The ‘city’ of Cloyne – developing a medieval Irish town.

 

Cloyne emerging from the mist-JimONeill2

Jim O’Neill’s wonderfully atmostpheric aerial view of Cloyne emerging from the morning mist with the square tower of St Colman’s Catholic Church in the foreground and the Round Tower with the Cathedral in the background. 

There is a tradition that a town with a cathedral is deemed to be a ‘city’ regardless of how small the settlement actually is. Think of the tiny ‘city’ of St David’s in Wales, so well known to the Norman invaders of Ireland in 1169. But we don’t have cross St George’s Channel to experience this phenomenon. We have a native Irish bishop of Cloyne to thank for that designation of….Cloyne! Bishop Daniel O’Finn, who was the bishop of Cloyne between 1247 and 1264, used the phrase ‘…dictam civitatis…’ (..of the said city…) in his Charter of Cloyne. This charter is contained in the Pipe Roll of Cloyne which was assembled in the 1360s by Bishop John of Swaffham. So Cloyne has been deemed a ‘city’ since the middle of the thirteenth century. Indeed the beginnings of this ‘city’ were traced back, in the very same charter, to Bishop David McKelly O’Gilla Patrick (FitzPatrick!), who was the bishop of Cloyne from 1237 until 1238 when he was translated to Cashel. Bishop David granted the first charter to Cloyne a detail we learn from Bishop Daniel’s confirmatory charter which states that ‘…I and my successors will warrant….and we will safeguard to the said citizens and their heirs the aforesaid arrangement of my predecessor…’ So clearly Bishop David had set in train the process of making Cloyne into a proper town. The Charter of Bishop Daniel simply confirmed this arrangement. The intervening bishop, Alan O’Sullivan (1239-1246), seems to have been entirely satisfied by Bishop David’s arrangement, although there is no direct evidence. Bishop David also created Kilmaclenine (near Buttevant) as a borough on the same lines, although that place was never designated a ‘city’.

The Charter of Bishop Daniel also tells us that Bishop David had ‘measured and perambulated’ the north side of the ‘city’. This detail is crucial for it is now clear that the ‘city’ referred to in the charter was actually the ecclesiastical zone around the cathedral and round tower which were located on the southern side of the town.  So the plan of Cloyne with its four streets meeting at a crossroads in the middle of the town was set out by Biship David, and the town must have been developing rapidly at that time. This was an ideal time to develop a new town in Imokilly because the district had calmed down after the MacTire/McCarthy rebellion against the Normans had died out after 1220. The cathedral was probably built at the same time. The town was not laid out on a map, but on the ground itself. This should not surprise us…..if the bishops were Anglo-Normans, but, until the appointment of Nicholas de Effingham in 1284, the bishops of Cloyne all appear to have been native Irishmen and were clearly influenced by the Norman custom of founding towns. Proof of this lies in both the layout of Cloyne and in a fascinating, and very specific, reference in Bishop Daniel’s charter.

First Ordnance Survey Map Cloyne

Cloyne in the first edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch map (about 1842). Note the ecclesiastical zone with the cathedral and round tower making the original ‘city’ and the town planned out by Bishop  David  in 1237-1238 and confirmed by Bishop Daniel around 1250.

Cloyne is laid out around a crossroads with streets leading exactly north, south, east and west. This plan is certainly not an accident. The eastern street (now called Rock Street) is especially wide to accommodate a market. The bishop’s castle (his residence) stood on the south side of this street. Cloyne House, now a private residence, is the more recent successor to the medieval residence of the bishops of Cloyne.

The bishop says that ‘…I and my successors will deal with them (the citizens of Cloyne) honestly according as the laws of Breteuil have been heretofore used or will be used, and the said citizens and their heirs shall be responsible to me and my successors according to the same laws in all things.

