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					Inch Abbey
Information for Teachers
www.ni-environment.gov.uk         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                                         Inch Abbey
                            Information for Teachers
www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                   Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                            Contents
                            The Site                                                      2


                            Historical Background                                         3

                              The Pre-Norman Church                                       3

                              The Foundation of the Abbey                                 3

                              The Cistercian Order                                        4

                              The Divine Offices                                          5

                              The Decline of the Abbey                                    5


                            A tour of the Abbey buildings                                 6


                            The Parish Graveyard                                          14


                            Glossary                                                      15


                            Educational Approaches                                        16

                              Preparing for a visit                                       16

                              History                                                     16


                            Cross-Curricular Acitivites                                   17

                              English                                                     17

                              Art & Design                                                17

                              Travel and Tourism                                          18

                              Geography                                                   18

                              How to get there                                            18

                              Further reading                                             18


                            Notes                                                         19




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                  www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         The Site
Historical information




                         Set in beautiful surroundings by the River Quoile, Inch Abbey is one of
                         a cluster of Anglo-Norman monuments in the South Down area. The
                         monastery takes its name from the Irish word inis – meaning island –
                         revealing that the site was not always as accessible as it is today. The island is
                         made up of a row of low, rounded glacial hills (drumlins) and the abbey lies
                         in the hollow between two of the hills. It is bounded to the south by the river
                         Quoile and to the north by marshland. The latter is crossed by a causeway,
                         following the present approach lane. It is close to the river, within sight of
                         Downpatrick Cathedral and the great Mound of Down in the marshes across
                         the Quoile. The island site ensured a degree of seclusion and today preserves
                         something of the peace and independence sought by the Cistercians, away
                         from the bustle and distractions of everyday life.




                           Location of Inch Abbey ruins




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                  Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                            Historical Background




                                                                                                                 Historical information
                            The Pre-Norman Church
                            The early name for the island was Inis Cumhscraigh and there was certainly
                            a church or monastery there by 800 A.D. MoBíu of Inis Cumhscraigh was
                            listed at 22 July in a calendar of saints written in about 800. We know almost
                            nothing about this early foundation but can reasonably imagine a settlement
                            with wooden churches, wattled and thatched cells and other buildings,
                            gardens, orchards and agricultural land. In 1001 monasteries at Kilclief and
                            Inch were plundered by Vikings and many prisoners were carried off. Inch,
                            together with other churches in the area, was plundered again in 1149.
                            We do not know exactly what the nature of the occupation was in the mid
                            12th century, whether monastic life survived, or only a church, or simply an
                            ecclesiastical estate. But it seems likely that there was a church here when
                            the Anglo-Normans invaded Ulster in 1177.




                             Reconstruction of Devenish Monastery, Pre-Norman



                            The Foundation of the Abbey
                            From the time of the invasion onwards we know more about the site’s history.
                            During warfare in Lecale, the Anglo-Norman adventurer John de Courcy
                            destroyed the abbey at Erenagh, South of Downpatrick, and in atonement he
                            founded a Cistercian abbey at Inch in 1180 or, according to another source,
                            1187-8. The Cistercians (White Monks) were followers of a strict, reformed
                            Benedictine-based rule, established in late 11th century France and brought
                            to Ireland by St Malachy. Mellifont (1142) was the first Irish foundation and
                            it served as mother house to many others, including Newry (1153), but Inch,
                            like Grey Abbey (founded by John de Courcy’s wife), was colonised from a
                            north British abbey, Furness in Lancashire.




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                           www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         The Cistercian Order
Historical information




                         The Cistercian Order was founded in the 1098 by St. Robert, abbot of
                         Molesme, in Cîteaux [Cistercium], France. Its followers were concerned at a
                         decline in monastic standards and demanded a more strict observance of
                         the Rule of St Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order. The black habit
                         of the Benedictines was changed to unbleached white and the Cistercians
                         became known as White Monks. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090?–1153) is
                         often regarded as their “second founder,” and his life and writings became the
                         guiding influence of the order. The order spread rapidly throughout Europe,
                         especially during St. Bernard’s lifetime, and at the close of the 12th century
                         there were 530 Cistercian abbeys.

