Enniscrone Castle

The ruins of Enniscrone Castle lie in an elevated position to the north east of the town in the open space area known as Castle Field. Enniscrone Castle, also known as Nolan’s Castle, is an example of an early 17th century semi-fortified house. This was built  mainly for reasons relating to comfortable living standards, rather than for defence purposes. The western towers survive intact, but two other towers have been destroyed since the last century.

Enniscrone Castle Field

It is located on a raised level platform on top of a small ridge. It is an example of a 17th century plantation castle. It reflects widespread changes in the 17th century as a result of the policy of plantation adopted by the English crown in an attempt to create a Protestant and more English society in Ireland. These types of houses were the homes of the English and Scottish settlers who came to Ireland and villages often grew up around these settlements.

Enniscrone castle was built at a time when the purely defensive nature of castles was being made obsolete by the advances in artillery. The function of the house was to provide a comfortable residence that could be defended against a small-scale attack and is similar in ways to the later fortified manor house at Castlebaldwin.

The history of Enniscrone Castle is a long one and its location marks a strategic route along the coastal route through Connaught into west Ulster. A number of fortifications appears to have existed from sometime in the late 14th century and were destroyed on at least two occasions. In 1597 Mac Donnells, who were gallowglasses in the service of the O'Dowd's, the Gaelic lords of the region, sold the castle to John Crofton. Crofton may have rebuilt it and then sold it on to Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe. Nolan's son was living there in 1642. During the rebellion of 1641 the confederates commandeered the castle and placed a garrison there. It was captured by parliamentarian troops in 1645. It then came into the possession of Frances Gore.

The castle consists of a rectangular gabled house with three quarter round towers at the angles, with only the two western towers surviving. The house has two storeys with attics. On the ground floor there is a centrally placed doorway in the south wall that has evidence of drawbar sockets. Also on the ground floor on the west wall is a large fireplace with a small oven built onto its south side, with a smaller fireplace on the upper storey and the chimneys are still intact. The floor levels of the towers correspond to those of the main building. A number of gun loops and small windows occur through the building.

The ruined simple rectangular church is called Valentine's church. It has windows, a door in the south wall and a bellcote on the west gable, visible in the painting and photograph. It is possibly on the site of Cill Insi, an older ecclesiastical site which was still standing in 1666. A bell was found in the old Ballina Workhouse in 1934 and an inscription on the bell dated it to 1679. This bell came from this church, which suggests the church was rebuilt sometime around this date. In 1712 Thomas Valentine from Lancashire was appointed to this area as Protestant vicar and died in 1765. About eighteen years later a plaque to his memory was erected in the church, which can be still seen. The church was damaged during the 1798 rebellion and does not seem to have been used again. Valentine was credited with rebuilding the church and hence, it became associated with his name.

In the area west of the castle and church there are some remains of boulder circles and monuments similar to those at Carrowmore passage tomb complex.

Reference: www.askaboutireland.ie

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