Now this reference to Breteuil is both unexpected and crucial. Breteuil, or Breteuil-sur-Noye, is a small town in the Département of Oise in northern Normandy. It has a current (2012) population of about 4,500 inhabitants. Breteuil was founded as a castle about 1060 by William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror of England). William gave the castle of Breteuil to his cousin William FitzOsbern, who granted a charter of liberties to the men of the new town that developed there. FizOsbern installed a man called Roger as his castellan and this man’s son came to England in 1066 and was granted vast estates on the Marches (borders) of Wales. Roger the younger succeeded William FitzOsbern as Earl of Hereford in 1071 and set about settling his new lands, including founding towns, such as Hereford itself. The way to attract settlers to these new towns was to give them a generous charter of liberties. Roger had only one model to draw on – the charter of Breteuil, and this became the model for new towns founded in England, Wales and Ireland by the Normans. The charter of Breteuil hasn’t survived, but among the known provisions were: the granting of large burgage plots (town plots); few, and low, fines (feudal custom imposed fines for almost everything!); permission for the townspeople to take wood from the lord’s forest for building and heating. It is also claimed that the custom whereby a serf who managed to flee his master and stay in a town for a year and a day was deemed a free man (and was no longer a serf) was one of the customs of Breteuil, but this is actually uncertain. What is important is that the law of Breteuil was clearly designed to attract settlers, as happened in Cloyne.

breteuil church

An old postcard of the square (place) in Breteuil-sur-Noye.

Bishop Daniel’s charter confirmed the grant to each burgess (townsman) eight acres, in addition to the long thin burgage plots leading off the four streets.’…to have and to hold…freely, quietly, entirely, fully, honourably and peaceably in wood, plains and roads, in paths, meadows and pastures, in moors, marshes and waters…’ This rule applied to the inhabitants ‘…of whatever nation they may be…’  So Cloyne would not discriminate between the Gaelic Irish and the Norman (English, Welsh, Fleming or French). The citizens could take turf from the bog to the south of Cloyne for heating, as much as they required for their household needs.  And all this on payment of a rent of one mark sterling paid half at Easter and half at Michaelmas (29th September). A mark was not a coin but a unit of account worth 160 pence sterling, or 13 shillings and 4 pence or two thirds of a pound sterling (80 pence at Easter and Michaelmas). It’s worth noting that the two townlands located due south of Cloyne are called Commons East and Commons West, and are divided by the road that runs south from the crossroads at the centre of the town.

And Cloyne even had a portreeve, or ‘mayor’ or ‘provost’. He was chosen by a twelve burgesses (citizens of the town) who, presumably, formed a council. In essence, the portreeve and his fellow councillors answered to the bishop for the rents, fines and debts as well as the actions and failures of the townspeople. Did they meet where the courthouse used to sand on Rock Street? This would make sense if the market court or piepouder (pied poudre, French for ‘dusty feet’) court was held there and the market dues were collected there too.

And there is one more piece of evidence for the development of the town of Cloyne in the 1200s. In 1299, the sheriff of Cork submitted a report to the king in which he identified the towns in the county which held a weekly market.  Normally, the market was licensed by the king but, given the slow communications even with Dublin in the 1200s, local lords set up their own markets, presumably with the intention of getting a royal licence at a later stage. Carrigtwohill and Youghal are listed for they each had a royal market licence. However, ‘Midleton’ (actually, Corabbey), Ballinacurra and Cloyne are also listed.  Now this is interesting because these places did not have a royal market licence from the King – in each case a cleric (the abbot in Corabbey and bishop in Cloyne) or the lord of the manor (Ballinacurra), authorised the market. In Corabbey (Midleton) it was the abbot of the Cistercian monastery who set it up, and in Cloyne it was the bishop who authorised the weekly market….right outside his own residence on the present Rock Street! This may actually be a factor of the laws of Breteuil – that the inhabitants could conduct a market on payment of a fee to the lord of the manor.

