England.

He propagated many rare trees including the cedar of Goa, Lucombe Oaks, the rare olive, Picconia Excelsa, from the Canary islands & Madeira, Silver Firs, Red Cedars, laurels and Bays, Norway Maple, Sugar Maple. He had the best nursery collection of conifers in Ireland.

He was also famous for raising a number of new hollies by crossing the Madeiran holly Ilex Perado with our Native holly Ilex Aquifoliam. The first of these Ilex Altaclarensis ‘Hendersonii. The second Dunganstown Holly, Ilex xaltralarensis ‘Hodginsi and the third Holly Ilex xaltaclarens’e ‘Lawsoniana’

Edward Hodgins lives on; the Tree Council of Ireland’s data base describe him as ‘probably the most famous nurseryman in Ireland ‘….

Our thanks to a local resident who’s horticultural knowledge has contributed greatly to this project & who continues Hodgin’s work. We have also been in contact with his great-great-great-grandson who has helped us with our research.

(Read ‘Hodgins and His Hollies’ article on this site)

The Old Forge No. 7

Long ago there was a blacksmith who lived in the old forge. His job was to make horseshoes & to repair them. There is round stone that was used for the rim around a wheel of a cart to make it a perfect circle. There is also a cooling trough to cool the horseshoes when they are taken out of the furnace. The bellows are also stiil here.

The old forge was established here in the 1600’s & only closed in 1997. Many forges were listed as it was feared that rebels might use them to make pikes. Also many of the old gates in the area would most likely have been made here. On the wall there is an old boundary marker between Dunganstown & Ballyflanigan the next townland.


 Credits & References:-

Original drawings and school project were created for the Pure Mile Competition 2014 by the pupils & staff of Brittas Bay National school. Local residents also contributed greatly to the project.

Compiled by Stephen Brennan

References;- Pat Power “ Dunganstown”, “ Credo” by Robert Heavener and Seamus O Brien, Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens.

As part of the competition The Dunganstown Heritage Trail 1 to 7 is now on view to follow. Trail guides & maps are available in local shops.


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