                         The Cistercian way of life placed great stress on solitude and isolation.
                         Cistercian monasteries were thus often founded far away from towns and
                         villages. In Downpatrick the Benedictine Monastery stood in the centre
                         of the town, on the site of the present Church of Ireland Cathedral, while
                         the Cistercian Monastery is separated from the people by the River Quoile.
                         Monks were required to give up all personal property and live together with
                         their fellow monks, cutting all ties with their families. They all dressed alike,
                         ate a largely vegetarian diet and slept in dormitories. They followed their
                         abbot unquestioningly and were taught that “idleness is the enemy of the            Choir monk at work
                         soul”. Thus every hour of the day was planned with a balance struck between
                         prayer, meditation and manual work.

                         The Cistercians considered farming the chief occupation for monks and
                         led Europe in the development of new agricultural techniques. (In England
                         the Cistercians were important in wool production.) Unlike some orders
                         such as the Cluniacs, who employed serfs, Cistercian monks were required
                         to work the land with their own hands. In practice there was division in
                         labour between choir monks, who attended services seven times a day and
                         devoted time to meditation and study, and the lay brothers who did most of
                         the manual labour. Lay brothers also took vows but were treated as a lower
                         order. They did not receive the same education as choir monks and were only
                         required to attend two services per day. They worshipped at their own altar
                         in the nave of the church, separated from the chancel by a wooden screen,
                         and lived in separate buildings usually found in the west range of the cloister.
                         No evidence of this west range remains at Inch, possibly because the lay
                         brothers were housed in wooden buildings which have left no trace.

                         Although Cistercian monks had no personal property a successful monastery
                         needed to obtain grants of land from lay benefactors, such as John de
                         Courcy, to be able to support the community. Rules were agreed to govern            Lay brother at work
                         the internal affairs of each monastery and the Cistercian Order as a whole
                         was regulated by statutes produced at Cîteaux in Burgundy, the mother
                         house of the Order.




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                  Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                            The Divine Offices




                                                                                                                 Historical information
                            These were the services held throughout the day and night. Times varied
                            according to the seasons, with, for example, daybreak offices much earlier
                            during the summer months. There were seven services during the day, plus
                            Vigils at night.

                             Daybreak                            Lauds
                             Sunrise                             Prime
                             Mid Morning                         Terce
                             Midday                              Sext
                             Mid Afternoon                       None
                             Dusk                                Vespers
                             Before retiring to bed              Compline
                             Vigils                              Vigils


                            The Decline of the Abbey
                            Inch was a distinctively Anglo-Norman, rather than Gaelic/Irish, foundation
                            in conquered east Ulster. Its role as a centre of English influence is
                            demonstrated by the fact that in 1380 Irishmen were barred from entering
                            the community. This decision seems unusual as it came at a time when
                            monasteries were having difficulty recruiting both full and lay brothers.
                            The Black Death, which first appeared in Ireland in 1348, had killed many
                            potential recruits and the subsequent labour shortages and changes in land
                            ownership made a monastic life less attractive.

                            It appears that by the onset of the15th century Inch Abbey was in a slow
                            decline. The abbey was burned in 1404, and it seems that the subsequent
                            repairs led to a reduction in the size of the church, an indication, perhaps,
                            both of declining numbers and a lack of confidence in the future of the
                            abbey. However it was Henry VIII’s Reformation, not declining numbers that
                            brought an end to monastic life at Inch. In 1542 the Abbey was formally
                            dissolved and much of its property auctioned. It then passed through several
                            hands before settling with the Perceval Maxwell family. Nineteenth-century
                            illustrations show the ruins ivy-covered and buried deep in fallen rubble.
                            The Perceval Maxwell family undertook some repairs but in 1910 placed the
                            ruins in State Care, since when much clearance and conservation has been
                            done. A larger area embracing most of the medieval precinct was acquired
                            in 1980.




