Trim Historic Town Trail
Trim, the premier heritage town in County Meath, is dominated by medieval ruins. In the twelfth century, the early period of Norman power, the largest castle in Ireland was constructed at Trim as were seven monasteries and three hospitals. This medieval legacy of buildings is not equalled anywhere in Ireland. Steeped in history, the town also played its part in shaping the lives of such historic figures as the Duke of Wellington and Dean Jonathan Swift. All the sites outlined in this publication are within easy walking distance of the centre of the town. Capture the unique feeling of medieval Ireland in this town whose motto is ‘always welcome the visitor’.
Trim, the premier heritage town in County Meath, is dominated by medieval ruins. Its foundation dates back to the fifth century when a nephew of St. Patrick, named Loman, founded a church near the ford of Trim. Bhaile Atha Truim, its Irish name, means the town of the ford of the elder trees. A ford was a shallow place for crossing the river and many settlements grew up around such vital points of communication.
In the twelfth century, the early period of Norman power, the largest castle in Ireland was constructed at Trim as were seven monasteries and three hospitals. This medieval legacy of buildings is not equalled anywhere in Ireland. Steeped in history, the town also played its part in shaping the lives of such historic figures as the Duke of Wellington and Dean Jonathan Swift. Trim, a busy market town, has won the Tidy Towns competition in 1972, 1974, and 1984. That tradition continues to the present with Trim being named as the national winner in the Irish Business against Litter awards in 2011.
Trim and the Boyne Valley were listed as one of the top twenty places to visit in the world by BBC History magazine. National Geographic placed Trim and the Blackfriary archaeological dig as one of the top one hundred places in the world that will change a child’s life. CNN refined the list and put Trim as one of the top ten. In 2012 Trim was recognised as one of the top ten tourism towns in Ireland by Fáilte Ireland.
All the sites outlined in this publication are within easy walking distance of the centre of the town. Capture the unique feeling of medieval Ireland in this town whose motto is ‘always welcome the visitor’.
Thank you to Siopa an Caislean for their support. Thank you to Aoife Quinn for the illustrations. Thank you to Trim Visitor Centre, Meath Tourism and Fáilte Ireland.
Trim Visitor Centre at the Town Hall
(No 1 and No 22 on map)
Trim Town Hall houses the Tourist Information Centre, the genealogy centre and the heritage centre. There is also a welcoming coffee shop. The Visitor and Heritage Centre presents a multi-media exhibition ‘The Power and the Glory – Medieval Trim’, which paints a vivid picture of the historical background of the magnificent medieval ruins of Trim.
The Meath Heritage Centre provides an ancestry tracing service for those with Meath roots. Housing comprehensive research material this genealogy centre has indexed much of the family history material for the county.
The Town Hall or Market House was originally erected in 1853 at a cost of £590. It was badly damaged in 1920 when it was set on fire by the Black and Tans as an act of reprisal after the burning of the Police Barracks. The Town Hall was then rebuilt at a cost of £1,500 and further extended in 1952.
Town government commenced in Trim about 1194 when Walter de Lacy, Lord of Meath, granted a charter to the burgesses of Trim. He granted the burgesses ‘the decayed wood of his forests of Trim for firing, subject to the inspection of his foresters and that they might have pasture for their cattle in his wastes and bogs.’
Henry IV gave the burgesses the right to elect a provost or portreeve (a mayor) and to have a court of hundred before the provost. Queen Elizabeth granted a charter in the thirteenth year of her reign and this became the governing charter of the Corporation of Trim.
There were two classes of members of the Corporation – Burgesses and Freemen. Officers of the Corporation included Portreeve, Town Clerk, two sergeants at Mace, one Recorder and one Billet Master. The Portreeve was elected annually from among the Burgesses. There were two classes of Freemen – ‘of right’ which was hereditary and ‘by grace’ who had to seek admission by election. In 1833 there were fifty five freemen. The corporation of Trim held an area of land in trust to be used for the benefit of the town. This land, called the Commons of Trim, was once supposed to have reached from Dunderry Bridge to Castlerickard. In 1728 an impressive set of Town Maces was presented to the Corporation by Garrett Wesley. The town lost the right to elect two members to the Irish Parliament on the Act of Union in 1801 with a sum of £15,000 being paid to the Marquis Wellesley as compensation for the loss of this right.
Markets were established when the Normans developed their town at Trim. Fairs and markets were a considerable source of finance for the Corporation as tolls or taxes on all goods sold at the market went to the local authority. The Corporation of Trim elected a jury to decide on any cases of dispute which resulted from sales of goods. Cattle, pigs and poultry were sold in Market Street while other items were sold in the Market Yard beside the Town Hall. A wool market was also set up in the Town Hall.
In 1833 the report from the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland described Trim: ‘For several years the town has been declining and it now presents a very impoverished appearance.’ The report of the Commissioners resulted in the replacing of the Corporation with an elected body of Town Commissioners in 1840. The Town Commissioners were replaced by Trim Urban Council after the passing of the Local Government Act in 1898. Trim Urban Council was dissolved for in the first half of the twentieth century. It was renamed a Town Council in 2002. In 2014 the Trim Town Council was abolished and replaced by a municipal council to include the area surrounding the town.
St. Patrick’s Church
(No. 2 on the map)
The foundation stone for St. Patrick’s Church was laid by Dr. Nulty, the Bishop of Meath in 1891. The building was designed by William Hague in French Gothic style with the original contract price of £14,000. The altars are the work of the Pearse Brothers of Dublin, one of whom was the father of Padraig Pearse, leader of the 1916 rising. The sanctuary mosaics are the work of Messrs. Oppenheimer of Manchester, the pattern was taken from photographs of the Book of Kells. The church was delayed as a result of the Parnellite split, a political controversy. The church was dedicated to St. Patrick on the 12th October 1902 by Bishop Gaffney. Because of the delay the cost had shot up to £22,000 – an enormous sum in those days.
A stained glass window in the church commemorates the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Trim. In the side lights of the window are representations of the sick and handicapped who came on pilgrimage to the statue. In the lower portion of the window Cromwell’s soldiers are shown blowing up the Yellow Steeple with their cannon. Opposite is a window depicting St. Patrick addressing the High King on Tara.
Beside St. Patrick’s Church and with a large wall facing the castle is the new gaol of Trim. In 1834 a new County Gaol was erected at a cost of £26,000. In 1837 Samuel Lewis described the gaol – it ‘consists of 5 ranges of buildings each divided into 3 storeys, the lower a dining hall and workroom, 12 sleeping rooms or cells over. Between the ranges are airing yards for the respective classes who are employed in stone breaking or in various hand crafts, trades: in the centre is the Governor’s house a circular building in the upper storey, of which is a chapel communicating with the five wards by a bridge leading from each. This prison is capable of receiving 140 prisoners in separate cells. It has a treadmill with two wheels, hospitals for male and female patients and a school in which adults attend for three hours every day’.
The building was later converted into an industrial school for orphaned children who were sent from all the workhouses of County Meath to be educated at the Industrial School. The girls were educated by nuns while the boys were usually taught a trade as well as normal lessons.
The work of the Industrial School was temporarily suspended in 1920 when the British Auxiliaries took over the school and used it as quarters. With the establishment of the Irish Free State many institutions of the old order were swept away and so the Industrial School disappeared. The buildings were then used for a period as barracks for the newly created police force, the Garda Siochana.
The building fell into disrepair and it was decided to knock down the structure. During demolition two men were killed as a result of an explosives accident. All that remains of the gaol is an impressive wall standing behind the present Garda Station. New buildings were constructed on the site to serve the girl’s secondary school, Scoil Mhuire.
(No. 3 on map)
A Corinthian column, twenty three metres high, was erected in honour of the Duke of Wellington at the corner of the Fair Green in Trim. The inscription reads ‘This column was erected in the year 1817 in honour of the illustrious Duke of Wellington by the grateful contributions of the people of Meath.’ The monument was erected on this site as Wellington resided nearby while M.P. for Trim.
The column was designed by a local architect, James Bell of Navangate, and the statue of the Duke is by Thomas Kirk who also executed a statue of Nelson for Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin.
Arthur Wellesley was the fifth son of the Viscount Garret Wellesly of Dangan, 1st Earl of Mornington. Dangan is south of Trim on the road to Summerhill.
No one is sure where exactly Arthur was born or when. His generally accepted date of birth is 1st May 1769 in the same year which saw the birth of his opponent, Napoleon Bonaparte. Wellington’s birthplace is less easy to pinpoint – some suggest the Wellesley’s townhouses at Trim or Merrion Square, Dublin, Athy, various other houses in Dublin or near Trim. The most likely places are Dublin or Dangan or maybe in a coach in between which may have given rise to his reputed saying ‘To be born in a stable does not make one a horse.’ Arthur’s father was a Professor of Music at Trinity College. Arthur also had an interest in music as he played the violin.
