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Castlecrine, a history by Martin Breen


Castle Crine House on Pelham’s Map, 1787

Castle Crine House on Pelham’s Map, 1787

Castlecrine does not appear in the various lists or sources available to us relating to the castles of County Clare. It does not appear in the 1570 or 1574 lists, nor does it appear in the various castle-builders lists. That a castle once existed here is evident from the townland name; no other castle is recorded in this townland. Castlecrine House, a castellated eighteenth and nineteenth century house, is said to have been built on its site. Weir suggests that the house possibly incorporated part of the old castle. The house itself, built about 1860 by Capt. Henry Butler on the site of an earlier Stackpoole house, was demolished in the 1950s. (1) According to Lewis the remains of the old castle were evident in 1837 (2), though Henry Pelham’s map of 1787 shows only Castlecrine House.

The castle was probably built, in common with the other castles in this area of south east Clare, by the MacNamara clan, much of whose territory later came under the control of the O’Briens. Castlecrine, which formed part of the estate of the Earls of Thomond prior to 1641, was forfeited after the rebellion and granted to Col. William Purefoy in 1653.(3) In an interesting note to Dineley’s Journal of the 1680s by Robert O’Brien, (writing in 1867), he mentions a “Castle Droichel” at Sixmilebridge (4), which can possibly be translated as “The Bridge Castle”. No other reference to a castle under this name can be found, so he may have been referring to Castlecrine. O’Brien further recorded that the castle was built by Murrough (ob. 1551), son of Turlough O’Brien, in which case he cannot have been referring to the nearby Mount Ievers Castle, which was built by Lochlainn MacNamara, nor Cappagh Castle at Sixmilebridge, which was built by Covea MacNamara, these being the only known castles within the vicinity of that town. Robert O’Brien continued “.....and the west side of the river is also included in the Earl of Thomond’s patent of 1620. The Earls of Thomond were anxious to encourage Protestant settlers on their estates and several of the Earl’s tenants, and of the new patentees, had houses in the town”. (5) In 1641 the owners of Castlecrine and nearby Ballyroe were recorded as Thomas Fanning and the Earl of Thomond. Fanning was Mayor of Limerick in 1646. After the 1641 Rebellion the property was disposed of to Dominic Fanning, the Earl of Thomond, and Colonel William Purefoy, who was stated to be ‘of Castlecrine’. (6) Purefoy was an Officer in Cromwell’s army and was later MP for Limerick City and Kilmallock in Cromwell’s Parliament. (7) He was also put in possession of Rossroe Castle, which later passed to Lord Clare. In 1683 he had a law suit with Lord Clare concerning the ownership of Rossroe, but the confiscation of the Viscount Clare’s estates put an end to that matter. (8) In 1646 Dominic Fanning of Castlecrine was Mayor of Limerick.(9) The estate passed to Thomas Butler, who also prospered during the Cromwellian confiscations, and his political connections with the officers concerned in the Forfeitures and Distributions enabled him to acquire large estates in the county.(10) Thomas Butler was the second son of William who had lived at Rosroe Castle about 1688 under a lease which had passed from Lord Clare. Thomas Butler, who died in 1743, was the first of that family to live at Castlecrine and it remained a family seat for over two centuries without intermission.(11) It is likely that when Thomas acquired Castlecrine that the old castle was his first residence, though all traces of this structure were subsumed in the later buildings.


  1. Hugh Weir, 'Houses of Clare' (Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co. Clare, 1986) p66. See also photographs of the house on p292. See also North Munster Antiquarian Journal, vol. 3 no. 1, 1953, p163
  2. Samuel Lewis, 'A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland' (S. Lewis & Co., London, 1837) vol. II, p93
  3. NMAJ, vol. 3, no. 1, 1953, p162
  4. Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, 1867, p74
  5. Ibid
  6. James Frost, 'The History and Topography of the County of Clare' (Dublin, 1893) pp405-406
  7. NMAJ, vol. 3, no. 1, 1953, p162
  8. Frost, p406
  9. Ibid
  10. Weir, p66 and Seán Spellissy & John O’Brien, ‘Clare, County of Contrast’ (The Connacht Tribune, Galway, 1997) p130
  11. North Munster Antiquarian Journal, 1953, p162

See also:
Castle Crine (Clare Archaeology)


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