Castles of Co. Carlow
 

Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Ballyloughan Castle

Bagenalstown Area

Image of Ballyloughan Castle

699 BALLYLOUGHAN

OS 19:3:2 (591,573) 'Ballvloughan Castle (in ruins)' OD 300-400 27459,15851

Castle Late thirteenth-century fortress consisting of rectangular court (c. 43m N-S, c. 46m E-W) enclosed by poorly defended curtain walls with double-towered gatehouse at centre of S wall. Low square towers on NE and SW angles and foundations of small square structure inside NW angle. Walls of squared granite blocks, irregularly coursed and enclosed by fosse (uncovered during excavations in 1955 (JRSAl 1962, 7)). Rectangular gatehouse with two circular towers of three storeys flanking arched entranceway. Stairwells in wall thickness and machicolation over entrance to towers at second floor level. Small rectangular tower on NE angle, also excavated by de Paor. Of thirteenth-century date, reconstructed as cottage in eighteenth century. The SW angle tower (int Dims 6m x 5.6m) has two storeys and has intermural passages and chambers. (JRSAI1962, 1-14; Leask 1973,72) 19:18                                                14-8-1987

 The above is an Extract from the Archaeological Inventory of Co Carlow-OPW

The castle, which was probably built in the 13th century, originally consisted of a large open courtyard fortified by a high curtain wall with a moat outside it. Only a small square tower at one corner survives, as well as the entrance gate, flanked by two large rounded towers. The tower in the north-eastern corner was abandoned in the 14th century, and the whole castle may even have been abandoned at this time. Note the variety of fireplaces. The castle formerly belonged to the Kavanaghs, and was occupied by Donogh Kavanagh at the end of the 16th century. After the Restoration it came into the possession of the Bagenal family, but was bought by the Bruens in the early 19th century.

 


The castle at Ballyloughan was built in the 1‘English Style’ in the 13th c by a Norman lord. However it was occupied for most of its history by members of the Kavanagh clan. 2 In the sixteenth century it was the stronghold of one of their strongest septs the Clan Donough.

Following the defeat of the Confederation forces in 1641 the castle & lands were forfeited to the crown. Posession then passed into the hands of the Beauchamp family who in the 17th c built the large residence still to be seen nearby.

Sketches of the building taken a century later show large gaping holes around window opes indicating that the cut stonework had been removed by then, presumably to build the 17th c residence. Most of the fieldstones in the curtain wall were also removed at that time.

4 This residence was the home of Eleanor Beauchamp who in 1725 became the second wife of Walter Bagenal of Dunleckney and later the mother of Beauchamp Bagenal.

3 Excavations carried out in 1955 found traces of a moat or fosse surrounding the site. Dimensions were 3m wide x 1 m deep. In common with wall heights and thickness this also indicates that defence was not a major consideration of the design.

To west of the complex the land descends into a hollow now full of rushes. This is probably the location of the lake from which the townland gets its name ie Baile an Loch Án. In the earlier years of its existence the castle was surrounded by a moat supplied from this lake, which subsequently dried out.

At the field gate leading in to the site a notice board erected by the OPW gives a brief history and includes a late 18th c sketch by Gross. The sketch shows the castle in ruins. Part of the curtain wall to south east of the Gatehouse still existed at that time. Three chimneys were shown of which only one remains.

The site is currently in the care of the OPW which have conducted repairs to make the building safe to visitors.

Note that the building was originally about 1 m lower than the present ground level. The vaulted ceilings of both towers and main building still exist.

Access between levels is by stairways and corridors within the walls, mainly on the East side. Each stairway/corridor has a lancet opening to provide light. Stairways in common with mediaeval practice elsewhere have an unfavourable runner to riser ratio ie sudden drop at each step, requiring considerable care to negotiate safely.

Separate kitchen not found. Cooking and eating took place in the large room on first floor (as in farmhouses of bygone years). Large open fireplace was originally in left hand corner of this room. In 15th c it was moved to central location in gable wall.

Latrine or garderobe is located in wall space off this room immediately opposite entrance door. Slated roofing of towers and main A-roof.

SW Tower: Ground floor room accessed directly from the courtyard. Pleasant room on 1st floor accessed by stairway in North gable wall; has a fireplace, is well lit by windows with seats. Latrine off this room at NW corner.

NE Tower: Two gables remain alongside a section of the East wall.

References;

1st Floor Plan
Ground Floor Plan
Adapted from Tom McNeill
1 Castles in Ireland. Tom McNeill Routledge.
2. Castles in Ireland. Tom McNeill Routledge.
3. Castles in Ireland. Tom McNeill Routledge.
4. Come Capture Castles in Co Carlow. Victor Hadden (1994)
Irish Castles and Castellated Houses. Harold.G.Leask (1941) Dundalgan Press, Dundalk
Archaeological Inventory of Co Carlow. OPW

Source: Ancient Sites & Buildings of Bagenalstown Area Vol. 2. Site 11.


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