Friday, February 28, 2014

Demolition of 13th/14th century Castle | Coolbanagher, Co. Laois

Coolbanagher Castle was a Hall House on the outskirts of Portlaoise. It was originally built in the 13th or early 14th Century as part of the Anglo-Norman line of defence which extended into Co. Laois. The Tower may have been part of an outer defence line of the stronghold of Dunamase. It was built of locally-sourced limestone and extended to four stories in height with a stringcourse lining its upper reaches. There was defensive base batter which prevented battering rams from being effective in times of Medieval sieges. The Castle seems to have fallen into disrepair by the 15th Century but was leased and a grant was provided for improvements to Robert Hartpole (Governor of Queens County) in 1563. The last mention of the castle was in the 1650's when it came into the ownership of Sir Richard Parsons of Birr Castle, Co. Offaly.

Coolbanagher Castle as it was before the storm. Image © Mike Searle (Source)
The southern facade of the castle fell to during storm Darwin in early February 2014. The remainder was deliberately demolished on Monday 24th February 2014.

Today this Laois landmark stands proud no more.

Sean Murray

In the aftermath of the storm


Coolbanagher after the storm

The site after demolition

The site after demolition Photo: María J. Guillén

Images courtesy of Laois Archaeology

Statement released by the National Monuments Service in Relation to Coolbanagher Castle, Co. Laois:
The Department is aware of recent events at Coolbanagher Castle, Co Laois, a Recorded Monument (LA008-015---Tower House) under the terms of the National Monuments Acts 1930-2004. The castle is in private ownership and is not maintained by the Office of Public Works, as is the case with national monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
On 17th February 2014, the Department was informed of the collapse of extensive sections of the structure of the Castle due to storm damage. In response to urgent health and safety concerns raised by the property owners, the Department advised that immediate engineering advice be sought and that Laois County Council be contacted as the responsible authority for dangerous buildings.
On Friday last, 21 February, the property owners informed the Department of their continuing concerns and of their intention to make the remaining structure safe. Having regard to the pressing concerns raised by the owners, the Department, on grounds of urgent necessity, granted consent for the removal of such parts of the structure as was identified as being strictly necessary to comply with specific directions from Laois County Council under dangerous buildings legislation or by a qualified engineer as being immediately and urgently necessary on the grounds of protecting public safety.

The Department is now assessing the works subsequently carried out on site in the context of the terms of the limited consent granted on 21st February.

More pictures of the site, mostly from before the collapse, are available on the NMS Facebook page: here

**Update: Saturday 1st March 2014. Irish Independent, page 14. Journalist Brian Byrne speaks to Laois Archaeology's Sean Murray:


Article in Irish Independent. Click for larger image. 

Online version: here.
Post at Medievalists.net: here.

Post on The Standing Stone blog with background and more pictures of the demolition: here.

**Update: Monday 3rd March 2014. Coolbanagher features on RTE Radio 1 show Morning Ireland (available as downloadable podcast): Laois castle falls victim to recent stormsCian McCormack reports from the site of 800-year-old Coolbanagher Castle which once dominated the landscape of Emo outside Portlaoise.

**Update: Tuesday 4th March 2014. Report in Leinster Express online edition: here.
Press cuttings from The Leinster Express (here) and Nationalist (here) via Laois Heritage Forum

Updates will be posted here and on the Laois Archaeology Facebook page.