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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 42: Kilmurry Parish


Nat. Grid Ref. R452694; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: North-east, entrance, face of Rosroe Tower House
Photo 1: North-east, entrance, face of Rosroe Tower House

R.C. Parish : Sixmilebridge – Kilmurry
Townland : Cragroe
6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 0.3 cm East; 12.2 cm South
Height (G.L.) : 110’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 133 (Sixmilebridge)

For information on this Tower House, the earliest such one in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, refer to:- a) site plan b) site description c) series of photographs.

Plan of Rosroe Tower House
Plan of Rosroe Tower House


The entrance to this site is from the north-east, via a timber framed doorway (Photo 1). As the selection of photographs on this site will show most of the cut-stone work, in the doors and windows, have been removed leaving either open spaces or timber framed doors and windows in their place.

On entering the site via this 1.10 metre wide and 1.85 metre high timber doorway one finds the guardroom to the left (i.e. south-east). Unfortunately the original cut-stone doorway which led into this room has also been removed and replaced again by a timber framed door. Field examination found that this room is now used for young calves, thus the floor and walls are in a very poor condition. Originally this room had two narrow slitted windows, with inside recess. One faced north-east but this has been destroyed and replaced by a wider timber framed window, 1 metre high and 1 metre wide (see site plan). The second opening was in the south-east wall, near the junction of this wall with the north-east one. This also is in a poor condition with no trace of cut-stone. In its place is a square shaped opening averaging 75 cm in size.

Directly opposite the guardroom (to the north-west), inside the main entrance, was the area of the original spiral stairway. However as an examination of the site plan shows this area has been completely closed off by built-up stone. No trace now remains of the actual stairway, the site’s north-west wall having been cut through and an agricultural store is now to be found in the former position of the first few steps of the stairway. (I will deal with this area in more detail later when describing the principal features of the north-west wall).

The cellar area is also in a poor condition in the sense that a great deal of agricultural equipment has been stored in it, thus making a thorough examination of the area impossible (Photo 2). The ceiling is intact and is of the arched form being 4.50 metres high at its centre. Clear evidence exists of the wicker work method used in the construction of this ceiling.

Two cut-stone windows existed in this cellar but both are now in a poor condition. Originally these would have been of the narrow slitted type with inside recesses. During examination the south-east window (Photo 5) was found to exist as a 1.50 metre high and almost 2 metre wide opening. The south-west window (Photo 4) is in a somewhat better condition, being only 90 cm wide and 1.50 metres high. Neither window has trace of cut-stone.

The most interesting feature of this cellar area is the presence of a plain, cut-stone, fireplace in the north-west wall. This 3 metre wide, 1.50 metre high and 1 metre deep fireplace is now largely blocked up with rubbish and twigs. Looking up through the opening one can only see parts of the first floor, the uppermost parts of the chimney being blocked up.

Having looked at some of the principal features of the ground floor area what can we now say about the site’s four walls?

North-East Wall: (Photo 1)
This, of course, is the entrance area. Reference has already been made to the present condition of the actual “doorway”. What of the windows? This wall had eight stone cut windows, only one of which now survives in a good state of preservation. The other seven have had the cut-stone removed and now exist as open spaces of various sizes. The largest space is directly over the doorway.

This is 3.50 metres high and 1.50 metres wide (Photo 1). The only window in its original condition is to the top left of the site. Here we have a c. 1.50 metre long by 10 cm wide narrow slitted window. Its height above the ground level is responsible for its survival.

North-West Wall: (Photo 3)
This wall is likewise in a poor condition and as the site plan shows two modern insertions have been made into it, both on the ground floor level. These two areas are used by the local farmer for general storage of agricultural goods. Over the first of these two openings, near the corner with the north-east wall, is a wide space – 2 metres high and 1 metre wide. Originally this was a narrow slitted window which provided light for the spiral stairway immediately inside it.

The only window of interest along this wall is to the top right, near the site’s west corner. As Photo 3 shows here we have a window of ogee type in a very good state of preservation (though now unfortunately blocked up by stone).

The site plan shows an outhouse attached to the north-west wall of the site. This, of course, has hidden any features of interest along its 6 metre length.

South-West Wall: (Photo 4)
This is the rear wall of this site. It has no features of special interest. As the site plan shows, and as has been commented on previously, the original window on the ground floor has been destroyed and replaced by a wide opening.

South-East Wall: (Photo 5)
This wall has eight window spaces though unfortunately only two retain their cut-stone. Both of these are to the top right of the wall, quite close to its junction with the north-west wall. The upper window of the two is 1.50 metres high by 15 cm wide while that one directly below is 1 metre high and 10 cm wide.

Reference has already been made to the ground floor window while describing the features of the cellar area.

Due to the destruction of the spiral stairway, at the site’s north corner, it was impossible to get to the first or succeeding floors.

A close examination of the site plan will immediately show that Rosroe Tower House is an early example of tower houses. Why? Examine the width of the walls on the ground floor. At an early stage large and wide foundations were required to support the upper floors. Examine this site plan closely and then compare it to Cratloemoyle Tower House.

When was it built? Fortunately we have a reference, in Westropp (1899), which informs us that Rossroe (Tower House) was built by Sioda MacNamara before 1402 A.D. Thus here we have the only late fourteenth century Tower House in the Barony of Bunratty Lower. In all probability it marks the introduction of this site into the area and in time over 30 similar sites were built.

Occupation continued into the sixteenth century as the 1580 A.D. College List informs us that at that period Fineen, son of Loghlen MacNamara, owned the site.

Its continued habitation is suggested by the pen drawing of 1680 executed by Dineley – see overleaf.

(The elderly owner of the land on which the site is situated said his parents often referred to the people in the late nineteenth century who used to come and remove the cut-stones from the site).


Curry, O.S. Letters (1839), Volume 2, page 113
Frost, 1893, page 59
Westropp, 1899, pages 351 and 363.

Source: Frost, 1893, page 543. (Extract from: “Dineley’s Journal”, 1680)
Source: Frost, 1893, page 543.
(Extract from: “Dineley’s Journal”, 1680)

Photo 2: Cellar at Rosroe Tower House
Photo 2: Cellar at Rosroe Tower House

Photo 3: North-west face of Rosroe Tower House
Photo 3: North-west face of Rosroe Tower House

Photo 4: South-west face of Rosroe Tower House
Photo 4: South-west face of Rosroe Tower House

Photo 5: South-east face of Rosroe Tower House
Photo 5: South-east face of Rosroe Tower House