Talbot’s Castle in Trim was the Diocesan school in the 18th century and Wellesley received his early education there. One of the Duke’s schoolmates told Dean Butler that Crosbie (later Sir Edward) climbed to the top of the nearby Yellow Steeple. At the top he took out a piece of a paper and wrote his will in case he fell on the way down. When he arrived safely at the bottom he found the young Arthur crying. Crosbie told Arthur not to be afraid – that he was down safely. Arthur told him that was not why he was crying, he was crying because Crosbie had not left him any of his toys or playthings in the will!
Arthur’s father died in 1781 when he was only 12. In the same year Arthur was sent to school in Eton. His mother was left in rather straightened circumstances and later moved to Brussels where living costs were cheaper.
In 1785 Arthur entered the Military school at Angers in France. Here he learned riding and the French language. He grew familiar with the whole area around Brussels where he was later to fight the Battle of Waterloo.
In 1787 he entered the Army and was ordered to India but his mother used her influence to have him appointed Aide de Camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Arthur also became involved in local politics at the time. His name ‘A. Wesley’ appears on all the Acts of the Corporation from June 1789 to September 1793. In April 1791 he became Member of Parliament for Trim and continued as M.P. till 1797. From 1798 onwards he signed himself Arthur Wellesley rather than Wesley.
The young man fell in love with Katherine Packenham, the daughter of Lord Longford in 1792, but his lordship stated that Arthur’s income of £125 p.a. was too low. The couple got engaged sometime afterwards. Katherine contracted chicken pox and her complexion was scarred. She wrote to Arthur relieving him of his obligation to marry her. He replied ‘he wished to marry no-one else’ and finally in 1806 when his income was much more substantial they married after thirteen years of an engagement. However the marriage was not a happy one.
Arthur fought in the Flanders campaign in 1794. In 1796 he was made colonel in the army and sailed for India where he was to spend the next eight years. In 1798 his brother, Richard, second Lord Mornington, arrived in India as Governor General.
Arthur became a member of the British parliament in 1806 representing Rye in Sussex. The following year he joined the government as Chief Secretary of Ireland, a post he had to leave to take part in the Copenhagen expedition.
During the Peninsular War the Commander of the British forces Sir John Moore was killed in a rearguard action and Arthur was then made Supreme Commander. Following the victory at Tale he was made Viscount Wellington of Talavera and in 1811 was made Earl and Marquis of Wellington and Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo and Vittoria and after the successful campaign against the French was created Duke of Wellington and Marquis of Douro. The Parliament provided him a grant of £300,000.
While Napoleon was in exile on Elba the Duke of Wellington travelled Europe giving military advice to different nations. Early in 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba and embarked on what was to be his 100 days reign.
Wellington took charge of a rather poorly equipped army and made Brussels his base. The battle of Waterloo took place in six to eight inches of mud with troops that had nothing to eat for more than a day and with some officers who spent their time at the lavish balls in Brussels rather than leading their soldiers. The battle swung back and forth sometimes favouring the British allies and other times the French. Finally around seven o’clock the tide turned in favour of the British. The Prussian troops then committed themselves and Napoleon had lost his first battle. The King of the Netherlands made Arthur Prince of Waterloo and all of Europe showered him with land, riches and honours.
The Duke was ultra Tory throughout his life. In 1828 he became Prime Minister and it fell to him to pass the Bill of Catholic Emancipation in April 1829. The King and the Parliament were against the granting of Emancipation but Daniel O’Connell’s election as M.P. for Clare made its passing a necessity. By 1831 the Duke was out of office but held the Prime Ministership for a short period in 1834.
From about 1840 onward he suffered ill health and died in 1852 after a stroke. His funeral was one of the biggest ever with almost one and a half million mourners. Twelve black horses drew the gun carriage carrying the coffin to its last resting place beside Admiral Nelson’s remains.
Former Police Station – Castle Arch Hotel
Nearby on the Summerhill Road is a hotel with an impressive front entrance. This wall was part of the defensive structure of the police station. The Royal Irish Constabulary became targets of attack be the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence. Trim R.I.C. Barracks was described as a miniature fortress that stood in the centre of a two acre site. The Barracks was one hundred and fifty yards back from the road and faced east. There was a wall all round fifteen feet high and there were strong iron gates.
On Sunday 21st September 1920 South Meath I.R.A. burned Trim barracks. The day started with the blocking of all roads leading to Trim. One group of I.R.A. captured the seven or eight R.I.C. men who were attending Mass. At the Barracks a group of I.R.A. men broke in and captured the remaining R.I.C. officers and wounded the Head Constable. The police officers were removed, all the weapons gathered up by the I.R.A., petrol poured all over the place and a match set to the building. By noon-day the building was only a smouldering shell. All the I.R.A. men escaped safely.
Four lorries of Police and Auxiliaries drove into town at four o’clock that day. Shots were fired at a group of men and boys who were playing hurling at the Fair Green, two people were wounded. The forces of the Crown withdrew offering assurances that no further reprisals would take place. At two o’clock the following morning the British forces returned. Three houses and the business premises attached to them were burnt out. The offices of the Urban Council were attacked and set on fire.
Subsequently two houses were erected on the site of the police barracks and these were later converted into a hotel.
(No 4 on the map)
Dublin Gate was the main exit from the town for the road to Dublin. The street was called Dublin gate Street but is now Emmet Street named after the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet.
(No 5 on the map)
History of the Castle
The Anglo-Normans arrived in Ireland in the late 1160s. In 1172 Hugh de Lacy was granted the kingdom of Meath by King Henry II. This territory extended from the Shannon to the sea. Hugh de Lacy set about capturing and controlling this vast grant.
In 1173 de Lacy constructed a castle at Trim from which to oversee his lordship, this was probably a wooden castle, now identified as a ringwork castle.
De Lacy was ordered by the king to France and he left the defence of his castle at Trim to Hugh Tyrrell. Ruaidraí Ua Conchobair, king of Connaught, assembled a large army to attack this castle. Hugh Tyrell on learning of the advancing forces, burned the castle, abandoned it and sought help from Strongbow in Dublin. The Anglo-Norman force returned to Meath and gave chase to Ua Conchobair killing 150 Irish soldiers.
In the 1180s rumours circulated that Hugh de Lacy had a crown made and was preparing to crown himself king of Ireland. He was to get support from the former high-king, Ruaidraí Ua Conchobair, in this claim as he had married his daughter. However de Lacy’s plans for expanding his lordship were cut short when he was assassinated in 1186 at Durrow.
Walter de Lacy succeeded his father as Lord of Meath. However, the de Lacy family became too independent and had a dispute with King John. In 1210 the king came to Ireland to reinforce his rule. Hugh and his brother fled to France but were later reinstated. The castle is sometimes called King John’s Castle, even though when he came to Trim he pitched his tents on the far side of the river rather than taking up residence in the castle.
In 1317 Edward Bruce, who had been crowned king of Ireland, camped near Trim on his retreat from the South. Edward Bruce was a brother of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland.
During the Middle Ages Trim was an important castle as it provided the main protection to the approach to Dublin from the north-west. Trim also protected the colonised Pale from the attacks of the rebel Irish. At various times in the 1300s and 1400s the castle of Trim was the residence of the Lord Lieutenant who was the king’s representative in Ireland.
In 1449 Richard Duke of York was despatched to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant for a period of ten years. Considered a contender for the English crown he was despatched to Ireland to remove him from the centre of power. He returned to England to claim the crown but was slain at the battle of Wakefield 1460, later his son, Edward, became king. Before going to England Richard gave orders that special coins should be minted at Dublin and Trim for Ireland which would be different from English coinage. These coins were to be called ‘Irelands’ and ‘Patrick’s.’ Christopher Fox was appointed controller of the mints at Dublin and Trim in 1461 by Richard’s son, Edward IV.
In 1465 the country was in such a state of unrest that a parliament at Trim authorised the killing and beheading of all robbers or those thought to be going robbing. A bounty on each head was to be paid by the Portrieffe of Trim. The heads were to be placed on spikes on the walls of the castle of Trim. In 1971 an archaeological dig uncovered the remains of ten headless men. In 1534 Silken Thomas burnt a great part of Trim and drove off the cattle from the surrounding area.
Trim castle was a domestic home only to about the mid 1300s. With no family in continuous residence the castle fell into a state of disrepair. In 1541 there was a royal order for ‘repairing of our castle of Tryme.’ Not much repairs appear to have been done as it was described in 1590 as ‘the ruins of a sumptuous castle.’ In 1610 a Royal Grant was made to Sir James Carroll of certain lands on condition he ‘build before the 3rd March 1611, upon the site of the ruinous castle of Trim a competent and convenient house’ which he was to give to the crown. He was also to erect a gaol within the castle walls.
