RATHDOWN CASTLE

Rathdown Castle was built around 1200 AD, on the site of a much earlier fort and rath.(In Irish, Rath means mound,  Dun means fort).Scott, in his book, “The Stones of Bray,” suggests that the rath was undoubtedly one of the Royal residences of the first Milesian (Gaelic) King in Ireland, King Erimon. This original rath, constructed by King Erimon in 1699 BC, was a 3-sided earthen embankment, built to the north of a steep ravine, through which the Water of Rathdown still flows. (Erimon and his brother, Eber Finn, jointly ruled the country ; Erimon later became sole King of Ireland, by killing Eber Finn).

The rath has been re-aligned and reinforced over the years. Today, the remains of a double-ditch, possibly used as a moat in medieval times, can still be seen from the air.

The castle had one large square tower 34ft. by22ft, with walls 4 feet thick. A path passed through the body of the castle, and continued down the hill to the small harbour, the ‘Crykka.’ (Smal 1993).

A nearby water-mill drew water from the river to the south, the ‘Water of Rathdown.’ The depression marking the location of the mill-race is still clearly visible today. A well with a freshwater spring was situated close to the castle.

The castle was well located from a defensive point of view, with commanding views of main approaches to north and west, protected by sea to the east, and the Water of Rathdown to the south. During  more peaceful times, the harbour would have provided a trading possibility.

Smal, Chris (1993) Ancient Rathdown and St. Crispin’s Cell, A uniquely historic landscape. Friends of Historic Rathdown, Greystones.

 

Copper alloy horse bridle stud from Rathdown
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Oblique aerial photo. Dark cone-shaped area, half-way along field-boundary marks castle location
Courtesy of Keith St Joseph for Friends of Historic Rathdown
Ancient rath
A social history of ancient Ireland : treating of the government, military system and law ; religion, learning and art ; trades, industries and commerce ; manners, customs and domestic life of the ancient Irish people. P.W. Joyce, Longmans Green, London, 1913, page 274.
Rath structures at Tara
A Social History of Ancient Ireland : treating of the government, military system and law ; religion, learning and art ; trades, industries and commerce ; manners, customs and domestic life of the ancient Irish people, P.W. Joyce, Longman's Green, London, 1913, Page 81.
Rath structures at Tara.
The Boyne Valley, Antiquities at Royal Tara, Old Mellifont, Dowth, Newgrange and Monasterboice, Kenneth Mc Gowan, Kamac Publications, Dublin, page 6.
Aerial view showing St. Crispin's Cell and Tarrant's farmhouse. The new paths and the semi-circular grass paths are clearly visible. The Castle site is top right, east of the Cliff Walk
Courtesy of Ejvind Mogensen
Castle site
Courtesy of Ejvind Mogensen
Old map showing location of Castle in relation to the Cell (Church).
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown.
Map shows Castle's proximity to Cliff Walk, and its position relative to Bray Head and Coolagad hill
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown
Rathdown, nestling on the gentle southern slopes of Bray Head
Image by J Harrington
View from Irish Sea showing harbour, Castle and village
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown
Castle and village, well and possible site of watermill
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown
Decorated ceramic strap handle, Rathdown. Probably part of a jug or similar type of vessel. Dark green glaze. Two deep incised grooves along each edge, and a series of diagonal short deep grooves in between
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Pottery, glazed red earthenware rim sherd, ceramic from Rathdown. Yellow glaze on interior and exterior faces.
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Glazed red earthenware rim sherd found at Rathdown - decorative grooves or moulding under the lip of the rim.
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Pottery, glazed earthenware rim sherd, ceramic, Rathdown. Green-brown glaze interior and exterior. Possibly North Devon gravel-free ware
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Contents of midden (food dump) from Castle grounds, revealing the diet of the occupants over the years : bone remains of cattle, sheep, goats and horses
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown
Shellfish remains found in the same midden - sea snails, winkles, oysters, mussels, cockles and limpets
Courtesy of Friends of Historic Rathdown
From John Derrick's ' Image of Ireland ' 1581. Ireland from AD 800 to AD 1600, John Ryan, 1927, Browne and Nolan, Dublin, page 181.
Longbowmen
Life in Medieval England, J.J.Bagley, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1960, page 21.

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