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Churches with Round Towers in Northern Clare [36] by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Dromcliff Church and Round Tower

On the grassy ridge occupied by the cemetery of Ennis, and about two miles to the north of that town (of which it commands a distant view), overhanging the swampy meadows and flooded reaches of the Fergus, ‘the lonely turret, shattered and outworn,’ and rude ivied church of Dromcliff, form a conspicuous landmark. The church is 58 feet 7 inches long, varying from 20 feet wide at the east to 21 feet 10 inches at the west. The south wall is about 10 feet high; it has a slightly pointed door,[37] a double arch, of huge blocks, greatly decayed, and ready to fall. East of this are three pre-Norman window slits. The first has 3 feet 1 inch splay, 6 inches light, the head gone; the second 3 feet 6 inches splay, 11 inches light, with semicircular head and moulding; the west jamb of the third is now closed by the east gable. This shows that the church extended farther to the east, though the hill slopes rapidly on that side. The east gable has a late Gothic window, with two lights, 3 feet 10 inches high, and 5 feet 9 inches in the splay. The west gable has also a small slit, about 10 feet above the ground, which, like the east window, is concealed by knotted ivy.

Dromcliff Church and Round Tower, from S.W.
Dromcliff Church and Round Tower, from S.W.

The Round Tower stands 31 feet 6 inches north of the church. It is built of very irregular and large-jointed crag blocks—

‘Lichen-covered rocks, storm-beaten, gray
With struggling with the winter’s wildest works,
The tempest and snow spray.’

The inner facing is of small rubble, on which the ivy has got a ruinous grip.[38] The inner diameter is 8 feet, and the wall 3 feet 6 inches, at 10 feet from the ground; to this level the wall is broken at the south-east side, but the facing has been removed to within 7 feet of the ground at the south. The interior is full of earth and twigs—a rich chance for future excavators. To the north the tower is 40 or 50 feet high; the circumference at the ground is 50 feet 5 inches.

Unfortunately, like so many of our towers, it suffered horribly in the earlier years of the present century. In 1808 the structure was in fair preservation, and is thus described by Hely Dutton (fortunately at greater length than his wont):—

‘About 50 feet remain at present. It is, as with all those towers, situated to the north-west [39] of the church. There is a moulding round the door, which is about 20 feet from the ground. The mortar is quite worn away on the west side, but good on the east. On the west side, about 24 feet from the ground, there is a window, and about 10 feet higher is a larger one. There is another window to the east side.’[40]

In 1839 a large flat-headed window remained, facing the west, and about 30 feet from the ground. It is described in the Ordnance Survey letters, and shown in Dr. Petrie’s sketches, vol. iv.; and in Windele’s ‘Sketches,’ vol. i., p. 24 (Supplement)—all these being in the R.I.A.


St Tola’s Cross, Dysert O’Dea


Plans of Dromcliff, Rath and
Kilnaboy; the earliest churches