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Fortifications in the Shannon Estuary and Galway Bay by Paul M. Kerrigan

Fortifications in the Shannon Estuary: Kilkerin Point Battery

Kilkerin Point is directly opposite Tarbert Island, just over a mile to the north-east. The batteries on Tarbert and Kilkerin completely commanded the river here with a cross-fire from their guns: sailing ships altering course in the bend in the river would have been well within range of the 24-pounders mounted in each battery. Kilkerin Point battery is in good condition apart from some damage to the counterscarp and at the entrance gateway. The dry moat has most of the stonework of the retaining walls forming the scarp and counterscarp. The blockhouse is well preserved on the exterior.

Kilkerin battery from the north-east
Kilkerin battery from the north-east

At the lower level covering the dry moat are musket-loops, five at each end of the building, some of which have been blocked up at a later date. The loops have external splays and are about two feet wide by two-and-a-half feet high on the outside face of the wall. On the upper level five similar loops command the interior of the battery, with the entrance door at one end of this façade. The doorway is set within a recess in the wall face some eight inches deep to accommodate the drawbridge when raised vertically in front of the door. Iron pulleys for the drawbridge are set in the wall above the doorway, while at the cill of the door is an iron bar on which the drawbridge pivoted.

Kilkerin battery, the blockhouse from the south
Kilkerin battery, the blockhouse from the south

The walls of the blockhouse are battered from base to parapet level at an angle of about 1:12; the scarp walls of the battery are built to a similar slope, which is to be found in many of the fortifications and Martello towers of this period, both in ashlar masonry and in walls such as these of squared rubble laid to courses.

The lower level of the blockhouse was divided into rooms for stores and a magazine and must have been reached by stairs or ladder from the floor above. The upper floor provided accommodation for officers and soldiers and is divided by a crosswall into a large space, 31 feet long by 18 feet wide, with a smaller room at one end, 9 feet by 18 feet. A large window at each end of the building provided light and ventilation. In the thickness of the outer wall of the guardhouse a narrow stone stair gives access to the gun platform above. Here two guns were mounted on traversing platforms for the landward defence of the battery; Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) notes two howitzers at Kilkerin, Tarbert and Scattery in addition to the main armament of 24-pounders, so these must have been mounted on the guardhouse gun platform. The use of 5 ½ -inch howitzers would have allowed for the use of their shells in the 24-pounder guns: there is a reference to this practice at Duncannon Fort in 1804.

Plan of Kilkerin Battery
Plan of Kilkerin Battery

The width of the battery at Kilkerin is just over 250 feet from the outer face of the parapet on each flank; the dry moat is 14 feet wide on the flanks and on the curved front of the battery and 19 feet at the rear, where it is increased in width to include the guardhouse. The parapet is 17 feet wide on the flanks of the battery and 12 feet at the rear, while the indented plan of the inner face of the parapet at the six-gun positions results in a thickness of about 24 feet at the front pivot of each gun mounting and some 35 feet at the maximum thickness between each gun. This form of parapet resulted in a form of wide-splayed shallow embrasure in front of each gun position.

The Kilkerin guardhouse, some 54 feet long by 33 feet wide, is typical in its dimensions and details; the guardhouse at Tarbert was almost identical, which suggests that they were constructed to the same plans and at the same time. Entry to the battery at Kilkerin was originally by means of a drawbridge; iron pulleys remain at each side of the gateway recessed into the dressed stonework and secured by iron straps. Within the battery enclosure on the axis of the layout is a small semi-basement vaulted structure covered with earth, noted on plans as ‘shell filling room’. Similar structures existed at Tarbert, Scattery and Corran Point. The land at Kilkerrin was acquired by the government in March 1811, the battery evidently being constructed soon after this date.

Plans of the blockhouse of Kilkerin Battery
Plans of the blockhouse of Kilkerin Battery

 

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