hill of skryne
The tower of the 15th century Abbey of St.Nicholas commanding the Hill of Skryne.
Photo: © Navan & District Historical Society


Henry II
Henry II King of England, (left) came to Ireland in October 1171 in order to arrange affairs in the new kingdom of Ireland which the Normans were bent on conquering.
Before he left in April 1172, he made extensive grants of land to three powerful men. he granted Ulster to John de Courcey, Leinster to Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, better known as Strongbow,
and Meath to Hugh de Lacy .

Dublin and the few coastal towns that existed, the king kept in his own hands.


Hugh de Lacy proceeded in feudal fashion to build castles to fortify his territory.
The Barony of Skryne was granted to the knight, Adam de Feipo, who in turn subdivided it and presented twenty of his followers with grants of land.

The 12th century poem, "The Song of Dermot and the Earl" tells us

"And Skryne he then gave by charter,
to Adam de Phepoe he gave it".

Today, nearly eight centuries later, one of these twenty estates is still held by a direct descendant of the original grantee - that of Dunsany.
skryne castle
At Skryne, a castle was built some time between 1172 and 1175. The de Feipos held the Barony until the close if the 1300s when an heiress carried the title to the Marwards, who were Barons of Skryne until the 1600s, when the title died out.

After this the castle seems to have fallen into disrepair. It was restored early in the 1800s when the present house was built around the old keep. the thickness of the walls proclaiming the age of the ancient tower.
skryne motte
The Motte at Skryne Photo: © Navan & District Historical Society

skryne  map


When the Normans first took possession of their new lands they erected temporary "castles" on the top of earthworks. Such an earthwork or "mote" as it is called, can be seen at Skryne south of the castle, and is pictured above. It is now planted with trees, but in the 1100s it was probably the site of Adam de Feipo's earliest castle. Surmounted with wooden towers and dwelling houses and fortified with a strong pallisade it would have dominated a wide stretch of countryside and been used as a defensive habitation whilst the Baron of Skryne was consolidating his position and organising labour to build the stronger stone castle.

This map (from Elizabeth Hickey's "Early Norman Skryne" ) shows the townland of Skryne as laid out by Adam de Feipo and his son Richard. The total area of the townland is 1266 statute acres.
The royal road to Tara ran north of the church, passing the mill and mill pond. The church of St. Colmcille standing on the summit of the hill was enlarged by Richard de Feipo. The borough town was laid out between the church and the castle, the street continuing past the motte, the site of Adam's first castle, and the church of St. Nicholas, and on to the Dublin road built up by a stone causeway.
The commons provided pasture for the animals of the burgesses, the coney burrow belonged to the lord.
The monastery was built in the 15th century. (right)
st nicholas skryne
skryne castle
Elizabeth Hickey evokes this landscape from the vantage  point of the tower of the Castle, (pictured above left.)

