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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C

Why was this medieval Roscommon village abandoned centuries ago?

Heritage Week kicks off today, and a talk in Kilkenny on the abandoned medieval village of Rindoon is just one great example of what’s on.

Church with Castle in background Liam Mannix Liam Mannix

RINDOON IS LOCATED on a peninsula jutting out onto Lough Ree, Co Roscommon, and for the past few centuries, it’s been abandoned.

But recently, efforts have been made to conserve the settlement and open it up to the public for a very good reason: it’s probably the “most impressive” abandoned medieval town in either Ireland or the UK.

Liam Mannix, who’s a project manager at the Irish Walled Towns Network, will give a lecture in Kilkenny city next Monday on the revival of the village and why it was abandoned.

He’ll discuss what remains at the site now, what life was like when it was inhabited, why was it remains intact, and why it’s worth conserving.

So what’s the story of Rindoon?

BIL_0264 Irish Air Corps An aerial view of the deserted peninsula. Irish Air Corps

Built in the first half of the 13th century, the town was the high water mark in the Anglo-Norman’s conquest of Ireland.

For a while it thrived as a safe harbour for trading on the Shannon, and earmarked as n entrance for further colonisation into Connaught by the Anglo-Normans.

But a Gaelic resurgence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries the town was sacked and later completely abandoned since (apart from a few years during the Elizabethan period).

It’s this lack of later development that has preserved  Rindoon in it’s current state.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Liam Mannix Rindoon wood, planted as a 'play area' for activities like deer-hunting. Liam Mannix

Why was it abandoned?

It was effectively bypassed,” Mannix tells

“It had been used later on as farmland – cattle were put on it during the Elizabethan period.”

Right now, the peninsula is walled off and a 4.5km looped walk brings you through to the castle, a parish church, a mill, a medieval hospital and what Mannix calls “impressive” jetties.

The hospital was more of a hospice or a social welfare system for the medieval period. The sick or orphans went to abbeys for help as they had charitable aims.

“If you were travelling from one part of the country to the other.

Most people were dead in their 30s – one in ten people lived until 50. So if you survived after a hospice, great. But if you didn’t get better, these were a less awful way to die.

Town Wall pre conservation Liam Mannix Liam Mannix

Recently, archaeologists and heritage experts have also been surveying the area and finding out more about it: “…importance of trade in the area, the different orders of monks, for example. There’s still a lot of details we don’t know.”

Mannix says that they’re lucky that locals are eager to work with conservation experts and authorities to preserve the site, and that the local land owner is supportive of the extensive conservation work that needs to take place on the site.

This will allow them to use things like a “ground penetrating radar”, which identifies street patterns that indicates the layouts of old civilisations, indicating if or where events like markets were held.

Town walls Liam Mannix Liam Mannix

The site has been conserved and opened up to the public. It went from almost no visitors a year to 8,000 last year.

“Stuff you wouldn’t think is archaeology that is archaeology like fish ponds, medieval woods that were the private play area to hunt deer, are clearly marked for visitors so they know what happened there,” Mannix says.

He says that this isn’t the only abandoned village in Ireland – it’s simply the best preserved.

There’s a whole network of abandoned villages across Ireland. In a way, the structures built in the boom and abandoned in the bust is mirrored in medieval period.

“Lords came over from Britain speculating that people would come over and make new lives for themselves.

“Places like Newtown and Jerpoint were abandoned after the Black Death and the decline of Anglo-Norman power, but the best and most impressive of these is Rindoon.”

There’s a host of heritage-related activities planned across the country over the next week. Find out more about what’s happening for Heritage Week here.

Read: These new pics show what the controversial Hell Fire Club visitor centre would look like

Read: 7 Irish heritage sites to visit now that kids can go for free

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