A BRIGHT note of optimism has been struck for the small community of Castletown Conyers with the confirmation that work is due to begin later this year on preserving the iconic structure known locally as the Abbey.
This job of work was high on the wish list of the Castletown Conyers Development Association when they met councillors in their local hall at last week’s meeting of the Newcastle West Municipal District.
The so-called Abbey ruins, association chairman Denis Cagney explained, are very extensive but there are a number of serious problems associated with them, among them health and safety issues.
“It was the old church for the area,” he explained, “but over the years it has gone into disrepair.”
Trees are growing within the walls and in the walls, he said, and more recently a number of large stones had fallen from a height.
“The roots of trees and ivy might be the only thing holding it together,” Mr Cagney said. “It would be a huge project to take on but we will have to do something about it.”
Executive archaeologist with Limerick City and County Council, Sarah McCutcheon, told the meeting the site was a “quite unique” medieval settlement and she outlined the history of the site and its importance to the wider area.
She then explained that a structural engineer had carried out a survey last November and that the preservation work would have to be carried out in three or more phases.
Because the trees had taken over so badly, she said, the first phase would involve cutting back the trees and then drilling and treating the boles and roots. Some propping and boarding off would also be necessary in this phase. She estimated it would cost about €125,000 to stabilise the builidng. Later phases, she explained, would involved repairing the cavities left by the roots, removing other vegetation, consolidating the south-east corner and north wall chancel and capping the walls.
Ms McCutcheon also told councillors that a valuable survey of graves had been carried out which would be available on the historicgraves.ie site.
Mr Cagney also raised other points on the development association’s wish list.
Thanking Limerick City and County Council for their help and support in developing a new cemetery for the area, which opened last year, Mr Cagney said it was a “wonderful achievement for a small community like this.”
But a footpath from the cross roads to the new cemetery and public lighting were needed, Mr Cagney said. The lighting in particular would be useful during the Pattern Day celebrations, he explained.
He also asked for support in acquiring the local garda station from the OPW so it could be put to local, community use, possibly as a creche or play school. “We don’t have huge numbers of children in the community,” he said, but pointed out that it was close to a busy commuter road.
In a bid in to encourage new couples and families to settle in the community, Mr Cagney asked that the council consider turning the one-and-a-half acres it owns in the village into serviced sites.
Councillors pledged their support for the preservation of the medieval settlement.
“It is important to preserve it for the future,” Cllr Francis Foley said, while Cllr Seamus Browne said it could pay a social and economic dividend in the area. Councillors agreed to canvass the OPW on the issue of transferring ownership of the garda station.