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. .

Advertisements

William Cosgrave VC and Aghada’s Gallipoli commemoration.

Gallipoli commemoration

Commemoration of the Turkish war dead at Gallipoli on 24th April 2015. From left to right are: Prince Harry (in uniform), President Higgins of Ireland, President Erdogan of Turkey, Prince Charles (in uniform).

Political correctness Irish style dates from 1922, and can be summed up in the following statement: ‘whatever you say, never say anything good about the British, or about the Irish who fought for the British – indeed it’s better to forget the latter altogether!’ Happily these men who joined the Royal Army and the Royal Navy between 1914 and 1918 are now being openly acknowledged – as they were today when President Michael D Higgins joined representatives of the Turkish, British, Australian, and New Zealand governments in the first part of the international centenary commemorations on the Gallipoli peninsula. Today they recalled the huge sacrifice of the Turkish troops who were defending their homeland. Tomorrow (Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand) they will commemorate the Allied dead.

William Cosgrove VC

Corporal William Cosgrove VC, 1st Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers.

William Cosgrove was one of seven children born into a poor family in Ballynookera near the small village of Aghada on the eastern shore of Cork Harbour.  William’s father, Michael Cosgrove, even journeyed to Australia in search of work (I knew there had to be an Australian connection in this tale)! Thus William and his siblings were left in the care of their mother Mary Morrissey. Mary moved to a small cottage in the townland of Peafield with her children Michael, Daniel,Ned, David, Joseph and daughter Mary Catherine and young William. All the boys, except Joseph and William, later emigrated to America.  The daughter, Mary Catherine, died of tuberculosis at the age of thirteen.

Aghada

The old tower of St Erasmus’s church in Aghada is all that is left of a building that Cosgrove knew. The present church is a modern replacement.

William Cosgrove attended National School (primary school) at Ballinrostig, but as soon as he was old enough, his mother apprenticed him to a local butcher in Whitegate called Rohan. This proved fortuitous for Mr Rohan had a contract to supply meat to the garrison at the nearby Fort Carlisle which protected the entrance to Cork Harbour.  As an apprentice, William had to deliver the meat to the fort by horse and cart. What he saw of the garrison turned William Cosgrove’s mind towards a military career, and  on 1 March 1909, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.  Strictly speaking, William was under age and shouldn’t have been admitted into the Royal Army, but his strapping build and six foot height suggested that he would pass for somebody older.

Royal Munsters cap badge

Despite being an ‘Irish’ regiment, the cap badge of the Royal Munster Fusiliers displayed a Bengal Tiger. Tigers are not native to Ireland – but the emblem commemorated the fact that the regiment originated with the East India Company’s Army.

In the following four years, William Cosgrove was posted to India and Burma. This was an appropriate posting since the Royal Munster Fusiliers had developed from the East India Company’s Army, featuring a Bengal tiger on their cap badge. However, while William’s battalion was in Rangoon in August 1914, the Great War broke out in Europe, and it changed everything. The battalion was ordered back to Europe, departing from Rangoon on 21 November and arriving in England on 10 January 1915, where it was posted to Coventry. On 13 January the British Cabinet approved a naval plan to bombard the Gallipoli Peninsula with Constantinople as the ultimate objective of the operation, thereby opening a route to send supplies to Russia. This plan was enlarged on 28th January when it was decided to include the Royal Army in the operation.

King George V inspects the 29th Division in March 1915 just before they embarked for Gallipoli.

King George V inspects the 29th Division in March 1915 just before it embarked for Gallipoli.

In March 1915, the 1st Munsters were assigned to the 29th Division, a new division formed from units that had been on garrison duty throughout the Empire. Among the other units assigned to the 86th Brigade of the 29th Division was the 1st Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The 87th Brigade included the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, while the 88th Brigade had the 2nd Battalion The Leinster Regiment.  As you can see, quite a number of Irish regiments were called up for the Gallipoli campaign – not counting the Irishmen who had enlisted in the English, Welsh and Scottish regiments.

The converted collier River Clyde beached too far from the shore making a rapid advance on the beach impossible. Hundreds of men were cut down as they disembarked at V Beach.

The converted collier River Clyde beached too far from the shore making a rapid advance on the beach impossible. Hundreds of men were cut down as they disembarked at V Beach.

The 86th Brigade, including the 1st Munsters were assigned to attack V beach on 25 March. Some 2000 men of the Munsters, Royal Dublin and Hampshire regiments were aboard the converted collier HMS River Clyde when it beached at 6.25 am. Unfortunately, ‘beached’ is the wrong word to describe what actually happened – the vessel grounded too far from the shore and the men who were burdened with 60lb packs were subject to ferocious Turkish fire as they disembarked.  Of the first 200 men to enter the water to wade ashore, some 149 were killed outright and 30 were wounded.. Those troops who had come from the slaughter on the Western Front claimed that the fire on V beach was even worse than anything they had experienced from the Germans!

