Wayside Crosses

There is a series of 22 late medieval crosses in Co. Meath, the only decorated series of crosses to survive in Ireland from this time.  They are decorated with religious motifs, heraldic symbols, foliage and animal designs.

They are mostly pillar crosses, found at roadside locations, for example at Balrath, Killeen and Dunsany.

They were erected by the Anglo Norman families of the Pale.  The Navan and Duleek crosses may have been Market Crosses.

Killeen Wayside Cross (below)

killeen cross fragmentkilleen cross 2

Photos: © Navan & District Historical Society

Killeen Wayside Cross fragment is found today  near the first tee in Killeen Golf course, protected behind iron railings.  It dates from the 15th century.  The side (above left) shows Saints Andrew and Bartholomew and bears no inscription.

The side pictured (above right) bears the inscription Thomas Plunkett and Maria Cruys who were married in 1435.  You can see the story of Thomas Plunkett and Maria Cruys under the Medieval tab on the website.

Dunsany Wayside Cross is pictured below.   It bears no inscription.  It is believed to date c.1600.

dunsany wayside cross dunsany wayside cross close up














Photos: © N&DHS


Baronstown Wayside Cross (below) This cross  is located near Stackallen on part of the old road between Navan and Slane.  It dates from around 1600, and was erected by Dame Jenet Dowdall, to commemorate herself and her 2nd  husband Oliver Plunkett. (Her first husband was William Bathe and he is commemorated by Dame Jenet in the wayside cross at Duleek)

baronstown wayside crossbaronstown wayside cross close up



















Photos: © N&DHS

Many of the words have been abbreviated to fit the narrow space on the shaft.  Above is a figure of St. Peter in a pleated tunic and a crozier.  Beneath the figure the inscription reads:

"I pray you St. Peter, for the soules of Oliver Plunkett, Lord Baron of Louth and Dame Jenet Dowdall his wife."

Balrath Wayside Cross (below) This cross belongs to the 16th century,and used to stand at Balrath Crossroads.  Today it has been relocated to the nearby pieta balrath crossBallymagarvy Cemetery.

balrath cross














This cross is a memorial to John Broin.  One side shows the Crucifixion, (above left), and the opposite side shows the Piéta (above right). Below the Pieta is a Latin Prayer for John Broin, and below that again, in English, is recorded that Sir Andrew Aylmer of Mountaylmer, and his wife Catherine had this cross "beautified" by H. Smith in 1725 (below left). The head (below right), is carved on the edge of one of the arms of the cross.

alymer inscriptiondecoration balrath cross

















Recent Excavations at Balrath

County: Meath   Site name: Balrath Crossroads, Balrath
Excavations.ie number: 2006:1502        License number: C154, E2461
Author: Judith Carroll, Judith Carroll & Co. Ltd, 11 Anglesea Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
Site type: No archaeological significance
ITM: E 700596m, N 764943m

Ministerial consent was granted to Meath County Council, prior to road widening at Balrath crossroads, for the relocation of Balrath cross, a wayside cross of late medieval date.  The development of a slip road from Balrath crossroads on to the N2 (Ashbourne to Navan) required road widening of c. 2m.  A stone wall was dismantled in order to be rebuilt 2m further back.  The proposed route of the slip road was located on a greenfield area that had been bounded by the stone wall.  Balrath cross had been incorporated into the stone wall in the 19th century.

Although the site was located close to monuments ME032–009–11, topsoil-stripping in the area on 24 October yielded no results of archaeological significance.


(Below) The Nevinstown Wayside Cross in the County Library Navan and below right, a grainy photo of the cross in situ in Nevinstown.

nevinstown wayside cross


nevinstown cross in situ
















The Nevinstown Wayside Cross is not unfortunately in situ today. It was located in the townland of Nevinstown, adjoining the old road between Navan and Rathaldron, in a field near the R. Blackwater. Rathaldron was the ancient residence of the Cusacks. Today the cross is stored in the County Library in Navan.

The cross was erected in 1588 by Michael de Cusack, Lord of Portrane and Rathaldron, and by his wife Margaret Dexter. The upper part of the shaft has been broken off, along with it the first line of the inscription. The edges are decorated with a simple gothic pattern. The back of the cross is plain, except at the top where the lower part of a shield can be seen with the initials MC or MD placed under it.

The inscription is in Latin and reads "... Armigeri, et Margaretae Dexter uxoris ejus ac heredum eorum qui hanc crucem fecerunt anno Domini 1588 quorem animabus propicietur Deus, Amen"

[.......missing name........of the armour bearer and of Margaret Dexter his wife and of their heirs who have made this cross in the Year of our Lord 1588 on whose souls may God look favourably].

There was a local tradition that unbaptised infants were buried in the vicinity of Nevinstown Cross.  Excavations carried out by the National Museum (funded by Bula Mines) in the 1970's would appear to bear this out.  The remains of eight very young children were found during these excavations.  They would appear to date from the 19th century.  It was tradition then not to bury unbaptised babies in concentrated ground.



The Beauties of the Boyne and the Blackwater, William R. Wilde, Dublin 1849

Buildings of Meath, Kevin V. Mulligan, The Fieldgate Press, Kells 2001; The OPW.

Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1846

Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1891

All photos © N&DHS