Galway’s ‘missing’ 13th century castle found in medieval quarter

Irish Castle DigSections of Galway’s earliest stone castle which shaped the development of the medieval port have been discovered during restoration of a 15th century manor house in the city.

Limestone walls forming the “missing” castle, built in 1232, were located by an archaeological team during preparatory work on the disused building on Quay Street, which has been acquired for a new Aran knitwear shop.

City heritage officer Jim Higgins described the find as “highly significant” in identifying the location of what may be Galway’s oldest building.

The first castle of “Bungalvy” was built by the Anglo-Norman de Burgh or de Burgo family on the eastern banks of the river Corrib in 1232, according to the Royal Irish Academy’s (RIA) Atlas for Galway by Jacinta Prunty and Paul Walsh.

The castle predated the later 13th century town walls, and the site is opposite the former Blake’s castle,which was built two centuries later.

At the time the river estuary was far wider, and the de Burgh castle overlooked a shingly shore bordering the Atlantic – evidence of which has also been located at the archaeological site in Quay Street.

Frank Coyne, director of Aegis Archaeology Ltd, said the de Burghs built on the original “dún” or wooden stronghold dating from 1124, held by the Gaelic O’Flaherty clan at the river mouth.

Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy

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