William Cosgrove, by now a corporal, was one of the men from the 1st Munsters to disembark on V beach that day. However, the savage defence left units cut up and the men of the 86th Brigade were too shocked and exhausted to do anything, so they dug in and lay down for the rest of the day. By nightfall, out of that morning’s compliment of 900 men and 28 officers of the Munsters, there were only 300 men and 6 officers alive! Cosgrove’s heroics would come on the next day, but for now he took cover with his colleagues behind a sandbank just ten yards from the shoreline.

Fort Seddulbahir was a prime objective for the forces landing on V Beach and W Beach at Gallipoli.

Fort Seddulbahir was a prime objective for the forces landing on V Beach and W Beach at Gallipoli.

Lt Col Doughty-Wylie came ashore on the morning of the 26th to assess the situation, and gathering what men he could into ad-hoc units, he decided to launch them into an attack on a crucial Turkish strongpoint at Seddulbahir. This seems like suicide to the modern reader, but anyone who saw the movie Saving Private Ryan’would realise that getting off the beach was the key to survival when under enemy fire. By 8.00 am the first Turkish outposts had fallen, but now a problem presented itself – barbed wire.

Barbed wire was a very effective barrier to attacks, holding up men who could then be mown down by machine guns. Even low fences of barbed wire presented serious obstacles.

Barbed wire was a very effective barrier to attacks, holding up men who could then be mown down by machine guns. Even low fences of barbed wire presented serious obstacles.

The use of barbed wire during the Great War was not simply the use of coils of wire stretching across a front. It was more systematic than that – and the Germans were particularly good at it.  It’s important to recall that the Germans had been brought in to modernise and train the Turkish army, and the commander of the Turkish forces at Gallipoli was a German officer – Liman von Sanders.  At Gallipoli the barbed wire was stretched across the front on tall stout posts and was so strong and full of barbs that it presented a truly effective barrier to the attacker.  And the beauty of barbed wire for the defender was that a machine gun could simply fire through it and slaughter the men who’d stopped to cut it.

Otto Liman von Sanders commanded the Turkish troops at Gallipoli.  He was originally assigned to train the Turks in modern warfare - and proved very good at it!

Otto Liman von Sanders, a German officer, commanded the Turkish troops at Gallipoli. He was originally assigned to train the Turks in modern warfare – and proved very good at it!

Doughty-Wylie’s attack had taken most of the village of Seddulbahir but now his advance needed support to take Hill 141. Captain Stoney of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers brought his scratch unit, including Cpl William Cosgrove, into this attack. The first task they had to do when they advanced was to cut the wire – and the men were equipped with pliers to do the job. But Cosgrove discovered that the wire was so tightly strung and so strong that the pliers made no impression. Worse, tightly strung wire was deadly for it could whip back and cause an injury.

An artist's sketch of William Cosgrove's heroic  removal of the barbed wire stanchions whilst under fire.

An artist’s sketch of William Cosgrove’s heroic removal of the barbed wire stanchions whilst under fire. Note the tropical helmets the men are wearing.

Realizing the problem Corporal Cosgrove called out to the men to wrap their arms around the stakes and pull them up. And this is what they proceeded to do, all the while under savage fire. Eventually enough barbed wire was felled to allow the attack to carry forward. Cosgrove and his men took a Turkish trench some 200 yards long by 20 yards deep and only 700 yards from the shore.

At some point during this attack Cosgrove was wounded – but he didn’t realise ihow badly hurt he was until they had taken the Turkish trench.  Cosgrove claimed that a machine gun had opened fire at him, with one of the bullets hitting a bbelt hook on the left side of his tunic and passing trhough his body. The bullet actually nicked his spine knocking splinters of bone of his backbone and passing out the other side of his torso to knock off his other belt hook!

A professional soldier, William Cosgrove did not hold his Turkish opponents in contempt, rather he had a very high regard for their fighting spirit, as he later wrote:’ ….I am sorry that such decent fighting men were brought into the row ….by the Germans.

