Standing in the centre of Naul Graveyard are the ruins of an old church. The plaque over the doorway states ‘the chapel was erected by Edward Hussey and his wife Mabel Hussey in the year 1710’. The Husseys were prominent landowners in the area, residing just outside the manorial village in the stately Westown House.
Within the ruins is a large limestone slab which leads to the Hussey family vault below. In 1921, the head of the Hussey family, Anthony Strong-Hussey was the last of the family members to be burried in the vault and village, as dawn descended on the family’s 300 year occupation of Naul. Some years later the family solicitor was the last to be interred in the vault, an event recalled by some elderly locals who remember seeing the steps descending to the vault below.
According to historical records, the curious ruin which stands today may be much older than the date inscribed on the plaque above the doorway.
In a deed of King John from 1200 the church of Stephen de Crues is mentioned, which is thought to have replaced the ruins of an earlier Celtic shrine on the site of the present graveyard. The Catholic church was served by resident vicars for three hundred years, before becoming a protestant church during Elizabeth’s reign (Donnely, 1979, 2nd ed.). It was recorded as ruinous by 1630 and mass was said on alternate Sundays in either the Black or White castles (Scully, Vol. 28, No. 3, Jun., 1975). In the civil survey of 1641 only the walls of the church were left standing.
The old catholic church ruins were later replaced with a protestant church in 1818 (Donnely, 1979, 2nd ed.) which used to stand in the graveyard until it became redundant and was demolished in 1949 (Egan, 1993). The present ruins being a ‘chauntry’ remnant from the previously demolished church.
What is quite interesting about the ruins are the much older windows and beautiful carved doorway doorway incorporated into the structure, which may have come from much earlier structures in the area.
Less than a hundred meters north of the graveyard, now completely shrouded under the tight grip of ancient ivy, stands the ruins of the mighty ‘Black Castle’. Once described as ‘one of the most picturesque ruins of its kind in Ireland’ (Brewer, 1825).
The ‘Black Castle’, also known as ‘Castle of the Roches’, ‘Cruise’s Castle’ or ‘Naul Castle’ is ‘boldly situated on a rocky precipice on the brow of a chain of hills, commanding a fine view of the vale of Roches, above which it towers at a height of upwards of 150 feet’ (Lewis, 1837). The Black Castle sentineled the Dublin side of the valley as did the White Castle, over the Delvin River, on the opposing Meath bank of the valley (Donnely, 1979, 2nd ed.), both owing their names due to the hue of the stone they were built of (Nulty, 2008).
The castle is supposed to have been a strong castle (Nulty, 2008) built by the Norman De Geneville family towards the close of the 12th century (Donnely, 1979, 2nd ed.). It was protected on its north and east sides by a sheer cliff and on the west by mighty walls, with a spacious bawn to shelter its cattle herd (Scully, Vol. 28, No. 3, Jun., 1975). Around the year 1200 the castle passed, through marriage, to Stephen De Crues of the Cruise family, who were amongst the first Norman settlers in Ireland.
The Black Castle was the primary seat of the Cruise family in Ireland, home to the family for over 500 years. When they participated in the rebellion of 1641 they were dispossessed of their castle and lands. Cromwell attacked and destroyed the castle in 1649 ‘when 40 of its defenders were put to the sword – a lone female escaping’ (Scully, Vol. 28, No. 3, Jun., 1975). This marked the end of the Cruise family in Naul.
Later Oliver Plunkett is reputed to have been a frequent visitor to the Black Castle and according to legend is supposed to have been captured for preaching during penal times (Scully, Vol. 28, No. 3, Jun., 1975) he was the last religious martyr to be hung drawn an quartered in England. His head is now on display in St. Peters church in Drogheda.
During his visit to Ireland in 2013 to promote the premier of ‘Oblivion’ Tom Cruise was told his ancestors were Cruises of Naul under a genealogical project commissioned as part of ‘The Gathering’ by tourism Ireland. There is a little bit of Naul in Hollywood!
In August 2019 Fingal County Council and Naul Community Council held a Community archaeological dig at a site to the rear of the graveyard, in lieu of the graveyard extension. A week long community archaeological dig took place near the ruins in the historic medieval core of Naul Village, with the chapel ruin the emblem of the National Heritage Week Project.