The walls of Athenry are easily the finest medieval town-walls remaining in Ireland. A three-year murage grant being obtained in 1310, it would appear that the town was originally walled in or about that time. History, however, records that the town was walled after the Battle of Athenry on the 10th of August 1316, when the Anglo-Normans under William de Burgo and Richard de Bermingham severely defeated Phelim O’Connor, King of Connacht, who was aided by the Princes of Thomond, Meath, Breffny and Conmaic me, the defeat seriously affecting Edward Burce’s Irish campaign.
This record may, however, merely mean that the walls were rebuilt of stone, the earlier walls being most probably of wood, or, alternatively, that the existing walls were fortified by the addition of the wall-towers. Only one of the five town-gates now remains, the North Gate, and it may be a late 16th or early 17th century addition. Most of the wall still stands, together five wall-towers(the footings of a sixth were accidentally destroyed some years ago). The town-walls of Athenry were not of a good military character being very thin, but nonetheless they had ramparts on the top; the main defence, however, was a deep and wide moat, traces of which can still be clearly seen outside the walls. The walls, towers and moat, were built to provide protection and to lend status to the town.
Written by Etienne Rynne
Published here 05 Feb 2021 and originally published 1999
Page 013 of Medieval Athenry
North Gate Street Gorteenacra Athenry Co. Galway Ireland
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