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ecclesiastic, much less to any great Prelate, whose economic sense and bump of caution are, as a rule, pretty fully developed, and would therefore make him slow to start a building intended merely as an hospital and build it in such an extravagant style as the Priory.
Having thought out the subject very carefully, I would venture to give the credit of this foundation, not to any ecclesiastic, but to Walter De Lacy, who lived in the Castle of Trim (King John's Castle), and who not merely inherited his father's property in Meath but also his taste for castle building. When Hugh De Lacy obtained the grant from Henry II of the rich palatinate of Meath, he forthwith began to build castles all over his vast territory, the last one at Durrow, King's Co., where he met his tragic death in 1186. His two sons, Walter and Hugh, became his heirs-Walter falling in for Meath, and Hugh for Ulster and Connaught. For one reason or another both became very jealous of De Courcy, their formidable rival, and never lost an opportunity of supplanting him, till at length they compassed his death. On hearing of the advent of King John to Ireland in 1210, and of his visit to Trim, fixed for the 2nd and 3rd of July in that year, they became alarmed, and fearing to face the King and answer the charges of the murder of De Courcy and other crimes alleged against them, fled precipitately to France. Whilst there they concealed their identity.
In the Book of Howth, an ancient authority on these subjects, we are told how in France they obscured themselves in the Abbey of St. Taurin, Evreux, Normandy, and gave themselves up to manual labour as digging, delving, gardening, planting, and greffing, for daily wages, for the space of two or three years. The Abbot was well pleased with their service and upon a day, whether it was by some inkling or secret intelligence given him or otherwise, demanded of them what birth and parentage they were and what country they came from? When they had acquainted him with the whole he bemoaned their case, and undertook to become a suitor with the King for them. In short, he obtained the King's favour for them thus far, that they were put to their fine, and restored to their former possessions, so that Walter De Lacy paid for the Lordship of Meath 2,508 marks, and Hugh, his brother, for Ulster and Connaught, a large sum.
Walter never forgot the hospitality he received in the Monastery of St. Taurin, and brought many of the monks into Ireland and gave them farms of land and great entertainments in Foure 'the which Walter De Lacy had formerly builded.'1 Furthermore, in remembrance of the kindness
1 Trim Castle, p. 22, note by Pembridge in Camden: In 1218 the Abbey of St. Fechins of Foure was made a cell of the Benedictine Abbey, St. Taurin, Evreux, Normandy, and this continued till the 27th Henry VI, when the authority of the Abbot of St. Taurin was abrogated by Act of Parliament; from thence the monks of Foure had power to elect their own Prior.'
of the Abbot he took his nephew (his brother's son) with him, one Alured, whom he knighted and made the 'Lord of the_Dengle.' 1
It was about this time (1216-17) that Walter De Lacy, in gratitude to God for his restoration to his former possessions and in reparation for the crimes of which he had been guilty, founded the' Priory of St. John's, Trim, and, when finished, handed it over as a free gift to the ecclesiastical authorities for the benefit of the sick poor of Trim and of the adjoining parishes of that part of the Co. Meath. Simon Rochfort, the then ruling Bishop of Meath, lost no time in requisitioning the services of the Crutched Friars, and asked them to take charge of the Hospital, and to carry out to the letter the intentions of its princely founder. These friars were then a well-known religious community. They claim to have been established at an early period in the East, and to have taken part in the Crusades, in looking after the sick and fever-stricken in the camp, and the wounded on the field of battle. They came subsequently into Italy and there established 208 houses, extending over five provinces-Bologna, Venice, Rome, Milan, and Naples; and finally found their way into Ireland. In a back number of the I. E. RECORD, I happened to see a list of the religious foundations in New Ross, the first being that of the Crossed or Crutched Friars, so called from the staff they carried in their hands which was surmounted by a Cross, and also from the fact that a Cross of red cloth was embroidered on their habit, as a distinctive badge of their Order. It was the establishment of this house in New Ross (circa 1195), which gave its name to a street in that town, still known as Priory Street. These were the men into whose hands Simon Rochfort committed the care of St. John's Priory. Under their management it soon became the one great central Hospital of the Midlands, and received moral and financial support, not merely from local sources, but also (as we shall see) from substantial subsidies of land and other forms of property granted for its upkeep by several Acts of Parliament. For over three centuries it carried on its
Ware's Annals, quoted in Trim Castle, p. 23. Orpen, in his work Ireland under the Normans, vol. ii. p. 258, expresses the view that though most of the details of this story can be shown to be apocryphal, it is not improbable that the De Lacys did actually seek shelter and hospitality from the monks of St. Taurin at Evreux.