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers   www.ni-environment.gov.uk
Historical information




                          Inch Abbey map




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                    Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                            A tour of the Abbey buildings




                                                                                                                   Historical information
                            It is best to start a school visit at the bench by the path leading to the abbey.
                            This is an ideal position to consider the site and situation of the abbey.
                            If pupils are asked to stand quietly, the tranquillity of the site is clear.
                            Its past island status can be explained and the reasons for this desire for
                            distance from society discussed.

                            From this point it is possible to see the earthwork enclosure (1) of the original
                            monastic precinct. It forms a raised bank at the tree line running behind
                            the abbey, and goes past the graveyard before turning south along the hill
                            above the bench. The original Celtic monastery, Inis Cumhscraigh, was even
                            larger than this, extending north of the graveyard. Consideration of these
                            features emphasises to the pupils that the history of monasticism at Inch
                            predates the now ruined abbey and allows explanation of de Courcy’s role in
                            its foundation.

                            The boggy hollow in front of the path is the remains of a fish pond (2).
                            This gave the monks of the abbey a permanent and easily accessible supply
                            of fresh fish, and demonstrates the self sufficiency of a Cistercian monastic
                            settlement. It may also be possible to view the shadow of the stream which
                            led from the pond to the abbey. This runs under the church itself to the
                            cloister area, providing monks first with fresh water and in due course acting
                            as a flush for their latrines.

                            From here proceed to the church. The western parts of the church and the
                            whole cloister are badly ruined and our reconstruction drawing shows how
                            the buildings may have looked from the west in about 1300. The nave (3) of
                            the cruciform church was aisled in five bays, but the arcade bases are ruined
                            and partly restored in concrete. In Cistercian churches the nave was used
                            by lay brothers, who did the manual and agricultural work of the abbey but
                            were kept strictly separated from the monks. The eastern parts of the church
                            were divided off by screens, placed around where the second doorway, a
                            later addition, now stands. These areas were reserved for the monks.




                             Reconstruction of a Cistercian nave




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                 www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         The crossing (4) and first bay of the nave were originally occupied by the
Historical information




                         wooden stalls of the monks’ choir, and the chancel or presbytery (5) was
                         reserved for the serving priests. In the south wall are triple sedilia, seats for
                         clergy, and a piscina for washing service vessels. These have lost dressed
                         stone, perhaps as a result of the post-Reformation auction of abbey property,
                         and have been restored in concrete, like much of the detail in the chancel.
                         In the north wall opposite are two recesses, the larger perhaps a tomb.
                         The high altar stood against the east wall, lit by the tall triple eastern lancet
                         windows and pairs of lancets to north and south. Prominent in the walls are
                         square open putlog holes, a common feature of medieval buildings, which
                         held scaffolding poles for construction and maintenance. The interior of the
                         church would have been plastered, and thus the holes hidden from view.




                          Sedilia in south wall of chancel




                          Piscina for washing vessels




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                   Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                                                                                                                  Historical information
                             Putlog holes in wall of south transept


                            By the 15th century the church appears to have become too large for the
                            dwindling monastic population, and a much smaller area was created by
                            walling off the transepts and first bay of the nave. This remodelling reused an
                            earlier 13th century door in the new west wall (6), moved perhaps from the
                            original west end. The new entrance was provided with a draw-bar, possibly
                            reflecting a need for greater security in a period when English power in Ulster
                            was limited to Carrickfergus.

                            The north transept (7) had two chapels, each stone vaulted with a single
                            east window and small cupboard right of where the altar stood. For special
                            services monks would process between the altars of the church. A door
                            opened north from the transept, perhaps to the monks’ cemetery, and a
                            spiral stair in a tower at the north-west angle led to wall passages, lofts over
                            the chapels and perhaps a central tower. In this transept it is possible to
                             find masons’ marks, distinctive motifs with which medieval masons
                            ‘signed’ their work.




