Bridge Castle Thurles

Bridge Castle, Thurles, Co.Tipperary.

Barry’s Bridge in Thurles, Co Tipperary, providing passage over the river Suir, was originally built circa 1650 and was partially reconstructed again circa 1820. Bridge Castle, overlooking this seasonally shallow river crossing, has dominated the Thurles skyline since as early as 1453, built possibly by the Norman invader McRickard Butler of whom history records that he erected, in 1453, two castles at Thurles and one at Buaidlic (Boulick).

(Please click on all images for larger pictures.)

James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde (1610 – 1688)

The Down Survey (1655 – 1656), also known as the Civil Survey, (A mapping of Ireland undertaken by Sir William Petty, English Economist, Scientist and Philosopher), lists James Butler, Earl of Ormond (1610 – 1688) and Lady Elizabeth Butler (Alias Preston) Viscountess Dowager of Thurles, (1615 – 1685) as the proprietors.

(Note: Both the latter named are direct progenitors to the present heirs to the British Throne. See Royal Family Tree.)

This medieval tower house is quite similar to many others erected  across Ireland around the middle of 1400, to control, collect tolls and if necessary defend various similar river crossings against attack, using small garrisons of armed soldiers, housed in these buildings.

Plan of Bridge Castle.Thurles. (Artist) A. Cooper (1759-1830).

It is a small three storey tower with a vault over the first floor. The original doorway may have been set in the west wall and a spiral stairway rises in the north west corner, giving full access to all the upper floors. A small fragment of the original east facing arched gateway of the walled town protrudes today, still attached to the north wall of this building. The existing small pointed, arch doorway, also on the north wall was possibly constructed to grant immediate access from the tower, for those guarding this entrance into the town, from this river crossing. Little history is actually recorded about Bridge Castle, however records exist showing that on the 17th June 1617 the castle was leased “Thomas, Lord Viscount Thurles, by deed grants to Richard Power, Donat O’Haly and Rd. Wale, all that castle called Bridge Castle with its appurtenances, parcel of the Manor and Lands of Thurles, for 21 years at £5 per annum and one swine, one sheep and three capons.” (Note: A capon is a rooster that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh, for eating purposes.)

Wash drawing of Bridge Castle, Thurles, 1779-1793.

History also records that there were great celebrations in Thurles in 1768 when Francis Mathew, 1st Baron Landaff, later 1st Viscount Landaff and again later 1st Earl of Landaff (1738 – 1806) was elected Tipperary Member of Parliament, a position he held from 1768 to 1783. History informs us that bonfires burned, with the castle, bridge and market house illuminated. There was plenty of free drink available, with soldiers joining the local populace in the ensuing celebrations.

This wash drawing, shown above, facing westward, (Circa 1779-1793, attributed to English artist J.J. Barralet 1747-1815.) shows the town of Thurles, with Bridge Castle in the foreground leading into the town, with a castle on the left, (Today the entrance to Friar Street.) and a Market House in the town square. (Latter, partially ruined by fire, was demolished in 1901.) The castle building today still remains in excellent structural condition.

14 Responses to Bridge Castle Thurles

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  2. The way things are going “Hidden Tipperary” is going to bring things out of the ‘Cubby Hole,’ that we never knew existed, and no one could tell us until “Hidden Tipperary” came along. What’s next out of the Cubby Hole.?

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  7. Louis Doherty says:

    My parents being from Thurles has been influential on me. Whenever I visit Ireland (being born in Dublin, then moved to America) I always marvel at the mixture of modern buildings and derelict, “hidden-in-plain-sight”, type castles, forts, outposts, garrisons, and towers that stand forgotten; just more “street scenery”. What marvels these old buildings hold inside their walls truly astounds me. What history Doherty’s and Dwan’s alike have embellished upon Thurles will always entice me in a lattice of forgotten history.

    • Hello Louis,
      My late father, John Joseph Quigley was born in Thurles in 1931, though he lived most of his life in England, he naturally had a special affinity with his home town. The family were in fact bootmakers and had a shop in the town for generations. Interestingly I have recently come upon a painting my father had tucked away in his wardrobe for many years, which shows the tower of Bridge Castle and a view of the river Suir. The artist is a ‘P. Doherty’ and it’s dated 1998. I’m led to believe that the artist was a local person and wondered if you would have any connection to the family name? I would be happy to send you a photo of the painting if you’d like to see it?

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  10. Bartek says:

    I am doing a construction project in my school to make a model of the castle.
    It would be very much appreciated if you could confirm the hight, length, width, elevation and all possible measurements of this castle.

    Thank you

    • George says:

      Built mid 15th century.
      Latitude: 52.6792° or 52° 40′ 45.3″ north.
      Longitude: -7.8104° or 7° 48′ 37.4″ west.
      Location: 52.6792754, -7.8104336
      Height 52.4934ft [16 metres] aproximately. Measured 4 years ago.
      East side: Wide aproximately 25 ft [7.62 metres]
      North side: Wide aproximately 25 ft [7.62 metres]
      Observe: (1) Remaining piece of original arch which crossed the road.
      (2) Foundations were slightly larger/wider to ensure buildings stability.
      (3) Ignore text on stone plaque on west side. Content is rubbish.
      (4) Entrance to interier can be accessed via the ladies clothing shop “Le Chateau” next door, on the west side, subject to their approval. [Take care on the stone stairs.]
      Also called incorrectly “Barry’s Castle”.
      Regret no further measurements to hand.

      Regards George

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