Tomb of Maud Plunkett (d. 1494)

Malahide Abbey, Malahide, County Dublin

The tomb of Maud Plunkett is situated on the site of Malahide Abbey, which now stands in ruins, in the Demesne of Malahide, Co. Dublin. The Demesne was originally part of the ancient Barony of Coolock.

The Demesne of Malahide is associated with the Talbot family who were granted the lands by Henry II in 1174 and who remained there except for a short period up to 1973. the tomb probably dates to the late 15th century as Maud Plunkett is recorded as having died in 1494.

The late 15th century was a time of great turmoil in Ireland. In the late 15c there had ben a series of famines in Ireland and English rule was also weakened due to the War of the Roses. English rule was virtually non existent outside the Pale and inside the Pale power was delegated to the Fitzgeralds of Kildare.

The tomb itself shows Maud Plunkett dressed in the fashion of the mid-14 century lying recumbent on a thick slab of stone. There is a lot of local folklore attached to the tomb, including tales, poetry and ghost stories.

Maud Plunkett, who died in 1494 was the daughter of Baron Plunkett, of Killeen. She married Sir Walter Hussey, Lord Galtrim on Whit Monday 1492. On the day of the wedding the bridegroom was called away to help scatter a gathering of the local Irish at Balbriggan, Co. Dublin.

Sir Walter was killed in the skirmish and his body taken to his widowed bride. So, Maud was thus 'a maid, a wife and a widow' all in a single day, as the local saying goes. She married a second time, but there is no record of whom she married.

Her third marriage was to Sir Richard Talbot of Malahide, Lord Chief Justice of Dublin. Although her tomb is at Malahide Abbey it is thought that she is actually buried in the former Talbot lands at Garristown, Co. Dublin.

The slab containing the effigy of Maud sits on top of an altar tomb which is the Talbot family vault which contains the remains of many generations of the Talbots. The slab was aded at an unknown date. 

In the nineteenth century writer Gerald Griffin wrote a well known twenty verse poem about Maud called 'The Bride of Malahide'. Her ghost, known as 'The White Lady' is said to haunt the corridors of Malahide Castle.

The tomb is situated in Malahide Abbey on the grounds of Malahide Demesne. Malahide Castle has been home to the Talbot family since they were granted lands by Henry II in 1177.

The family were in residence here until 1972 except for a period of twelve years in 1653 when the family were banished and the estate was given by Oliver Cromwell to Myles Corbet, a signatory to Charles I's death warrant.

Malahide Abbey, in which the tomb is situated, is thought to be built on the ancient church of St. Fenweis some time in the Middle Ages. The abbey flourished under the patronage of the Talbots and probably served as the local parish church until the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII in the mid 16th century.

Myles Corbet is said to have removed the roof of the chapel to use the materials to cover a barn and it has remained in this state ever since.

Local Malahide historian Roger Green provides a good description of the tomb in his book 'Old Malahide'. Green describes the covering slab of the tomb as being 'well cut and the figure carved in bold relief'. He also describes the clothing of the figure, including the 15th century 'horned cap'.

There have not been any excavations of the site. The tomb was used as a covering for the Talbot family crypt, which was in use up to the late 19 century. 

The last Talbot to live in Malahide was Lady Rose Talbot, who emigrated to Tasmania in 1976. As the crypt was in Malahide Abbey Graveyarduse until the late 19th c and the last Talbot family member only left the estate in 1976 it would be inappropriate to investigate the site and disturb the remains of those interred there without good reason.

The site is described on the historical viewer website. No recorded excavations of the site appear on The tomb itself has been described in various books and journals over the years.

Maud Plunkett's tomb lies inside Malahide Abbey. The abbey sits in the middle of a graveyard. The abbey and graveyard contain many grave stones, some of which have fallen. There are many trees on the site of the graveyard including a very large yew tree.

Yew trees, a native Irish evergreen, were traditionally planted in graveyards in Ireland and Britain as their berries are poisonous to cattle.

The graveyard is situated very close to the castle and outbuildings. Malahide Castle is originally a 12th century three story tower house and around this core many extensions were added over the centuries. Because of these extensions the graveyard is now situated nearer to the castle than originally planned.

In 1872 Lord James Talbot attempted to close the graveyard saying that it's proximity to the castle made it unhealthy.

