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History & Heritage > Buildings > Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle

The Castle of Roscommon, now in ruins, is situated at the northern extremity of the town, overlooking on the west side a grassy plain for some months of the year under water and known as Loughnaneane. It was in 1269 that this Castle was built by the Chief Justice Robert de Ufford, a Norman magnate (Chief Justice). Some year’s later expansion was planned and the notable figure of William of Prene, a Welshman and Master Carpenter was employed in supervising the building. He was also involved in the additions to the Norman Castle of Rinn Dun on Lough Ree and Limerick Bridge which collapsed, as State papers tell us due to his eighty people were drowned. The Castle is quadrangular in plan with four lofty towers at each corner; two towers guarding the entrance gate on the east side and a “pons de vascule” or see-saw trap entrance on the west side.

One of Queen Elizabeth the I’s ablest Captains Colonel Nicholas had the Castle as his residence in 1580 when he was President of Connacht for his conduct in holding the Lordship of Roscommon for the Queen and she granted him one of the biggest estates in Connacht. Sir Henry Sydney captured the Castle from the Irish in 1566 and helped stabilise the area for the coming of Malby later on.
Malby is reported to have made the Elizabethan style addition to the windows about 1580.
Lord Ranelagh, Richard Jones lived here for some time and left a bequest for two Charter Schools to be built one in Roscommon and the other in Athlone. He died in 1712.

Tradition has it that the Castle was burnt by retreating Jacobite troops from the Battle of Aughrim in 1691. A plan of the Castle survives in the Public Record Office, London and is said to be from Nicholas Malby’s own hand. It shows an advanced piece of town planning from 1580. The Castle has an assemblage of walls, gun emplacements, town gates, and a series of streets with townhouse and church. This plan would appear never to have been implemented due to cost and the constant state of war at the period up to 1601.

Traces of lake dwellings or crannogs have been discovered in the lake. The most direct route out of the Castle to the east is still known as the Long Walk (The Walk) and is said to be named such due to the training of horses along this stretch of ground and is marked on the Earl of Essex map from 1736 drawn by Francis Plunket.

Further Reading Sources:
See publications section of website
  • Roscommon Castle – a Visitors Guide by Margaret Murphy & Kieran O’Conor
  • Roscommon Castle – a history of National landmark by Roscommon County Council
  • Exploring Roscommon Castle in Medieval Times by Roscommon County Council
Volume  1 – 1986 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 8: A note on the Earl of Ranlagh
Volume 2 – 1988 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 49: Photos: Roscommon Castle
Volume 3 – 1990 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 34: A Crannog at Loughnaneane, Roscommon Town
Volume 5 – 1994 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 65: A Seventeenth Century Lease in Co. Roscommon
Volume 10 – 2005 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 140: A map of Roscommon Castle and survey of tenants c.1860 by Albert Siggins
Volume 11 – 2009 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Front Cover: Roscommon Castle Illustration
  • Page 4: Our Cover Illustrations by Albert Siggins
Volume 12 – 2012 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 80: Constables of Roscommon Castle by Niall O’Brien
Roscommon Association Yearbook 1980
  • Page   48 Its only Castles Burning by Jim Cronin
Roscommon Association Yearbook 1988
  • Page 63: Roscommon Castle Tells its Story by John Costello
  • Page 64: Photo: Roscommon Castle
Roscommon Association Yearbook 1989
  • Page 37: Handball and The Castle Wall by Albert Siggins
Roscommon Association Yearbook 1990
  • Front Page Picture: Roscommon Castle