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Victoria L. McAlister

period. The small size of tower houses meant their construction was within the financial reach of many, including lords, ecclesiastics and merchants. They were also popular with the emerging gentry class. As prominent features of both rural and urban Ireland, they can be used to understand not only the people who lived inside them, but also the individuals who lived and worked around them. Few studies have looked at Gaelic-Irish, Anglo-Irish and early modern building forms as a unified whole. Fewer still have sought to locate tower houses within a wider tradition. Ó

in The Irish tower house
Victoria L. McAlister

( 2007 )). These same port towns align with a high incidence of tower houses, although, as described in the preceding chapter, many of these survive as documentary references only. As Ireland's closest geographic neighbours, England, Scotland and Wales always exerted economic influence. This was particularly so in those parts of Ireland closest to these countries and depended on ethnic make-up, with those identifying as Anglo-Irish more likely than the Gaelic-Irish to trade with England rather than the continent. The degree of involvement was

in The Irish tower house
Lifeblood of the tower house
Victoria L. McAlister

to underestimate the importance of [arable] agriculture and correspondingly overestimate that of pastoralism in the Irish economy of the later Middle Ages; but this conclusion itself is probably derived from the conditions of the sixteenth century, when cultivation declined owing to the increasing violence and disturbance of the period’ (1972: 114). Even at the same time as the Anglo-Normans were consolidating the manorial system, references to mills and grains in Gaelic-Irish areas show that this ethnic group did not solely practice pastoralism (McNeill, 1980

in The Irish tower house
The tower house complex and rural settlement
Victoria L. McAlister

and intensively studied DMV, but notable attention has also been paid to Piperstown in County Louth, Newcastle Lyons in County Dublin and to Rindoon in County Roscommon. An added complexity to the study of rural settlement in Ireland is that we cannot presume that all of it was nucleated. In fact, it is very likely that a significant proportion of the population of medieval Ireland, especially in Gaelic-Irish areas, lived in dispersed settlement. Even in the old Anglo-Norman areas there have been suggestions that Gaelic-Irish tenants lived separately from the main

in The Irish tower house
Environment and economy
Victoria L. McAlister

). The function of rivers as boundary markers also places significance on their crossing points. Bridges and fords frequently were military flashpoints, as is reflected in a cursory glance at the names given to pre-modern battles. During the Tudor Conquest, the Gaelic-Irish O’Neill, earl of Tyrone, constructed many defences along the Ulster Blackwater between counties Armagh and Tyrone. The famous Elizabethan mapmaker Richard Bartlett commented that these were especially concentrated at river fords (O’Neill, 2013 –14). A fortification was constructed in County Tyrone

in The Irish tower house
Tower houses and waterways
Victoria L. McAlister

for distribution of goods inland, including to Gaelic-Irish areas. The coastal port and the navigable river acted in tandem to increase the hinterland and its accessibility. For instance, the River Ilen, flowing inland from Baltimore in County Cork, enabled a ‘two way trade between the terrestrial and coastal communities’, since the larger sea-going vessels would communicate with, and unload to, smaller boats (Kelleher, 2007b : 132). Tower houses along this river therefore had a key role in overseeing the movement of goods ( ibid

in The Irish tower house
Victoria L. McAlister

chapter highlights a select number from across the country. One estimate has the number of extant urban tower houses at thirty-seven; the original number will, of course, have been many times higher (Murtagh, 1989 ). For example, only one example survives of a reported eight in Naas, County Kildare (Murtagh, 1985 –86). That urban tower house examples come from across the country and a variety of contexts is worth noting. This includes from the Pale, from ‘contact zones’ and from Gaelic-Irish areas. Tower houses are known in towns with both long and short histories

in The Irish tower house