Friday 18 January 2019

Plans to restore 12th century Clone Church

Clone Church near Ferns which is the subject of a new conservation project
Clone Church near Ferns which is the subject of a new conservation project
Teresa Bailey, Mary Gethings, Barry Leacy, Denis Kinsella, Tom Breen and Mairead Breen at Clone Church, Ferns

Pádraig Byrne

It's a commonly used expression - 'if only these walls could talk'. Well a group in Ferns are hoping to breath some new life into the ruins of a historic church, with the hope of eventually opening it up to the public.

Dating from around the 12th Century, Clone Church is also thought to have been the site of an earlier monastic settlement and may go all the way back to St Aidan of Ferns. While it is a national monument, the church has fallen into bad disrepair in recent years. At this stage, only the western gable wall is left in a well preserved state and items such as a sundial have been removed from the site by the OPW and placed in Tintern Abbey for safe keeping. The ruins are fenced off and inaccessible to the general public. Now the Ferns Heritage Archive Group is determined to restore the ruins to some degree and to unlock this piece of local history for everyone.

The group has received a grant of €3,500 from the Heritage Council to work on the Clone Church Conservation Project and they are now hoping to engage conservation experts to work on the ruins, just opposite Clone House.

'It's currently in a bad state,' said Barry Lacey, one of those behind the project. 'They attempted to do some restoration work back in the 1950s and, while their intentions were good, the methods they used didn't suit the building at all. We're now looking to do up a conservation plan and have engaged the services of Catherine McLoughlin of Stafford McLoughlin archaeology in Wexford. Part of this will see a full laser survey carried out at the site so that, God forbid, it fell down in the morning, we'd have a complete record and would be able to rebuild it in the same way.'

The group's goal is to see the fencing come down and the church open to members of the public. However, this is a long term project and may take up to five years to get to that stage. In the meantime, the group are embarking on a fundraising mission which starts with a table quiz at The Courtyard in Ferns this Friday night, June 8, at 8 p.m. All are encouraged to come along, join in the battle of wits and contribute to the cause.

The group also wish to express their gratitude to landowners Tommy and Paul Breen for their support of the project and for allowing access to this wonderful piece of forgotten history.

Gorey Guardian