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Three medieval church bells donated to the National Museum of Ireland

Three fifteenth-century bronze bells which once hung at St Mary’s Abbey Church near Dublin have been donated to the National Museum of Ireland.

Very few late medieval bells in Ireland survived the Reformation when many were sold and melted down. It is even more unusual to have a set of such bells surviving from one church. These were originally hung at St Mary’s Abbey Church in the village of Howth, just north of Dublin. They were used for three hundred years before being taken to Howth Castle in the mid-eighteenth century for their safety, where they have remained ever since.

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The Gaisford St Lawrence family, former owners of Howth Castle, donated the bells to the museum. Christopher Gaisford St Lawrence explains, “The story of these bells is the story of Howth. They were such a part of people’s daily lives and it only seems right that they will now be able to be enjoyed by everyone in the National Museum.”

The bells will be conserved and displayed in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street while appropriate signage will be placed in St Mary’s Abbey Church, Howth which is in the care of the Office of Public Works.

“I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Gainsford St Lawrence family for their donation of these three medieval bells to the National Museum of Ireland so that they can be viewed and enjoyed by visitors to the museum into the future,” says Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland. “It is our honour to take on the responsibility of caring for these precious artefacts and ensure their history as part of St Mary’s Abbey and connection to the community of Howth is communicated to all who come into contact with them. The bells illustrate that wonderful connection between our material, built and natural heritage and it has been a pleasure to work with our colleagues in the National Monuments Service and Office of Public Works as well as the Gaisford St Lawrence family to reach this important day.”

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Top Image: Photo courtesy Government of Ireland

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