(above) The Civil Survey Map (1650s) showing Abbeylands and the location of Navan Abbey
The Abbey in Navan is still remembered in placenames in the area. There is Abbeylands, while Abbeylands North and Abbeylands South point to the many acres of rich lands owned by the Abbey. The location of the Abbey is the car park on the Navan Relief Road opposite the Fire Station and the surrounding land. Canon Row reminds us of the canons or priests who served their flock in the Abbey.
The history of the Abbey can be summarised briefly. Following the Anglo Norman invasion of the 1170s, Hugh De Lacy who was Lord of the Liberty of Meath granted Navan and Ardbraccan to Joceline de Angulo (Nangle), one of his allies.
Jocelyn de Angulo (Nangle) built an abbey on the ancient Celtic monastic site known as Nuadhcongbhail. This was an old Celtic name for Navan, meaning new dwelling. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine were the order of monks in this monastery in Navan. Grants of land had already been given to the old pre Norman monastery by the Lord of Breffni, Tiernan O'Rourke, and these were left to the monastery under the Normans.
However, the monastery was Norman controlled, even to the choosing of the abbots, most of whom were of Norman blood. The Irish were kept from positions of importance. The Abbey was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
A very famous statue of Our Lady was housed in the Abbey to which was credited many cures and miracles. People came on pilgrimage to the Abbey. Plenary indugence could be gained, all contributed towards the upkeep of the monastery. It certainly proved a valuable source of income for a time.
There is a story told of a certain dignitary of the Abbey, a Dr. Stackbolle. He was responsible for the excommunication of a Norman named Thomas Bathe at the Market Cross in Navan. Later followers of Thomas Bathe cut out his (Dr. Stackbolle) eyes and tongue. He was brought to the statue in the Abbey and both his speech and sight were restored. This statue was destroyed in the 16th century, during the Reformation.
In 1539 Thomas Wafre, the last Abbot of Navan, surrendered the Abbey and its vast demesne to Henry Vlll. He himself received a pension of £13 per annum.
Later the same year, the Northern Irish chieftans, O'Neill and O'Donnell invaded the Pale,and plundered Navan and burnt the Abbey buildings. The houses owned by the Abbey in Canon Row were also destroyed. The Abbey's possessions included over 700 acres of land. Abbeylands was leased first to an Englishman called Wakely and later to Savage. He was succeeded in 1625 by Roger Jones, later Earl if Ranelagh. The estate descended in the 1840s to the Earls of Essex. The tenants of the Earl of Essex received the lands through the Land Purchase Acts of the late 1800s.
The Abbey and its church fell into decay. Around 1711 a Cavalry Barracks and stables were built in its place. All the ancient tombs were broken up and used for paving stones and flagstones for the barracks yard. The cemetery was dug up and the human remains cast irreverently into the Blackwater. When a pumphole was being sunk in the barracks yard about 1854, the remains of nine people were discovered laid one on top of the other according to Dean Cogan.
In 1916, Dr. Gaughran, the Bishop of Meath, purchased the old barracks for £600 and later opened a De La Salle Brothers School. Thus the religious had once again been established in the old monastic site.
Pieces of the masonry (right) dating
to the late medieval times were
discovered in 1976 when part of the
Cavalry Barracks' wall was knocked
down during the construction of the
Inner Relief Road.
These are today in the grounds of St.
Mary's Church as part of the Millennium
(Photo: © Navan & District Historical Society)
In 1976 ,whilst laying sewage drains, human remains were found in Abbeylands down to a depth of nine feet below the surface. They were reburied before any expert could examine them. Also, around the same time, a basin shaped font measuring approximately three feet across was found in a field at the entrance to the present Abbeygrove. This was some kind of baptismal font associated with the once all important Abbey in Navan. It is now in the National Museum.
There was also a hoard of coins found in a ditch in Abbeylands. The date of the coins and the vessel they were found in would indicate they had been buried at the end of the 17th century. The date of the coins spanned approx. 100 years prior to their buiral. To read more about this hoard. Click here.
Source: Articlles on the History of Navan Meath Chronicle Feb./March 1981
(Photos: © Navan & District Historical Society)
Ordnance Survey Abbeyland: Navan Parish
Field Name Book 1835-1836
Abbey Land: Larkin's Map.
Abbeyland: John O'Donovan.
It is in the north east of the parish.
It is bounded on the east, north and by Donaghmore parish and on the south by Donaghmore parish and the townland of Abbeyland South.
The Blackwater river forms its southern boundary, and part of the town of Navan is on its east side. It is well intersected with roads.
The road from Navan to Kells passes through its centre and the road from Navan to Nobber forms part of its boundary.
This townland is bounded on the east and south by the townland of Town and Town Parks of Navan and by Moat Hill townland.
It is bounded on the west by Knockumber townland and on the north by Abbeyland townland.
This townland contains a portion of the town of Navan on its east side. The road from Navan to Kells forms part of its eastern boundary, and the Blackwater forms its northern boundary, on which river are Mill Brook House with a Paper and Frieze Manufactory attached, and the ruins of a flower mill and a distillery, the property of Mr. Skelly. There are also several weirs on this river.
Abbeyland No. 2.
This townland is bounded on the north by the townlands of Dillonsland and Town and Town Parks of Navan.
It is bounded on the east by Limekilnhill townland;
It is bounded on the south and west by Old Balreask townland.
Navan is the market town, and is 1/2 mile distant.
It is cultivated, and the road from Navan to Trim passes across its western corner.
Abbeyland No. 3.