2 Cath. Encyc., vol iv.
3 I. E. RECORD, Fourth Series (1900), vol. viii. p. 244.
philanthropic work amongst the sick poor, till the memorable day, July 16, 1539 (31st of Henry VIII), when the Commissioners of the King came to demand possession of the Priory and of everything belonging to it. Armed with the King's writ there was no course open to the Prior except to hand up the keys, and put his name to a document which, strange to say, was styled a deed of voluntary surrender. If it could be called voluntary at all, it certainly had annexed to it what is styled by theologians, 'involuntarium secundum quid,' somewhat in the same sense as one gives up his purse to a highwayman, who points a loaded pistol at his head. Whatever may be said of the propriety of calling the deed voluntary or involuntary, there can be no doubt of its comprehensiveness. It included every kind of property, down to the smallest article of commercial value, as may be seen from the following detailed schedule:
Containing a church, two towers, an hall, storehouse, kitchen, brewhouse, two granaries, a pigeon-house, and haggard; also messuages, twenty acres of arable land, being part of their demesne on the south side of the Boyne; seventy acres of arable land, twelve of pasture, being part of the said demesne on the north side of the Boyne; and a close, containing an acre of pasture, with three gardens in Newtown, annual value besides reprises, 101s. 4d.; four messuages, six cottages, 120 acres of arable land, and twenty of pasture, with a mill on the river Blackwater, in the town of Clonguffyn, of annual value, besides reprises, £4 16s. ; a castle, six messuages, forty acres of arable land, and forty of pasture, moor, and underwood, in Longwood and Atomodarire, annual value, besides reprises, 52s. 4d.; seven acres of arable land, and three of pasture, in Ballreyn, annual value, besides reprises, 4s. 8d. ; two acres of arable land, with the three Warrenstowns, in the parish of Knockmarke, annual value, besides reprises, 2s. ; two acres of arable land in the townland of Agher, in the aforesaid parish, annual value, besides reprises, 2s. ; twenty acres of arable land in the townland of Trim, annual value, besides reprises, 20s. 8d.; five messuages, three cottages, 160 acres of arable land, three of meadow, and six of pasture, with the appurtenances in Downekennye, annual value, besides reprises, £19 5s. 6d.; one messuage, forty-eight acres of arable land, two of meadow, and two of pasture, in St. John's-town, annual value, besides reprises, 6s. 8d. ; sixteen acres of arable land in Moyhangaye, annual value, besides reprises, 16s. 6d. ; six acres of arable land in Coraghetown, and an annual rent of 7s. 4d., payable out of the lands of Thomas Plunkett, of Rathmore, Christopher Plunkett, Jun., Richard Proudefote, Nicholas Ford, &c., annual value, besides reprises, 13s. 4d. ; twenty acres of arable land in Richardstown, annual value, besides reprises, 20s.; also one messuage with a garden in the town of Inche, annual value, besides reprises, 48.; and thirty acres of arable land in Moher, near Kells, annual value, besides reprises, 20s.; with the following rectories appropriated to the said Prior and his successors :-Tillanoge, and the appurtenances, annual value, besides reprises, £10 13s. 4d.; and Fennor, with the appurtenances, annual value, besides reprises, £6 13s. 4d.