Cloyne sth side

The original ‘city’ of Cloyne consisted of the ecclesiastical zone of the cathedral and the much earlier round tower. This was the site of the monastery founded by St Colman before 600 AD.

So, there you have it – Cloyne was a ‘city’ and burgary, or borough, in the 1200s. And it was developed by the Gaelic Irish bishops and was run according to the laws and customs of a town in….Normandy. I seem to recall that the late Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe once wrote that ‘Imokilly is the Normandy of Ireland’. She was referring to the rich farmland, agricultural produce and fresh fish from Ballycotton (all we’re missing is the cider!) …. but little did she realise how remarkably true that was on her very own doorstep!

Ballinacorra’s medieval import? Dundry stone for Cloyne Cathedral.

The blocked up great window of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral. The carved stone that marks the outline of the window is not native to Cloyne or even to Ireland. It was imported from Dundry near Bristol in the thirteenth century.

The blocked up great window of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral. The carved stone that marks the outline of the window is not native to Cloyne or even to Ireland. It was imported from Dundry near Bristol in the thirteenth century. Sadly the great window was crudely blocked up in the middle of the eighteenth century to accommodate the memorials of the Longfield family of nearby Castle Mary.

‘The only part of the building to survive more or less intact from the early Gothic era is the south transept, where there are plenty of original details cut in imported Dundry stone.’

Professor Roger Stalley.

The old phrase ‘coals to Newcastle’ refers to the shipping of coal from Newcastle to London from the seventeenth century. The idea that anyone would ship coal TO Newcastle in the far north of England was so odd that the phrase  was used to  describe very peculiar behaviour. Yet Ireland, a land rich in stone, imported tons of stone from England during the medieval period! Sometimes, if you know where to look, you can just pick up evidence of the trading links that existed in a place centuries ago. However, some of this evidence may reveal something of the local Irish trading patterns and infrastructure in medieval times.

The Waterford Museum of Treasures is the best municipal museum system in Ireland. The medieval museum is a modern building built on the vaulted undercroft of the Choristers' Hall beside Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. Dundry stone was used to clad this building in recognition of the original use of the stone for the medieval cathedral.

The Waterford Museum of Treasures is the best municipal museum system in Ireland. The medieval museum is a modern building built on the vaulted undercroft of the Choristers’ Hall beside Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. Dundry stone was used to clad this building in recognition of the original use of the stone for the medieval cathedral. This picture gives a good idea of the pale honey colour of the stone.

Recently I read a fascinating book edited by Professor Roger Stalley of Trinity College Dublin. The book, Irish Gothic Architecture: construction, decay and reinvention, is a collection of excellent research essays on the topic of later medieval Irish architecture, particularly Gothic architecture, although it also looks at nineteenth century perceptions of Gothic architecture. The essays are wonderful, but one made me sit up and go back over it carefully. The reason was the sentence quoted at the top of this post. The essay discussed the building of several cathedrals in Ireland in the thirteenth century, but the discussion of Cloyne Cathedral is important for those interested in south-east Cork.  While most of the stonework in the windows of the cathedral has been redone at a later stage, especially in the nineteenth century, those windows in the south transept are original to the building. They were created when the transept was first built in the 1200s.

How did Professor Stalley know this? Well he certainly didn’t consult any surviving documents. Instead he looked at the woindows, especially on  the outside, and realized that the stone used to build these windows wasn’t local. But he recognized the stone, nonetheless. It is an oolitic limestone that came from Dundry, a quarry located in the extreme north of Somerset and only a few miles south of Bristol, in the west of England!

