The Castles of Midleton

This week we were delighted to have Jenny O’Brien of Christ King Girls Secondary School in South Douglas working in Rubicon’s Midleton Office. Jenny is a Transition Year student, and was with us to learn more about the work we do in archaeology and heritage. As part of that, Jenny undertook a project for the Midleton Archaeology & Heritage blog to look at some local castles in the area. Jenny spent time researching a number of them before writing up her findings. Today she took to the field to photograph the sites and to share what she found with readers. Jenny has prepared the post below for us; everyone at Rubicon would like to thank her for her help, and for exploring the story of some of these sites for us!

Location of the Castles discussed in the text (Hannah Sims)

Location of the Castles discussed in the text (Hannah Sims)

Ballyvodock West

Ballyvodock West is a roughly square tower. Only the ground floor remains, except in the South-East corner where the first floor wall survives. (1) The Hodnetts, William and John Oge, were in residence here in 1582. John fitz Edmund Oge died in 1597 in possession of Ballyvodock West, which was then inherited by his son, William. In 1621, William mortgaged the property to Ludovic O’Cahill. (3) How Ballyvodock West came to be in ruins is something of a mystery. Some sources say it was destroyed by gunpowder in the last decade of the 17th century. (3) Other sources say it was blown up in the 1640s, during the Eleven Years War. (6)

Ballyvodock West Castle (Jenny O'Brien)

Ballyvodock West Castle (Jenny O’Brien)


Cahermone is a rectangular tower. Today, it is four storeys tall, although it was originally higher. It has an early 17th century appearance. (1) Cahermone was built around 1450 by John Fitzgerald.(8) In 1571, John fitz Edmund of Cloyne acquired the land and took up residence here. (3) In the farmyard, there is an arch stone inscribed with the date 1579, when John fitz Edmund may have renovated the house. (2) John fitz Edmund of Cloyne was then driven into Cork City by his cousin and namesake, John fitz Edmund of Castlemartyr, Seneschal of Imokilly. He returned to Cahermone in 1583. He later abandoned Cahermore for Ballymalloe. (3) In the 1650s, Cahermone was passed to Sir John Broderick. It is now situated on the private grounds of a farm. (8)

Cahermone Castle (Jenny O'Brien)

Cahermone Castle (Jenny O’Brien)


Coppingerstown is located in a farmyard. It is four storeys tall, with a conjoined one storey structure. It is connected with the Coppinger and Cotter families. (1) William Shane Cotter lived at Coppingerstown in the mid-16th century, but owned a lot of land elsewhere. The Cotters mortgaged the bulk of their land to John fitz Edmund of Cloyne, who occupied Cahermone. By 1589, Shane Ode MacCotter, brother and heir to William, had only Coppingerstown and Gearagh to leave to his son. In 1638, Shane’s grandson, William, mortgaged Coppingstown to Charles Caldwell, an Anglican clergyman. William’s lands were confiscated by the Cromwellian administration in the early 1650s. (3) Unfortunately the surviving elements of this castle appear to have recently collapsed.

Coppingerstown Castle (Jenny O'Brien)

Coppingerstown Castle (Jenny O’Brien)


Ballintotis is a small, four storey tower. There is no door to the second floor, and it was probably entered through a manhole from below. Very little of its history is known. (4) Some consider the theory that the tower may have been part of the ‘outer defences’ of nearby Castlemartyr. (5) The tower was granted to George Moore in 1579, but was recovered soon after by the Fitzgeralds. (6)

Ballintotis Castle (Jenny O'Brien)

Ballintotis Castle (Jenny O’Brien)


There is no visible surface trace of Castleredmond. (1) The site has been excavated, starting in June 2001 when three test-trenches were dug. They revealed a 1 metre section of the wall, 0.7 metres in height, made of limestone blocks. In December of that year, three more test-trenches were excavated and they exposed the limestone bedrock. Most of the remainder of the site has been filled with stone. (7)
This castle was ruinous by 1625. It was written by a man called Lewis in the 1840s that Castleredmond was built by a Redmond Fitzgerald during the reign of Henry VIII. Lewis then contradicted himself by saying that the last pre-Reformation Roman Catholic bishop of Cloyne was born in the castle. The bishop he refers to appears to have been part of a family living in Castlemartyr. Several sources say that Castleredmond may have been part of Corabbey. Corabbey was then owned by the Barry family, who seemed to be very connected to the Redmond family, as their names appear together often. (3)

Castleredmond Castle (Site Of) (Jenny O'Brien)

Castleredmond Castle (Site Of) (Jenny O’Brien)


Ballyannan was a two storey, fortified house with an attic, and is now roofless. (1) The first building on the land was owned by the Hodnett family. (8) By 1601 the Hodnetts appear to have lost control of Ballyannan. Edward Gould, a Cork merchant, had the land in his possession by 1641. (3) In 1653, Sir John Broderick, a Cromwellian settler, took possession of the estate and rebuilt it into the fortified Tudor mansion that we see in the ruins today. (8)

