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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 41: Kilmaleery Parish

URLANBEG “CASTLE”

Nat. Grid Ref. R385662; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: Urlanbeg “Castle” from the south
Photo 1: Urlanbeg “Castle” from the south

R.C. Parish : Newmarket-on-Fergus
Townland : Urlanbeg
6” O.S. Sheet number : 51 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 31.2 cm West; 18.5 cm North
Height (G.L.) : 100’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 133 (Sixmilebridge)

For information on this supposed castle refer to: a) site plan b) site description c) series of photographs.

URLANBEG “CASTLE”
URLANBEG “CASTLE”

As both Photo 1 and the site plan show very little now remains of this “castle”, to the east/north-east of the nearby and plainly visible, impressive Urlanmore Castle. In fact a combination of its size and features (see site plan) as well as its proximity to Urlanmore Castle makes me query the notion that this was, in fact, ever a castle or tower house. I suggest that here, in Urlanbeg townland, we have the ruins of an outer defensive feature attached, and certainly not separate from, Urlanmore Castle. This was possibly responsible for guarding the eastward approach to Urlanmore Castle, as a two or possibly three storey structure here would have a wide view over this eastern area. Urlanmore Castle itself, as field examination found, has a particularly impressive view towards the Fergus estuary, to the west.

Certainly this view of Urlanbeg “castle” not being an independent structure is open to question, nevertheless field observation and examination does, I feel, strongly support this view of an outer-defensive line.

What are its features as it survives to date (1979)? As both Photo 1 and the site plan show entrance was from the south via a pointed cut-stone doorway. The actual opening is 2 metres high by 1.15 metres wide. Traces of the beam slots exist in both walls, just inside the cut-stone doorway (see site plan). The slot to the left (west) is 10 cm wide, 14 cm high and 88 cm long while the corresponding east one is also 10 cm wide and 14 cm high but only 20 cm long.

Passing in through this door one enters a room 4 metres wide (north-south) and now, due to collapse, 6 metres long. This western part of the site is roofed by the wicker work arched method. At its centre it is 3.15 metres above the present floor level which contains some loose stones.

Due to the collapsed nature of the eastern part of this site, combined with a heavy vegetation cover, it is impossible to note any of the features of that area.
As the site survives it has two window spaces, facing west and north. As the site plan shows both of these are somewhat damaged.

The north window is 1.40 metres wide on the inside, 2.50 metres high, 1.20 metres deep and 55 cm wide on the outside. Originally this would have been a long narrow slitted window, perhaps 1 to 1.50 metres high by 8 to 10 cm wide. The inside recess nature is still clear from the site plan.

What of the west window? Here we can examine both the site plan and Photo 2. On the outside the opening is 90 cm wide and 1.65 metres high. On the inside, however, this opening is some 2.25 metres wide and 1.50 metres high. The site plan suggests that here, also, we had a window with inside recess. Presumably such an opening, as it was in the ground floor area, was of the long and narrow slitted type.

One of the features of the surviving western part of this so called “castle” is the absence of much of the cut-stone from the outer wall facing. In fact field examination failed to find any cut-stone along the west wall (Photo 2) and that on the south wall was restricted to the door area (Photo 1).

The site now survives to an average height of between 3 and 4 metres. Presumably upper floors existed but there is now no evidence of their existence. Nor does such evidence exist from within the site, thus any stairway must have been in the now collapsed covered eastern area.

Date:
Westropp in his 1899 article, which gives the date of construction of a number of the castles and tower houses in this area, only mentions Urlanbeg (Castle) in passing as one of 31 defensive sites in the Barony of Bunratty Lower. No information is given as to its builder or period of erection.

Even the College List, 1580 A.D., does not refer to a site in this area called Urlanbeg Castle. However it does mention a Bodavoher Castle for Kilmaleery Civil Parish which may refer to Urlanbeg. There is, of course, the possibility that such a castle was elsewhere in the Civil Parish but was completely levelled at a later date. My view on the matter is that so-called Urlanbeg “Castle” was not mentioned in the College List as it was only regarded as an outer defence connected with nearby Urlanmore Castle.

I feel that there was a third castle (tower house) in the Civil Parish known as Bodavoher Castle, no trace of which now survives. The fact that its site is not marked in on the First Edition O.S. Sheets (1839) suggests it had long been levelled at that time. In 1580 A.D. such a site was the property of one Donagh Mac Clancy.

REFERENCES

Frost,
1893, page 190 (re-Bodavoher Castle, with no reference to Urlanbeg “Castle” itself).
Westropp,
1899, page 363 (includes the “castle” as one of the 31 possible defensive sites in the Barony of Bunratty Lower).

Photo 2: Urlanbeg “Castle,” from the west
Photo 2: Urlanbeg “Castle,” from the west

 

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