Moats and Monasteries

The Seagrange monument displays many features consistent with what is known as a Medieval Moated Site. With medieval pottery found in the vicinity of the monument and the evidence from the magnetometry survey, this interpretation of the site seems all the more plausible.

What is a moated site?

The general definition is: a 13th-14th century rectangular enclosure defined by a ditch often filled with water (hence moat) and surrounded by an internal bank. The bank would have been surmounted by a palisade and the entranceway usually protected with a gatehouse, thereby protecting the space within the moat from attack or raiding.

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The traditional interpretation suggests that moated sites represent a second wave of Anglo-Norman settlement into border territories on the fringes of Norman control. This would explain the frequent occurrence of moated sites in the south and west of the country. These areas, known from the contemporary sources as ‘the land of war’ would have been exposed to attack from the Gaelic Irish. In these contexts, moated sites are believed to be the fortified homesteads of minor barons or wealthy farmers.

Within the relatively secure hinterland of Dublin, or the ‘land of peace’, moated sites are rare. Recent publications have identified 4 moated sites in the county: Lambay, Drimnagh, Tallaght and Corkagh Demense with possible examples at Newtowncorduff, Kilmahuddrick (Murphy & Potterton 2010) and Golden Lane (Simpson 2011).

Significantly, the Seagrange Monument would increase this count to 5 definite moated sites within County Dublin.

Who constructed the monument?

Records exist for two Norman families who had stakes in the Baldoyle area during the 12th-13th centuries. Following the Norman takeover of Dublin, Stronbow granted Vivan de Cursun the lordship of Raheny. De Cursun, a minor baron presumably without the means to construct an earth and timber castle such as that constructed at this time by St. Laurence at Howth, might be just the candidate for the construction of a fortified dwelling in the Baldoyle area. De Cursum was one of the very few barons established in North Dublin who was not appointed by Hugh de Lacy. It seems that a John de Cursun ‘Lord of Rathenny and Kilbarrock’, probable son of Vivian, was murdered by Hugh II de Lacy soon before 1210 (O’Donovan AFM 1856, p.140n).

As late as 1655 The Down Survey maps show the Baldoyle area as occurring within ‘Raheny Parish’ while the Seagrange monument lies approx. 300m north of the townland of Kilbarrack Lower. The Seagrange monument therefore fits within a geographical area which could have fallen under the control of the de Cursuns.

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Another candidate is one Richard de Feypo. The records show that de Feypo, who was granted the nearby lordship of Santry by Hugh de Lacy, made grants concerning Baldoyle in 1236. It seems that descendants of Adam de Feypo held land in this area well into the 17th century (Hickey 1994) and it is possible that Richard, or some other family member may have built a moated site to consolidate a claim on the land.

It has however,  long been recognised, especially in Britain, that moated sites can be associated with Monastic Grange Farms.

What is a Grange?

The word grange comes from the old French word for a barn which ultimately finds its roots in the latin granum. The word grange is therefore connected to the modern words grain and granary. During the medieval period, a grange was an outlying farm often associated with a monastic order.

Even before the beginning of the Anglo-Norman takeover of Ireland in 1169, it was a common practice for lords to grant lands to religious establishments.

It was the Cistercians who first began to order their possessions into structured farmsteads arranged according to strict guidelines. The Cistercian grange soon inspired its imitators and the Benedictines, Cluniacs and Augustinians began to order their possessions in much the same way (Platt 1969).

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Baldoyle was granted to by the Augustinian Priors of All Hallows by Dermot MacMurrough in 1169 and held by them until the Dissolution. Although the ruined church known as Grange Abbey in Donaghmede has long been associated with the grange through local tradition, no contemporary sources can prove this. Excavations carried out at Grange Abbey did not unearth any clear evidence of a grange farm at this location. The Seagrange monument, occurring in a townland with strong associations with the Augustinians, is a potential candidate for the original Monastic Grange of Baldoyle.

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References

Annals of the Four Masters 1856 (ed.) O’Donovan, J. London

Hickey, E. 1994 “Skryne and the Early Normans”, MAHS

Murphy, M., Potterton, M. 2010 The Dublin Region in the Middle Ages Dublin

Platt, C. 1969 The Monastic Grange in Medieval England London

Simpson, L. 2011 “Forty Years a Digging” in Medieval Dublin XI Dublin