Ruined Abbey and Round Tower on Devenish Island

Artist(s) : John Barrow (Draughtsman), S. Williams (Engraver)

An exterior image of the ruined abbey and round tower on Devenish Island. This image appears on the title page. Five people are seen in two groups close to the abbey, their size indicating the scale of the ruin. There is a tree just behind it.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Woodcuts
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture
Geographical Location
  • Devenish monastic site - Named locality
  • Devenish Island - Island
  • Fermanagh - County
  • Ulster - Province
Keywords(s) Antiquities, Archaeological sites, Buildings, Churches, People, Round towers, Ruins, Towers
Colour Monochrome
Published / created 1836

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Tour round Ireland [Barrow]
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy title page
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 9141 b 3
Rights Obtain through agreement with NLI

Related text from travel account

As Wolfe and Beechey were about to sail to the lower end of the lough to prosecute their survey, I remained another day at Enniskillen. We embarked on board the Eagle cutter, a small vessel which had been used by Captain Mudge in his surveys of the coast of Donegal, and conveyed overland from Ballyshannon with no small difficulty, and launched upon the waters of Lough Erne. We proceeded at once to Devenish, a small island about a mile and a half below the town, being about a mile long by a third broad, and having a waving surface of rounded hills, and destitute of wood. On this island stands one of those round towers, the venerable relics of olden times, of the use and origin of which no memorial has been handed down to later days, and concerning which, as I have before told you, so many various opinions have been held. I found it to be precisely similar to that which I had seen at Antrim, and about the same height, namely, eighty-two feet. I understand the upper part was rapidly falling into decay, owing partly to [p. 137] the rooks building their nests near the summit, the twigs of which occasionally took root, and the birds picked out the mortar: the consequence was, that the stones were loosened and constantly falling. It is now in excellent preservation, having been repaired in the course of the present summer, by the aid of a subscription raised by the noblemen and gentlemen in the neighbourhood. Like that of Antrim, the summit is now crowned with a modern cone, close below which, on a cornice carried round the building, were discovered the figures of four human heads sculptured in the stone, facing the four cardinal points of the compass. A kind of band, or chain, was carried round the cornice, connecting the heads; they are about the size of life: the beards were curiously plaited; but the following sketch will convey to you a better idea of these antient monuments, than any description that [image ‘Sculptured Head on Devenish Round Tower’] [p. 138] I can give. There was no possibility of getting into the interior without the aid of a ladder, the door being at a considerable height above the ground, which would seem to imply that one of their uses was as places of security, and perhaps also of attack and defence, like our Martello Towers.
Close to the tower, which is placed on the sloping side of the small island, stand the ruins of an old church or abbey, the architecture of which appears to have been of a much more recent date than that of the tower. An inscription, in the old Saxon characters, was pointed out to me, but it was too much defaced to be made intelligible; part of the date would show it to have been built in the fifteenth century, the figures 14.. being legible enough. Many of the stones of this ruin are said to have been carried away for the use of buildings in Enniskillen, but the bishop of the diocese (Clogher) put a stop to it. Several tombstones of modern date are strewed around the sacred ground.
Having satisfied my curiosity—not, however, till Beechey and I had each made a hasty sketch of Devenish round tower and ruined church—we again embarked in the cutter, and dropped down to Ely Lodge, on the west side of the lough. It stands on a small island, and the grounds are laid out with much taste, and kept in neat order. The adjacent grounds, as well as the park, are well clothed with wood, and the views or peeps of the lough through some of the [p. 139] openings, with the neighbouring islands and distant mountain, are perfectly beautiful. [p. 136-9]
Ruined Abbey and Round Tower on Devenish Island