Considering how important this place must have once
been for the
area, it is
surprising how little is known about Dungiven Priory. It is thought
possible that there was a pre-Norman monastery here by 700 AD, but not
much more is known about this. We do know
however, that there was an Augustinian monastery on
the site by 1200 AD. Tradition has it that it was founded by the
O'Cahans though even this is doubtful. In the 13th century the chancel
was added to the building.
It is known that in 1397 the archbishop of Armagh visited Dungiven to
re-consecrate the church. Apparently a blood-crime had been committed
here - we have no more detail of the deed.
a while the place was famous for
teaching, and students came from as far away as Scotland and France. In
those days only the offspring of rich and important people received an
eduction, which in this priory did not just involve academic subjects
but also training in the use of weapons
. Possibly this explains the bloody deed
above - who knows?
The monks gave up in the second half of the 16th century and shortly
after that the O'Cahans used the place as a stronghold. They no doubt
made use of the four storey square tower house which had been added to
the complex sometime during the 15th century. This tower collapsed in
The O'Cahans lost the war against the English and in 1603 the site was
confiscated by Sir Edward Doddington, an English
soldier. He built himself a manor house and bawn which has only been
partly uncovered. Sir Edward became the chief tenant
of the Skinners company who owned Dungiven and surrounds during the
period. The site fell out of use sometime towards the end of the 17th
century, though the surrounding graveyard was still utilised - slowly
burying the ruins of the other buildings.
Most of the place was excavated in 1982. Shortly afterwards it was
decided to put a roof on the chancel, in order to keep the damaging
rain off O'Cahan's tomb - one of the most unique grave
in Northern Ireland.