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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)

CRATLOEMOYLE TOWER HOUSE

Nat. Grid Ref. R514595; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: South, entrance, face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 1: South, entrance, face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House

R.C. Parish : Cratloe
Townland : Cratloemoyle
6” O.S. Sheet number : 62 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 21.8cm North; 31.8cm East
Height (G.L.) : 34.1’ O.D. (bench mark on wall)
1” O.S. Sheet number : 143 (Limerick)

For information on this late-dating Tower House refer to:- a) two site plans b) site description c) series of photographs d) field sketches

Ground floor site plan of Cratloemoyle tower house
Ground floor site plan of Cratloemoyle tower house

First floor site plan of Cratloemoyle tower house
First floor site plan of Cratloemoyle tower house

CRATLOEMOYLE TOWER HOUSE

This Tower House, in a fairly good state of preservation, is entered from the south. Steps, cut in the outcropping rock, lead up to the cut-stone doorway which is 2.50 metres above the surrounding field surface (Photo 1, Field sketch 1). On entering through this 1.35 metre wide pointed, stone cut, doorway you immediately notice three further doors (see site plan). The first one of these - also stone cut and pointed - is to the left (west) and leads to the spiral stairway. Part of this cut-stone door has been damaged to the north and red brick inserted in the damaged area. The second, also pointed and stone cut, leads into the cellar. Field examination found that the western part of this had been damaged and red brick used in an attempt to repair this damage. The third and final doorway was the least impressive of the three. It had a lintelled top and no impressive cut-stone work similar to that which we noted in the other doorways. This plain rectangular door led into the small guardroom.

As the site plan shows this guardroom is completely different from those noted in all other tower houses. This room contains the remains of what must have been a spy hole – this enabled the guard to see who was approaching the site. The guardroom is 2.0 metres high and is built some 60 cm above the level of the entrance area, the reason for this is unclear. As the ground floor site plan shows this small room has a shelf in the east wall, 1 metre above the ground level. This feature is 42 cm high, 45cm wide and 45cm deep.

Leaving the guardroom and walking to the north one enters the cellar via a pointed arched door, 1.25 metres wide and 2.25 metres high. This large room (storage area?) has a high vaulted ceiling, most of which is still standing and in a good state of preservation. The exception is an area to the west, which has collapsed (see first floor site plan).

On average this ceiling, at its centre, is 8 metres above ground level. Traces of wicker work may be observed along part of this ceiling, especially around the window spaces to the south and east. Much of this ceiling, however, is covered by plaster dating to a later period of habitation.
In fact evidence of such a later habitation is shown by the damage to the north and east windows. As the ground floor site plan shows these now are wide open spaces (see Photos 5 and 6).

The north window has been completely destroyed (site plan: ground floor). No trace now survives of the cut-stone area or even the larger recess. In its place we have a wide opening which, up to recent years, was used as an entrance area for cattle who used to shelter in the site’s interior. The original doorway, to the south, had too steep a rise to it so a new opening was cut in the north wall. Now, fortunately, this opening is closed off by large sheets of corrugated iron which is clearly represented on Field sketch 3 and in Photo 5.

The eastern window has also been damaged though not to the same extent as the north’s, former, window. Originally we had a narrow slitted window here with inside recess. In its place, though the recess survives, is a wide opening, partly closed up by corrugated iron (see Field sketch 4; Photo 6).

A close examination of the ground floor site plan, to the south – east corner, is the representation of a second (eastern) window, or possibly even a doorway. Field examination suggested that there was only full wall here. However, at some later period, this was cut through to provide an eastern doorway, now blocked up. A close examination of both Photo 6 and Field sketch 4 will show the area of this doorway.

Finally on the ground floor of this site we have a cut-stone fire-place, unusual though not unknown in tower houses (e.g. Clenagh, Rossmanagher). The actual fireplace, as shown in Photo 2, is of cut limestone with a plain decoration of raised parallel lines. The top does have a narrow shelf. As the site plan shows the lower right (east) part of this fireplace is damaged. Some of the missing cut-stones are to be found on the floor of the cellar.

Damage has also been caused by people writing their names on this cut-stone feature. To stop such future damage the two openings in the north and east walls were blocked up by corrugated iron and the main entrance area to the south has a padlocked iron gate (Photo 1, Field sketch 1).

On leaving the “cellar” area - the presence of a cut-stone fireplace suggests it may have been more than simply a storage area - one heads towards the spiral stairway to the south-west (see ground floor site plan). This stairway is approached via a long narrow passageway, light being provided by a 1.30 metre high by 8cm wide window.

On going up the first few cut-stone steps of this spiral stairway one notices features in common with a number of other tower houses e.g. Ballycullen (described previously). In other words over part of the site two small floors correspond, in height, to the high vaulted cellar area. This is clear from the room over the actual cellar itself. The western part of the site had a floor halfway up the spiral stairway to the large room over the actual cellar.
Though the floor and ceiling of this small area has now collapsed evidence of its former existence is clearly shown in the windows that survive, plus marks in the wall (Photo 4). In the case of other tower houses (Ballycullen, Rossmanagher, Kilkishen, etc.) this small room would have contained the murder-hole and have acted as an extra defensive area above the ground floor entrance, but not so in this case. The small floor was to the west but the actual, original, entrance into the site was to the south. This suggests that though Cratloemoyle builders were following some of the features of earlier tower houses they had not the same defensive needs as the earlier people had. Does this suggest a more peaceful time?