                             The north transept




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                       www.ni-environment.gov.uk
Historical information




                          Spiral staircase in north west tower


                         The south transept (8) is similar but more ruined, and opens into a small
                         vestry (9) where vestments and service equipment were kept. The cloister
                         (10), entered originally from the church’s south aisle, was a secluded area,
                         enclosed by covered walks, with ranges of buildings to east and south.
                         Originally this area would have allowed the monks to study in natural light,
                         with the covered walks providing shelter in wet weather. The arcaded
                         walks have disappeared and the buildings around it are reduced to low-
                         foundations. However, as all Cistercian monasteries followed a similar plan,
                         it is possible to state the past use of each room with confidence.




                          The south transept                                                            Reconstruction of arcaded cloister walk




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                                                                                                               Historical information
                             Chapter house, parlour and vestry


                            Next to the vestry is the chapter house (11). The monks gathered here
                            each morning for a meeting similar to a school assembly. The abbot read
                            a chapter from the Rule of St Benedict, duties for the day ahead were
                            given out, and punishments for misdemeanours administered. This room
                            provides an opportunity to gauge the size of monastic community which
                            the abbey’s architects were planning for. Pupils can be asked to sit around
                            the low ruined wall while the teacher addresses them from the east wall (the
                            abbot’s) position. The number of comfortably seated students gives a rough
                            indication of the number of monks the room could hold. Next to the chapter
                            house is a narrow parlour (12), the only room where conversation was
                            allowed, and a long day-room (13) for indoor work. Above this east range
                            was the monks’ dormitory with a latrine at its south end.




                             Inch Abbey day room (far room)




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         In the south range are remains of the frater or refectory (14) and kitchen (15).
Historical information




                         The refectory is now extensively ruined but its counterpart at Grey Abbey
                         has a small pulpit to the left of the kitchen. Only the foundations of this
                         can be seen at Inch. This illustrates that at meal times monks were required
                         eat in silence, listening to readings from religious texts. The kitchen would
                         have been staffed by lay brothers, with food passed through a hatch to the
                         refectory.




                          Kitchen, now in ruins

                         It was usual for a Cistercian abbey also to have a west range (16) for the
                         lay brothers, but at Inch there is only a boundary wall. Perhaps there were
                         buildings for the lay brothers elsewhere, or perhaps the surviving plan dates
                         from a time when lay brothers were no longer used.

                         West of the kitchen is a well (17) and a bakehouse (18) with two ovens.
                         The immense size of one of the two ovens illustrates the importance of
                         bread in the diet of the monks, and further demonstrates the self sufficiency
                         of the monastery.




                          Abbey well




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                   Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                                                                                                                  Historical information
                             Abbey bakehouse


                            Close to the river to the south is the low rectangular foundation of a building
                            with its entrance towards the river. This is likely to have been a guest house
                            (19) for visitors coming across the river from Downpatrick. It is worth noting
                            that visitors were required to stay away from the abbey itself, in case they
                            proved a distraction for the monks. At this point it is also possible to see the
                            site of the former Benedictine monastery in Downpatrick, now occupied
                            by the Church of Ireland cathedral. This helps to emphasise the different
                            approaches of the two orders, the Cistercians preferring the solitude of Inch
                            to the temptations of the town.




                             Guest house for the abbey




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                              www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         South-east of the east range is a long building (20) with an oven at its south
Historical information




                         end, perhaps an infirmary for the care of sick brothers.




                          The infirmary



                         The Parish Graveyard
                         Inch parish graveyard, opposite the car park, occupies a roughly central
                         position within the pre-Norman enclosure. It seems likely that a church
                         existed on this site when the abbey was founded in the 1180s and continued
                         in use. Cistercians excluded lay folk from their churches but often provided
                         a chapel for them at the edge of the precinct, and a chapel at Inch was
                         assessed separately from the abbey in the 1306 taxation roll. The site was
                         abandoned in 1730, when a new Inch parish church was built in Ballynacraig
                         townland. Early 19th century prints show a ruined church in the graveyard,
                         demolished later in the century.




