Our Family History

Athy's Castle
For information only

 ~Athy's Castle~

The first record of Athy’s castle is in 1320, when “the only stone buildings in Galway were the Abbey, the Red Earl's House and Athy's Castle, and that there was but a castle where St Nicholas' Church stands.…”

 ~Map of Old Galway that shows the Athy Castle next to the city walls near the river. ~

From this drawing, the castle appears to have been constructed much like the Castle at Athenry, with the exception of the large windows on the upper floors. Athy’s Castle probably was built in several stages much like Athenry. When Athenry was reconstructed, a wooden staircase was added to the front elevated entrance as there was no evidence of a stone staircase. From this drawing of Athy’s Castle, perhaps the access to both castles was actually from a wooden ramp that could be raised to prevent entry?

 Athenry Castle  

The 14 merchant families were contemptuously called the "Tribes" by the new conquerors. But the leading families took the name of "Tribes" with some pride so that Galway is still known as the "City of the Tribes" to this day. On the 30th of October, 1655, they ordered, "that all the Irish and other popish inhabitants should be forthwith removed out of the town, in order that accommodation should be provided for such English Protestants, whose integrity to the State would entitle them to be trusted in a place of such importance." This order was carried into effect by Coote, the Lord President, with unrelenting severity. The wretched inhabitants, without distinction of rank or sex, except a few who were oppressed by sickness and years, were driven out of the town in the midst of winter, (which was, at the time, peculiarly severe,) and were forced to take shelter by the ditches and in poor cabins in the country, without fire or sufficient clothing, in consequence of which many fell victims to the uncommon inclemency of the season. The superb houses, which, in the language of the Annals, were fit "to lodge Kings and Princes," and are described as the best built and most splendidly furnished of any in the kingdom, were seized upon and occupied by the lowest of the populace, until they were completely ruined. Athy’s castle is shown as being confiscated from Walter Athy in 1656 for his part in the confederate war, and granted to John May, a protestant, in 1657.

 Athenry Castle in Winter

Athy's Castle Site Excavation

All that remains of the site of Athy's Castle, is now a carpark beside the Connaught Tribune offices on Market Street. This is the excavation report for the carpark on that site.

Urban medieval
12986 22525
SMR 94:100
Test excavation was undertaken in advance of planning between 10 and 19 June 1998. The site lies almost directly opposite the medieval church of St Nicholas and comprises an open rectangular area measuring c. 60m north-west/south-east x 40m. Examination of the 1651 Pictorial Map suggests that the medieval town wall extended across the north-west end of the site. It was also noted that the late medieval townhouse known as 'Athy Castle' may have been close to the south end of the site. The map also depicts a line of dwelling-houses fronting onto North Street (now Market Street), with large rear gardens extending back to the medieval town wall. In 1749 the Lombard Barrack was erected on this site, and the barrack buildings were subsequently reused to house the Patrician Brothers' School, which was founded here in 1826. The site was cleared in the 1970s.

Three test-trenches were excavated. The trenches extended north-west/south-east and averaged 40m long and 1.25m wide. The medieval town wall was encountered at the north-west end of Trenches 1 and 3. It is built of angular migmatite boulders facing a mortared rubble core and is 1.7m thick. Substantial remains of the 18th-century barracks were also uncovered. The barracks appear to have consisted of a main north-west block flanked by opposing wings at the north-east and south-west. The excavated barrack walls are 0.85m thick and are built of coursed, roughly hewn limestone masonry. A late medieval/post-medieval garden soil deposit was encountered at an average depth of 0.45m in all three trenches. It consisted of a grey/brown, silty clay containing moderate inclusions of pebbles, cobbles, mortar, slate, animal and fish bone, shell and flecks of charcoal. Finds from this deposit included post-medieval pottery sherds, glass fragments, clay pipe fragments and occasional medieval pottery sherds.