NOTES ON NEWCASTLE-LYONS
Contributed by the Rev CP O’MEARA, Rector of Newcastle-Lyons
Published in the Journal of the Kildare Archeological Society Volume J.K.A.S. IV, pp63–64. (January 1903)
There was a church at Newcastle, founded at a very early date by St Finian. In Cotton’s Fasti Ecclesiae Hiberniae, we are informed that, in AD 540, St Finian was first Bishop of Clonard, where he founded a school; and that in the province of Leinster, he founded several churches, of which one is supposed to have been situated on the site of the present church of Newcastle-Lyons.
There is very little doubt that there was a church here about the sixth or seventh century. Several considerations lead to this conclusion. In the Roman Catholic Church this parish is known as the parish of St Finian.
There is also in the churchyard an ancient cross, which is assigned by antiquarians to the seventh or eight century. There is also in the neighbourhood a well called St Finian’s Well. And upon the outside wall in the south-east corner of the old chancel, there is seen a gargoyle built in the wall, in such a manner as would lead to the conclusion that it had been used in a church of a previous date. The present church dates from about the fifteenth century.
The church tower was built in the reign of King John, and is still in an excellent state of preservation. In the stable-yard connected with the glebe house, there is an old castle, with stone roof and very thick walls. Mention is made of this castle in a list of ecclesiastical buildings, presented to Henry VIII upon the occasion of the disestablishment of the monasteries.
The east window of the church is worthy of notice, dating from the fifteenth century. Lewis, in his Topographical Dictionary, says that the church is chiefly remarkable for its fine east window. In the year 1724, the chancel was cut off from the nave, and the window placed in its present position. The chancel is now in ruins, The piscine still remains.
The chalice and paten now in use date from the year 1696 AD. There is an inscription on the paten as follows:- “the gift of Archdeacon Wiliamson to Newcastle Church, 1696.”
Newcastle was anciently a rural bishopric and also a Royal Manor. In the State Papers we read “The Second Henry, coming hither out of Normandy…gave to such as came with him…all the substance of the land, and made of them – some lords, some knights; and they also divided the most part of the same into freeholds, unto such as came with them – whereby they inhabited the land – his highness keeping for himself, besides reservations of rents and services, and customs of havens and ports, little or nothing. In so much as in all Leinster, he kept but one barony….called the Barony of Newcastle, six miles from Dublin;…and we cannot see that the King had in all Ireland, in possession of the inheritance of the Crown, but the said lordship of Newcastle only.”
In 1666AD, James, Duke of York, had a grant of 578 acres in Newcastle, and of 51 acres at Hazelhatch.
In 1613AD, a charter was granted, incorporating this town, and enabling its inhabitants to return burgesses. Wm Parsons Esq, and Wm Rolles were appointed its representatives in the parliament of that year.
On the 1st of February 1641, we learn, from Carte’s “Life of the Earl of Ormond” that the Lords Justices sent out a powerful army on an expedition to the County of Kildare, where, pursuant to his orders, he burned Newcastle and Lyons, and gave up Naas to his soldiers to plunder, having sent out parties to burn Castlemartin, Kilcullen Bridge; and in short all the country for seventeen miles in length, and twenty five in breadth.
This was not the first time that Newcastle was burned. In 1332 we learn from Grace’s Annals of Ireland and from the manuscript called the Book of Howth that Newcastle-Lyons was burned by the O’Tooles of Co Wicklow.
In 1535 the forces of the Crown, under Sir Wm Brereton, lay here in the month of February, on their way to besiege Maynooth castle, the principal stronghold of Silken Thomas, 10th Earl of Kildare, then in rebellion. Newcastle was at that time one of the chief walled towns of the County Dublin.
The Sept which occupied the Newcastle district in pre-Norman times, were the MacGilla Mocholmogs, and the name of their territory was Hy-Dunaghy.