Tuesday 28 July 2020

Ballyhack Castle Co Wexford

                                               Above Image: The entrance door

                                    Above Image: Machicolation on fourth floor wall

                                           Above Image: The Ruinous top floors

Ballyhack castle is a five storey tower house situated on the Hook Peninsula that was constructed by the Knights Hospitallers of St John one of the two crusading orders of the early Norman period, the other being The Knights Templar. The order of St John had a Preceptory on this site since the beginning of the thirteenth century and they controlled the movement of traffic on the Barrow estuary. They also introduced a ferry system. While the order of St John went about their business their rivals the Templar's were settled across the estuary in Crooke in County Waterford. But in 1308 the well established and very wealthy Templar order was put under threat when the Pope resulting from demands of the then King of France, Philip, ordered their dissolution. The King owed the Templar's a vast sum of money (they were also very notably the inventors of modern banking) and started a campaign accusing them of gross misdeeds.There were accusations which included heresy and they were rounded up, tortured and put to death all across Europe and by 1312 they had been completely disbanded and their lands and wealth confiscated.
The less ambitious Knights of St John built the tower house at Ballyhack in 1450 and fortified it with a portcullis, a murder hole located just inside the entrance and a machicolation above the entrance door on the West wall of the fourth floor. Battlements and a walkway were also constructed. The Knights continued to thrive in this area until the dissolution of monasteries and churches in 1536 when the tower and lands were given to the Etchingham's who lived there until they moved to Dunbrody in the mid eighteenth century.
During the Cromwellian invasion the castle was taken by Cromwell's men and the battlements destroyed and as a result of the act of Settlement in 1652 the tower was used as a point of transportation for those who lost homes and land.
In the 1800's Arthur Chichester built the estate village of Arthurstown as the land lay on the Dunbrody estate. A pier was built in 1829 and the town thrived. The castle stood still and uninhabited on the slopes of the village at Ballyhack for many years until it was partially restored by the OPW and made open to the public. This occurs annually May to August from Saturdays to Wednesdays 9.30-17.00,
Although you can self tour I would recommend taking the guided tour by one of the staff as they are very knowledgeable and also admission is free. You can of course leave a discretionary donation if you wish.
We were informed that the ground floor was the most defensively sound and was generally used for storage and servant sleeping quarters. There are a set of steep stone stairs that lead you upwards and features include some period furniture and knights attire within the floors that have had some restoration done. The top two floors while accessible are still ruinous and shell marks from cannon fire were pointed out to us. The views over the estuary from the high vantage point are spectacular and there is also an opportunity to see the dungeon!
I have to say I myself like my castles ruined where you can explore inside yourself see what damage time has done but sometimes now and again it's good to see a castle that is not inhabited but mostly intact just to get a feel for what they actually looked like in their day. Ballyhack is one of those castles and I found the visit very pleasing and informative.
To find the Castle take the N25 heading West from Wexford Town towards New Ross. After approx 25KM you will pass through the village of Ballinaboola. 4KM out of Ballinaboola you reach a major roundabout (Ballymacar Roundabout) and you take the first exit left (a continuation of the N25).
Drive for approx 5KM and take the slip road following the sign for Arthurstown (R733). At the T-junction on the end of the slip road turn right following the R733 and drive for approx 1.7KM until you reach another right hand turn, a continuation of the R733. Drive for 7KM and then turn right again following the R733. It is 7KM more from here to Arthurstown and when you reach it take a right hand turn onto the coast road and take a short drive towards the ferry pier at Ballyhack. There is parking available in this area and you will see the castle up the hill a little from the pier.
Alternatively if coming from Waterford City take the R683 to Passage East and you can cross on the ferry directly to the pier at Ballyhack. (Cost for car & passengers 8.00 Euro single trip, 12.00 Euro return, Foot passengers 1.50 Euro, return 2.00 Euro)

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Moyglare Castle Co Meath

                                 Above Image: North-West & South-East facing walls

                                           Above Image: South-East facing wall

                                        Above Image: Close-up of North-West wall

                                           Above Image: Bases of existing walls

                                                Above Image: Moyglare Church


Moyglare Road meanders Northwards out of Maynooth. Along its route, virtually unnoticeable unless you are actually looking for it, lies the remains of Moyglare Castle. The history regarding the origin of this castle appears to be lost in the swirling sands of time.
The Castle, bearing in mind its size and location, has all the attributes of the result of the statute decreed by Henry VI in 1429 stating that in order to protect the pale from marauding Irish clans a sum of £10 would be paid to any supporter of the crown who would build a fortified tower of specific dimensions on or along the borders of the pale. That's an equivalent of £6,250 by today's standards. Taking into consideration that today the remains of Moyglare only ascend to the first floor above the entrance, its dimensions otherwise fit the bill of the King's suggested castle specifications and also  the fact that its location is near Kilcock (which was on the border of the pale) increases the possibility further.
As to its fate and eventual ruination, the only other piece of information I could garner from research is that the land was owned in 1640 by one George Wentworth. This was just before the time of the  English civil war. George Wentworth went on to fight in that war on the side of the Royalists, He was the brother of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford who was himself a Royalist and also Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1632 to 1640. It would then be of no surprise if Cromwell's forces on moving towards Drogheda in 1649 and taking into account Moyglare's Royalist owner would most probably have left Moyglare castle destroyed in their wake. The gaping hole on the South-Eastern wall looks to all intents and purposes like the result of cannon fire.
The remnants of the castle today are slowly being engulfed by ivy and encroaching trees. The walls though crumbling away at the top appear defensively thicker at their bases. Within the scant walls of the first floor there are the remains of a fireplace.
We would like to have gotten closer to the ruins but they appear to stand now on private land belonging to Moyglare Stud Farm one of many horse breeding farms in the area. As a result of this, especially in Summer and the proximity of the farms, there is an abundance of flies ready to lay siege upon the unsuspecting visitor who dares to exit their cars or stand still in any one spot too long.
A short distance from the castle is the church of St. Paul, which has a nicely designed tower and spire which was built in 1870. The church sits upon the site of an ancient medieval church built prior to 1300 which remained partially in ruin since the 1640's but was eventually demolished to make way for the new church. No traces remain of the medieval structure and the new church itself is now privately owned. Behind Moyglare Stud Farm there also lies oddly enough an airstrip (just in case you are travelling in by Cessna!).
To find the ruins take the junction 7 exit for Maynooth from the M4 onto the R406, When you reach the traffic lights at the T-junction with the R148 in Maynooth turn left and then take the first turn right and drive for approx 2.8KM along Moyglare Road. Keep an eye out on your left for a green sign welcoming you to County Meath and then about 200m on take the next left turn.(there are the remains of a wall based postbox on the corner). 200m along there is a fork in the road. On the left fork is Moyglare church while about 70m down the right hand fork is the castle. It is situated behind a fence and hedgerow. Its a quiet enough road and we parked at the edge with no problem.Watch out though for those pesky horseflies!