Clonamicklon Castle

Clonamicklon Castle

The Settlement and Architecture of Later Medieval – Slieveardagh, County Tipperary. Richard Clutterbuck – Volume II

This thesis is presented in fulfilment of the regulations for the degree of M.Uttin Archaeology, University College Dublin. – Supervisors: Prof. Barry Raftery, Dr. Tadhg O’Keeffe, Dr. Muiris 0’Sullivan, August 1998,

Location:  Clonamicklon castle is situated in the northern lowlands. The townland stretches as far as the northern escarpment. C1onamicklon is 2km east of Buo1ick (11). The land around the site is used predominantly for grazing today. The Civil Survey shows the townland was predominantly pasture in 1654 (Civil Survey I, 187). The pasture was probably concentrated in the part of the townland which stretches onto the escarpment. The low-lying ground to the north of the townland was taken up with the arable and mixed land use.

Clonamicklon castle is sited at an altitude of between 140 and 150 metres on flat ground off the plateau. The castle was built in an exposed position in poorly drained land. The castle, walls and other buildings are incorporated into a modem farm-yard and can be reached by the modem avenue to the residence and farm buildings. The Ordnance Survey maps show the original entrance as another long path from the main road to the south. The point where this path meet the main road appears as a kick in the modern road.

History:  Clonamicklon Castle was built by the cadet branch of the Butler family, the Butlers of Ikerrin, as a secondary residence to Lismalin (40) (Smyth 1985, 114). The Civil Survey records that the town1and was owned by Pierce Lord Viscount Ikerrin Irish Papist (Civil Survey 1,187). The Civil Survey also describes the buildings in the townland;

Clonamicklon Tower House, Bawn House and Bawn, Clonamicklon Td., Buolick Pr., 49/1, S 282561, T1049-00201,00202,00203, 1/1998

 “Upon this lands stands a good castle, a slate house with a large bawne and some houses abroade” (Civil Survey I, 187).

The castle is depicted in the Down Survey Parish map with an additional house attached which was probably a representation of the bawn house (Fig. 28).The castle was occupied by John Pennefather in the 1665 where he was taxed for three hearths (Laffan 1911, 32).

Description: Clonamicklon castle consists of the substantial remains of a large tower house on the northern flank of a high walled bawn with two flanker towers and a house incorporated into the south wall. The tower honse measures 10.7 metres by 18.1 metres (excluding the extra-mural stairs). The site has been incorporated into a modem farm yard with lean-to animal sheds built within the bawn and a milking parlour and large wintering shed built outside. The tower house is constructed of hammer-dressed, roughly coursed limestone with a prominent low base-batter. Clonamicklon tower house had wooden floors throughout. The building is divided internally above ground floor level into a large eastern section with two floors and attic space and split level west section of smaller area, also with three floors.

An extra-mural square vice tower (2.4 metres by 3.4 metres) on its north side rises to parapet level and gives access to both the east and west sections. Most of the south and west walls have collapsed, exposing the interior of the building; the north and east walls survive. The ground floor walls have been quarried for stone and the north wall is obscured by rubbish and rubble. The west wall is heavily obscured by ivy making it impossible to identify architectural features.

The original ground floor walls were thicker then the upper floor walls. No evidence of an entrance exists on the extant walls which means the tower house must have been entered on the south wall. The ground floor chamber stretched the full length of the building with no apparent internal division. It was lit by three deep windows in the north wall and probably others in the south wall. The surviving windows have had their frames removed. The upper floors were reached by an extra-mural vice tower on the north wall through a vaulted entrance on the ground floor north wall. The vice was inaccessible due to rubbish and rubble obscuring the entrance. A small square shaped apelture pierces the north wall flush with the west side of the vice tower. This appears to be a putlog hole rather then a defensive feature and similar apeltures appear on the east wall at ground floor level. The vice was lit by small narrow windows with splayed ingoings.

The first floor was wooden, supported on a ledge and divided internally into two sections: east and west. The two sections appear as split levels in the exposed elevation of the building. The internal dividing wall appears to have been executed in wood as there are no remains of a dividing masonry wall on any of the floors. The western section was the larger of the two internal sections and was entered directly off the vice. The eastern section first floor appears to have been entered through the wooden partition.