In 1641 the Confederate Rebellion broke out. Trim was taken by the Confederate Irish force in 1641 only to be retaken in 1642 by Sir Charles Coote. The following year four of King’s commissioner’s met at Trim to hear the complaints of the Confederate Roman Catholics of the Pale. However, these complaints were ignored.
In 1647 the castle was fortified. Colonel Fenwicke garrisoned the castle and erected a large mound on which to set up his cannons. In August the Confederate forces under Preston laid siege to Trim. The field to the north of Trim was called Preston’s field for a period. Michael Jones advanced his troops from Dublin to try and break the siege. He laid siege to nearby Trimblestown in an attempt to draw Preston away from Trim. Preston, obtaining information that Jones had left Dublin almost defenceless, advanced towards the city. Jones pursued him and caught the enemy forces at Dungan Hill just south of Trim. A battle ensued with over 3,000 Irish soldiers losing their life in the defeat.
In 1649, Trim Castle fell to Cromwell’s soldiers. There is a tradition that Cromwell visited Trim but this is highly unlikely. However, he made several orders concerning the town while at Drogheda. It is recorded that ‘a party from Trim marched out beyond Molengar in the County Westmeath where they defeated a party of Irish, killed divers and returned with a prey of 300 cowes and 400 garron horse.’ After 1649 Trim Castle was never again used as a military base.
In 1993 the castle was purchased by the State and the following year became a set for the film ‘Braveheart’. The movie stared Mel Gibson, as the Scottish hero, William Wallace, with Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Brendan Gleeson and a host of well known Irish actors among the cast. Braveheart employed hundreds of Trim locals as extras.
Outside the castle walls was transformed into the thirteenth century city of York which was besieged by William Wallace in the movie. The keep inside the walls became the Tower of London where Wallace was executed in 1305. Bective Abbey to the east of Trim served as the courtyard of Longshanks’ castle, and also represented the dungeons in which Wallace was imprisoned. St. Nicholas’s Church in nearby Dunsany became Westminister Abbey where the marriage of Prince Edward and Isabella took place.
During the filming Trim Urban Council made a presentation of a painting of Trim Castle to Mel Gibson. Released in 1995 the movie won five Academy Award including the awards for Best Picture and Best Director and was nominated for five others. Mel Gibson was granted the Freedom of Trim in 2010. Today the movie is recalled in an annual 5k race organised by Trim Athletic Club entitled the ‘Braveheart Run’. In 2013 President Michael D. Higgins unveiled a plaque to commemorate the filming of Braveheart in Trim.
Following extensive archaeological and restoration works the castle re-opened to the public in 2000.
Unveiling of Braveheart Plaque 2013 – John V. Farrelly, Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council, James O’Shea, Cathaoirleach of Trim Town Council, Noel French, Sabina Higgins.
Description of the Castle
Trim Castle consists of a triangular enclosure of curtain walls defended by flanking towers and has a large keep in the centre. Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortress in Ireland.
The main part of the Castle, the keep, was a twenty sided structure, cruciform in shape. It was protected by a ditch, the long curtain walls and the moat. The water supply for the moat came from the ‘Leper Stream’. Inside the building there were three storeys which housed the living quarters, the Great Hall and a small chapel was to be found in the castle yard along with a royal mint which produced Irish coinage known as ‘Patricks’ and ‘Irelands’.
The main castle or keep in Trim is unique. The plan of the keep is cruciform in shape. The main part of the castle is 19.5 metres square and in the middle of each side a square tower was added thus giving it twenty sides. A large shower of missiles could be thrown in any direction from these walls, however this also means that there were twenty sides to defend. The northern tower which contained the kitchen has fallen and so the cruciform plan is not complete.
The main walls of the keep are up to four metres thick while the walls in the smaller towers are between 1.5 and two metres thick. The thinner walls are also a weak point. The entrance was made at eastern tower. Over the entrance hall is the chapel where there is a credence table built into the wall. Inside the building there are three storeys. The bottom two storeys were roofed in. In the lowest storey are the hall and the chamber.
Entry to the castle yard was restricted to one of the two gates in the two gates in the curtain wall.
The Town gate of the castle has a protecting ‘murder hole’ where the defenders could pour boiling oil or water on anyone attempting to cut through the portcullis. The ‘murder hole’ and the grooves for the portcullis or sliding gate can still be seen. Also to be seen along the curtain walls are two sallyports or escape gates, which were used by the defenders as a means of launching a surprise attack or for bringing in supplies under the cover of darkness. Originally this gateway had been protected by a barbican which has since been destroyed. The portcullis groove can be seen still and the quarters of the guardians of the gates, also the dungeon or oubliette. The dungeon has been converted into office space for the tour service in the castle.
The south or Dublingate is unique in Ireland as it is the only complete tower and barbican in the country. The main tower is circular in shape and is placed astride the curtain wall. The tower is approximately ten metres in diameter, and within the tower is the groove for a portcullis. The counter-balance drawbridge when raised cut off the inner gate from the entrance in the barbican.
Curtain Walls and Castleyard
The curtain walls enclose over three acres. The side towards the Boyne measures 178 metres and was defended by 4 flanking towers, two at the angles and two intermediate. At the base of the north-west tower there is a sally port from which the castle’s defenders would rush out and attack the besieging army.
Before the Boyne was drained the meadow between it and the castle was flooded when the river was very full. This water meadow has now been restored.
The chapel was situated in the north western corner of the castle yard. There was also a great hall, under which was a large vault. Some of the large windows were later filled up with loopholes left for muskets.
In the south-west angle of the castle yard a mound of earth was placed to facilitate the placing of cannons. From this point the gunner surveyed the Dublingate entrance to the castle. In 1840 one of the filled in towers was cleared and the upper storey was found to have been a pigeon house which could accommodate between sixty and eighty pairs of pigeons.
It was at this second tower that the town walls joined the castle’s curtain walls. The third tower has another sally port from which the defenders could surprise their attackers.
The outer walls run almost 500 metres in length and were strengthened by ten towers which were placed at equal distance along the wall. Outside the wall was a moat which was filled from a small stream which ran beside the Dublingate or from the Boyne.
(No 6 on the map)
The Maudlins Cemetery was the site of the Leper Hospital of Mary Magdalen. Maudlin means ‘sickly with eyes swollen with tears’ and is associated with St. Mary Magdalen who was sorry for her past sinful life. The crusading knights brought leprosy back from the Holy land and in the middle ages there were between twelve and fifteen leper hospitals in the area around Dublin. The first mention of this church is in 1335. In 1431 Henry VI gave Thomas Clement, Chaplain the custody of the house of Lepers of St. Mary Magdalen at Trim together with the chantry of the chapel within the Castle.
Later the cemetery was utilised as a burial ground for the poor who died in the nearby workhouse. In 1976 a local committee erected a bronze sculpture of ‘Our Lady of Trim’ and today this statue with arms outstretched in greeting, welcomes all who visit the town.
Trim’s workhouse was established on the outskirts of the town in the early 1840s. The Great Famine resulted in massive over-crowding in the workhouse. At the end of 1848 the number of inmates had risen to 756 which was 256 more than the building could comfortably hold. When the new government took over in 1922 the Trim Union Workhouse became the County Home. It is now St. Joseph’s Hospital, a long-stay residential care home.
The nearby Boyne Community School commenced as a model school erected in 1846. This school was taken over by Christian Brothers in 1947, then became a Diocesan School before emerging as a community school following amalgamation with the Trim Vocational School in 2001.
(No. 7 on the map)
Just outside the town on the Dublin road is the Echo Gate. Shout across the river to the ruined Victorine Friary and your voice is returned in a perfectly clear echo. From here the glories of Trim stretch out at the end of a long sweep of open land. The massive grey towers of King John’s castle, the tall commanding form of the Yellow Steeple, the tower of cathedral and the church spire stand out on the skyline in all their majesty – an impressive testimonial to medieval Trim.
St. John’s Priory
(No. 8 on the map)
A hospital was founded at Newtown in the thirteenth century by the Crutched Friars, an order originally established to nurse the Crusaders and redeem Christian hostages. Wearing a cross on their tunic they became known as the Crossed or Crutched Friars.
The principle remains are a large square keep with two towers which was much altered after the monks had been forced out and the building converted to a private residence. Behind the keep are the remains of the hospital building, stores and a chapel with a beautiful triple window. At the roadside is a three storied round watch tower which commanded one of the approaches to Trim.
The first contemporary record of the priory is in 1281 when there was a grant of alms from the manor of Magathtreth. In 1513 Edmund Dillon was prior of this monastery. Edmund was the brother of Thomas Dillon who was the prior of SS Peter and Pauls at about the same time. At the time of the suppression of the monasteries their brother, Robert Dillon, was granted St. Johns. At the time of the dissolution the priory held a church, two towers, a hall, storehouse, kitchen, brewhouse, two granaries, a pigeon-house and a haggard. The priory and its possessions were granted to Robert Dillon who later disposed of it to the Ashe family who made their home in the main keep. After being abandoned by the Ashe family the keep was said to have been inhabited by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath. After the Battle of the Boyne the building was granted to one of King William’s men. During his first night in the holy spot he saw a ‘most horrid vision’ and at dawn of day he ordered his horse and rode away never to return.
