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History Of An Irish Castle
At Annaghdown, County Galway

The local history of this Irish Castle reflects some crucial moments in the larger scale history of Ireland over a number of centuries.

Irish castle at Annaghdown, County Galway, aerial view.

Annaghdown Castle

Annaghdown Castle seen above from the air is a 15th century Norman style tower house. The owners, Jessica Cooke and Sean Faughnan had parts of the castle carbon dated during their archaeological excavation of the site. The sample from the ground floor was dated to 1440.

It was traditionally assumed that Annaghdown Castle was probably built by the De Burgo family, some people even linked it with the O'Flaherty's who were pushed westwards by the De Burghos.

Recently however, Jessica has undertaken more research and found out that Annaghdown Castle was actually built for an Anglo-Norman bishop who was backed by the DeBurgho's. The bishop was settled across from the much older monastery in a statement about the 'new order'.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, bawn gate.

Come on in! Jessica inviting us into the castle grounds at the bawn gate.

Annaghdown had strategic importance. Holding Annaghdown meant controlling this part of the lake and whoever had control here, controlled the access to Galway. The main access route to Galway was by water. The current road from Galway was not built until the early 20th century.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, main door of the keep.

Main door at Annaghdown Castle. In the past there was a grate in front of it that could be pulled tight from the inside as an extra layer of defense.

Relationship With Annaghdown Monastery

The nearby monastery (first founded by Saint Brendan in the sixth century) had been the cathedral of the O’Flaherty’s. By the thirteenth century, the bishopric of Annaghdown was absorbed by the archdiocese of Tuam. Nonetheless, the monastery continued to be used into the late 1500’s, well after the Dissolution, supported by its own lands.

There must have been a bit of a stand off between the monastery and the newly built castle, but the monastery continued to thrive for some time. 

In defiance of the Anglo-Norman bishop, a round tower was built at the monastery. Jessica Cooke recently discovered the foundations of the tower.

Near the castle was a holy well, Saint Brendan’s well, and the monks used to go on procession to the well for the saint's feast day.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, downstairs vaulted room, now used as a kitchen. Once upon a time this was a spance for storage or for housing animals.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, downstairs vaulted room, now used as a kitchen. Once upon a time this was a spance for storage or for housing animals.

The Irish Castle Is Sold And Modernized

At some stage the castle did end up in the hands of the DeBurgho's. The De Burgos were a landowning Anglo-Norman family that owned a number of castles and moved from place to place throughout the year.

Sometime in the 16th century howerever,  they sold the castle on to the Lynch family, another wealthy landowning family and one of the Galway tribes.

The Lynches were onee of the 'Galway Tribes' and  were English speaking. They made money not only from the land, but also from trading; they imported wine for example. The Lynch family modernized the castle in the seventeenth-century style. They introduced more fireplaces, enlarged windows, added the minstrel’s gallery and changed the usage of rooms. The prison for example, was disused and became another room at this stage. Battlements were added aiding the guarding of the castle.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, up on the battlements with owner Jessica Cooke.

Jessica Cooke seen here guarding the battlements at her Irish castle at Annaghdown.

Jessica found a document in the Blosse-Lynch family papers relating to this period. Eilish Lynch wrote a letter to her husband, Roebuck Lynch informing him that she would soon be moving from one tower house to another, and consulting him on a number of practical issues in relation to this. Roebuck Lynch was a magistrate and away in Galway or Dublin on business a lot of the time, while Eilish was managing the various estates.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, the great hall on the top floor.

Read More About Castles In Ireland

The Fall From Grace

The Lynch family, namely Roebuck Lynch, refused to sign the Articles of Surrender after the Cromwellian invasion of Galway. Their lands were subsequently confiscated. Annaghdown Castle was 'decommissioned' by Cromwell's soldiers. They pushed the battlements off and broke the main stair case. This beautiful medieval Irish castle was never lived in again. The estate was given to the Church of Ireland.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway, loop window detail.

The last time the castle made history was during the Williamite wars in the late 17th century. In her research, Jessica came across an interesting document. It was the Crown’s pardon to George Stanton, the last defender of Annaghdown Castle which, even though no longer inhabited, had still been used as a strategic point of defense.

Irish castle, Annaghdown, County Galway,  reconstructed timber door.

The Irish castle reconstruction at Annaghdown has seen the use of traditional materials and techniques, as reflected in this reconstructed timber door.

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