Photo by Stephen Cross

Tully Church and High Crosses, Laughanstown (Lehaunstown) County Dublin.

Tully was an important diocesan centre in the 1st Millennium AD. It is referred to in the early literature as Tulach na nEpscop (‘the Hill of the Bishops’). The church is mentioned in the Martyrology of Óengus, a 9th century text with 11th /12th century notes, and the late 15th century text, but drawing from earlier now lost manuscripts, the Book of Lismore.

In the 8th century the territory in south-east County Dublin and north-east County Wicklow came under the control of the Uí Briúin, hence Uí Briúin Cualann.

The church of Tully and the surrounding lands later fell under the control of Hiberno-Norse settlers. The lands of Tully were granted by Sitric Mac Turcaill to the Holy Trinity (Christ Church) in Dublin. In fact, the remains of a nearby house-site associated with this period has been discovered and excavated in recent years.

Aerial photography has established the presence of two subsurface ditched enclosures surrounding the church. The original entrance to the enclosure would appear to be to the south-east. Entrances similarly positioned are a notable aspect of many other early ecclesiastical sites.

The nave of the present church would appear to date to the latter part of the 11th century. The perfectly realised archway connecting the nave to the chancel is probably later in date, late 12th /early 13th century.

To the immediate north-west of the church remains there stands a 12th century High Cross featuring a relief carving of a bearded bishop. This cross would appear to be standing on the western perimeter of the outer enclosure.

A 10th century ringed-High Cross was repositioned along the adjacent laneway in the 19th century. Four grave slabs of Rathdown-type were formerly located at the church site. These slabs date to 10th /12th centuries and feature designs that are paralleled on objects discovered in the Viking excavations in Dublin. They may have served as grave markers of Christianised Hiberno-Norse settlers.

In the wake of the Norman/Angevin intervention in the late 12th century, the graveyard at the church became the traditional burial ground of the Walshes of Carrickmines Castle, one of the dominant families in the locality.

Approximately 400m from the Tully Church complex stands Lehaunstown Park House. Remarkably, this ‘modern’ house encases the remains of the documented Lehaunstown Castle. The juxtaposition of a Tower House/castle with an Early Medieval ecclesiastical site has been recorded elsewhere in County Dublin, for example at Tallaght, Dalkey, Swords and Portrane. This historic relationship between Tully Church and Lehaunstown Castle should be fully respected in the projected ongoing development in the immediate area.

Dr. Mark Clinton,
Monuments and Antiquities, An Taisce.