800-year-old castle torn down in Ireland

Coolbanagher Castle, an Irish keep that dates back as far as the 13th century, has been completely demolished last week after storms in February led local officials to condemn the site as unsafe.

Coolbanagher Castle - image courtesy Laois Archaeology/Robert Chapple

Coolbanagher Castle destroyed  - image courtesy Laois Archaeology/Robert Chapple

The Irish Independent and Robert M. Chapple report that the remains of the castle, which lie on private land in Laois County, that local authorities authorized the demolition at the owner’s request. Within days the remaining ruins were demolished leaving a pile of rubble.

Ireland’s National Monuments Service made a statement explaining that “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.”

Sean Murray, of the Laois Archaeology group, tells the Irish Independent: “It’s a disgrace. This monument and many others throughout the country are in need of proper care and consideration. Eight hundred years of our heritage just bulldozed over in moments, how many more monuments in the country may suffer the same fate if we don’t act and highlight the cultural atrocity which has just occurred here at Coolbanagher.”.

Robert Chapelle, an Irish archaeologist, explains on his blog that Coolbanagher  “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.”

However, by the end of the Middle Ages the castle was already in disrepair. An article from the 1904 issue of the Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society notes that even a century ago the castle’s condition was poor: “At the present time the Castle of Coolbanagher consists of an oblong butt of considerable height, but so hid under ivy as to be uninteresting. It measures outside 36 by 26 feet. The interior has been destroyed by modern alterations; openings have been made here and there with lintels formed of timber, fast rotting to decay.”

For more details and photos of Coolbanagher Castle, please see Robert M. Chapple’s blog


Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Smartphone and Tablet users click here to sign up for
our weekly email