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Bunratty West Townland, Bunratty Parish

Information collected on Bunratty West Townland by the Clare Townlands Fieldnames Survey

Bunratty West is a townland situated in the parish of Bunratty and the district of New-Market-on-Fergus, Co Clare. According to James Frost in his History and Topography of Co. Clare, Bunratty is derived from its situation at the confluence of the river O’Garney, (anciently called the Raitté), with the Shannon. O’Donovan and Curry confirm this in their Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839;

“The name of this Parish is written in the Irish language Bun Raite, which means the Mouth of the Ratty, that having been the name of the river now called Owenogarney, (Abhainn O’gCeárnaigh) which means the River of the Territory of O’Kearney. Bunratty was originally the name of the Ballybetagh or ancient Irish Townland lying at both sides of this River at its mouth…”

The town of Bunratty is recorded as an Historic Town, with the SMR No CL062-001 and CL061-011. The town has two different numbers as it is spread out over two of the original 6-inch map sheets.

Photographs of Bunratty Historic Town

Monuments within the townland of Bunratty West include, Bunratty Castle SMR No CL062-001004, Bunratty Church CL061-011001, and graveyard CL061-011002, the town defences CL061-011003, a Dovecot CL061-011004, a pit CL061-011005, a Sheela-na-Gig CL062-001005, a castle motte CL062-001006, and six known fish weir. According to a survey carried out on Bunratty Church, the earliest church on site possibly dates to the late thirteenth century while the present structure dates to the O’Brien period of the late sixteenth century. See the full report on Bunratty Church. Frost tells us that there is no known saint who founded the parish, he believes it was the place of worship for “the Earls of Thomond and their numerous retainers from the castle, as well as for the people of the parish generally.”

It is believed that there were a total of four castles built at Bunratty from the Norman times to the present day. The first castle was thought to have been built by Robert de Mucegros c.1248 AD, when the titles were given to him by Henry II.

William Gerrard Ryan writes:
“An examination of the calendar of state papers for this period is interesting as it shows, for 1251 A.D. that Musegros could cut down 200 good oak trees from the King’s wood of Cratloe.” This would be consistent with the belief that a Motte and Bailey was constructed on site, although no trace of it remains today. The castle was surrendered to King Edward I in 1275 and the titles given to Thomas de Clare c.1276. The second castle consisted of a stone, white washed tower. This castle was burned by Lady de Clare c.1318 after learning of the death of her husband in the battle of Dysert O’Dea. A third castle was built at Bunratty c.1353, by Sir Thomas de Rockeby to provide protection for the Shannon estuary from the native Irish. According to Ryan’s Survey there is no trace of this castle left today, locals say that it was erected on the site were the Bunratty Castle hotel now stands. The fourth and final castle which stands today at Bunratty was built by the O’Brien King of Thomond c.1397. The castle continued as the residence of the O’Brien family until 1646 when it was taken by the army of the Confederation of Kilkenny. The castle was bought in the 1950s by Lord Gort and was subsequently restored by the Office of Public Works. It is now open to the public and is a big tourist attraction of the area.

Placenames in Bunratty West shown on 1842 Ordnance Survey Map


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