"On a winter's evening, when the grass is short, and the sun is low, the foundations of the medieval town emerge from the pasture, showing up in brown rectangular and
linear patterns."
~~~

Riocht na Midhe 2016 page 65.

Legislation enacted by Edward IV in 1465 “ every Irishman dwelling within the Pale shall take to him an English surname of one Towne, as Sutton, Chester, Trym, Skryne, Corke, Kinsale;......”


Some Recent Excavations

County: Meath   Site name: Skreen 1
Excavations.ie number: 2006:1637        License number: A008/018, E3071
Author: Tara O’Neill, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, 21 Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda.
Site type: Settlement activity
ITM: E 694198m, N 759772m

This site was located within Contract 2 (Dunshaughlin to Navan) of the proposed M3 Clonee to north of Kells motorway and was identified during advance testing by Linda Clarke in April 2004 (Excavations 2004, No. 1339, 04E0424). Full resolution of the site in October 2006 revealed the heavily truncated remains of a curvilinear slot-trench (3.4m by 0.42m by 0.14m), two post-holes and a pit. A fragment of struck flint was recovered from the curvilinear feature. The function of the site is unknown but is likely to relate to settlement activity.
http://www.excavations.ie/report/2006/Meath/0016390/
County: Meath   Site name: Skreen 2
Excavations.ie number: 2006:1638        License number: A008/019, E3072
Author: Tara O’Neill, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, 21 Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda.
Site type: Prehistoric structure and settlement activity
ITM: E 694035m, N 760236m

This site was located within Contract 2 (Dunshaughlin to Navan) of the proposed M3 Clonee to north of Kells motorway and was identified during advance testing by Linda Clarke in April 2004 (Excavations 2004, No. 1339, 04E0424). Full resolution between October and November 2006 revealed an oval-shaped prehistoric structure (6m by 4m) comprising five post-holes and a south-east entrance. A deposit of cremated bone (0.2m by 0.3m by 0.03m), a pit (0.15m by 0.13m by 0.1m) and an associated post-hole were also recorded. A flint scraper and a quantity of flint debitage were located within these post-holes, suggesting that the structure may have been used for flint knapping. A heavily truncated oblong pit with in situ burning was observed.
http://www.excavations.ie/report/2004/Meath/0012461/
County: Meath   Site name: TESTING AREA 7, SKREEN
xcavations.ie number: 2004:1339         License number: 04E0424
Author: Linda Clarke, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, Unit 21, Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
Site type: Pit features, hearths and linear features
ITM: E 694218m, N 759493m
Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.576850, -6.577310

An assessment was carried out in advance of the planned M3 Clonee-North of Kells PPP scheme, Co. Meath, on the Dunshaughlin-Navan section (Contract 2) between February and June 2004. This section of the scheme is c. 15.5km long from the townland of Roestown, north-west of Dunshaughlin, to the townland of Ardsallagh, south-west of Navan town. The EIS recommended testing any known or possible sites identified and Meath County Council further proposed to test the whole of the remainder of the route. For the purposes of testing, this section was divided into 26 testing areas. The assessment methodology generally consisted of mechanically excavating 2m-wide test-trenches along the centre-line and perpendicular to the centre-line to the edge of the land-take every 20m. The work was carried out on behalf of Meath County Council, the National Roads Design Office and the National Roads Authority.

Testing Area 7 is located in the townland of Skreen between Chainages 27050 and 28150. Within this area, 11,418m2 out of a total of 89,106m2 was test-trenched, providing an assessment coverage of 13%.

A potential archaeological site had previously been identified as a result of the geophysical survey in Testing Area 7, Field 3 (Area 18). A large ditch, the function of which is unknown, and a shallow linear feature were contained within this area. The presence of these features was confirmed in the assessment phase of works. Three pit features were also identified and these features were designated Skreen 2. No finds were recovered from any of the features that were sectioned.

Six features of archaeological interest were identified in Testing Area 7, Field 1. This site was designated Skreen 1 and consisted of four pit features, a hearth and a small linear feature. These isolated features were at various locations throughout the field. No finds were recovered and the date of these features is uncertain.


