Each morning as the sun rises over Ardmore, the shadow of its round tower point a finger to what is believed to be the site of the ancient monastery of Saint Declan. In 1845 a contributor to Frazer's Magazine (1) wrote, "Let me point out to you the farmhouse just outside the churchyard and to the south west of the sculptured gable. It stands on the site of the monastery founded by 'Saint Declan' It was originally of particular rule, but afterwards became a house of canons regular of St. Augustine. This house subsisted till the reformation, and some remains of it were in existence about a century ago, but no traces are now visible. There are, however some sewers and subterranean passages, which have been at times discovered but never thoroughly explored, they appear to have communicated with the church. In one of them was found a few years ago, an ancient hatchet, with a long slender handle, stuck fast between the stones of the subterranean wall. It was no small indignation, I learned that this relic of olden times had been broken up to make nails".
Similar information is contained in an illustrated article (2) in The Gentleman's Magazine of 1864, an important feature of which is the sketch, presumably by O. Jewitt, showing as a background to the round tower, buildings, which are the subject of the present article.
The earliest view of these buildings seems to be contained in a drawing by Miss Marianne Nicholson, who accompanied Crofton Croker from Youghal on his visit to Ardmore in 1821. The drawing "from Nature" was first published in London the following year, and later included as a plate in Croker's Researches in the South of Ireland (3). It shows a cluster of some five houses as a backdrop to the cathedral and round tower. Although suggesting solid and roofed buildings it would seem that much artistic licence was invoked in their disposition.
The next view is that shown in Ryland's Waterford (4) dated 1834. It is inscribed "Drawn & Etched by W.H. Brooke", yet is obviously based on Miss Nicholson's sketch. In Hansard's Waterford (5) of 1870 it again appears.
A quite different view of the houses is shown in The Illustrated Guide to the Blackwater and Ardmore (6), a publication which is thought to have first appeared in 1840. The complex of houses is easily identifiable with the present remains, though the viewpoint chosen by the artist, means that the principal building is mostly hidden by the round tower. It is apparently the original of "1864 view" referred to above.
Canon O'Hanlon (7) writing in 1892 adds further historical particulars, "The site of the former monastery here is said to be occupied by a farm house, near the ancient Cathedral, but on the opposite side of the road. The church lands here, were demised by Thomas Witherhead, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, with the consent of the Dean and Chapter, to the celebrated Sir Walter Raleigh. (He obtained, by indenture dated 15th of January 1591, the manor, lordship, castle, town and lands of Ardmore, for a term of 101 years) Two years afterwards, Sir John Dowdall of Pilltown, knight, ejected him from that town. On 10th May 1604, King James I, grated this manor to Sir Richard Boyle, afterwards Earl of Cork, with power to take possession without suit, or else by law to recover the same".
Scanned by: Ursula Ansell
Author: Siobhán Lincoln