Ballyannan Castle (Jenny O'Brien)

Ballyannan Castle (Jenny O’Brien)

1. “Archaeological Inventory of County Cork. Volume 2: East and South Cork”
2. “The Old Castles around Cork Harbour” – J. Coleman, 1915
3. “The Chronicles of Midleton” – Jeremiah Falvey, 1998
4. “Antiquarian Remains and Historic Spots around Cloyne” – J. Coleman, 1913
5. “The Castles of County Cork” – J. N. Healy, 1988
6. “The Castles of South Munster” – Mike Salter, 2004
7. – Sheila Lane, Consulting Archaeologist

Categories: Midleton Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Castles of Midleton

  1. Well done, Jenny! Nice to see somebody so young writing such material.

    One ‘castle’ that may be missing from the list is Ballinacurra. Not a stone castle or tower house like most of the others, but a great earthen mound, now covered in a plantation of trees. This is situated in the grounds of Ballinacurra House, right next to the wall that divides it from Ballinacurra’s graveyard and medieval church. The relationship of church and ‘castle’ is a classic medieval one. The des Altaribus family were granted the lands from Ballinacurra to Ballyoughtera/Castlemartyr by Robert FitzStephen shortly after the Anglo Norman invasion of Cork in 1177. The caput or headquarters of the de Altaribus manor was at Castro na Chora – this is taken to be Ballinacurra. The word ‘castro’ or ‘castrum’ means castle. In short the family seem to have built an earth and timber castle probably using a prehistoric mound as a foundation for the motte or fortified mound. About two decades ago i climbed this mound (with permission) and it is clearly man made. A small wooden tower would fit on the top providing an expansive view in all directions and serving as a last strongpoint. This is all that remains of the original castle in the area….although archaeologists have never managed to investigate the mound more closely.

    Samuel Lewis, who wrote the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1839, never visited Ireland – he corresponded with local figures (the Rector, Justices of the Peace and other figures) to get information from them. Too many sent rather tall tales that they were convinced were true. This is what leads to appalling information being given out as ‘local history’. The reference to the bishop of Cloyne being born in Castlreredmond is clearly wrong – no such bishop is known to have been born there. Paul McCotter in his history of the Medieval Diocese of Cloyne suggests that the ‘bishop’ was actually an abbot – Philip FitzDavid Barry, the last abbot of Chore (Midleton). The Barrys had managed to acquire possession of Ballinacurra some time between 1350 and 1400. They were also trying to get control of the abbey at Chore (Midleton). Fr Edmond Barry suggests that branches of the Barrys from Leamlara and Lisgoold were buried in Chore Abbey or Corabbey. Thus by the Reformation the Barrys may have controlled all the land from Ballinacurra to Carrigogna, but this didn’t go down well with the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly.

    The Fitzgeralds of Imokilly were a branch of the FitzMaurices of Kerry. They were given the office of Seneschal of Imokilly by the Earl of Desmond to secure the area for the earl. They arrived in an area that was already vulnerable to intrusion by the Barrys, who had already taken the parish of Inchinabecky (Churchtown North). To forestall any further intrusion, one branch of the Fitzgeralds was given the lands of Cahermone, situated between the then Barry lands of Inchinabecky and Chorabbey. That’s probably why the castle or towerhouse there is so massive – unusual for the time. The FitzJohn FitzGeralds of Cahermone were in financial difficulty when John FitzEdmond Fitzgerald of Cloyne forced them to sell the place to him in 1571. Two years later (1573), John FitzEdmond was granted the abbey and lands of Corabbey on a 21 year lease by Queen Elizabeth I. However it is possible that the castle was damaged by 1580 during the second Desmond Rebellion, as I suspect that it was near here on the Roxborough River that the Seneschal ambushed Walter Raleigh. Tradition puts the ambush on the Owenacurra River at Midleton but the description of the ambush in Holinshead’s Chronicle mentions a scout running for shelter into a nearby ruinous castle – Cahermone fits the bill here. (One could argue for Castleredmond, but It is unlikely that the river was fordable at that point.)

    Ballyannan is a very important building. It looks very new and I suspect that an existing Hodnett tower house was demolished and totally replaced by Gould or that there was no castle there until Gould built his house there. The building is entirely of an early 17th century design. It looks remarkably like a Plantation Castle from Ulster, which was based on Scottish architecture. However one could also compare it with a small French chateau. This is a very likely source for the design, however the large windows visible in the ruin were probably inserted in the later 17th century when the Brodricks were the owners. In fact the Brodricks inhabited the building until the 1750s – there’s a wonderful description of a visit there by Pilkington in the 1730s/1740s when it was a household of women! (The Brodricks, Viscounts Midleton, had moved to England by 1730.)

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