Brackfield Bawn, beside Lower Cumber Presbyterian Church. One of two bawns or fortified houses built by the Skinners Company of London on their 'proportion' as part of the Plantation of Ulster in the early Seventeenth Century. The other bawn was in the village of Dungiven and reused the historic priory in that village. The construction of bawns was.a requirement of the Plantation and provided refuge for the new settlers from Scotland and England in times of uncertainty. They all tended to have a fortified stone house with a courtyard defended by corner turrets or 'flankers'. The bawn was the focus of a small settlement and 12 houses and a church are recorded outside its walls in a map of 1622. A mill was also recorded between the village and the nearby Faughan river. Of all this nothing survives above ground. The bawn itself was abandoned by the end of the Seventeenth century. It is now a Monument in State Care.
Next door. Lower Cumber Presbyterian church. This dates from 1883 and unusually has a lecture hall underneath which results in the grand stepped entrance up to the front door.
Out into the country. This is the former Cumber Primary School near Brackfield Bawn off the main road from Derry to Belfast. It dates from 1931 and is an elegant well designed building with simple, sparse, Georgian Revival detailing, a symmetrical layout, and with a white painted exterior that sits well in its rural surroundings. It is now used as a rural development centre. Windows unfortunately replaced in PvC and a bit flat, but it still sits very well in its surroundings.
Dungiven Priory, accessed down a lane from the village and across a new bridge over the bypass. This place was the site of an early monastery. As with many ancient foundations it became an Augustinian Abbey following the. 12th century church reforms. The chancel was added in the 13th century and has a very fine gothic memorial inside and the remains of rib vaulting - an unusual feature in a small rural church. Traces of earlier Romanesque blind arcading remain at high level in the main body of the church. Tower house, now gone, added to the west end probably in the fifteenth century. This is likely to have been accommodation associated with the abbey and was associated with the O'Cahans at the end of the sixteenth century. In the Ulster Plantation of the early seventeenth century the site was taken over by Sir Edward Doddington who built a Manor House attached to the tower house. The drawing above shows this house, the abbey and tower and formal gardens to the west adjacent to the river at around that time. Today the tower and house are gone apart from foundations.
Heritage re-presented. Suddenly more visible due to the new Dungiven bypass, is a standing stone at the top of a field as the road rises to the Belfast side of the village. its a good symbol of the long history of this place amid the new infrastructure. According to the records, this stone stands on top of a small mound which was described as a 'tumulus' and a 'barrow' in the Ordnance Survey memoirs of the 1830's. Two depressions have been noted in the side of the mound and a small flint instrument was found in one of these. Tradition holds that the stone was erected to mark an ecclesiastical assembly that was held here in 590 AD, at which St Columbikille was present. The stone was also used as the end point in a procession at Beltaine (May Eve) up to the mid nineteenth century. The Turus (pilgrimage) started at St Patrick's Well behind the current Bleach Green housing development, then went to a stone in the river before moving to the former Dungiven Priory and then finishing here.
Camus High Cross near Coleraine. Overlooking the River Bann . 'Thrown down' in 1760 & the top broken off. 'long desecrated as a gate post' until following public subscription and action of the local council, it was replaced on its stone base in 1905 & moved from W to E end of the graveyard. The ornament on the sandstone pillar is weathered but on E face there panels are considered to be: the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, the Marriage Feast of Cana and possibly the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. On the W face the scenes are the Fall of Man, possibly Cain & Abel (with a third figure), Noah's Ark and the Sacrifice of Isaac. An ancient bullaun stone is also located in the graveyard (a hollowed stone, possibly a holy water stoop)
The site overlooks historic ford and island which was a stronghold of the McQuillans and O’Cahans during the 16th century. A wooden castle was reported there in 1544.
Took a walk in the Ness Woods today. Visited the atmospheric waterfall. Called Shane's Leap after a 1770's highwayman who jumped across it managing to escape capture. I once did a sketch - November 1988- long time ago now.
Pellipar House at the upper end of the Roe Valley near Dungiven. Constructed from the early eighteenth century onwards the two stone wings are thought to have been added in the early nineteenth century when the lease from the Skinners Company was renewed by the Ogiby family. The Ogliby’s were prosperous linen merchants in the Dungiven area . More work was carried out in the 1860s and after a fire in the 1880′s. In 1907 alterations to the roof gave the building its great French Château appearance which makes it such an unusual building for this area and greatly adds to its interest. Quite a building.
Back to Limavady. This is the Kings Fort above Drumsurn overlooking the Roe Valley. Also called Dun Concubaire and associated with the O'Connor’s of Glen Given. It is thought to date to the Iron Age. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of the 1830′s record that ‘there stands on the interior part a stone on which there is the full print of a hand and forefingers’. This is not there today but it is still an amazing place with a commanding view of the surrounding valley.
Above St Aidan’s and just below Binevenagh is this fascinating hillfort. Craigbolie Castle, also known as Dun Crutheni, is a D shaped fort commanding expansive views over Magilligan. The boundary wall is made of stone though time has covered it in vegetation. Near the centre is a circular raised area thought likely to indicate the site of a former structure. The Cruthin were the dominant power in this area at the start of recorded history (the 5th century), and have been linked by some to the Picts in Scotland (though this link has been dismissed by others). An asteroid was named after them in 1986 - ‘3753 Cruithne’. The form of the fort has been noted to resemble fortifications on the west coast of Scotland so there may have been some link across the water. Today it is a powerful reminder of a time long past.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West of Ireland and further afield with a little information about their history.