Ancient Limerick town wall protected for future generations

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

A UNIQUE part of County Limerick’s history and heritage is being protected for future generations with the restoration of 40 metres of Kilmallock’s town wall.

A UNIQUE part of County Limerick’s history and heritage is being protected for future generations with the restoration of 40 metres of Kilmallock’s town wall.

This year, Limerick County Council was again successful in its application to the Heritage Council under the Irish Walled Towns Network fund and secured a grant of €40,000 which has resulted in 40 “very difficult” metres of wall being consolidated.

“We have now done the worst part of the wall. It was all tumbled down, it was very sad,” explained Sarah McCutcheon, executive archaeologist with Limerick County Council.

The original circuit of the town wall would have measured 1700 metres and of that, there is about 1200 metres remaining.

“It’s not always a pretty stone wall,” Ms McCutcheon explained, “sometimes it’s very rough and ready, sometimes it’s almost down to ground level and in other places people have built concrete walls in front of it.”

According to Ms McCutcheon, it is possible that the first stone wall in Kilmallock dates back to the late 1200s “because there is a reference in very early 1305 that Kilmallock owed money on its murage which would suggest that they already had a murage”.

Murage was a tax paid for building or repairing the walls of a fortified town.

Kilmallock was once regarded as one of the most strategically important towns in Ireland due to its medieval wall defences, castles, gatehouses and magnificent churches.

Through the centuries the wall would have been attacked and repaired and when you look at it, Ms McCutcheon explained “you can see places where there has been rebuilding”.

Due to the fact that the town wall is a national monument, ministerial consent must be given prior to any works being carried out.

Ms McCutcheon and a conservation engineer assess the work that needs to be done and submit their findings to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for ministerial consent.

“We pretty much have to stick to exactly what we said we were going to do, so if there is any variation, we go back to them,” said Ms McCutcheon.

Last year, 60 metres of wall was consolidated while the previous year the work focused on 165 metres of wall.

The stretch of wall which was consolidated this year - which is behind the medieval mansion - is one of the most poorly preserved pieces of wall.

It was reasonably intact in 1990, however, a survey in 1999 commissioned by the National Monument’s Service showed that it had fallen in three separate places.

“Town walls are quite wide, generally over 1.2m,” explained Ms McCutcheon.

“There is usually a rough rubble core infilling the space between the two faces. The element that collapsed in Kilmallock was the outer face of the wall leaving some of the core and the inner face still preserved behind. The collapsed debris has to be sorted and the remaining wall then has to be cleaned and consolidated.”

The town wall, according to Ms McCutcheon, needs on-going maintenance.

“It’s very easy in our climate for weeds to get reinstated on the walls. We haven’t really put a maintenance programme in place yet. It is something we need to do.”

Members of the public and representatives from the local area office got to see for themselves the works carried out during a tour of the town wall in October.