The western section first floor entrance from the vice has been destroyed. The western section has one remaining window and originally had a fire place, both on the north wall. There were probably additional windows in the south wall. The flue of the chimney is exposed after some collapse and the window frame has also been lost. The eastern section also had a fire place in the east wall and windows in the eastern and southern walls. The fire place has been destroyed, exposing the flue. The east window is flush with’ the north wall and has lost its frame. The south window only survives as one side of the embrasure in the remains of the south wall.

The eastern section second floor was entered from the vice through a short curving passage in the north wall. The wooden floor was supported on corbels and wall plates. This chamber only had one window and no fireplace. The window survives as one side of an embrasure in the remains of the south wall. The short curving passage in the north wall has been exposed by collapse which has also destroyed the door frame.

The western section second floor chamber was entered from the vice and was supported on corbels. The chamber was lit by two windows in the north wall and probably further windows in the destroyed south wall. This floor does not appear to have had a fire place, although it is impossible to say if there was one on the west wall. The surviving windows are deep set, one with a double light. Both windows retain their original frames.

The third floor of the east section is entered from the vice through a short passage in the north wall lit by narrow splayed windows. The passage continues to a garderobe which is corbelled like a bartizan from the north wall. The internal wooden floor is supported on corbels and a ledge in the east wall. The chamber is at a higher level to the western section second floor. It retains its fireplace and one window in the east wall. There was an additional window in the south wall which survives as one side of an embrasure. The fire place is executed in dressed limestone flush with the wall. The surviving window has a double light and retains its original frame. The exterior of the window has a hood moulding.

The western section had an attic space with wooden floors supported on corbels. It appears to have been accessed from the vice along the top of the north wall. The space was lit by one small square headed light in the gable to the left of the chimney. The parapet level has a number of projecting slop stones, to take rain water run off.

The bawn of Clonarnicklon is most striking for its tall walls and the two flanker towers on the south west and south east corners. The bawn has a base batter which has been robbed for much of its length. Internally there is evidence for one substantial building in the south west corner. Modern farm out-houses have been built within the bawn obscuring the interior east and west walls of the enclosure and against the exterior of the bawns east side.

The bawn of Clonamicklon was original entered through a gate in the southern wall. This gate appears to have been contained beneath a bawn house attached to the south wall. The gate has a window over it and the corbels of a machicullation above this again. The bawn house had two stories with wooden floors within. The northern and eastern walls are destroyed. It had three windows facing south with probably more on the destroyed walls. The upper floor of the bawn house was reached by stairs in the south-west flanker tower of the bawn. These stairs and the tower interior were inaccessible at the time of inspection. A garderobe is also contained in the north side of the corner tower at first floor level and is corbelled out from the tower. The corner tower retains its base batter and contained three stories. The interior of the tower had wooden floors. The tower was lit by a number of thin splayed windows with expanded terminals and splayed loops on the jambs for muskets.

The south-east flanker tower also retains its base batter and had three stories.. The tower is D shaped in plan with a rounded north-east corner. The second floor has a stone vault. The interior was lit by thin splayed windows with the expanded terminals and musket loops in the jambs. Some of windows have been blocked up and replaced with hood moulded windows which admitted more light. The ground floor was entered off the interior of the bawn. The south bawn wall appears to have contained an internal passage which was entered from the first floor of the south-east flanker tower. This passage may have given access to the parapet level wall walk of the south bawn wall. The second floor of this corner tower was entered from the parapet wall walk. A garderobe was contained in the thickness of the east bawn wall attached to the south-east flanker tower and appears to have been corbelled out from the face of the wall. Limited excavations took place to the east of the bawn in 1996 when agricultural structures were been constructed. A ditch was identified, however, no definite structures were uncovered (Bennett 1996, 105)

Comment: The tower house and bawn at Clonamicklon is one of the most impressive constructions from the late medieval period in Slieveardagh. The site was built by the Butler family of Lismalin. The lack of internal vaulting and the style of windows indicate this very complicated building was constructed in the later sixteenth century. The planning diagram shows how complicated the interior of Clonamicklon is compared to other tower houses in Slieveardagh. The split level interior and wooden partition are pmticularly unusual for tower houses. The structure is a testament to the quality of the wood work in the period, an aspect of the interior of tower houses which is often lost to decay and salvaging. No other tower house in Slieveardagh has large corner towers like Clonamicklon. These towers and the arrangement of buildings and wall walks inside the complex must have given the site a fortress appearance. Clonamicklon was probably one of the latest tower houses to be built in Slieveardagh, some time in the end of the sixteenth or possibly even the seventeenth century.