Ballyhay (Ballyhea)

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Feature Sets (2)


A long, narrow two cell church, which at some point has been reduced in length by the insertion of a cross wall. (nave 18.83 m x 9.06 m, chancel 18.03 m x 8.34 m). The W and N walls of the nave, and most of the N wall and E end of the S wall of the chancel have fallen. The ruins were heavily covered with ivy.


The early history of the church is not known. Brady (1863, II, 34-6) quotes a 1224 reference to the church at Ballyhay, and it is listed in the Papal taxation of 1291. The church is recorded as 'in ruins' during a Visitation of 1615, but the chancel was in repair by 1694.


Exterior Features


S doorway, nave (blocked)

In the S wall of the nave, approximately 6 m from the W end. The arch of the doorway, which has a single exterior order, is slightly pointed.

The doorway is completely blocked, in part by an 18thc. memorial. The door is set in the same plane as the outline of a steep gable, which projects about 0.05 m from the surrounding wall. The sides of the gable are 'shouldered' at the level of the springing point of the door. The masonry of the doorway and the area enclosed by the gable is more regular than that of the surrounding walls.

On the interior there is an additional undecorated order, 0.21 m deep and 0.22 m wide, with a draw-bar hole in the west jamb.

Exterior Decoration


Set in the masonry course immediately above the S doorway are two monster head corbels, carved from sandstone, both worn and lichen covered.

d. 0.14 m
h. 0.24 m
w. 0.14 m
E corbel

The E corbel has large walnut-shaped eyes; in this case the rolled jaws are merely outlined and not hollowed out.  

W corbel

This corbel appears to have lost approximately one third of its upper portion, though Leask drew this as part of the design. The jaws end with a rolled profile, hollowed out, and there are hints of interlacing on the hair (W side).


The gable has often been regarded as the remnants of an Hiberno-Romanesque tangent gable, but this is open to doubt. The blocked door has no Romanesque features and twelfth-century doorways were usually placed in the west, not the south, wall. It is difficult to imagine how a typical Romanesque door with a gable could have left such an imprint. It is more likely that this doorway belongs to a much later period and was once surrounded by a projecting wooden porch. The corbels are clearly not in their original position, but their height corresponds with the course of masonry in which they are set. As this masonry is part of the gable, it suggests that neither the door not the gable belong to the Romanesque era.

Corbels of the Ballyhay type are often employed as label stops. If this was the case, it suggests there was once a Romanesque portal, no doubt in the west wall. However, as there is no other evidence for such a door, it is not impossible that the corbels were brought to Ballyhay at a later period.


  • W. M. Brady, Clerical and Parochial Records of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Cork, 1863, II, 34-6.
  • D. Power, S. Lane, et al, Archaeological Inventory of County Cork, 4:2, Dublin, 2000, 554-5.
  • H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, I, Dundalk, 1955, 166-7.


Site Location
Ballyhay (Ballyhea)
National Grid Reference
R 55 20 
now: Cork
Type of building/monument
Ruined church  
Report authors
Roger Stalley