Moorstown Castle is situated on private land a short distance
from The Apple Farm.
The following history of Moorstown Castle was written by
Patrick C. Power.
is a townland near Cahir. Here stands the remains of a towerhouse or
little castle, which was built, in the 15th century by the Keatings.
The Keatings were part of the invasion forces, which came with the
Anglo-Normans to Ireland in the 12th century. The name is Welsh in
origin and stresses the fact that many of those who settled in Ireland
during that period came from Wales and were of mixed Norman, Welsh and
English ancestry. The Keatings held the manor of Shanrahan but by the
16th century they had acquired land around Cahir and were henchmen of
the Earls of Ormond. A document exists from the 15th century, which
describes a leading member of the Keatings as “chief of the lord’s
kernty” i.e. chief of the Earl of Ormond’s kerns or household
troops.The builder of Moorstown Castle may have been James Keating, who
is described in 1652 as of Ballynamona, an Irish version of Moorstown,
(móin in Irish long ago meant simply pasture moor and not turf or
peat). In the wars of the 16th century the Keatings and all the old
aristocracy of their type had plenty to occupy themselves. The
insecurity of the times dictated the building of a defensible
dwelling-house. At Moorstown this took the form of a strongly built
circular tower and a courtyard or bawn surrounded by a high stone wall.
As well as this a towered gateway was also built. All of these
buildings still stand in a fair state of preservation.
the beginning of the 17th century the Keatings of Moorstown were
seriously short of money. This lead to the owner, Richard Keating,
seeking a large loan from a money-lender, Sir Robert Cox of Bruff, Co.
Limerick, an Englishman who had settled in Ireland. Cox gave Keating
£300 in exchange for a mortgage on the castle and lands. As it
happened, Keating never redeemed his property later. The terrible wars
of the period 1642 to 1651 gave Catholic landowners such as Keating a
time of security and freedom, but Cromwell's campaign ended all that
and destroyed their power for ever. The Cox family became the full
owners of Moorstown and the Keatings never regained possession. When a
complete survey of Irish land was made in the 1650s Moorstown was
described as follows, “ ... two little orchards fenced with ditches of
quicksetts in one whereof are some ash trees and likewise some cabins
in the said Towne”. This is a reference to the little village around
the castle at that time.In 1678 Frances Cox, a daughter of Sir Robert
Cox, married Godfrey Greene, who was a retired officer in the army of
Charles 1. Greene lived at Kilmanahan. He did not enjoy his new
acquisition for long because he died in 1678. His son John succeeded
him and years afterwards, in 1735, exactly a hundred years after the
Keatings lost Moorstown, his son Godfrey was killed in a duel. The duel
had its origins in the loss of the land to the Cox family. Richard
Keating of Nicholastown fought with young Greene and killed him.
Greenes lived in Moorstown till 1798. A descendant of John’s, yet
another Godfrey Greene, died there in April 1798. He had been Member of
Parliament for Dungarvan, as well as Accountant-General to the Court of
Chancery. He never married. His brother, John survived him by six
months and died in the castle. He was the last of the Greene family to
live there. He had been an ardent promoter of the linen trade in
Ireland but his son Robert, not only did not live at Moorstown, but
lived in India where he died in Calcutta in May 1818.The Greene family
severed its connection with Moorstown in 1855. on the 7th of July of
that year the Landed Estates Court sold the castle and land to pay
debts incurred by the owners. It was ironical that it should end this
way, when we consider how the Keatings lost their property in the first
place. The buyer was Richard Grubb of Cahir.
The castle or
towerhouse at Moorstown is a circular building. This type of castle is
not very common in Ireland. The commonest type is the square or
rectangular building. The fine gate-house is rectangular and in a fair
state of preservation, like the other building. They are built of
limestone. Near the towerhouse and against the surrounding wall are the
remains of a dwelling house, which may have been built in the 18th
century by the Greenes.
description of Moorstown Castle, written by Leo Wallace, is a revised
version of a talk given by him at an outing in May 1988 to members of
Co. Tipperary Historical Society.
