Nenagh Castle (1860 battlements)

Brief History

Nenagh Castle, in County Tipperary, was built by Theobald Walter (first of the Butlers of Ormond) around 1200. The castle boasts the finest cylindrical keep in Ireland. Like most keeps, it formed part of the perimeter of the fortress, being incorporated in the curtain walls surrounding a rather small, five-sided courtyard. These walls have now almost disappeared, but fragments remain. There were originally four flanking towers, one on each side of the entrance gateway to the south, the others at the east and west angles of the pentagon; the great keep, "Nenagh Round", occupied the northern angle.

[Nenagh Castle; photo by Lorcán J. O'Flannery at National Clan Gathering 2004]

Built of limestone rubble, irregularly coursed, and measuring about 55 feet in external diameter at the base, it rises now to a height of about a hundred feet. The topmost quarter, however, is modern (circa 1860), the original height to the wall-walk being about 75 feet. Above this there rose, of course, the crenellated parapets. There were four storeys, including a basement which was accessible, originally, only from the entrance storey above. At the base, the walls are 16 feet thick, and at the top, just 11 feet; the diminishing thickness is accounted for by the inward batter of the walls and the offset or setting back, at each floor level, which bore the timber work of the floors.

[Nenagh Castle (circa 1200); courtesy of Harold G. Leask]

Bishop Michael Flannery initiated plans in 1860 to build a cathedral in Nenagh, and sent a number of priests, including his cousin Fr. William Flannery (later Dean of Windsor, Ontario), to North America on fund-raising missions. He purchased the site of Nenagh Castle and the surrounding land, and began to restore the castle in order to incorporate it into the new structure. Unfortunately, the development was substantially dependent on American funding, and was brought to an abrupt halt in 1861 by the American Civil War.

The top of the existing tower was probably quite uneven, and so it was raised and dressed off with a new parapet wall. The architecture is gracefully decorative, and includes a series of clerestory windows beneath a corbelled parapet wall ornamented with traditional stepped merlons.

[Nenagh Castle (1860 battlements); photo by Lorcán J. O'Flannery]

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