Cosgrove was evacuated to the military hospital in Malta, where he underwent two operations to remove the splinters from his body. Meanwhile, four days after his feat, Cosgrove’s actions were reported to his commanding officer by 2nd Lt AH Brown of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.  Brown was only one of the witnesses to Cosgrove’s heroics, but his report formed the basis of the award of the Victoria Cross to the ‘Giant Munster’. William Cosgrove was convalescing in Aghada, probably in Fort Carlisle, when he learned that he was to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Victoria Cross

The citation for the award to Corporal William Cosgrove read:

For most conspicuous bravery in the leading of his section with great dash during our attack from the beach to the east of Cape Helles on the Turkish positions, on April 26th 1915.  Cpl Cosgrove, on this occasion, pulled down the posts of the enemy’s high-wire entanglement single-handed, notwithstanding a terrific fire from both front and flanks, thereby greatly contributing to the successful clearing of the Heights.

The 29th Division suffered 94,000 casualties during the Great War, Gallipoli alone accounting for 34,000 of these, and some twenty-seven of its men were awarded the Victoria Cross – hence their nickname the Incomparables.

William Cosgrove continued to serve in the Royal Army for another nineteen years, transferring to the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers after the Royal Munster Fusiliers were disbanded in 1922. On retiring from the army in 1934, Cosgrove’s health deteriorated rapidly – some fragments of bone from his spine had not been detected and removed at Malta and had been slowly killing him for years!

An arial view of the entrance to Cork Harbour.  On the left (west) is Fort Camden - now a public amenity undergoing restoration. On the right (east) is Fort Davis, formerly Fort Carlisle, to which William Cosgrove delivered the meat ration before he enlisted in 1909.

A satellite view of the fortified entrance to Cork Harbour. On the left (west) is Fort Camden – now a public amenity undergoing restoration. On the right (east) is Fort Davis, formerly Fort Carlisle, to which William Cosgrove delivered the meat ration before he enlisted in 1909. The harbour is at the top of the picture (north) and the open sea is at the bottom (south).   Aghada and Whitegate villages are out of picture on the upper right.

William Cosgrove died at Millbank Military Hospital on 14 July 1936.  His body was brought home to Cork aboard the old SS Innisfallen on 17 July and he was interred Aghada that evening. Some three hundred members of the Munster Fusiliers Old Comrades Association formed a guard of honour as his body was taken from the ship and a large crowd attended the burial. It should be remembered that the nearby Fort Carlisle was still a British military post.  In 1938 a public appeal raised funds to allow a large Celtic cross to be erected over Cosgrove’s grave.

William Cosgrove's grave is marked by this large Celtic Cross erected in 1938.

William Cosgrove’s grave is marked by this large Celtic Cross erected in 1938.

This Sunday (26th April), the little village of Aghada on the eastern shore of Cork Harbour will commemorate the centenary of William Cosgrove’s heroic action under fire at Gallipoli.  There will be a special Memorial Mass in the local church and a special exhibition about William Cosgrove in the Community Hall. Not quite Anzac Day in East Cork…more like Gallipoli Day.

The Great War in East Cork Remembered

It may seem odd to refer to sites of the Great War (World War 1) in East Cork.  But, in fact we have four such sites in these parts.  The first is the great basin of Cork Harbour which sheltered the Royal Navy and US Navy flotillas protecting the Western Approaches.   Then there is the site of the US Naval Air Station at Aghada – now Aghada Tennis Club (although one building appears to have been moved bodily into Midleton!).

US Naval Air Station Gate Piers, Aghada.

Aghada’s US Naval Air Station gate piers. The inscription on the gate piers is original. It reads US Naval Air Base. Built by Irish contractors and dismantled after the Great War.

Then there is the Royal Navy’s unfinished Airship Station at Ballyquirke between Mogeely and Killeagh – the concrete water tower is the most striking landmark there.

Ballyquirke Water Tower

Water Tower at the site of the Royal Navy’s unfinished Airship Station in Ballyquirke. Had the British followed the American lead in hiring irish building contractors, the base might have been finished before the end of the Great War.

Finally there is Old Church Cemetery in Cobh (the former Queenstown) where nearly 200 victims of the RMS Lusitania were buried.  Altogether some 200 men from East Cork died in the war.  I recall an elderly neighbour telling me ago that he recalled TWO explosions aboard the Lusitania – he was a little boy in West Cork when he witnessed the tragedy.  In fact, he told me this several years before the more recent controversies emerged about the Lusitania’s cargo.

open-grave-lusitania

Mass burial of victims of the Lusitania in Old Church Cemetery in Queenstown (now Cobh), May 1916.

Tonight in Carrigtwohill the local historical society will present an exhibition and two lectures under the common title World War I Remembered.  Gerry White of the Western front Association (Cork Branch) and Marie Fitzgerald will both speak. Gerry will give a general overview of the effects of the war on the men at the front and on the communities at home.  Marie will recall her grandfather Daniel Fitzgerald who was a stoker on HMS Tiger during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, and happily survived the war.