                          The Parish graveyard




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                      Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                            Glossary:




                                                                                                                     Historical information
                            Abbot: The senior monk of the Abbey

                            Anglo Norman: Normans who lived in England after the Norman Conquest
                            of 1066

                            Arcaded: a range of arches

                            Cruciform: Cross shaped

                            Dressed stone: Cut or carved stone

                            Ecclesiastical: Relating to the church or clergy

                            Infirmary: the abbey hospital.

                            Lancet: a pointed gothic arch.

                            Mother House: An abbey which founded another Cistercian community (its
                            daughter-house) was known as the mother-house.

                            Nave: The main body of a church in which the congregation sits.

                            Piscina: a small stone sink used for washing communion vessels.

                            Precinct: the area within the abbey’s boundary.

                            Sedilia: Seats (usually three) in the chancel, reserved for the use of the
                            officiating clergy.

                            Serfs: a form of bonded labour resembling slavery.

                            Transept: the parts of a cruciform church that cross the nave at right angles

                            Vaulted: having a stone roof

                            Vestments: Clergy robes.

                            Wattled: constructed with a woven wooden wall




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                   www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         EDUCATIONAL APPROACHES
Educational appraoches




                         These educational approaches include some suggested activities for before,
                         during and after a visit. Inch Abbey’s long and complex history, beautiful
                         surroundings and religious significance make it a great place to visit for
                         pupils studying a variety of subjects. KS2 pupils will benefit immensely from
                         the cross-curricular possibilities of the site and teachers of KS3 students are
                         encouraged to consider the educational approaches across all subject areas
                         below.


                         Preparing for a visit
                         Preparation for a visit should include an understanding of:

                         •	        The way of life of a monastic community based on the Rule of St Benedict
                         •	        The layout and function of the church and its associated buildings
                         •	        The sources of revenue to support such an existence (The Cistercian ideal
                                   was to return to self-sufficiency, but gifts of land could be farmed by
                                   lay brothers)
                         •	        The reasons which contributed to the Dissolution of the abbey and the
                                   subsequent demise of the building.

                         To maximise learning opportunities and make full use of your time on site,
                         pupils should practise at school those skills which you would expect them to
                         use on their visit. This will most likely involve:

                         •	        Written work in the form of site descriptions and note-taking
                         •	        Observation – looking for evidence of change
                         •	        Drawing skills – for diagrams or detailed sketches
                         •	        Using a plan
                         •	        Use of measuring, recording or photographic equipment.


                         History
                         Inch Abbey’s place in the Anglo-Norman conquest of East Ulster makes it an
                         ideal site to visit for KS3 pupils studying the Norman Impact on the Medieval
                         World. Ideally a trip to the abbey should be combined with visits to other
                         medieval sites in the area, such as Dundrum and Clough Castles and the
                         Mound of Down, to allow a fuller appreciation of the dramatic impact the
                         conquest had on the area. In addition the abbey’s decline and dissolution
                         serve as a useful introduction to the Reformation study unit of Rivalry and
                         Conflict.

                         Role-play work could involve aspects of the daily routine of the monks such
                         as a meeting in the Chapter House, or an event in the abbey’s history such as
                         its surrender at the time of the Dissolution.

                         One of the best ways of learning about a site is to interpret it for other
                         people. Tell your pupils that they have been asked to produce an audio-tour
                         for tourists. You may wish to specify a particular group– for example children,
                         or visually impaired visitors. Set a time for the audio tour to last – about
                         twenty minutes will probably be a manageable length for your pupils.




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www.ni-environment.gov.uk                                                    Inch Abbey Information for Teachers




                            Ask them to devise a route around the site, linking what they consider to be




                                                                                                                   Educational appraoches
                            the most important features in a logical order. Then ask them to write or tape
                            a few descriptive sentences at each key point. This activity is probably best
                            done in small groups, and can lead to follow-up work in a variety of subject
                            areas. For example, your pupils can edit and record their guide back at school.
                            They might compose music or devise sound effects to enliven the tour.
                            An accompanying leaflet for the audio-tour could be designed and printed.