This townland is bounded on all sides by the townland of Town and Town Parks of Navan. It is situated immediately at the west end of Navan town.
The road from Navan to Trim forms its western boundary.
Abbeyland No. 4.
No information supplied.
The numbers show the location on the valuation map. The names are the occupiers when the survey was done 1847 to 1864.
1a. Patrick Brady
2. Patrick Brady
3. Patrick Brady
4. Patrick Brady
5a. Edward Casserly
6. Edward Casserly
7. Edward Casserly
8a. William Morgan He was the biggest landowner
with 66 acres and a building with £25 valuation.
9. James Muldoon
!0. Reps. James Moran
11. Richard Eason 11a to 11o were cottages with valuations 5 shillings to 10 shillings.
11a. Catherine Kennedy
11b. Lawrence Nugent
11c. Bartholmew Mulvany 12a James M'Donald
11d. Thomas M'Daniel 13a Patrick Gibney
11e. Thomas Carty 14a Catherine Murphy
11f. Thomas Casserly 15 Rose Nicholls
11g. James Murtagh 16a Phillip Hazelwood
11h. Thomas Ryder 17 Owen Ludlow
11i. Vacant 18 Michael Ludlow
11j. James Sheerin 19 James Fitzpatrick
11k. Edward Hopkins 20 William Casserley
11l Patrick Connor 21 Reps. Wm. Williams
11m. Patrick Casey 22 Reps . Wm Williams
11n. Catherine Gugerty 23a Reps. Wm Williams
11o Patrick Byrne
Earl of Essex and Philip Hazelwood were the main landlords
Some recent Excavations at Abbeylands
County: Meath Site name: Abbeyland
Excavations.ie number: 2012:451 License number: 12E092
Author: Fintan Walsh
Site type: Pit
A programme of testing was carried out at the site of a proposed cinema development in Abbeyland, Navan, Co. Meath. Testing followed on from a geophysical survey of the site (Licence Ref.: 12R38), which was carried out in March 2012. Test trenching took place on 28 March 2012, using a 13-tonne machine equipped with a flat, toothless bucket. A total of 19 trenches were excavated within the area of proposed development. Of these, 13 trenches targeted specific geophysical anomalies. One feature of archaeological potential was identified in Trench 2. This consisted of a large pit, which contained animal bone along with a lozenge-shaped metal object with a slender tang. No other features of archaeological significance were identified during the assessment.
County: Meath Site name: ABBEYLAND/BLACKCASTLE DEMESNE
Excavations.ie number: 1998:499 License number: 98E0590
Author: Niall Brady, 'Rosbeg', Ard Mhuire Park, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd.
Site type: Corn-drying kiln
The buried remnants of a previously undiscovered corn-drying kiln were uncovered while removing topsoil deposits on the north bank of the River Blackwater, in advance of the Navan Inner Relief Road 2A. The site straddles the townland boundary between Abbeyland and Blackcastle Demesne. It lay beneath a later hedgerow and roadway that had truncated the site.
The kiln was excavated between 18 and 22 December 1998. It consisted of a single stone-built bowl and a stone-lined flue pit that was cut into the underlying boulder clay. The flue was oriented almost at right angles to the bowl and was set at a lower level. No artefacts were recovered. Soil samples were retrieved for further analysis.
County: Meath Site name: ABBEYLAND SOUTH AND BLACKCASTLE DEMESNE
Excavations.ie number: 1998:498 License number: 98E0463
Author: Niall Brady,
Site type: Medieval/post-medieval
A thin stratum of archaeological deposit was revealed below landfill deposits in Abbeyland South on the south bank of the River Blackwater in advance of the Navan Inner Relief Road 2A. The investigation of a 103.6m2 area between 6 and 28 October 1998 uncovered the remnants of walls that would have belonged to substantial buildings of the post-medieval period. A large assemblage of potsherds and several other objects, including three copper coins and fragments of an inscribed finger-ring, suggest a date in the early/mid-17th century.
A small area of medieval activity was identified below one of the wall features. It constituted a patch of burning datable to the 14th/15th centuries on the evidence of associated ceramics. The inclusion of line-impressed tile fragments suggests an ecclesiastical association. The site lies c. 120m west of where St Mary's Priory is believed to have been centred, and it is likely that this represents part of the complex. The post-medieval activity occurred between the priory's dissolution and the building of a cavalry barracks c. 1700.
In the course of removing topsoil at the edge of the land-take on the north bank of the Blackwater in Blackcastle Demesne townland, part of a previously unrecorded fulacht fiadh was exposed on 16 October 1998. The section was recorded, and the site was reburied.
County: Meath Site name: NAVAN INNER RELIEF ROAD (PHASE 2a), ABBEYLANDS SOUTH, NAVAN
Excavations.ie number: 1998:515 License number: 98E0184
Author: Fiona Reilly, Wood Road, Cratloekeel, Co. Clare, for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd.
Site type: Urban
ITM: E 686980m, N 767834m
Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.653039, -6.684234
Testing was carried out in the townland of Abbeylands South, Navan, Co. Meath, in April-May 1998. The site lay to the west of the site of the Abbey of St Mary.
Seven trenches were investigated. The area of Trenches 1, 2, 6 and 7 had up to 6m of modern fill deposited in the mid-1980s, which made excavation difficult. Trenches 1-5 and 7 did not produce anything of archaeological interest.
Trench 6 produced evidence of a compacted road surface and two walls. It can be suggested that these represent the walls and lane marked on the 1st edition OS map. The lane ran to a mill by the river to the north-east. This lane (and presumably the mill it led to) had gone out of use by the 2nd edition map in 1882.