The abbey contains a sheila-na-gig, a second partial sheila-na-gig and a carving of a mitered head. There is a triple bellcote with steps leading up to it, a fine triple light, ogee-headed West window dating from the 15th century and two double light tracery windows in the East end.

The tomb itself is the family crypt of the Talbot family and it is unlikely that Maud Plunkett is interred there. It would appear that her grave slab has been placed over the crypt only because it was the correct size to cap off the crypt.

The tomb of Maud Plunkett is an altar tome with a thick slab of an un-described type of stone sitting on top of a stone base with later brick alterations to both sides of the Western end. The North-East corner of the tomb is damaged. The carving of Maud is a well cut recumbent effigy, carved in bold relief. She is wearing a long gown and a horned cap in the 15th Century style.

The base of the tomb is decorated with Plunkett family shields. The tomb is 910mm in overall height which is made up of a 700mm base, a wider slab 140mm thick sits on top and another slab the same width as the tomb which is 70mm thick sits on to of the first slab.

The top slab is 1280mm wide and 2320mm long and sits on top of the second slab which is 2460mm and the width is 1420mm. The body of the tomb is the same length and width as the top slab, 1280mm wide and 2320mm long. The tomb is surrounded by a decorative iron railing of unknown date and sits on top of a modern concrete base.

Other archaeological sites in the vicinity of Maud Plunkett's tomb include Malahide Castle, originally a medieval Tower House which has ben added to many times over the years and now is a large irregular structure in the Georgian Gothic style.

A semi circular graveyard which contains the ruins of Malahide Abbey containing Maud Plunkett's Tomb. Malahide Abbey, a 15th century church which has a fine triple light, ogee-headed West window and a triple bellcote.

On the walls of the abbey are a carved Mitered Head, a complete sheila-na-gig and a sheila-na-gig head with the body broken off. The graveyard of the abbey contains gravestones from the 18th to the mid 20th century.

In Ireland in the early 13th century it was not uncommon for the tombs of the wealthy to be decorated with life-sized effigies. The effigies are not actual likenesses, but rather they are designed to demonstrate the high status of the deceased during life; showing civilian men in armor, women in their finest gowns and headdresses, and religious figures in full vestments.

Sometimes the sides of tombs were also decorated with heraldry and figures designed to demonstrate the status and faith of the deceased. The person's devoutness was demonstrated by the inclusion of depictions of various saints or Apostles.

Particular saints may have been included because the deceased had a devotion to them, or to remind the living to say specific prayers, such as the Apostles' Creed, over the greave.

There are many examples of this kind of tomb in Ireland such as the tomb of a Knight and a Lady at St. James Church, Athboy, Co. Meath, or the tombs of the Norman Knights at Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny.

Maud Plunkett's tomb is quite badly weathered and damaged so it is difficult to imagine it when it was first carved. Despite the weathering the figure appears to be well carved and seems to be as ornate as other contemporary figures such as those at Jerpoint Abbey.

malahide castle dublinThere is not a lot of archaeological information available on Maud Plunkett's tomb. No excavations have been made of the site although a brief description does appear on The tomb has also been described in general terms in various books and journals. There is quite a lot of information available on Malahide Castle and Demesne so a proper survey of the tomb, abbey and graveyard to add to this would be a welcome idea.

There is no direct access to the tomb or Malahide Abbey at the moment. There is no roof on the abbey but the walls are fairly intact. There is some lichen and plant growth that could undermine the structure in the future. There are many toppled gravestones both inside and outside the abbey.

The graveyard is reasonably maintained and includes some large old trees and there is quite a bit of undergrowth on the inside. Maud Plunkett's tomb is suffering from some lichen growth and the Western end of the tomb is supported by old red bricks. The North-East corner of the top slab has been broken off and lies in front of the tomb.

Malahide Demesne is a very popular tourist attraction and I think it would be good if there was public access to the tomb. The story of Maud Plunkett's marriage is quite well known, as is the ghost story featuring the 'White Lady'. There are many interesting gravestones and carvings in the abbey.

A new gate could be cut in the surrounding wall and a path could be constructed through the graveyard and abbey for people to follow. It would be a good idea if the tomb could be covered or thee roof of the abbey glazed to stop further damage. The fallen gravestones could be righted and the tomb could be repaired before it becomes more damaged.

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