It is a great pity that the books giving a full account of the institute are not forthcoming. They would tell us the amount of good done daily in the Hospital, the average number of beds available for intern patients, and the vast number of extern patients who came for casual medical and surgical treatment, and other very interesting particulars. They would reveal also the cruel hardship inflicted on the sick poor by closing against them the doors of an institute established and endowed for their benefit, and, furthermore, the iniquity of appropriating their property and applying it for purposes altogether alien to the intentions of the original beneficiaries. There are, however, a few important items which have survived the wreck, and are for many reasons well worthy of being kept in perpetual remembrance: 'A.D. 1281. Walter, the son of Alured the younger, granted to this house an annual rent of 40s. out of the Manor of Magathreth, in this County, in pure and perpetual alms.' Taking the different relative values of money now and then, 40s. at that time was a substantial sum, especially when given yearly. The donor (Walter) was a direct descendant of Alured, nephew of the Abbot of St. Taurin, Evreux, Normandy, whom De Lacy brought over with him to Ireland, and to whom he gave a large estate in the heart of Meath together with the honour of knighthood, as well as making him 'Lord of the Dengle.' If we ask ourselves why this particular Priory was the object of his special beneficence, giving it 40s. yearly in pure and perpetual alms, what answer could be more natural than this: Is there any other institute in the world which had such claims upon his charity as the one built by his best friend and the benefactor of his family, Walter De Lacy? This subscription, to my mind, has an additional value, since it tends to corroborate the opinion I put forward in the beginning of this paper, that the credit of founding St. John's Priory belongs of right to Walter De Lacy.
1395-18th Richard II. The King permits the Prior and Convent of the house or hospital of St. John of Newtown, near Trim, to acquire in perpetuity the advowson of parishes not exceeding £10, according to their taxation, and six carucates of arable land not held in capite. He also confirms them in all their possessions in Ireland. Dublin, 24th of March.
1427. John Pakkere was Prior. Edmund, fourth brother to Sir Bartholomew Dillon, who was made Chief Baron of
the Exchequer in 1513, was Prior of Newtown and Luske. The Prior of this house paid every year half a marc proxies to the Bishop of Meath. This sum may seem small, but it is important, as showing the Priory was subject to the jurisdiction of the Ordinary of the place, the Bishop of Meath.
Laurence White was the last Prior, the same one who surrendered this house and its possessions to the Commissioners of the King, Henry VIII. Two days afterwards we find the following entry :
July 18-31 Henry VIII.-Fiant for grant of the following yearly pensions :-£10 to Laurence Whyte, late Prior of St. John's, Newtown, near Trim; and 268. 8d. to Patrick Dongan, issuing out of the profits of the rectories of Finnowr and Tollanaghoge.
Although the eviction of the friars from their peaceful home at Newtown closed the last chapter in the history of the Priory as a hospital, it did not put an end to the material buildings, for soon after the surrender of the house Sir Robert Dillon got a grant of it from the King and let it at a yearly rent to a family named Ashe. This family held a high position in society, and their names figure amongst the gentry as Town Commissioners and also as Members of Parliament for the Trim borough. During their residence at St. John's, as they still continued to call it, they effected many changes in the entire premises, in the interior and exterior of the principal building, which they desired to make as suitable as possible for all domestic purposes, and to give it the appearance of a purely secular edifice.' find, for instance, on the front two semicircular arched gateways, 18 feet wide and 13 feet high, which could not be used for any practical purpose, as a transverse vault of stone lies immediately behind them, but were put there solely to relieve the monotony of so much dead stone-work, and to give lightness and variety to the appearance of the west front, which faces the public road. In the course of time the Ashe family died out, and when the house ceased to be inhabited the premises soon fell into decay. With the roof off, wind and weather played havoc with the entire building, and left it in the sad state of decay in which we now find it. I have seen some time ago a curious old tombstone in the chancel of old St. Patrick's, Trim, erected to the memory of some of the Ashe family, the last of those who
1 Alfred Conwell, A Ramble Round Trim.