What are the features of the large room over the cellar? Firstly it is now very difficult to reach this floor. The reason? When the floor area to the west collapsed some of the spiral stairway also fell. Thus one has to climb up an area without clear steps and a 10 metre drop to one side. In time further collapse will completely cut off this floor hence the reason for the first floor site plan. What does this room contain?

The plain stone cut fireplace in the north wall is of a deal of interest as it is backed by a window, probably originally of the central shaft type (Field sketch 3; Photo 5). The reason for this is unclear - surely some of the smoke and heat would escape out the window. Presumably there would have been some covering for this interesting window space when the fire was lit. On other occasions then the covering could have been removed and extra air let circulate in the room.

This is not the only fireplace in the room. One existed also in the south wall though this has no features of interest.

A number of windows existed on this floor (see site plan). The main ones were to the north-east (though in the north wall), east and south. All three are now without trace of cut-stone and survive as wide openings (see Photos 1, 5 and 6). Originally these were probably of the central shaft type, similar to that window (described previously) in the centre of the north wall behind the fireplace. This would have made the actual light openings 1.65 metres high, by 45 cm wide (including 15 cm wide central shaft).

One of the most interesting features of the site is the guardrobe which exists along the north wall of this floor (see site plan). It is entered via an arched stone cut doorway, 1.60 metres high by 55 cm wide. This leads into an east-west running short passage, light for which is provided by a window, the actual opening of which is 80 cm high by 11 cm wide (Field sketch 3). The actual guardrobe is at the end of this short passage. It is 2 metres long (east-west) and 73 cm wide (Photo 7).

The roof over this first floor is also arched and 8 metres high at its centre. This time a deal of evidence of wicker work occurs.

Such are the features of the ground and first floor of Cratloemoyle Tower House. I do not propose to deal in any detailed terms with the features of the four walls (average height : 17 metres) as they survive to date (1979). This has already, partly, been done when describing the site’s ground and first floor features. Further information is available from Photos 1 (south face), 3 (west face), 5 (north face) and 6 (east face). On this occasion detailed field sketches were made and these provide much information.

In spite of this a few comments are going to have to be written on the various walls:-

Bartizans:
This site had two bartizans, traces of which still remain. These are to be found on the south-east and north-west corners.

Addition:
A close examination of both Photo 1 and Field sketch 1 will show evidence of an attached structure coming out from the south wall, over the main doorway. This may date to the time of erection of this tower house, but in all probability is a later addition.

Date:
Without doubt this site, Crathallaghmoyle, is of a somewhat later time to the other tower houses in the area. Why do I say this? It is much more elaborate in size and detail and has many interesting features not found, on the same scale at any rate, in other sites. But when was it built? One has to take care here. There is no reason, or evidence, to suggest a late fifteenth century date. It is too elaborate for that period. The College List, 1580 A.D., states that a site called Crathallaghmoyle was owned at that time by one Shane Mac Namara. Certainly the site would not have been much earlier than that. In fact were it not for the reference in the College List (1580 A.D.) I would be inclined to support the 1610 A.D. date suggested in the “Clare Guide” (Bord Failte).

I feel we can take a date of some decades either side of 1600 A.D. and not 1500 A.D. as is the case with all other tower houses in the area.

Occupation continued into the last century. A close examination of the First Edition O.S. (6”) Sheets will show that a number of buildings (farmhouses?) existed about the site at that date. At this time the site may have been used if not for habitation certainly as a storage area. The attached outhouse may date to this period.

A local told me that some years ago an Australian family visited this site and claimed that their Irish ancestors had been born and lived in this Tower House.

REFERENCES

O’Donovan, O.S. Letters (1839), Volume 2, page 132
Westropp, 1899, page 363
Frost, 1893, page 12
McInerney, “Other Clare”, Volume 2 (1978), page 12
Cratloe N.S. Publication, 1979 (Ed.), page 12.
Clare Guide, Bord Failte

Field Sketch 1: South Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House
Field Sketch 1: South Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House

Field Sketch 2: West Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House
Field Sketch 2: West Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House

Field Sketch 3: North Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House
Field Sketch 3: North Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House

Field Sketch 4: East Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House
Field Sketch 4: East Face of Cratloemoyle Tower House

Photo 2: Fireplace, in the cellar of Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 2: Fireplace, in the cellar of Cratloe Moyle Tower House

Photo 3: West face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 3: West face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House

Photo 4: Part of the interior west wall of Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 4: Part of the interior west wall of Cratloe Moyle Tower House

Photo 5: North face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 5: North face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House

Photo 6: East face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 6: East face of Cratloe Moyle Tower House

Photo 7: Guardrobe area on the first floor, Cratloe Moyle Tower House
Photo 7: Guardrobe area on the first floor, Cratloe Moyle Tower House

 

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