Killeshandra Tidy Towns Committee applied to adopt the historic church known as Church of the Rath Killeshandra. It is from this church that the town takes its name.
The Church of the Rath is a wonderfully atmospheric graveyard that has ancient origins. The church is one of the few Jacobean style churches remaining in Ireland and has national architectural importance.
The site is named Church of the Rath because there was a ringfort settlement here dating to the early medieval period. Ringforts (also known as fairy forts) were enclosed farmsteads and are a common feature of the Irish countryside. The first record we have of a church on the site is from around 1390 when Augustinian monks from nearby Drumlane Abbey established a church here.
The church you see today is a remodelled version built by the Hamilton family in the late 1600s. The rebuilt church design is one of only a few Restoration period churches remaining in Ireland today and is of national architectural importance. The Jacobean style of architecture (an early phase of English Renaissance architecture) can be identified in the fine stone carving of the windows. In 1841, a new church was built for Anglican use in Killeshandra and the Church of the Rath fell into disrepair.
The Community Group: Killeshandra Tidy Towns
Killeshandra Tidy Towns Committee are a sub group of Killeshandra Community Council which was formed in the 1980s. The group has a keen interest in history and in the promotion and protection of the heritage of Killeshandra. The group decided to adopt the Church of the Rath as they were concerned about the future of the monument due to the fragile state of the roof of the building.
The Adopt a Monument team along with the community group held a successful information and storytelling evening, where people from all around the locality came to share their stories and discuss the future of the monument. Training about the care and maintenance of historic graveyards has also been delivered to the group. The group organised a very successful Heritage Week event in August 2016 when over 600 people visited the graveyard over the weekend to hear about the history of the site and come face-to-face with occupants of the graveyard who had risen from the dead to tell their tales.
The Adopt a Monument Scheme worked with the community to secure funds for specialist advice for architectural conservation works to ensure the long-term preservation of the monument as the roof of the church is in a very fragile condition. Funding was secured in 2016 to produce a plan for the long term conservation of the roof of the church which is suffering from water damage. The group applied to LEADER in 2017 to secure funds to build a protective roof over the existing structure in conjunction with a qualified conservation architect. This vital work is now complete and a new zinc covering is now in place. This will ensure the unique barrel-vaulted ceiling will be conserved into the future.
In 2019, the group participated in the Heritage Council-backed Creative Ireland / Adopt A Monument Scheme which allowed the group to engage experts in historic brick to work with the local community and increase their understanding of the historic bricks of the church. The engagement included research, demonstrations and workshops on brick-making. Barney Devine and Susan Roundtree were the experts who worked with the group.
For the latest news on the Church of the Rath you can follow Killeshandra Tidy Towns on Facebook.
"For us the scheme has the potential to become a vital cog in our efforts towards the conservation of what we see as an important national monument dating back to medieval times and synonymous with the origins of Killeshandra in the seventeenth century…This will boost our efforts and give recognition to the site and ensure that essential building conservation works are undertaken".
Anne Shanley, Killeshandra Tidy Towns