Grace Dieu
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The Nunnery of Grace Dieu (Grace of God)

Grace Dieu.jpgThis convent was about 2 ½ miles north of Swords, on a left turn off the Belfast Road at Thomondtown [Turn left at the road for Ballyboughal, and continue for ½ mile approximately. The only remnant of Grace Dieu consists of a small arch. It was founded in 1190 by John Comyn, and was the home of an order of nuns called the Canonesses of St Augustine.


The convent obtained some of its income from lands around Lusk and tithes from one of Archbishop Comyn’s mills in Swords [Even when the mills in Swords were levied to provide income for St Patrick’s Cathedral, the nuns in Grace Dieu continued to receive income from this mill].


The nuns at Grace Dieu provided an education for the daughters of the Anglo-Norman colonists, and according to one report, it was considered to be “the best institution within the Pale”. It was so much part of the Establishment, that in 1539, when the suppression of the monasteries was being contemplated, the Lord Deputy made a plea for its continuation because those who were educated in it “were brought up in virtue, learning and the English tongue and behaviour”.


The monastery was suppressed in 1541, and the “house, site and precinct of the late priory, monastery or religious house of Grace Dieu”, and its lands were granted to Patrick Barnewall, the Solicitor General. Alison Whyte, the Prioress, was granted a pension of £6 per year, payable out of the estate of Grace Dieu. It was occupied as the family seat of the Barnewalls until 1565 when Christopher Barnewall, son of Sir Patrick, built a new mansion at Turvey with, according to tradition, the stones and other building materials from Grace Dieu. This would account for the disappearance of all the buildings associated with Grace Dieu.

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