http://www.excavations.ie/report/2004/Meath/0012462/
County: Meath   Site name: TESTING AREA 8, SKREEN
Excavations.ie number: 2004:1340        License number: 04E0425
Author: Linda Clarke, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, Unit 21, Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
Site type: Pit features and linear feature
ITM: E 693878m, N 760447m
Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.585480, -6.582154

An assessment was carried out in advance of the planned M3 Clonee-North of Kells PPP scheme, Co. Meath, on the Dunshaughlin-Navan section (Contract 2) between February and June 2004. This section of the scheme is c. 15.5km long from the townland of Roestown, north-west of Dunshaughlin, to the townland of Ardsallagh, south-west of Navan town. The EIS recommended testing any known or possible sites identified and Meath County Council further proposed to test the whole of the remainder of the route. For the purposes of testing, this section was divided into 26 testing areas. The assessment methodology generally consisted of mechanically excavating 2m-wide test-trenches along the centre-line and perpendicular to the centre-line to the edge of the land-take every 20m. The work was carried out on behalf of Meath County Council, the National Roads Design Office and the National Roads Authority.

Testing Area 8 was located within the townland of Skreen between Chainages 28150 and 28600. Within this area, 4094m2 of test-trenches were excavated out of a total of 30,394m2, providing an assessment coverage of 13.5%. Two possible archaeological sites, identified as a result of the geophysical survey, were contained within Testing Area 8. Area 16, Field 2, was visible on the geophysical data as several linear features that appeared to represent the remains of a field system or former field boundaries and several possible pits. Other linear features appeared to be related to modern ploughing. All of the linear features identified within this area during assessment were associated with drainage or agricultural activity and were not archaeological in nature. Area 17, Field 1, appeared on the geophysical data as three small pit features that were interpreted as possible archaeological features. No traces of these features were identified during the assessment phase of works.

Sources:
Skryne and the Early Normans by Elizabeth Hickey
Meath Archaeological & Hisorical Society  1994

Photos © Navan & District Historical Society
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Skryne Castle.

Skryne Castle consists of a late medieval tower house to which was added a three storey Georgian about 1780 and the building was re-modelled about 1830 with battlements and Gothic windows being added to make the building more picturesque. The castle is close to the motte castle of Adam de Feypo, who was granted Skryne by High de Lacy in the 12th century. Mrs Elizabeth Hickey documented the medieval period in her book „Skryne and the early Normans.‟ At the entrance is a single-storey gate lodge dating from about 1860. The first Ordnance Survey maps show an entrance direct to the front of the house. The current entrance approaches the house from the side. The first OS maps also show the site of a chapel in the field to the front of the house. Skryne gets its name from „Scrín Cholm Cille‟, meaning the shrine of St. Colmcille. This shrine was brought to Skryne in 875 to protect it from the attack by the Vikings. However the shrine was lost when the monastery as plundered by the Danes and rivals Irish clans. Adam de Feypo who was granted the lands here by Hugh de Lacy, founded an Augustinian monastery. The tower of this monastery sits on the summit of the hill.
Skryne became a borough with its own mayor or provost. In the early 1800s fairs were held on March 17th, June 20th, and Oct. 12th, for livestock, the last being a very large fair for sheep. O‟Connell‟s traditional pub, located near the tower, features in the Guinness White Christmas ad on television. The castle at Skryne was lived in by the Wilkinson family. A tune called „Planxty Wilkinson‟ was composed by Turlough O'Carolan for the Wilkinsons of Tara and Skryne, Co.Meath.
There is supposed to be a ghost who haunts the castle. In 1740 a local squire turned his attention to Lilith Palmerston, a maid at the castle. When his advances were spurned he tried to strangle her, and was hanged for the crime. Shrieks are heard in the castle and a white figures sometimes appears.
In 1837 the old castle had been enlarged and modernised, and was occupied by a farmer. In 1856 Skryne castle and estate was the property of Peter Wilkinson who in 1876 held 586 acres in County Meath. In 1901 Alice Wilkinson and her daughter, Alice, were living at Skryne. In 1942 Skryne was the residence of Mrs. A. Wilkinson. The Wilkinson estate was taken over by the Land Commission in 1940.