Tomb of the Jealous Man and Woman
(No. 9 and 12 on the map)
The late sixteenth century tomb of Sir Lucas Dillion and his wife, Lady Jane Bathe, is located in the small medieval parish church of Newtown, a short distance downstream from the town of Trim. Known locally as the ‘Tomb of the Jealous Man and Woman’, the effigies portray Sir Lucas and his wife, Lady Jane Bathe, in Elizabethan dress with a sword dividing the couple. The tomb is said to have received its name from the facts that the two figures do not touch each other at all and the sword of state separates the figures. The tomb is associated with a cure for warts. Rub a pin on a wart, place the pin between the couple on the tomb and as the pin rusts and decays so the wart will disappear.
On the south side of the arms of Dillon, Bathe and Barnewall families. On the west end of the tomb is a relief sculpture showing the marriage of Sir Lucas and Lady Jane with their hands on the Gospel Book and their attendants and families on either side. Above the scene are the shields of the Dillon and Bathe families with an inscription ‘Deus God’. The east end was to contain an inscription. Sir Lucas Dillon was the son of Sir Robert Dillon who was speaker of the House of Commons and Attorney General to Henry VIII. Sir Robert received a grant of the lands of the monastery of Newtown at the dissolution of the monasteries. Sir Robert’s brother, Thomas, was prior of Newtown in 1511. Sir Lucas became Attorney General and Speaker of the House of Commons under Queen Elizabeth I. He was also appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer.
Sir Lucas received a grant of the Abbey of the Virgin Mary of Trim and several townlands in the area. He also erected a large castle or manor house at Moymet. Sir Lucas later married Marion Sharle, widow of Sir Christopher Barnewall of Turvey. A similar tomb to the one at Newtown commemorates that family at Lusk. Sir Lucas’ eldest son, James, later became Earl of Roscommon and was one of the largest landowners in the country.
(No. 10 on the map)
Simon de Rochfort, first Norman Bishop of the diocese of Meath, founded his cathedral at Newtown in 1206. The largest cathedral in medieval Ireland, constructed in an early gothic style, the church was given into the care of the Victorine Friars of the adjoining monastery and dedicated to SS Peter and Paul. There are two triforia (or passages) in the thickness of the walls at the west end which gave access from the monastery to the choir stalls. A fire led to the nave being drastically shortened. Indeed the cathedral was planned to have a much longer nave but the plans were never brought to fruition.
There are two sedilia on the south side of the altar with round headed arches faced with red sandstone in a similar manner as in Trim castle. This red sandstone was imported during medieval times for decorative surrounds. A large portion of the south wall fell after the ‘great hurricane’ the Big Wind of 6th January 1839.
Buried under the high altar of the Cathedral are the remains of the founder, Simon de Rochfort, and one of his successors, Bishop William Sherwood. Through the years a legend grew up that if the tombs of the two bishops were discovered there would be two keys, a silver and gold, which would open a chamber containing a roomful of the appropriate treasured metal. In the early 1800s a crowd of people gathered at the cathedral to dig for this treasure, the police became suspicious and dispersed this ‘unlawful assembly’.
The figure of the bishop now affixed to the wall of the Cathedral was long trodden underfoot and was badly worn in places. This figure is commonly known as ‘King John’s daughter’ but is probably the figure of Simon de Rochfort, the founder of the cathedral.
In 1152 the synod of Kells amalgamated the small monastic dioceses of Trim, Ardbraccan, Slane, Duleek and Clonard to form the diocese of Meath. Kells was later united with the diocese. When the Normans gained power they gradually moved their own choices into the positions of power in the church. In 1194 Simon de Rochfort became the first Anglo Norman Bishop of Meath/Clonard. Soon afterwards Clonard was ‘burned by O’Ciardha to injure the foreigners that were in it’. Clonard was on the edge of the Pale and not the safest place for an Anglo-Norman bishop to live. While the Papal Legate was in Ireland in 1202 Simon obtained permission to transfer his cathedral to Newtown Trim. Simon de Rochfort died in 1224 and was buried in front of the High Altar in his cathedral.
The cathedral at Newtown fell into disuse after the Reformation.
(No. 11 on the map)
The buildings of the Victorine abbey are between the Cathedral and the river Boyne. Simon de Rochfort founded a monastery for the canons Regular of St. Victor at Newtown around the year 1206. The refectory (dining hall) is situated at the southern end of the cloister. Only the south and west walls of this hall remain. The windows are originally 13th century with one 15th century window added at the east end. There was a basement in this building to keep it at the same level as the rest of the abbey buildings. There are a row of dummy windows on the external wall.
On the feast of the monastery SS Peter and Paul 1307 a dispute occurred which led to Richard Sweetman being accused of murdering friar Robert Mody with a knife and of assisting his brother, William Sweetman, to kill Friar Thunre. All were monks at the Victorine Abbey. Richard Sweetman was the prior of the Abbey, and claimed in court that as a cleric he was not obliged to answer the charge. Mervyn Archdall records ‘And the said jury found that, on the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul last past the friars Robert, James, John etc. were heard to murmur that they were too restrained by the prior where upon they secretly armed themselves with swords and other weapons and having met after the evening collation, previous to their going to rest, they complained to each other of being too much confined by N……. and avowed they would have a drink as formerly; they then went towards the gate, and meeting with……. abused and pursued him, who falling through fright, they fell upon and used him with such inhumanity, that he instantly died; friar John Balymore, on seeing these murderers prepare to escape, endeavoured to prevent them, but they attacked him and with one blow of a sword, nearly severed his head from his body; this happened at the cellar door which they had broken open’. There is no record of what was the outcome of the case. In 1537 this house was suppressed by Act of Parliament and granted to Robert Dillon.
Newtown Bridge is also known as St. Peter’s Bridge. The bridge has five arches and one alcove and it is thought to date from the 15th century. In 1624 the Civil survey mentions ‘a fair stone bridge’. The bridge was altered in the eighteenth century. A plan was put forward in the 1970s to widen the bridge by the County Council. Eventually after discussions with An Taisce it was decided to allow the bridge to remain.
On the South side of the Boyne at Newtown is a spring well called after St. Peter. Dean Butler says that this well supplied the water to the priory of SS Peter and Paul and records that many yards of lead piping for carrying the water were dug up in the early 1800s.
(No. 13 on the map)
A plaque on the wall marks the site of the Navangate, also called Rogues Castle. Two substantial ditches running east-west and north-south were uncovered by archaeologists close to the site of the gate.
(No 14 on the map)
The site of the town walls and gates are marked on the pavement. The gate was sometimes called “The Black Gate” taking its name from the nearby Black Friary. A fragment of a human skull was uncovered at the site by archaeologists. Nearby is the Malthouse public house which dates from the middle of the eighteenth century.
The Blackfriary of Trim
(Near No. 14 on the map)
In 2010 The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS), commenced a long term programme of archaeological excavation at the Blackfriary site. Excavation has been carried out by a team including local people from Meath, Irish students from all over the country and international students from all over the world.
The excavation work is carried out annually in the summer months and has a number of objectives: to determine the extent of the archaeological remains; to investigate the nature and extent of human burial on the site; to teach third level students archaeological methodologies and to facilitate members of the local community and visitors in access to the archaeology of the site, through participation in investigations, education and outreach programmes for schools and information events for the community, tourists and visitors.
Seal of Dominican Friary
History of the Blackfriary
The Dominicans or Black Friars arrived in Ireland in 1224 and in that year established monasteries in Dublin and Drogheda. The order quickly spread to other parts of the country so that by 1250 there were a dozen houses in existence and by 1300 there was twice that number.
The Blackfriary at Trim was founded in 1263 by Geoffrey de Geneville and his wife Maude. It was situated just outside the town walls, near Athboy Gate.
Geoffrey de Geneville (or de Joinville), was born of noble parents in the Champagne province in France. Geoffrey’s celebrated brother, Jean, became the companion and biographer of St. Louis, king of France, however, it was to the court of the king of England that Geoffrey turned to seek his fortune. England controlled much of France as well as Ireland and Wales at the time.
At the English court Geoffrey met and married Lady Maude de Lacy. Maude, Lady of Coverside of Ludlow and of Meath was a fine prize as she was co-heiress, with her brother, Gilbert, of the vast estates of their father, Walter de Lacy. The de Lacy family were granted the kingdom of Meath from the sea to the Shannon by Henry II in 1171. The couple married in 1250. The newlyweds resolved to come and dwell on the bride’s vast Irish estates, settling at Trim where they extended and modernised the great stone castle.
