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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 4: Castles and tower houses c.1500
Chapter 39: Kilfintinan Parish


Nat. Grid Ref. R478655; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: Ballintlea Tower House, from the north-west
Photo 1: Ballintlea Tower House, from the north-west

R.C. Parish : Cratloe
Townland : Ballintlea or Castlequarter
6” O.S. Sheet number : 52 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 11.2cm South; 41.6cm West
Height (G.L.) : 200’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 143 (Limerick)

For information on this site refer to: a) site plan b) site description c) photographs of site (1979)

Plan of Ballintlea Tower House
Plan of Ballintlea Tower House


As the relevant site plan and Photo 1 show this site is in poor a condition and largely covered by ivy.

Field examination noted the following. Entrance to the site was from the south-west. This area, see Photo 2, is in a very poor condition and the combination of collapse and vegetation makes a thorough examination of this particular section impossible (see site plan). Fortunately there was some local information available and this stated that the original spiral stairway was to the right (i.e. south). In fact up to recent years traces of this stairway existed and it was possible to climb to the first floor. This no longer is the case.

With the stairway to the right (south) the guardroom must have been to the left (i.e. west). Unfortunately no clear trace of this room, or the original entrance section, now survives.

The cellar can be examined in some detail. This space had three narrow slitted windows, now all in a poor condition (see site plan). The back (i.e. north-east) window begins 1.22 metres above the present ground level. All but for a 25cm wide opening on top, this window is blocked up by loose stone. Originally this window would have been of the narrow slitted type, possibly 1 metre high and 10cm wide.

The left window is also in a poor condition, with no trace of the actual stone which defined the window space. This opening now averages 65cm high by 60cm wide, with the lower part blocked by loose stone.

The right (i.e. south-east) window is in a fair condition, though as the site plan shows part of the inner wall area to the south has been removed. This space is 75cm high and 10cm wide.

The roof of this cellar is of the usual arched type (see introduction to Tower Houses) and survives to a height of 5 metres above the present ground level. Concerning the present level, this is higher than the site’s former level, due to cattle using the site for shelter over the years. Also, as Photo 3 shows, the cellar contains two crudely constructed pens of loose stone and timber.
It was not possible to reach the first or successive floors due to the damaged nature of the site (Photo 2).

We are fortunate in that Westropp (1899) has some information as to the date of erection of this Tower House. He states:- “1480 - 1500. Ballintlea, (was erected), by Sioda, son of Philip Mor, his brother Aodh died in 1487…” (1899, page 351).

While the site was definitely erected in the late fifteenth century it seems strange there is no reference to it in the College List of 1580 A.D. This site was obviously missed while that 1580 A.D. list was being drawn up.

An examination of the County Clare map of the Down Survey (1650’s) represents this site.

Habitation at this site continued into the last century. Locally I was told that an elderly lady, who had died recently, always maintained that she and her family before her had lived in this Tower House. This person was born in 1861 and by 1870 her family had moved to a nearby farmhouse. At that stage, late nineteenth century, the site was in a fair condition and it was possible to use all the floors.

Since that date, as the site plan and three photographs show, the Tower House has deteriorated markedly. The County Council are partly responsible for this, taking away stones for use in road making. This weakened the site and in comparatively recent years part of the wall to the south-west collapsed.

What remains now is in a poor condition, covered with ivy and in danger of collapse.


O.S. Letters (1839), Volume 2, Pages 134 and 137.
Westropp, 1899, pages 351and 363.

Photo 2: Cellar of Ballintlea Tower House
Photo 2: Cellar of Ballintlea Tower House

Photo 3: View from south-west into Ballintlea Tower House
Photo 3: View from south-west into Ballintlea Tower House