Loughmoe Castle is situated on the banks of the river Suir in North Tipperary. Built between the 15th and 17th centuries it was the seat of Barons of Loughmoe, the Anglo-Norman Purcell family. The earliest surviving structure on the site is a tower house which was transformed into the northern wing of a fortified house in the 17th century. In its new form as a fortified house the castle composed of two towers joined by what was known in the locality as “the court”. The castle stands outside the village of Loughmoe, close to the ruins of Loughmoe Abbey and the resting place of the famous Cormack brothers. Despite these widespread renovations Loughmoe castle was abandoned by the mid 18th century.

The earliest surviving section of the castle a 15th century tower house which replaced an earlier structure. The tower house is relatively standard although its rounded corners are not common.

In the 17th century the castle was dramtically overhauled. Significant extensions saw a Northern tower and linking structure (known locally as the court) added. During the course of the renovation and expansion the Purcells made no attempt to hide the  fact they were expanding on an earlier structure, indeed if anything they highlighted it, so much so that the style of the 17th century additions were dramatically different to the 15th century towerhouse. The machicolations on the tower house were left in place while the 17th century additions did not replicate the rounded corners on the original tower house.

The reasoning behind this may have been an attempt by the Purcell’s to highlight their long lineage in Ireland in a century where tensions between old Anglo Normans families like the Purcells and new colonists were a feature of society.

The castle is in poor condition. The only floors remaining are the stone floors in the tower house. It seems that over the centuries much stone has been stolen from the castle which presumably now forms the stone walls in the surrounding fields.

The stone was not just taken for building field walls. On the ground floor an entire stone fireplace was removed as you can see in the picture above. From pictures further down you can get some impression of what it may have looked like.

Most of this damage to the castle however appears to have been done prior to 1909. This picture was published in ‘The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland’ in 1909 and shows the castle in a pretty similar state.

Much of the interior of the castle is in an equally poor condition. All the floors in the 17th century extensions have collapsed.

There was five floors in all. In the centre of the photograph above you can see the remains of a fireplace on what was presumably the second floor.

According to the early 20th century historian Henry S Crawford the castle was entered through the sunken arch in the centre foreground of this picture. To the left and center you can see where stone has been removed for reuse.

Ironically the best preserved section of the castle is the oldest – the 15th century tower house. This door allowed access from the 17th century extension to the original structure.

This is the entrance above from the inside. Between two arches is a narrow small chamber, with a spiral stone staircase to the right and a murderhole in the ceiling above.

This shot shows the murder hole from above where the defenders had a clear line of sight over any potential unwelcome vistors. (Milly the dog is the unaware model.)

The first and second floors are probably the most impressive. This space was once two floors. You can see the remaining floor supports in the walls while the floor below has worn through revealing the top of the arch from the room below. This shot is taken from the entrance of the upper floor.

This fireplace on the first floor is perhaps the most impressive single feature with its ornate carving. The damage done to this also occured prior to 1909 as a picture in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland mentioned above reveals. It makes you wonder whether this is the result of a failed attempt to take the fireplace.

This chamber is contained in the eastern wall of the first floor.

The roof of the fourth floor of the 15th century tower has long since collapsed. Nonetheless it has amazing views and architectural features.

This arch, doorway and window are far more picturesque than this shot does them justice.

This huge piece of collapsed masonry really creates the feel of a castle slowly falling apart. It presumably fell decades maybe centuries ago and now lies in the centre of what was probably one of the most prestigious rooms in the castle.

The fourth floor has amazing external and internal views.

Looking down over the area known as the court.

                           I am not entirely sure what this is, I suspect its a gunloop although it could well have had a far more mundane purpose.

The view north-east towards Loughmoe. This taken from what remains of the 5th floor, this view was a truly terrifying experience given my bad head for heights.

Loughmoe Abbey

Loughmoe is well worth a visit. The graveyard pictured above contains the graves of The Cormack brothers you can read about here while closeby are the ruins of Loughmoe Abbey. The Castle itself is on farm land, so you’ll need to ask the farmers permission before you take a look. The castle is completely accessible but visitors need to be extremely careful.

0 comments on “Photo essay: Loughmoe Castle.

  1. Catherine on

    I love reading and learning about the castles that are found all over Ireland. It just makes my imagination take flight.

    Reply
  2. Ruadhán on

    Hiya Fin, this is a castle and a half, well known to train users on the Cork – Dublin line. I visited it myself recently, its well worth the visit. Regarding the difference between the rounded corners and standard corners on the two tower house sections, my own theory would be that rounded corners are much more difficult to properly build – yet are much better to defend, as corners were generally where towerhouses were weakest when under siege. With the advent of gun warfare, the type of defense superiority offered by the towerhouse becomes redundant. Hence by the time the larger later part of Loughmoe was being built, defense is no longer the design priority in the same manner – arrow loops and narrow windows are not used, but instead large mullion framed windows containing expensive glass, providing relative luxury inside and demonstrating wealth and power. Kanturk is another good examples of this type of castle Yet in the case of Loughmoe, where the Purcells kept the original keep, to some extent they were able to have their cake and eat it in that in a worst case scenario, if attacked, they would have been able to retreat into the older keep which retains all its original outer walls. If anybody is in the area, I also recommend visiting Ballynahow Castle, just outside Thurles, which is open to the public free-of-charge, and is a round 5 storey towerhouse with a secret obliette near the top Cheers : )

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