In the year 1263 Geoffrey and Maude jointly established the Friary of the Dominicans at Trim in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Geoffrey was called upon to take up his sword and join the crusades where he fought to retrieve the Holy Land from the Saracens. After spending several years fighting the Saracens Geoffrey returned to Ireland and in 1273 he was appointed Lord Justice of Ireland.
Geoffrey’s only son and heir Peter, died in 1292 while ten years later Maude passed away. Geoffrey continued to hold the Lordship of Meath until 1308 when he resigned and handed over the reins to his youthful granddaughter, Joan, and her ambitious husband, Roger Mortimer.
On 17th November 1308 Geoffrey entered the Blackfriary as a simple monk where his remaining days were spent in the cloister of the monastery he and his wife had established fifty years before. The founder of the abbey went to his reward on 19th October 1314 and his remains were buried in the friary he loved.
General chapters of the Dominican order were held at the Blackfriary in 1285, 1300 and 1315. The archbishops, bishops, deans and priests of Ireland assembled at Trim in 1291 where under the presidency of Nicholas Mac Molissa, Archbishop of Armagh, they entered into a ‘remarkable association for promoting and strengthening the powers of the church.’
The Blackfriary became the family church of the de Genevilles and all their relatives. In its burial grounds were interred Nicholas, son of Simon de Geneville, in 1324 and on 12th April 1347 Lady Joan Fitzleons, widow of Sir Simon. John Hussey, Baron of Galtrim, married the eldest of the five daughters of Sir Simon de Geneville and so the Blackfriary became the religious home of that family as well. Matthew Hussey, Baron of Galtrim died on 4th August 1418 and was buried there. In 1386 the church was destroyed by fire and was completely rebuilt.
In the early medieval ages numerous parliaments were held at the Blackfriary or in the great castle. At one such parliament in 1446 it was enacted that the Irish should cut their beards in the English fashion and not wear their yellow saffron shirts.
The Dominican houses in Ireland were subject to the English provincial until 1484 when they became a self governing group. The order prospered so by 1540 there were thirty eight Dominican houses in Ireland.
King Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries and on 24th May 1540 a grant was made to Sir Thomas Cusack of Cushinstown of the site precinct of the late Friars preacher, Black Friars, of Trim. The jurors of the commission in charge of distributing the monastic property gave the church and the religious buildings to the Protestant Bishop of Meath and the hall, kitchen and dormitory to the lessor. At the time of the commission the priory possessed a total of seventy two acres, the rent of which was valued at £4-17s-0d. Sir Thomas Cusack paid £168-13s-4d for a parcel of confiscated lands – the possessions of the Blackfriary, those of the Augustinian Friars of Scryne and land at Londreston which had been owned by the Friars preachers whose monastery was ‘near the bridge of the City of Dublin.’
In 1548 the occupier of the Blackfriary lands was David Floly. A half a century later in the fortieth year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign Edward Cusack of Lismullen sold these premises to Roger Jones. Roger Jones at that time was Protestant Bishop of Meath. He acquired a fortune by misappropriating church property and purchasing the confiscated monastery lands at token prices. Dean Swift called him ‘that robber Dean Jones.’ However, the bishop prospered and acquired a vast estate. His son was later created Viscount Ranelagh.
The Blackfriary may not have existed any more but the Dominicans and other religious orders were not going to abandon their ancient houses or their flocks. The Franciscans returned to Trim in 1629 and it is likely that the Dominicans re-opened their friary there at the same time. The Bishop of Ardagh in 1649, Oliver D’arcy, was a student of the Dominican Friary of Trim. In 1664 Cornelius O’Donnell, prior of the monastery of Trim printed his recantation and changed his religion.
Under King James II Catholics were again allowed their freedom. On November 8th 1689 Father John Dillon, president of the Dominicans, was sworn as a freeman of the Corporation of Trim. However this brief period came to an end when William of Orange triumphed over James at the Battle of the Boyne.
On 24th November 1750, Fr. Francis Lynagh, the prior of the Dominican priory died aged 99 years. Fr. Lynagh did not enter the Dominicans until he was nearly sixty before which he had been a Parish Priest. At that time the Dominican Priory of Trim was at Donore where the friars rented a farm from a Mr. Joseph Ashe in addition to serving in the adjoining parish.
In 1756 Dr. Burke, in his book on Irish Dominicans, Hibernia Dominica, says that only some ‘meagre remains’ of the friary in Trim still exist near the site of the Athboy Gate, on the northern side of the town, and without the ancient wall. Dr. Burke states that a few years before he wrote, that the walls of the house and chapel ‘gave evidence of their original magnificence’ but that shortly before he wrote the stones were sold and carried away to other buildings, so that on visiting the place he found scarcely any ruins.
In the 1860s an ecclesiastical seal came to light in Lincolnshire that may have been the seal of the Blackfriary of Trim. How it came to be in England or its previous history remain mysterious. The seal shows the Virgin attired in Dominican habit and standing upon the crossed branch of a tree. She is depicted holding out chaplets (rings) of roses to reward the piety of the founders Geoffrey de Geneville and his wife who are shown looking up at Blessed Virgin. The de Geneville coat of arms are depicted on the lower part of the seal.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
(No 15 on map)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, situated on St. Loman Street, is the remnant of the medieval church of Trim and is supposedly on the site of the first church built in the area by St. Patrick.
The tower and the ruins of the chancel at the rear of the church date to the fifteenth century. The square castellated tower dates from 1449 and is attributed to the generosity of Richard of York who was Lord Lieutenant in Ireland at that time. A small plaque on the tower shows the Duke of York’s coat of arms. A window in the ruined chancel bears a stylised stone representation of the duke’s head. The clock in the tower commemorated Dean Richard Butler, rector of Trim and author of ‘Trim Castle.’
The ground stairs storey of the tower is stone vaulted and serves as an entrance hall to the church. Medieval stone relics abound in the church with the porch containing a number of medieval tombstones – the earliest dating from 1458. A stone font built into the wall of the church bears the royal arms of England, the Butler coat of arms and the personal arms of the Duke of York. Various scenes are depicted – a fox making off with a goose, various monsters which are really the Devil in disguise.
The church’s interior walls are stone faced although the church was largely constructed in 1802. On the wall of the church is a clause from the will of Robert Briddock recorded on a wooden plaque. This merchant who held property in Dublin and Roristown, Trim, willed the interest of £500 sterling to provide clothes for poor freemen of Trim and also left money to provide for apprentices.
The church was elevated to the status of Cathedral in 1955, thus providing the Church of Ireland diocese of Meath with a mother church. The chapter stalls come from the former Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, Elphin. The stalls are titled with the former diocese which were amalgamated in 1111 to form the present Diocese of Meath.
In 1584 Rev. R. Draper, parson of Trim wrote to Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer of England advocating the foundation of a University at Trim. He described the town ‘The town itself is full of bery fair castles and stone house, buylded after the Englishe fashyon and devyed into five faire streets and hathe in it the fairest and most staitly castle that her majesty hath in all Ireland almost decayed,’ Rev. Draper goes on to outline the resources which would be useful for a University – buildings (confiscated monasteries) ‘excellent good quarry, country round about verie fruitful of corne and cattell and ‘a plentifull store of firewood and turfe.’. He also says the town is ‘in the myddest of the English Pale’ which is very important as it would be ‘safe from the invasion of the Irishe.’ Robert Draper’s proposal came to naught but seven short years later in 1591 Trinity College was founded by charter from Elizabeth I on the site of the dissolved monastery of All Hallows, Dublin. Robert Draper was created Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh in 1602 and allowed to retain the parsonage of Trim as well.
During the reign of James II many took the chance to take revenge on Protestant churches. In 1690 Mr. Prowd, Minister of Trim, records that ‘one John Keating a church rapparee’ broke into the church to plunder the altar and attempting to force his way through a folding door to the communion saw an ‘ugly black thing.’ He was immediately driven mad and ran naked through the streets ‘and used mad bedlam pranks.’ He was placed in a dungeon for fourteen days where he refused to eat or drink. After this he was removed to a private house where he survived for eight more days until his death, never having touched food or drink for twenty two days.
In 1819 Richard Butler was inducted to the parish of Trim by Bishop O’Beirne of Meath. In 1823 Richard began to make a collection of all the historical notes of Trim in old manuscripts and to gather coins and curiosities from around the area. In that year also he was made a Magistrate. In 1826 he married Harriet Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown. In 1835 a printer, W.H. Griffith, arrived in Trim and this gave the impetus to Richard Butler and in 1836 a book of the ‘Notices of Trim’ was published. A second edition enlarged to 143 pages was published in 1843 and a third edition in 1853. In 1848 Butler was made Dean of Clonmacnoise. In the early 1860s he suffered ill health and died on 17th July 1862 aged 67 years and was buried in the grounds of the church in the parish he so loved .
