The effigy tomb of Robert Bowen and his wife Alice Harpole which was erected in 1631 by their sons Oliver and Thomas. Robert Bowen was the son of John Bowen known as John Thomas Owen a Welsh settler who arrived in Laois during the plantation times in the Elizabethan Era. John obtained a lease on the former O’More stronghold at Ballyadams Castle for his services to the crown and died in 1569. He was regarded as a fearsome constable of that castle and was said to have slaughtered many locals with his pike during the turbulent days of the Laois Plantation. He was known as John of the Pike or 'Séan a' Phíce' as a result. His son Robert who is commemorated here became Sherriff of Co. Laois and constable of the Castle shortly after his father’s death; again it was believed he wasn’t very sympathetic towards the natives. Robert married into another English settler family called the Harpoles who had a seat at Shrule Castle on the banks of the Barrow in Co. Laois.  

Robert died in 1621 and his wife Alice died shortly after this. The limestone tomb we see here today originally had a covering slab which depicted both settlers in 17th Century costume, likely mail and armour, and ladies dress. It is believed that the cover slab was smashed and discarded by locals during the late 18th Century, during the time of the Whitefeet agrarian unrest . Stories of the brutality meted out by the settlers on the natives passed down the generations and resulted in the breaking up of this effigy, perhaps a small reprisal in comparison to the treatment their ancestors received in the previous centuries.

The tomb was constructed in 1631 by Roberts’s sons and a wall memorial records this date complete with the crests of each family a stag (Harpole) and helmet (Bowen) and an epitaph which reads:  

'AN. EPITAPH. ON. THE - DEATH. OF ROBERT: BOWEN: ESQUIRE IF TEARES. PREVENT NOT, EVERY READERS EYE MAY. WELL PERCEIVE, THAT IN THIS TOMB DOOTH LIE

FRIENDS HOPE. FOES DREAD, WHOSE THRICE VICTORIOUS HAND

CAIN'D LOVE, WROUGH. PEACE WITHIN THIS JOYFULL. LAND WHOSE WORTH DOOTH MOUNT ITSELFE ON ANGELS WINGS

WHOSE GREAT DESCENT WAS FIRST FROM. ROYALL. KINGS

WHOSE NEVER - DYING - VERTUES LIVE, FOR WHY WHOSE FAME'S ETERNIZ;D, HE CAN NEVER DY'.

There are six figures depicted on the side portions of the tomb all dressed in 17th Century costume. On its South face is an arcade of four rounded arches containing four figures, two male and two female. Their names are recorded in relief carvings overhead as being Joan, Margaret, Thomas and Oliver. On the East side Sir John Bowen the eldest son of Robert and his wife Thela Ellis Bowen are depicted. The west side panel depicts two more individuals of the family.

The effigial tomb is located at the site of an early stone Church which likely dated to the 14th Century and served as the religious house to Ballyadams Castle. The Church site itself is associated with St. MacAedh who was an Early Medieval saint in Ireland famed for his many cures (6th Century A.D). There are two holy wells to the west of the site. Tobernasool and Toberneebe the former being associated with cures for the eye. The site is accessible and well worth a visit, a true Laois Hidden Gem.

Post Author: Laois Archaeology

2 Replies to “Bowen Effigy Tomb, Ballyadams”

  1. Could you please clarify for me the following;
    Was John Thomas Owen also Sean A Phice ?
    Was John Thomas Owen the Father of Robert Hartpole and if so why was his surname Hartpole ?
    Which surname is correct Owen or Bowen ?
    I would really be very grateful if you could reply.
    Regards,
    John Mulligan

    1. Hi John, so it would seem that John Thomas Owen was Sean A Phice (John of the Pike). Although in saying that there were two subsequent John Bowen’s at Ballyadams over the years. Robert Harpole was not the son of a Bowen, but a separate settler family who had their seat at Shrule Castle. Robert Bowen (son of John) married Alice Harpole. There son John erected the effigy at Ballyadams. The correct surname is Owen/Bowen/ap-owen of Welsh decent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Killeshin Church: A Portal in Time

  The River Pushoge, a tributary of the great Barrow rises on the North Eastern fringe of the Slievemargy Plateau. As we follow her decent into the Glen of Killeshin, the grey old ruins of a former monastic settlement brace her southern banks. These ruins date to a period in Ireland before the Norman Conquest in 1169 but reflect a period in Ireland when European Culture was beginning to take root in society and reflect

Ballaun Stone at Ballybuggy said to have the imprint of Brigids head. A cure for headaches!!!

St. Brigid in Co. Laois

St. Brigid of Kildare is regarded as Ireland’s second Saint, who is associated with fertility, healing and water. She was said to have performed many miracles including turning water into beer! Her patronage extends to dairy workers, blacksmiths, midwives and travellers. Brigid is said to have been born into a noble family at Faughart, Dundalk in 451 A.D, approximately 20 years after the arrival of St. Patrick to Ireland. Her story in Ireland is legendary

Former location of St. Molua's trough or reliquary from the 19th Century

God or Gods at Old Kyle Borris-In-Ossory

    Old Kyle once formed part of an important Early Christian Monastic site on the borders of the ancient Kingdoms of Munster and Leinster. It also seems likely that the site was of significance, long before the arrival of Christianity to Ireland in the 5th Century A.D. Old Kyle is recorded in early records as Clonfertmulloe, association with St. Molua, one of the foremost monks of Ireland from the 6th Century. Set within the