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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 40: Killeely Parish (Part of)


Nat. Grid Ref. R512590; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: Cratloe Keel Tower House and surrounds from the east
Photo 1: Cratloe Keel Tower House and surrounds from the east

R.C. Parish : Cratloe
Townland : Cratloekeel
6” O.S. Sheet number : 62 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 26.3cm North; 33.3cm East
Height (G.L.) : c. 40’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 143 (Limerick)

For information on this damaged site refer to: a) site plan b) site description c) photographs

Plan of Cratloekeel Tower House:


Up to 1959 this Tower House and attached extensions (see site plan) were lived in by a local family. However in that year a serious fire broke out which damaged much of the site, particularly the western extensions. Rather than rebuild and repair the site it was decided to build a new house closer to the main Limerick-Ennis road.

The Tower House has been undisturbed over the past 20 years with the result that it is now in a poor condition (Photos 2 and 3).

What are its main features as it survives to date (1979)? As the site plan shows only the eastern entrance area is in a fair condition. The remainder of the site on the ground floor (i.e. cellar area) had at some earlier period been subjected to extensive renovation (Photo 3). Doors were cut through the walls, windows closed up, sections of the old walls knocked down, red brick inserted in open spaces, etc. What was probably a narrow slitted window in the north wall was removed and replaced by a 95cm wide doorway, defined by red brick.

The original west window was also destroyed and a later fireplace inserted in its place. In the south wall a 1 metre square window replaced the original opening.

As Photo 2 shows the former cellar area is in a very poor condition and covered with rubble and burnt material from the fire.

The entrance area has also suffered damage (Photo 3). Originally a cut limestone doorway defined the actual entrance. As the site plan shows all trace of such a door is now gone from the northern area and only traces are visible to the south.

Passing through the area of the doorway one immediately notices the amount of rubble and collapse on the ground. Most of this would seem to date from the period of the fire, in 1959. To the left was the guardroom, now much altered. A more modern doorway was cut through the wall to the south-west. This leads to one of the later, now burnt, extensions. The doorway into the area containing the spiral stairway is in a good condition. This averages 1.75 metres high and 93 cm wide. The original hanging hinges and beam shaft are clearly visible behind this door.

A spiral, cut-stone, stairway leads to the first floor. The roof over the former, much altered, cellar area collapsed during the 1959 fire so that today (1979) one can only examine that section of the site directly over the entrance (eastern) area. In this section one notices two windows. One faces to the east (entrance wall). This opening is 1.50 metres high, 15 cm wide and has a semi-circular top.

The second window, also 1.50 metres high and 15cm wide, is in the south wall. This is flat topped. In the centre of this room is the now blocked up murder-hole which is also traceable from the ground floor.

Because of the unsafe nature of this structure I did not go up to the second or third floor.

The Tower House is in a poor condition and this situation is getting worse. A heavy vegetation cover, especially to the east, is doing damage to the site. Also some damage is said to have been caused by “visitors” to the castle, especially in the form of throwing cut-stone down from the upper area of the east wall.

There is no recorded information as to when this site was built. However if we compare the features of the eastern, entrance area we could suggest a date of c. 1480 A.D. based on other local examples. Cratloekeel (Crathallaghkell) Tower House, according to the College List of 1580 A.D. was then owned by Donald Mc Namara.

Recent occupation to 1959 of this site has already been dealt with.


O’Donovan, O.S. Letters (1839), Volume 2, page 132
Frost, 1893, page 12
Westropp, 1899, page 363
Cratloe N.S., 1979 Edition, page 13

Photo 2: Cellar of Cratloe Keel Tower House, looking west
Photo 2: Cellar of Cratloe Keel Tower House, looking west

Photo 3: Entrance area to Cratloe Keel Tower House, from the east
Photo 3: Entrance area to Cratloe Keel Tower House, from the east