The Old Gaol
(No. 16 on map)
In 1681 the county gaol was erected in Trim, the county capital. The remains of the old county gaol exists behind two houses on Mill Street which back onto the river Boyne. There were two courtyards one for debtors and the other for felons. Some of the prisoners left their mark in the form of etchings on the stonewalls.
Confined within its walls were rebels, land agitators, highwaymen, pickpockets, thieves, murderers and debtors. The executioner discharged his duty at the gaol thus giving rise to the rhyme: ‘Kells for brogues, Navan for rogues, Trim for hanging the people’. In 1801 Lord Norbury, ‘the hanging judge’, sentenced twenty-one persons to death.
Conditions in the prison were inferior and in the 1820’s the Inspector General’s report on the State of Prisons said that the prisoners were accommodated at a rate of three to a bed. The prisoners lived on a staple and unvarying diet of bread and gruel and as there were no kitchens, a cheaper cooked diet of meat and potatoes could not be introduced.
Security at the prison was lax and an English travel writer, Atkinson, wrote in 1815 that ‘nobody stays in that prison but those who stay there from inclination’.Escapes by prisoners occurred regularly. The most famous escapee was Michael Collier the highwayman; better known as ‘Collier the Robber’. The gaol continued in use up to 1834 when a new gaol was built opposite the castle.
St. Mary’s Abbey and the Yellow Steeple
(Nos 17 and 18 on the map)
Facing Trim Castle across the Boyne are remains of the Augustinian monastery of St. Mary’s. The Abbey was founded in the twelfth century. The house is known as ‘St. Mary’s Abbey’ or ‘Talbot’s castle’.
The Yellow Steeple, the belltower for the Abbey, takes its name from the golden colour of the stonework at sunset. In 1368 the church of St. Mary in Trim was burned and it was probably after this fire that the Yellow Steeple was constructed. The Yellow Steeple was square in plan and situated at the north side of the demolished Church of St. Mary’s. On the outer wall there are four stages, diminishing slightly the higher up they get, and separated by four string courses. Internally there were seven storeys with the bottom one being barrel-vaulted. On the southside is the remains of one of the staircases. The window at the belfry stage is of two lights with a transom. Some of the windows on the lower stories have been blocked up. By 1648 the Abbey had decayed but the steeple was maintained as a watch tower. The destruction of the Yellow Steeple is usually ascribed to Cromwellian times. One story has it that Cromwell mounted his cannons across the Boyne and faced them at the Yellow Steeple and destroyed half the building. The Down Survey gives another story: ‘The Steeple stood undefaced till the year 1649 in which there happened a siege which was gallantly withstood by the then governor whose command and name was Major William Cadogan, till by the judasme of one Martyn (who was then instructed with the Steeple which overlooked and so consequently commanded the castle) was betrayed which forced a surrender both of towne and castle but suddenly after it being regained and the aforesaid governor re-invested he caused one side of it to be blown up and the other remaynes standing to this day for a memorandum of treachery to after ages.’ Another story is that Ormond the commander of the Confederate forces opposing Cromwell ordered the governor of Trim, Daniel O’Neill, to blow up the Yellow Steeple and render it useless to Cromwell’s soldiers and so an engineer blew up half the tower.
St. Mary’s was the centre of great medieval pilgrimages to the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Trim. The first record which appears about the statue is in 1397 when Hugh Mc Mahon received his sight by fasting in honour of the Cross of Raphoe and the image of the Blessed Mary at Ath-Trim. In 1402 King Henry IV took under his protection all pilgrims even ‘all Irish rebels’ immunity from arrest on any charge. In 1444 ‘Great miracles worked through St. Mary’s Image in Ath Truim to wit, gave his eyes to the blind, his tongue to the dumb, his legs to the creeple or lame, and the reaching of his hand to one that had it tied to his side and cats brought forth by a big bellied woman that was thought to be with child’ Giving birth to an animal – cats or rabbits – was one of the sure signs of a witch yet here it was regarded as a miracle. A parliament at Naas in 1472 granted two watermills with the entire manor of Mathreene in the parish of Trim and other incomes to St. Mary’s Abbey for the purpose of erecting and supporting a perpetual wax light before the image of the Virgin. With the coming of the Reformation the worship of statues was frowned upon by the established church. Archbishop Brown of Dublin wrote in June 1538 ‘I intend to pluck down Our Lady of Trim with other places of pilgrimages.’ It is recorded that the statue of Our Lady of Trim was burnt and the gifts of the pilgrims and riches of the Abbey were confiscated. There is a story that the statue of Our Lady was saved at the time of the Reformation and hidden away in a private house. In 1642 Sir Charles Coote, the leader of a Protestant army, marched on Trim and on capturing the town set up his headquarters at the house of Laurence Hammons, the portrieve (mayor) of Trim. Sir Charles complained that it was cold and ordered a fire lit and then went out, to inspect the troops. Sir Charles’ son, Rice Coote, found the wooden statue of Our Lady which had been hidden away in the Hammon house. Young Coote cut the statue into pieces and split it asunder to make a fire for his father. It is said that Sir Charles was killed before he could come back to enjoy the heat from his unholy fire. Sir Charles Coote was indeed killed while taking the town of Trim and may have been killed by a bullet from the gun of one of his own men. In 1976 a new statue of Our Lady of Trim was erected at the Maudlins Cemetery on the Dublin Road.
Part of the monastery was converted to a private manor house in 1415 by Sir John Talbot, the King’s representative in Ireland. Sir John Talbot had fought the French and succeeded in defeating them. William Shakespeare wrote ‘Is this the scourge of France? – is this the Talbot so much feared abroad, that, with his name the mothers still their babies?’ Henry VII Part 1 Act 2. Talbot was intensely disliked in Ireland for his cruelty. Felim O’ Reilly died from the plague in Trim prison in 1447 after he had been treacherously taken prisoner by John Talbot, Lord Furnival. The Four Masters commented ‘This Furnival was a son of curses for his venom and a devil for his evils, and the learned say of him, that there came not from the time of Herod by whom Christ was crucified any one so wicked in evil deeds.’ The Talbot coat of arms can be seen on the northern wall – supported on each side by dogs, now known in heraldic terms as ‘talbots’. A number of parliaments were held in this house. In the year 1488 the abbot received the royal pardon for supporting the rebellion of Lambert Simnel.
The building was purchased by Esther Johnson, better known as ‘Stella’ who sold the building later to her friend, Jonathan Swift, author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and Rector of Laracor, just south of Trim. Swift was appointed vicar of Laracor in 1700. He erected a new house, renovated the church and developed a garden. Between Trim and Laracor lie the remains of “Stella’s Cottage” reputedly the residence of Ester Johnson and her companion, Rebecca Dingley.
In the latter half of the eighteenth century Talbot’s Castle became the Diocesan School for Meath. Arthur Wesley, the future Duke of Wellington, attended school here as did William Rowan Hamilton, the famous mathematician and discoverer of quaternions. A noted astronomer, Hamilton is said to have first observed the stars from the iron balcony on the western side of the building. A boy genius, Hamilton spoke thirteen languages fluently at the age of thirteen. Hamilton was born in Dublin in 1805 and was sent to be educated at Trim Latin School under the Rev. Mr. Hamilton, his uncle. Appointed Astronomer Royal of Ireland in 1827 he was knighted in 1835. The Latin School was closed down and Rev. James Hamilton made a successful bid for the building.
In 1909 Archibald V. Montgomery purchased the house and he installed the bedroom passages, the Connemara marble mantelpiece and also panelled some of the walls. The Abbey was sold in 1944 after the death of Mr. Montgomery. Mrs. Clarina Burgoyne moved the kitchens to the first floor in 1948. The ground floor had been previously used as storage and as stables.
During repairs to a wall in the early 1960s a series of rooms which had been filled in were found under the terrace. There is a trap door in the drawing room floor leading to the vaults below. In one of the vaults there is a stairs which leads to nowhere.
Between St. Mary’s Abbey, the Yellow Steeple and High Street, there is a building which formed part of St. Mary’s Abbey but is now used as a farm building. The building is called Nangle’s Castle. The Nangles were barons of Navan and lords of Kildalkey.
(No 19 on map)
The walled town of Trim grew up in the shelter and shadow of the castle. Sheepgate is situated on the north bank of the Boyne and consists of a semi-circular headed arch and appears to have been surmounted by a tower. The Sheepgate is the only surviving medieval gate of Trim’s original five gates which allowed access to the town. The walls kept out the rebel Irish and ensured that tolls and taxes on produce for the local fairs were collected at the gates. The other gates were Navangate (on the road to Navan), Athboygate, Dublingate and Watergate. Watergate protected a crossing on the river.