The medieval vaulted undercroft of the Choristers' Hall in Waterford was built of Dundry Stone. The arcade was inserted later, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

The medieval vaulted undercroft of the Choristers’ Hall in Waterford was built of Dundry Stone. The arcade was inserted later, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

Dundry stone was imported into Ireland following the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169/70. This stone was famously used to build Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, but in fact, was used in churches from Kinsale in County Cork to Trim in County Meath. It was used for parish churches, monastic churches and cathedrals, but now Cloyne Cathedral joins the list. But why import stone into a country that is already rich in building stone? The most likely reason is that some of the principal masons working on these churches were also English. These English masons came to Ireland because they were familiar with erecting and decorating large stone churches, which were still a fairly new phenomenon in Ireland, having been introduced here just thirty years earlier..

Now these English masons almost certainly came from the West Country of England, for the architecture of Christchurch, Dublin, and other buildings, suggest similarities to some of the architectural features used in the west of England.churches. These masons were entirely familiar with the stone that was available in the west of England.. But in Ireland they discovered that the local stone was different – mostly a hard limestone that the masons found difficult to carve. So they did what the first Norman masons did in England just after the Conquest in 1066 – they imported the stone that they were familiar with. So, just as the earliest Norman masons imported Caen stone for the Tower of London, so the earliest English masons in Ireland imported Dundry stone to make the carved window openings and other decorations. However, by the time the cathedral was built in Cloyne, it is possible that most of the work was done by Irish masons. Sadly, the cathedral accounts do not survive so we really don’t know who built the structure. Whoever they were, they knew about Dundry stone and they chose it for the window openings.

Building the Tower of Babel was a favoured imaged of medieval book illuminators because it depicted the vanity of man. These images are valuable for modern scholars seeking to understand the workings of medieval masons.

Building the Tower of Babel was a favoured imaged of medieval book illuminators because it depicted the vanity of man. These images are valuable for modern scholars seeking to understand the workings of medieval masons.

But what Stalley does not consider is the implications of importing this stone from England into south-east Cork . This is where economics come into play. Most of the Dundry stone used in Ireland went to places that were accessible by water, being located either on the coast or by a river.The reason this mattered was simple – it just cost too much to freight the stone by cart over land. The more of the stone that could be shipped by water as close as possible to the building site, the cheaper the cost of importing it.

The three eastern windows of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral are also framed in Dundry stone.

The three eastern windows of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral are also framed in Dundry stone.

So we need to identify a port that could have been used to import the Dundry stone. Given the economics of moving building stone over land, I would suggest three possible candidates – Ballycotton (directly facing the Bristol Channel, Aghada, the first seat of Robert FitzStephen in Cork and just inside the entrance to Cork Harbour, and Ballinacorra. The first, Ballycotton, presents problems, because it does not seem to have been a major port with the appropriate facilities for offloading heavy cargo. By the time the cathedral was built in Cloyne, Ballycotton seems to have become a fishing village only. Aghada was only used as a caput baroniae (baronial seat) for a short period in the late twelfth century, by 1200 it had been replaced by Ballinacorra. Ballinacorra is much further from the open sea than Aghada, being part of the inner harbour area and possessed ancient links to Cloyne – its ‘great church’ was dedicated to St Colman, suggesting that it was founded directly from Cloyne, probably as a port within Cork Harbour. The present Ballinacorra village is located just a few miles from Cloyne and the terrain is not difficult, so getting shipments of Dundry stone to the cathedral site would have been relatively easy. Remember, only the cut stone was being shipped in – this was a very small amount of the overall amount of stone used in the cathedral. My own opinion, alas not supported by any documentary evidence, is that the Dundry stone for Cloyne came through the port of Ballinacorra.

Sadly, in the middle of the eighteenth century the Longfield family of nearby Castle Mary had the great thirteenth century five light window in the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral crudely blocked up to provide space for their family memorials.

(Note: I exclude Youghal from the above list of ports because it was really only established in the early thirteenth century.)

Reference:Roger Stalley, editior, Irish Gothic Architecture: construction, decay and reinvention. Wordwell Press, Dublin 2012. The quotation at the head of this post is is from the essay by Roger Stalley: ‘Cathedral-building in thirteenth century Ireland,’ contained within the volume. .