In the early 1950s Mrs Elizabeth Hickey and family came to live in Skryne Castle. Mrs Hickey was a well known Meath historian and author. From the re-foundation of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society in the mid 1950s she took an active role in local history. Probably the most famous of her works was the „The Green Cockatrice‟ in which she suggested that the works of Shakespeare were actually written by an Irishman, named William Nugent. She died in 1999 aged 81 years.

Copied from:
meath-roots.com
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Skryne in 1845.

Irish parliamentary Gazatteer 1845.
SKREEN, or SKRYNE, a barony in the county of Meath, Leinster. It is bounded, on the northwest, by the barony of Lower Navan; on the north, by the barony of Upper Slane; on the east, by the baronies of Lower Duleek and Upper Duleek, and by the county of Dublin; on the south, by the baronies of Ratoath and Lower Deece; and on the west, by the baronies of Lower Deece and Lower Navan. Its length, northward, is 9 1/2 miles; its extreme breadth is 7 3/4; and its area is 40,891 acres, 2 roods, 29 perches, of which 78 acres, 2 roods, 30 perches are in the river Boyne, which runs for 6 1/4 miles along the western and north western boundaries. The most conspicuous natural feature, as well as most interesting locality for antiquities and curious associations, is the hill of Tara.
“The soil of Skreen,” says Mr. Thompson, in his Statistical Survey of the County of Meath, published in 1802,
‘‘is, generally speaking, a deep rich earth upon a fine limestone gravel, and in some parts over marl, that inexhaustible mine of wealth to the farmer, which until of late years remained almost totally neglected. The surface is uneven, and may be termed rather hilly. The soil is not the best for barley, yet it throws up an uncommon quantity of fine rich feeding grass. Those parts that are tilled give excellent crops of oats, bere, and in some places fine red wheat; but in general, it is more fit for the purposes of grazing than of tillage, and is considered for so much as the best feeding ground in the county.Though the lands of Diamore, and its vicinity, are considered as capable of fattening quicker, yet taking the whole of the two baronies into our consideration, that of Skreen seems to take precedence of any other in the county.  Not quite two thirds of this barony are occupied in grazing and meadow.
In this barony, on part of the lands of Walterstown, the estate of Nathaniel Preston, Esq., of Swainstown, there are miners working a copper ore, which, from some specimens, is very rich in metallic particles. The ore has an admixture of quartz, consisting of hexagonal prisms, many of which are nearly transparent, others opaque, and some of a brownish yellow. This vein of copper ore runs from Walterstown in a northeast direction towards the Boyne, and has been worked with various success upon the estate of Sir Marcus Sommerville, Bart.; and on that of Gustavus Lambert, Esq., in Duleek barony, by miners, who, it is supposed, did not do justice to their employers; and hence, though the quality of the ore was found equal to any in Great Britain, and superior to many, yet from some fatality, ever attendant on the generality of works of this nature in Ireland, it has lain neglected, when perhaps immense treasures might be derived therefrom.”
The act 6 and 7 William IV., cap. 84, transferred the parishes of Brownstown and Kilmoon, containing, in 1841, a pop. of 1,060, from the barony of Upper Duleek to Skreen. The barony of Skreen, as at present constituted, contains part of the parishes of Danestown and Trevet, and the whole of the parishes of Ardmulchan, Athlumney, Brownstown, Cushenstown, Dowdstown, Dunsany, Follistown, Kilcarn, Killeen, Kilmoon, Lismullen, Macetown, Monktown, Rathfeigh, Skreen, Staffordstown, Tara, Templekeeran, and Timcole.
The towns and chief villages are Factory, Little Furze, Skreen, Tara, and a small part of Navan. Pop., in 1831, 8,683; in 1841, 9,456. Houses 1,576. Families employed chiefly in agriculture, 1, 193; in manufactures and trade, 284; in other pursuits, 162. Families dependent chiefly on property and professions, 34; on the directing of labour, 475; on their own manual labour, 1,093; on means not specified, 37. Males at and above 5 years of age who could read and write, 1,579; who could read but not write, 75l ; who could neither read nor write, 1,837. Females at and above 5 years of age who could read and write, 812; who could read but not write, 1,038; who could neither read nor write, 2,411.
