Cahir Castle

Cahir castle was probably founded in the 13th C, allegedly when the Worcester family transferred themselves here on abandoning their motte castle at Knockgraffon.  In the mid 13th C the castle passed via the marriage of Basilia Worcester to Peter Bermingham and remained in that family for about a century.  The fortress was seized by the Crown on the fall of Roger Mortimer in 1330 and William Bermingham was subsequently executed on 11 August 1332 after he attempted to escape imprisonment in Dublin castle.  However, the castle soon reverted to his son, who died in 1350.  He was succeeded by the last and final Walter Bermingham who died on 24 August 1361, his Irish lands then passing through his widow, Margaret Scales, to the Howard family in 1363. 

Presumably the Howards gave or sold the castle to the Butlers, who came into possession of the castle in 1375.  After this the castle is known to have been captured three times.  Once by the earl of Essex in 1599 after it had been battered for three days with artillery, bringing down a portion of the E wall.  This caused its commander, James the brother of Lord Thomas, to escape from the fortress by swimming under the water mill.  Next it surrendered without a fight to Lord Inchiquin in 1647 and then again to Cromwell in 1650.  Refurbishments were made to the fortress in the 1840s and it was only in 1961 when the last Lord Cahir died that the castle reverted to the state.

The initial castle consisted of a rectangular ward some 100' square, set on the rock in the river.  Portions of this castle seem to survive in front of the great keep.  To NE and NW were internal rectangular towers, while to the SE was a large hall-like tower.  Such designs are generally 12th C, but these appear later.  The SE tower was a boldly projecting circular tower.  The main walls were only 5' thick, but 13' high.  In the centre of the main approach to the S was a large internal gatetower 100' across by 75' wide.  This had long guardrooms on either side of the gate passageway.  In the 15th C this passageway was blocked up and a spiral stair inserted into the NW corner.  Further, two new sequential gates were added to the E and a large outer ward, 165' long by 110' wide was also constructed.  This ward had two strongly projecting round turrets to E and W at the extremities.  The outer gate was a third of the way down the new E wall and was protected by a later long barbican running alongside the river.

If you would like to visit this and other great castles of Ireland I am leading a tour there in October.  Please feel free to look over the details by clicking here.


Copyright©2017 Paul Martin Remfry

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