Kilbreedy Towerhouse
Kilbreedy Towerhouse
Kilbreedy Towerhouse

Situated approximately 3km NE of Rathdowney in south County Laois, we have a fine remnant of a rectangular plan Towerhouse located on slightly elevated ground with good views in all directions. The surrounding fertile lands and strategic location was no doubt a factor in the selection of the site for a fortified dwelling. Kilbreedy Towerhouse (LA028-046) is situated close to an esker formation which, in earlier times formed a natural routeway in a landscape predominated by impassible boggy terrain. This Routeway formed part of the ancient road known as the Slighe Dhala connecting the eastern half of the Country with Munster. Constructed of roughly coursed limestone with dimensions 16.9m N-S x c. 10.35m E-W. There is a broken entrance in the south wall, which is protected by an exquisite murder hole overhead, embedded within a 2m thick wall. Upon entering the Towerhouse, one is immediately struck by a barrel vaulted roof which extends from the first floor to an apex height of approximately 8m. There are a number of arches at ground floor level with small rectangular window openings which appeared to have been barred across in times past. There are also a number of internal stone stairs which are located within the thick walls of the castle, allowing for movement between the floors.

Internal view of Kilbreedy
Internal view of Kilbreedy
A view of the murder hole at Kilbreedy
A view of the murder hole at Kilbreedy

The Towerhouse is believed to have been associated with the O’Phelan clan who occupied it until the Cromwellian campaign in the mid-17th Century. It likely dates to the late 15th Century. The earliest reference to the Towerhouse we have is in relation to a pardon granted to Donyll O’Phelan “horseman and gent” of Kilbreedy in 1566. Such types of dwelling were important both defensibly but also in terms of status during the period. It seems that the O’Phelan family lost their influence as well as their lands in the area after the Cromwellian campaigns in Ireland in 1649-50 which may explain why the castle was in need of repair as alluded to in the Down Survey of 1656-1658.

Down Survey Map of Kilbreedy 1656-58 at the time when the O' Phelans lost their lands
Down Survey Map of Kilbreedy 1656-58 at the time when the O’ Phelans lost their lands
Kilbreedy Towerhouse
Kilbreedy Towerhouse

Approximately 100 NE of the Towerhouse, there are ruins of a Medieval Church (LA028-035) and graveyard. Indeed it is this church which lends it name to the townland Kilbreedy, Kill – Church, Breedy – of Brigit. Likely a remnant of an Earlier Medieval establishment which observed the Cult of St. Brigit of Kildare. The condition of the church is quiet poor and is badly overgrown and difficult to access. According to Carrigan (1905) there was a Holy Well situated 20m NE of the Castle. There are a number of both Protestant and Catholic burials within the graveyard. One grave stone pays tribute to a Dr. Ormsby of Durrow, Co. Laois who died in 1863 and was appreciated for his work with the poor of that town.

The Church of St. Brigid at Kilbreedy
The Church of St. Brigid at Kilbreedy

References:

Philip I. Powell (2014). Antiquites of Co. Laois.

W. Carrigan (1905) The History And Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory

Archaeological Inventory of Co. Laois

Post Author: Laois Archaeology

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