In 1393 Roger Mortimer, Earl of March and Ulster, was granted the right to collect tolls and customs on goods being sold in the towns of Trim, Athboy, Scryne and ‘Novane’ for twenty years. The tolls collected here were to be ‘expended in surrounding the town of Trim – which was the general place of assembly of all liege subjects of the County of Meath – with a stone wall, in paving it anew, in improving the town, and in repressing the adjacent enemies and rebels.’
In 1666 the town corporation ordered that the constable lock the gates of the town every night at the ringing of the nine o’clock bell, deliver the keys to the deputy portrieve and unlock the same every morning at four o’clock.
In 1667 the walls were inspected by the town corporation and three pounds were ordered for the repair of Navangate. In 1689 the corporation ordered the inhabitants of Trim to spend six days repairing the walls on the southside. ‘And that the back-doors in the walls be forthwith made up with expedition.’
The walls were allowed to decay. The remains of Dublin, Athboy and Navan Gates were removed by the early 19th century. Watergate was removed to make way for the new bridge in 1900.
The Ford of Trim was situated near where the Watergate Bridge is now. This is the ford which gave Trim its name, Baile Atha Truim – the town of the ford of the elder tree. A site between St. Mary’s Abbey and Trim castle is also suggested as the site of the ford.
When King Laoighre was high king a well sprang up at Trim in which the druids saw the coming of St. Patrick and the fall of the ancient religion. When Patrick came to Ireland he left his nephew, Loman, at the mouth of the Boyne with instructions to stay there for 40 days and 40 nights. Loman waited for 80 days before venturing up the Boyne. He came as far as the Ford of Trim which was situated near the Fort of Feidilmid, son of Laoighre.
The next morning Loman sat reciting his gospel when Feidilimid’s son, Foirtchern, came upon him and instantly believed. Loman baptised him in the nearby well.
Foirtchern’s mother came looking for her son and she was delighted to meet Loman who, like her, was a native of Britain. She brought Loman back to her husband and the whole family were converted to the Christian religion.
Feidilimid donated his fort to Loman and crossed the Boyne to set up a new home. Loman remained with Fortchern at Trim until Patrick arrived and founded a church there, this church was one of the first churches founded in Ireland; being established twenty-two years before the church at Armagh. St. Loman was created Bishop of Trim by Patrick. St. Patrick is said to have baptised the first converts in the area at St. Patrick’s well in Crowpark. This well was situated in the middle of a field but is now located near the river. An annual pilgrimage to this well commenced in 1995.
(No. 20 on the map)
The Russian cannon situated in the castle grounds was captured by the British forces in the Crimean War in the middle of the nineteenth century. The cannon bears the tzar’s coat of arms – a double-headed eagle. Most of these cannons came from the beseiged port of Sebastopol, whose fall to the British and French in September 1855, revealed a huge arsenal of ordnance stored in artillery parks and foundries around the city. The captured guns were divided amongst the allies and distributed as war trophies to towns throughout their territories, in accordance with the Treaty of Paris, of 1856. The government distributed them to towns in Britain and the empire which had contributed significant donations to the war funds, although the towns themselves had to apply for them.
(No 21 on map)
Trim Courthouse was erected about 1810. Designed by Richard Morrison, Trim Courthouse, located at a junction of three streets, occupies a dominant position in the streetscape. An architecturally contrasting modern extension was added to the south of the building in recent decades.
The Courthouse was the seat of the county administration in the days of the Grand Jury. The Grand Juries were made up of the influential men and the landowners of the county. When the Meath County Council was established under the local Government Act of 1898 it was decided to transfer the central administration to Navan.
The medieval Franciscan Friary of Trim originally occupied the courthouse site. Dedicated to St. Bonaventure the monastery was called the Grey Friary or the Observantine Friary. The Franciscans are recalled in the name ‘Frenches Lane’.
The earliest contemporary record for the monastery is in 1318 when a dispute occurred between the Franciscans of Trim and the Dominicans of Mullingar over the burial of a woman.
The Franciscans reformed the friary in 1325. In 1330 the Boyne flooded and did much damage to the friary. Richard Archbishop of Armagh, afterwards St. Richard of Dundalk, preached many controversial sermons in Trim in the mid 1300s. A number of parliaments were held at the Grey Friary, Trim.
Henry VIII ordered the monastery confiscated in the sixteenth century. The friary at the time possessed a church, steeple, a dormitory, hall, a mill, an orchard, a ruined church called the Mawdelin’s Chapel, a weir on the Boyne, twenty acres of arable land and a parcel of land called the King’s park alias the Park of Trim containing eighty acres of pasture, moor and underwood. The friars continued in existence locally. In 1662 Rev. Richard Plunkett, a brother in the Franciscan convent in Trim, wrote a Latin and Irish dictionary. The friary was continued at Dunderry until 1820 when it was dissolved and its remaining friars went to Multyfarnham.
Recent publications on Trim include:
Dunne, Patrick, Swift’s Trim. Trim: Swift Satire Festival
Hayden, Alan. Trim Castle, Co. Meath: Excavations 1995-8. Dublin: Stationery Office.
Hennessy, Mark. (2004). Trim, Irish Historic Towns Atlas. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.
Potterton, Michael (2005). Medieval Trim, History and Archaeology. Dublin: Four Courts Press.
Potterton, Michael and Seaver, Mark. (eds) (2009) Uncovering Medieval Trim Dublin: Four Courts Press.
The Old Rectory, Trim.
The Old Rectory is the one of the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in Trim. It has been called by other names such as The Glebe House, The Parsonage and The Old Glebe House. The house was erected in 1751 opposite St. Patrick’s Church and still within the walled town of Trim.
The earliest record of a building here was in 1622 when Bishop Ussher recorded a “fayre castle and an hall with lyme and stone.” A rectory house is recorded in 1625 probably the same building. In 1720 a vicarage was erected by Rev. Raymond. In 1747 a new rectory is planned by Sr. Adam Lydon and erected by 1751. Rev. John Payne was an amateur architect and one time rector of Castlerickard, just eight miles from Trim. He included the plans of the new Trim rectory in his book, “Twelve designs of Country Houses … Proper for glebes and Small estates…” which was published in 1757. He described the house stating that it was built in 1751 and “as no expense was spared in any article, it may be said to be the best built house of its dimensions in the kingdom.” The house was erected for Dr. Adam Lyndon who was educated at Trinity College and received a BA in 1706 and an MA in 1709. He was awarded a doctorate in 1746. He served as vicar of Trim and Rathcore from June 1732 until his death on 16 November 1753.
Plans of the house and garden were drawn up by Patrick McDonnell and a copy of these plans are still in existence in the Representative Church Library, Dublin. The rectory was erected in a field of three acres called “The Rector’s Park.” The plans show the layout of the stables and coach house and the formal gardens. These gardens now are the site of a small housing estate. The coach house and other buildings were adapted to become a new parish school in the early 2000s.
A large rear block was added by Rev. William Foster who served as vicar of Trim and Rathcore from 1776 until 1781. He also held a number of other parishes at this time including Ardbraccan. Her went on to become Bishop of Cork and Ross, Bishop of Kilmore and was Bishop of Clogher when he died in 1796.
A substantial remodelling of the façade of the house was undertaken possibly by Rev. William Elliott who was vicar of Trim from 1781 till his death in 1817. He had been a captain in the Inniskilling Dragoons and Aide-de-Camp tot eh Lord Lieutenant prior to his ordination.
Probably its best remembered resident was Dean Richard Butler, the historian of Trim who lived at the rectory from 1819 until his death in 1861. Richard was married to Harriet Edgewort, the sister of the writer, Maria.
A front porch was added to the building in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The building is described as a rectory in the Ordnance survey maps from 1836 to 2003 when it became a private residence.
In 1955 a new rectory was built opposite the church. The old rectory was converted into flats and a new diocesan hall erected adjoining the old building. The upper part of the building was converted to flats in 1955 with the board room continuing to be used by the parish for vestry meetings and other parochial meetings.
One of the room in the Old Rectory was used as a board room where local church organisations held their meetings. This room also stored the records of the diocese, which were removed to Dublin when the house was sold. The local Freemasons adapted the basement as a meeting room. In the early 1990s there was a stained glass window stored in the building. This was a Harry Clarke window removed form Lismullen church.
Martin Quinn operated a Montessori School there for a number of years. When the parish disposed of the property in 2003 the building had been partly in use as the residence of one of the parishioners, Mrs. Good.
The Old Rectory is now family home to Sandie and Matt and they have run some super events events there. Some really different but so enjoyable events. They are also opening their house for Afternoon Tea in an old fashioned setting, The Old Rectory is a listed building built in 1751 and is steeped in history based in Trim Town Centre, we have ample car parking and walled in gardens so its safe for children to enjoy, We also provide self service Family Room Accommodation which is listed on Bookings.com and AirBnB, We are within walking distance of Trim Castle, Restaurants, Live Music Pubs, Super markets, Play grounds, Water Activities and much more.
