County Kilkenny has a rich medieval heritage which includes a number of walled towns and villages, of which Kilkenny City is perhaps the best known. The others are Callan, Gowran, Inistioge and Thomastown. The National Policy on Town Defences sets out national policy for the protection, preservation and conservation of the defences of towns and cities.
Kilkenny City Walls
Kilkenny’s city walls were built during the 13th century. The walls offered protection from attack for the colonists living inside, and they were a symbol of Anglo-Norman power and authority over the native Irish. The city wall enclosed three separate boroughs: Hightown, Irishtown and St. John’s on the opposite side of the River Nore. Measuring more than two miles in length, the walls were the longest in Ireland at that time. The construction of the city walls in the 13th century was the largest civic project ever undertaken in Kilkenny. A quarter of the city walls still stand above ground today, the rest remain as archaeology below. For more detail about the wall see the Kilkenny City Walls Conservation Plan and Medieval Walls of Kilkenny City brochure; also see the Talbot’s Tower Information Panels.
Talbot’s Tower was built around 1270, and renamed after the 15th century Mayor of Kilkenny Robert Talbot. It was one of nine such watch-towers on the city walls.
The original 13th century tower was approximately three-quarters of its current size and had a timber roof. In the 1400s its height was raised by placing a stone-vaulted roof over the old battlements.
The city walls were only breached twice: by the Earl of Desmond in 1461 and by Oliver Cromwell in 1650; evidence of these fierce battles has been discovered during archaeological excavations at the tower. Analysis of ancient seeds found during archaeological excavations at Talbot’s Tower show us that 400 years before the Anglo-Normans built the city walls this area was laid out in fields bounded by hedgerows or small open woodlands of cherry, sloe and hazel trees and that once the city walls were built, the area immediately outside the walls was no longer used for cultivation and became a ‘no-man’s land’ where only weeds grew.
For more detail about the wall see the Talbot’s Tower Information Panels, and the publications: Medieval Talbot’s Tower Kilkenny Archaeobotanical report and Talbot’s Tower Kilkenny: Excavations for the City Walls Archaeological Park.