                            CROSS-CURRICULAR OPPORTUNITIES

                            English
                            The evocative atmosphere of the site can be used as a stimulus for creative
                            writing, poetry and storytelling.

                            A site visit will extend pupils’ vocabulary and refine their descriptive skills,
                            particularly if working in groups. Prior to the visit inform pupils what they will
                            be doing as follow-up work to provide a focus for their investigations on site.

                            Provide a list of words to describe areas of the site such as lonely, peaceful,
                            important, holy, beautiful, dominant, busy or sad. Ask pupils to find where
                            these words would apply.

                            Once they have identified the area you could ask them to analyse why they
                            thought these words were applicable and then think of other words to
                            describe their impressions.

                            Pupils could imagine they were a monk who, having lived in the abbey
                            before its dissolution, has revisited his former home. Ask pupils to describe
                            what he would see, how he would feel and what he would think about the
                            state of such a holy building.


                            Art & Design
                            The site is an ideal subject for observational drawing, and can be used to
                            develop awareness of line, tone, texture, shape, colour, pattern and form.
                            Work of a two or three-dimensional nature using a variety of media can be
                            developed from sketches taken from the site.

                            Rather than expect pupils to produce a panoramic study of the site ask
                            them to focus on individual parts. This can be done by asking pupils to draw
                            through doorways or windows or, failing that, by using viewfinders. Light
                            and shadow can be expressed through silhouettes and lino prints.

                            The association of the abbey with stained glass, illuminated manuscripts
                            and heraldry provides opportunities for other art-based exercises.




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                         Inch Abbey Information for Teachers                                                  www.ni-environment.gov.uk




                         Travel and Tourism
Educational appraoches




                         The site is a popular destination for day-trippers arriving by car, foot and rail.
                         Pupils could be asked to design an advertisement informing people of the
                         attractions of the site and encouraging a visit.


                         Geography
                         The isolation of Inch was a key factor in the choice of site for the Cistercian
                         monks. Pupils could be encouraged to study the site and situation of the
                         abbey, and to study old maps to consider how drainage schemes and the
                         flood barriers of the River Quoile have changed the site over the centuries.


                         How to get there
                         Road: the Abbey is sign-posted off the A7 Belfast-Downpatrick Road in
                         Dundrum village. A narrow road is followed to an access lane.

                         Rail: The Downpatrick and County Down Railway - http://www.downrail.
                         co.uk/ -currently runs a steam train from Downpatrick to Inch, it may be
                         possible to arrange a private booking.

                         Parking: Whilst a car park is provided the lane access is not suitable for larger
                         coaches. Pupils should therefore walk from the road to the monument.

                         Access for the disabled: There is a good path to the site but the monument
                         itself is set in lawns. The Abbey is built on a mainly flat site. Wheelchair users
                         may find negotiating the foundations of the buildings difficult.

                         Toilets: There are no toilets at the site.

                         Picnics: Permissible. Please take all litter home.


                         Further reading
                         An Archaeological Survey of County Down (H.M.S.O. 1966), 279-82; Gwynn,
                         A. and Hadcock, R. N., Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland (1970); Hamlin, A. in
                         Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 41 (1978).

                         Other ecclesiastical sites within easy reach of Inch include Downpatrick
                         Cathedral, Loughinisland Churches, Struell Bath Houses and Wells, Saul and
                         Raholp.

                         Other Anglo-Norman sites in the region include Dundrum Castle, Clough
                         Castle and the Mound of Down.




                          18
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NOTES




                                                           19
Northern Ireland Environment Agency   Our aim is to protect, conserve and promote the
Klondyke Building                     natural environment and built heritage for the
Cromac Avenue                         benefit of present and future generations.
Gasworks Business Park
Belfast BT7 2JA
T. 0845 302 0008

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