The building is furnished with taste and is being well loved.
The Freemasons in Trim
My visit to the Old Rectory spurred my interest to find out something more about the Freemasons. The Trim Freemasons met in the basement of the Old Rectory until the 1990s at least. I don’t think a lodge still exists in Trim, the nearest one being Mullingar or Oldcastle but I’m not sure.
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest fraternal societies and has flourished in Ireland for more than 300 years, bringing together men of goodwill and integrity, tolerant of the beliefs of others, charitable in disposition and striving to achieve high moral standards in every aspect of their daily lives. The Grand Lodge Freemasonry is the oldest and largest world wide fraternity dedicated to the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of a Supreme Being. Although of a religious nature, Freemasonry is not a religion. It urges its members, however, to be faithful and devoted to their own religious beliefs.
The town of Trim saw its first lodge established on 7 May 1772. The Duke of Wellington was involved in his young years. Both his father and his brother served as Masters of the Trim Lodge No. 494 and they both reached the peak of their Masonic careers as Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Garrett Wellesley, first Earl of Mornington, was proposed as a member of the Lodge by one of its founders, John Boulger, and raised a Master Mason in July 1775. A year later he served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge and was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, serving for one year, as was customary at the time, being succeeded by the Duke of Leinster in 1776. His eldest son, Richard, 3rd Baron and 2nd Earl of Mornington, was raised on 31st July 1781 having paid his late father’s arrears and his own admission fee a few weeks earlier. A year later he became Grand Master of Ireland. Wellington would no doubt have followed in their footsteps had time permitted him to pursue his Masonic career. There is no reason to suppose that the young Arthur was in any way disenchanted with the craft. The Lodge records show that on 7th December 1790 he paid his admittance fee of £2 5s 6d. He is here referred to as the Honorable Capt. Wesley. A second entry on 26th June 1792 states Pd now in advance Br. Wesley 14s 1d. The records continue to show several occasions on which his dues are paid, the last entry on 8th September 1795.
J. & E. Smyth
With the closure of Smyth’s Daybreak it is appropriate that we look back at the firm which bore this name for over a century. J. & E. Smyth were one of the biggest employers in the Trim area. They bottled mineral waters and also bottled Guinness for the pubs of the area and whiskey. The company had a bakery, public house, shop, coal yard and undertakers. They were wholesalers which supplied smaller shops in the Trim and north Midlands area. In the 1930s and 1940s it was a seed and grain merchants purchasing wheat grown locally.
J. and Edward Smyth opened their premises in 1885 at Market Street, Trim. It is thought that the Smyth lived at Moymet.
James J. Reilly purchased the company prior to 1910. Reilly was involved in the foundation of the first GAA club in Trim in the 1890s. He decided to commence a bottling plant at Market Street. He chose the Yellow Steeple as his trademark. There were two sisters by the name of Hunt working in the book-keeping section and one of the sisters did a drawing of the steeple and it was used as the trademark. He named his venture The Abbey Mineral water Works after St. Mary’s Abbey. In 1916 J. & E. Smyth advertised their celebrated Abbey mineral water, lemonade, soda water, aromatic ginger ale, ginger beer, champagne, ciderette, lemon soda, ginger cordial, ginger wine, lime juice and peppermint.
J& E. Smyth had a large premises in Longwood – a large pub, grocery and hardware store next to the Catholic Church.
In 1915 Smyths introduced a half day “holiday” for its workers on a Thursday from 3 p.m.
The premises of J. & E. Smyth were attacked by the Black and Tans in 1920 and burned to the ground. Reilly was chairman of Trim Urban Council. The damage was estimated at £20,000 and it was not until 1927 that a new premises was opened.
J.J. Magee owned the firm for a period and then Peter Hunt became general manager and director along with Mrs. Margaret Weldon, Tom Cully and Mr. Frank Reilly.
In 1967 James Geraghty, managing director died having worked at the firm for 54 years and being a director for 19 years. He was involved as a founding member of the Trim Musical Society and was its first secretary. Mr. Geraghty also served as a Urban Councillor, as secretary of Trim Pioneer Centre and raised funds to build St. Patrick’s Hall. His wife, Mina, ran a newsagents.
In 1971 the company opened an enlarged grocery of 1200 square feet with a special new feature of a wine section.
Many local people worked in J. & E. Smyths as it was a major employer and many employees stayed with the firm for a long time. In 1976 Peter Darby senior retired as supervisor of the bottling stores after 48 years service. Mrs. Margaret Weldon as director and manager made a presentation to him. Also in attendance at the presentation were tow of Mr. Darby’s colleagues – Johnny McEvoy and Peter Campbell. Manager Patrick Lynch was one of the company’s longest serving employees. He worked for Smyths for 64 years. Michael Regan’s father worked with the company for a period. Other people who gave long service include Mary Douglas, Loman Street. Peter Hunt, director of the company lived in a flat over the premises and managed the bottling and mineral waters departments. He was discovered dead one morning in the flat. Paddy O’Dare, the Trim hurler, worked for a half century with J. & E. Smyths.
In 1988 J. & E. Smyth was placed into receivership. It was purchased by H. McCann, wholesale bottlers of Drogheda. At that time it employed 26 people.
Smyth’s funeral home transferred to former employee Johnny McEvoy in 1991. In 1994 the wholesale drink’s department was closed. At this stage there were three full time and two part-time staff in this department. The depot was then in the ownership of United Beverages Sales. In the mid 1990s the warehouse premises was used to house TIDE, the community development organisation. The premises were then vacant for a period before being vanadalised. They are currently for sale for re-development. The shop on Market Street continued to trade under different managements until it was closed in 2009.
Trim Gaol – Trim Teacher Murdered by his Own Pupils.
The new Gaol at Trim opened in 1834 to replace the Gaol on the far side of the river. This new Gaol only operated until about 1870 and then in 1890 it was transformed into an industrial school for pauper children. Known as the Trim Joint School it was often mis-named Trim Giant School. The school was established to prevent children being brought up as paupers in the workhouses and giving them a good trade. The unions of Drogheda, Trim, Kells, Navan came together to form the school.
On 12 February 1912 John Kelly, an assistant teacher in the Trim Joint School, was killed in the schoolyard by a group of boys who were armed with brushes and sticks. John Kelly was on yard duty with forty boys at about quarter to seven in the evening. There was said to have been a dispute over a hurley with one of the boys a few days previous. The boys, aged between ten and sixteen, planned the attack. A young boy called Tommy Reilly struck the teacher on the back of the head with the head of a brush. Kelly fell to the ground where boys set on him with sticks and hurleys. Knocked unconscious the teacher died a half an hour later still lying in the school yard, where he was discovered by Samuel Kelly, the headmaster. A number of boys absconded with Reilly being picked up by the police in Clonee. Some say the boys were aiming to get Samuel Kelly rather than the young assistant teacher from Rush in north County Dublin. Samuel Kelly had previously been attacked by Reilly with a brush.
The court case was held at Trim a month later in March 1912 before Grand Jury under Lord Justice Cherry. Reilly was convicted of manslaughter and as he was under 16 sentenced to three years in a reformatory. A number of older boys were sentenced to three years penal servitude while two boys were discharged. Indignant letters were written to the papers about the young boys and their character. Fr. Woods, chaplain to the School and parish priest, wrote in the paper that Reilly’s father was a lunatic who was sent to an asylum for an attack on a priest on Drogheda and this explained his actions.
The murdered teacher, John Kelly, was the sole means of support for his mother and she took a case against the school for compensation under Workman’s Compensation Act. The County Court Judge awarded Mrs. Kelly £100 compensation but this was appealed as the school board felt that it was a conspiracy rather than an accident. The School Board appealed to the House of Lords and the appeal was allowed.
Forty years later two men lost their lives at the demolition of the gaol in June 1953. Employees of Meath County Council, Peter Smith of Castlemartin, Navan and Michael Shiels of Marshallstown, Kilmessan were killed in a fall. Peter Smith was an explosives expert and he and Shiels were putting a charge of gelignite in a wall on the third floor of the building when the landing collapsed and the men were hurled thirty feet into the basement with a portion of the wall crashing down on top of them
Kitty Dowling wrote “How Far Home” in the mid 1990s which told the story of Samuel Kelly, master of the Industrial School, who banished his wife to England believing that she had an affair. The book told the story of Kitty Dowling’s grandmother and her mother’s quest to find the man with whom Mrs. Kelly was reputed to have been having an affair. The book also supports the case that the boys attacked the victim they intended to murder rather than Samuel Kelly. In 1997 Vincent Dowling and Pat Laffan gave a reading of the book in Trim Library.
Today a song entitled “Trim Joint School” recalls the activities and characters of the long gone institution.