OBJECTID: 57283 Monument Identifier: KE00617 Classification: CAST Irish Grid Easting: 98942 Irish Grid Northing: 133543 RMP_PROP: 1 County ID: 12 WebNotes: Situated on the N bank of the River Feale, Listowel Castle originally extended from its present position to the river's edge, but this section has now disappeared. The present fabric of the castle dates probably to the 15th century. There is documentary evidence that a castle was built in Listowel soon after the Normans arrived in North Kerry, and towards the end of the 13th century, possibly around 1270, Maurice Fitzmaurice also had a castle constructed. Whether these were all built in the same location is not known.
A substantial portion of the front of the present castle remains. It consists of two towers connected by a wall and high arches and is similar in design to Bunratty Castle (Co. Clare). The material used in the construction of the castle is limestone with lime and sand mortar. The window stones and quoin stones are also limestone and the quoin stones are cut.
Front East Tower: The bottom window is splayed, a typical feature of many tower-houses. The three window loops on the E tower all have pointed arches. As with the lower windows, these loops are surrounded by cut limestone blocks. These windows could be used for defence but, as they had a very narrow field of vision, it seems their primary purpose was to provide light and air.
Front West Tower: Again the bottom window is heavily splayed. This tower also has three pointed window loops surrounded by cut limestone blocks. In addition there are two smaller square-headed windows slits. Both towers have a slight batter all around their base.
Central Wall: A large pointed arch connects both towers at the top. The arch stands out from the wall so that the space between it and the wall forms a large machicolation over the door, from which pjoint missiles could be thrown down on an attacker. On the central wall in the angle of the wall on both sides are five square-headed slits (2 E, 3 W), through which defenders could provide covering fire for the door. The door has a pointed arch and is set in the centre of a large long rectangular recess which also includes a round-headed window loop. There are also three square-headed window slits and a pointed window loop further up the wall. The door, arch, and windows are all surrounded by cut limestone blocks.
The E tower contains an unusual carving of what appears to be a head. Tradition gives a few versions of whose head it is: that of Thomas Fitzmaurice; that of the builder of the castle; or the head of an ape. The ape was associated with the Fitzmaurices because one of their ancestors was reputedly saved by one (Gaughan, 1973).
Two long strips of rubble at the rear of the castle indicates where the walls of the centre keep once stood.
Black East Tower (Left): One enters through a square doorway which leads into a small lobby. Square niches in the wall facing this doorway lead into a small high-vaulted room. This vaulted room, square in shape, contains a large square recess and two large splayed windows. The splay in the windows is quite steep and both have two stepping stones up to the loop. The room also has an opening (forced) into the garderobe chute. Looking up the chute it is clear that it served more than one latrine for two are visible. This room and the one in the W tower opposite probably served as guardrooms.
Back West Tower (Right): The vaulted room is similar to the one in the E tower, having a large recess and steps leading to the loop. The wicker and mortar centering is also visible in the pointed vault of this room. Just to the right of the entrance is a doorway (blocked up by the OPW) to a small chamber. This room possibly contained the stairs as no stairs exist in either of the vaulted rooms. No access can be gained to the upper floors without a ladder. Some steps can be seen leading from the 3rd to the 4th floor.
The Fitzmaurices, Lords of Kerry and owners of this castle, proved disloyal to the English crown in both the Desmond and O'Neill wars. By 1600 Listowel Castle was the last stronghold remaining to them and here they were besieged by Sir Charles Wilmot's forces. Wilmot tried to blow the castle up, digging a tunnel into which he set gunpowder. His first tunnel was flooded by a gush of spring water, but a second proved more successful and reached a vault in the castle. While service sumps were being constructed close to the castle in 1986 a tunnel was unearthed which ended near the foundations beneath the chamber in the west tower. According to Michael Ward (1986) this tunnel avoids the underground water course which had caused the first one to be abandoned, and he believes it to be the second tunnel executed by Wilmot. When the garrison realised the success of the second tunnel they finally surrendered their three-week seige. The woman and children were allowed to go free and, unknown to Wilmot, Lord Kerry's five-year-old eldest son was smuggled out by his nurse. However, in return for his life and the life of the child, a priest by the name of Sir Dermot MacBridie revealed the whereabouts of the boy, who was captured and sent to England (Gaughan, 1973).
For his achievements in North Kerry, Sir Charles Wilmot was created Earl of Athlone. Pacata Hibernia (1633) gives a good account of the siege of Listowel Castle and the fate of the garrison. Wilmot immediately hanged nine of the 18 weaponed men for that was the number of men he had lost during the siege; the rest of the garrison soon met the same fate.
In 1604 Thomas Fitzmaurice, the 18th Lord of Kerry, submitted to James I for his and his father's offences against the crown, and was pardoned. He surrendered his estates and had them conferred on him by letters patent in July 1604 and confirmed on the 1st July 1612 (Bourke, 1895). From this time on the Fitzmaurices remained loyal to the crown. Richard Hare purchased the manorial rights in 1783. The castle has been the responsibility of the Office of Public Works since 1923, and is one of the national monuments listed for North Kerry.
The above description is derived from C. Toal, ‘North Kerry Archaeological Survey’. Dingle. Brandon in association with FAS Training and Employment Authority (1995), no. 2. In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Date of upload: 1 August 2013 Zone Code: R118022 ITM Easting: 498914 ITM Northing: 633592 SHAPE: Point Att.: 3 Class: Castle - Anglo-Norman masonry castle SMR No.: KE010-059---- Townland: LISTOWEL Point: X: 498914.0 Y: 633592.0 Spatial Reference: 2157