Glanworth was the great manorial centre of Fermoy cantref, which itself was a part of the kingdom of Cork.  At some point Glennamhain, as it was then known, was the capital of the kingdom.  In 1177 King Henry II had granted that kingdom, covering most of modern Kerry and Cork, to Robert Fitz Stephen (d.1183) and Miles Cogan (d.1182).  Glanworth was obviously in the portion of Robert, for when he died about 1183, he passed his lands on to his nephew, Raymond le Gros (d.1185/93).  Raymond's grandmother, Nesta ferch Rhys (d.1130+) being mother of Robert Fitz Stephen by one of her many paramours and husbands.   Raymond seems to have died about 1185 and certainly before 1193.  On his death his estates passed to his sister Mabilla who had married Nicholas Condon or Caunteton.  These estates included Glanworth, Kilworth and Clondulane as well as land in County Wexford.  On Nicholas' death his lands were split amongst his two sons, the younger, William Condon who died after 1225, leaving Glanworth to his son, another Nicholas.  He died in 1260 leaving the castle to his daughter, Amice Condon, who had married David Roches (d.1302).  In 1305 Maurice, the second great grandson of Nicholas Condon and Mabilla Windsor, who was from the elder Condon line, began a war against the Roches for possession of their lands after David Roches, had proved that he held the castle from the king and not the Condons.  The fighting finally came to an end in 1312, with the castle remaining in Roches hands.  The fortress was destroyed by Ireton's artillery in 1649.

The castle sits upon a rocky crag overlooking a crossing point of the River Funshion to the east.  It consists of an early rectangular keep, 42' by 36', set on an impressive plinth surrounded by a much altered enceinte.  The hall-keep loops are long and narrow in the early style and there is a pronounced batter at the base.  The tower still stands 2 storeys high over a basement, but the battlements are gone.

Of the early castle a large, irregular, twin-towered rectangular gatehouse, some 45' by 30', stands to the NW of the keep and was in the line of a N-S running curtain, much of which is now gone.  This currently stands some 10' high and has had the gate passageway blocked and the gatehouse converted into a single great tower with an added plinth, with a new garderobe block to the west.  The blocking of gatehouses and their conversion into great towers is not new and happens elsewhere in Ireland at Cahir.  Similar originally rectangular gatehouses exist at Carlingford and Dunamase.  In England they can be seen at Wigmore and possibly Warkworth where the towers are polygonal than rectangular.

The impressive 5 storey fifteenth century garderobe block has ogee heeded loops attached to the west wall of the towerhouse.  When excavated in the 1980s a Sheela-na-Gig was uncovered in the ruins.  Probably this came off a chapel as this was where such exhibitionist female figures were usually displayed.  Their purpose is debatable.  It would seem, possibly before the gatehouse was converted into a towerhouse, that the NW corner of the curtain was thrown down and a large rectangular building was constructed over the site, expanding the enceinte to the west.  This was later extended again to make a large bailey to the W&S.  The outer wall of this, running from the north tower southwards to the SW rectangular turret, is heavily damaged.  Quite possibly the angles of this work had boldly projecting rectangular turrets, like the remnants of the one to the west.  The north turret was later replaced with a round one, other similar ones being added to the NE and SE.  Traces of the original SW angle between the gatehouse and keep was recently discovered by excavation.

The remains to the SE suggest a large hall in the angle.  This contains the boldly projecting round tower with gun loops to the SE.  The east wall is punctuated with the remnants of large windows which once lit the long building that lined this wall.  The east curtain wall ends suddenly where a projecting curtain has been added, with another boldly projecting round tower at the NE corner.  Excavation suggests that this phase is fifteenth century.  The north curtain then runs east to the mostly destroyed north tower.  This is of at least three phases and contains an inserted hole in wall entrance.  Both towers have gun loops and were therefore probably altered in the sixteenth century as both look more thirteenth century in style.  Some of the curtain wallwalk still survives to N&S.

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©2019 Paul Martin Remfry