Sunday 20 June 2021

Blackhall Area Castle Co Kildare


                                          Above Image: Field gate (at centre-left)

                                             Above Image: part of the South wall 

                              Above Image: Shrouded remains of South & West walls

                                    Above Image: Castle among farm out-buildings

We were heading across the backroads from Blessington to Naas when I thought I spotted something in the corner of my eye. It looked suspiciously like a ruin partly hidden by some abandoned farm outbuildings. We pulled over and walked back down the deserted road and found a field gate fixed solidly to the ground by vegetation but easy enough to climb over. We were conscious that this was probably somebody's land but there were no prohibitive signs and certainly nobody about so we ventured on to have a closer look. What we found was sadly a very decrepit ruin of what appeared to be a tower house and not one of great distinction by the look of it. Only two walls remained on its Southern and Western sides but the base of the West wall sloped out in what I believe they call a talus or batter. Certainly unusual for such a small and abandoned castle. It had been incorporated, as have many a rural ruin, into some farm buildings, sheds and such. The upper third or so of the tower is no longer extant and the ivy has encroached badly upon it leaving it an odd and spidery look. Truthfully I don't think that the remains are going to be visible for a lot longer as this type of overgrowth is apt to crumble whats left like a boa constrictor.

The wi-fi was not great at that spot but when I finally did get a chance to do some research a little later I discovered the site listed on an 1837 ordnance survey map as the ruins of Blackhall castle (not to be confused with the castle of the same name in Calverstown Co Kildare. See earlier post here) This castle was named after the townland in which it is located and from what I can gather it was associated with the Fitzgeralds who held land here back as far as the Norman invasion when Maurice Fitzgerald initially took possession in 1172. Blackhall castle was more than likely built as one of the £10 castles that dotted along the pale in order to defend it. This would put its age as possibly early 15th century and around the reign of Henry VI. The castle was badly damaged in 1642 by crown forces fighting the rebels (which included the Fitzgeralds) during the confederate war but it is thought to have been reconstructed to some degree a few years later and then inhabited by Anthony Sherlock around 1659. He also came from a Norman family who settled after the invasion and the area known as Sherlockstown not far from Naas is most likely named after his forebears The castle was replaced as a dwelling house in time by a mansion built around the early 1700's and one would imagine that Blackhall started on its road to ruin around then. 

It was a short visit and soon we were back on the road again, but it saddens me a little to see history slowly going to ground in such a way as Blackhall.

This one is only for die-hards to visit! To find the ruins follow this route. From the main street in Blessington opposite St. Joseph's Hall take the R410 signposted for Naas (halfway along this road at Glending there is a shortcut up a very narrow boreen which I would not recommend unless you have a decent off road vehicle. Believe me I found out the hard way) Instead follow the road R410 for approx 5KM until you reach a T-junction with the L2021 where the R410 continues to the left. Drive another 200m and then take the first left hand turn onto a narrow road. Follow this road for approx 2KM until you reach a fork in the road. Take the right hand road and continue for approx 300m until you reach a small crossroads just after a little bungalow. Turn right and drive for approx 600 m until you see the abandoned farm buildings on your left. The field gate is at this spot. It is advisable to park a few metres on up the road where it is a  little wider.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Swords Towers Co Dublin

                                                 Above Image: Entrance gate

                                                 Above Image: The round tower

                                       Above Image: The 14th century church tower

These ancient towers stand close to each other in the grounds of St. Columba's Anglican church in Swords, Co. Dublin. The present church is more recent having been built in the early 1800's.
A monastery was founded here in 560AD by St. Colmcille and it thrived initially but fell victim to many attacks over the centuries either by raiding Irish clans or subsequently by the Vikings. Nothing is extant here today of that monastery apart from the 9th or possibly 10th century round tower which would have been constructed as a refuge and safekeeping place against marauders. It stands over 80 feet high and about 16 feet in diameter. The original doorway is now almost at ground level but would have been a few metres higher when it was constructed.The last few metres at the top just below the cone were reconstructed at a much later time and a cross was placed on top.
The square tower standing beside the round tower is the belfry tower from the 14th century church that once stood here. The church nave and chancel fell into ruin long ago most likely after the suppression of the mid 16th century and the remains were still visible until the building of the new church took place in the early 19th century. They were subsequently demolished leaving only the bell tower. A clock was also later added to the East face of the belfry.
Both towers today stand imposingly side by side among the trees and they are somewhat awkward to get a good photograph of together in the one shot, especially when the sun is higher causing them to  silhouette against the sky. But a little time and patience wins out in the end.
Access to the grounds is simple enough with a pedestrian gate to the left of the main entrance gates that is unlocked whether the main gates are locked or not. Unfortunately the interiors to the towers at the moment remain closed.
To find the towers take the junction 3 exit off the M1 motorway and at the top of the exit ramp take the first exit left onto the R125 signposted for Swords. Continue along this road going straight through the next two roundabouts and again on the third joining the R836 for Swords. Continue into the town until you see the Lord Mayor pub on your left. Take the next left turn onto Church Road and follow it up until you see the Anglican church grounds on your left hand side. Parking on this road is reserved but if you follow the narrow road down to its end you will find parking there.

©  G Hill 2021