Moorstown Castle - a Neglected Tower-House near Clonmel
Castle belongs to what Craig refers to as a small class of cylindrical
tower houses peculiar to Tipperary. He goes on to try to enumerate them
all (there being so few), but omits Moorstown, one of three strongholds
of the Keatings in the immediate locality. The situation of the castle
and bawn complex, off the main road from Clonmel to Cahir, may explain
how Craig missed it. However, the castle is clearly visible from the
main road, although difficult to reach unless one knows the way.
is actually on the old road to Cahir, now a boreen, and stands on a
grassy limestone knoll commanding a great sweep of land all around the
site. From the eastern or western approach the tower-house, showing
over the almost complete bawn wall, is a most impressive sight. It has
a brooding atmosphere that is almost tangible.
The bawn was
possibly the first part of the buildings to be erected. Since security
was the main object, the completion of the bawn would have been the
first step, as it would give a secure place to shelter cattle at night
- not to mention the retainers - and a safe place in which to erect the
tower house itself. It would have been important not to have the
building operations interrupted by the cattle and other raids, which
were a constant feature of those times.
Moorstown bawn has two
flanking towers on diagonal corners on the north-east and south-west,
which more or less cover all four walls of the bawn. The only entrance
is through a complete gate-house, above which is a machicolis over the
round-headed arched gateway; from here solids or liquids would be
dropped on attackers! This gate had also a kind of portcullis in front
of it; the grooves in which it fitted may still be seen.
as a defensive entrance the gate-house is badly designed, being flush
with the bawn wall. For maximum effect the gatehouse should have been
built well forward of the bawn wall, so as to act as a flanking tower
and to command all the front bawn wall. The actual opening was closed
by two doors opening inwards, doubtless iron-shod and kept closed by a
great beam about six inches square. This slid into an opening in the
wall when not in place. The doors or gates hung on great stone hinges -
still in place.
The door-keepers lived over the gate, and there
was also a porter's lodge in the long entrance passage - no getting
through here unseen! The Moorstown bawn is constructed with
double-faced limestone and rubble mortar core. Part of the north bawn
wall (the outer face) was beautifully re-built in the nineteenth
century, giving an unusual chance to compare the work of sixteenth and
As indicated earlier, the tower house
of Moorstown is cylindrical and standing to its full height, having two
gables flush with the main walls and both gables gracefully curved to
the angles of the main walls. The gables are roughly facing east-west,
with the eastern one finishing in a simple oblong chimney. The tower is
of four storeys including the ground floor, with one vault of a domical
shape and beautifully built.
There are only very small window
openings at ground and first floor levels, making this part of the
building very dark and gloomy. One small window is of the
fifteenth-century (ogee) type, showing that at least one mason had a
weakness for this lovely (if old-fashioned) style, in a building
otherwise very much of the sixteenth century. The ground and first
floors follow the general shape of the castle, being thus circular.
second floor, in which is the main living room, is almost square, with
a typically sixteenth century fireplace of the flat lintel type, with
rounded edges, slightly chamfered. Directly over this room is the third
floor. This appears to have been a dovecote, doubtless to increase meat
rations during the hard winter months.
Windows in the top rooms
are all small simple oblongs with one exception, that of the main
living-room. This is about four feet square, and had one mullion. There
are two other smaller windows in the living-room, all perfectly plain
without a single hood moulding. Nevertheless, the general effect is
The spiral stairs, garde-robes and inner doors are all
beautifully fitted in between the square of the second and third floors
and the curve of the main walls themselves. Over the third floor rise
both gables with wall walks and three machicolations at opposite
angles, liberally pierced with musket loops. There are also musket
loops at ground level and on either side of the entrance door to the
The parapets of Moorstown are finished plainly, with no
stepped battlements on the tower or the bawn. However, it can be argued
that the building looks best as it is, as the design of the tower would
not have taken battlements.
Finally, it remains to be recorded
that a now almost forgotten episode in the War of Independence
(1918-1921) is largely responsible for the remarkable state of
preservation of the upper story of Moorstown Castle. As a gesture of
defiance the local unit of the I.R.A. erected a tricolour on the
topmost parapet, which from this elevated position could be seen for a
considerable distance. To ensure that the Crown forces could not remove
the flag without some risk to themselves, most of the upper portion of
the stairs giving access to the flag-pole was removed! The missing
steps have helped to prevent possible vandalism in the subsequent years.
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