Skreen barony lies within the Poor-law union of Navan and Dunshaughlin. The total number of tenements valued is 1,345; and of these, 697 were valued under £5, 138, under £10, 92, under £15, 56, under £20, 43, under £25, 31, under £30, 45, under £40, 26, under £50, and 217, at and above £50. The annual value of the property rated is £41,124 9s. 7d.; and the sum levied under the grand warrant of summer 1841, was £1,132 16s. 9d.
SKREEN, or SKRYNE, a parish, containing a village of the same name, in the barony of Skreen, co. Meath, Leinster. Length, south westward, 3 1/2 miles; breadth, from 1/4 to 2 3/4 ; area, 4,521 acres, 2 roods, 36 perches. Pop., in 1831, according to the Census, 1,326, but according to the Ecclesiastical Authorities, 1,279; in 1841, 1,156. Houses 208. Pop. of the rural districts, in 1841, 931. Houses 165. The surface consists of good land, and is traversed by the roads from Ratoath and Dunshaughlin to Navan. Skreen Hill, whose summit has an altitude of 507 feet above sea level, is not only the most conspicuous natural feature within the parish, but also shares with Tara Hill, in the adjoining parish, the honour of imparting variety to a great extent of circumjacent rich low country; and it is rendered peculiarly striking by the church ruins and the straggling village, which surmount its summit.
The seats are Belvin hall and Corbalton-hall, the latter the handsome residence of M. E. Corbally, Esq. This parish is a rectory, in the dio. of Meath. Tithe composition, £280; glebe, £44 8s. The rectory of Skreen, the vicarage of Dowthstown, the impropriate curacy of Kilcarn, and the chapelries of Rathfeigh, Templecarne, and Lismullin, constitute the benefice of Skreen. Length, 7 miles; breadth, 6. Pop., in 1831, 2,993. Gross income, £660 ls. 4d. ; nett, £527 14s. 1d. Patron, the Crown. The church is in Lismullen. The Roman Catholic chapels of Skreen and Rathfeigh have an attendance of respectively 500 and 450; and, in the Roman Catholic parochial arrangement, are mutually united. In 1834, the inhabitants of the parish consisted of 76 Churchmen, 3 Presbyterians, and 1,245 Roman Catholics; the inhabitants of the union consisted of 136 Churchmen, 6 Presbyterians, and 3,090 Roman Catholics; and 4 daily schools in the union, 3 of which were in the parish, were usually attended by about 175 scholars. One of the schools in the parish was salaried with as much money from the rector as secured a total income to the teacher of £21 10s. ; one, with £10 Irish from a legacy; and one, with £2 10s. from Lord Ludlow.
SKREEN, or Skryne, a village in the parish and barony of Skreen, co. Meath, Leinster. It stands on the summit and skirts of the fertile hill noticed in the preceding article, away from any thoroughfare, yet near the roads from Dunshaughlin and Ratoath to Navan, 4 3/4 miles north by west of Dunshaughlin, and 6 south east of Navan.
A Culdean establishment existed at this place, and occasioned it to be called Scrinium St. Columbae: hence the modern name Skreen. But Archdall alleges that the old name arose from the circumstance of the shrine of St. Columbo being brought hither in 875 from Great Britain to prevent its falling into the hands of the Danes. The ecclesiastical establishment was called by monastic historians of a subsequent period an abbey of regular canons; in 1027, it was plundered by the Ostmen; in the 12th century, it fell into decay; and in 1341, it was superseded by a monastery of eremite friars of the order of St. Augustine, founded by the family of De Feipo. Some ruins of the latter structure still exist in the vicinity of the ruins of the church. A perpetual chantry was also founded at Skreen by the same party, and about the same period, as the Augustinian friary. The family of De Feipo, who received from Hugh De Lacy grants of large possessions in Meath, built a castle at Skreen, and adopted it as their residence. The ruins of the castle still exist. In the 15th century and till the reign of Elizabeth, the family of Marward were palatine barons of Skreen; but during the reign of Elizabeth, Janet, the daughter and heiress of the last baron, carried the estate by marriage to William Nugent, Esq.
A dispensary in Skreen is within the Dunshaughlin Poor law union, and serves for a district of 25,954 acres, with a pop. of 6,253; and, in 1839-40, it expended £160 13s., and administered to 1,897 patients. In 1843, the Skreen Loan Fund had a capital of £336, circulated £1,906 in 608 loans, realized a nett profit of £4 18s. 9d., expended for charitable purposes £3, and had 10 depositors or proprietors of its capital. Fairs are held at Skreen on March 17, June 20, and Oct. 12. Area of the village, 12 acres. Pop., 1841, 225. Houses 43.