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Ballynahinch Tipperary, Ballynahinch Castle Sheela-Na-Gig



Ballynahinch Photo: a fantastic Ballynahinch Photograph Featuring Tipperary, Ballynahinch Castle Sheela-Na-Gig

Photograph Taken On Friday, January 31, 2020


On the external E face of Ballynahinch tower house, situated above the broken out doorway. The Sheela-na-gig is carved in raised relief on a rectangular slab. Described as having a big round head with eyes wide open; strong billowy lines across forehead; large jug ears. Lean rib, and no breasts seem to be indicated. Arms akimbo with hands joined above pudenda, shown as a deep round hole. Squatting position, knees bend, heels touching and toes turned out. This Sheela-na-gig is 'said to be a carricature of the cook, in revenge for her incivility to the tradesmen employed in building the castle'. Ballynahinch Castle is on the Northern bank the River Suir. The tower house is at the W end of a rectangular bawn which has a building in the NE angle and on the S wall. It was in the possession of John Bourke fitz William Oge in 1558 but in possession of Edward Butler, brother of the Earl of Ormond, by 1587. According to the Civil Survey the Countess of Ormond was the proprietor in 1640 and 'On the sd. lands stands a castle Demolished with a Bawne on one side thereof together with a thatcht house a few cabbins all Inhabitted. The tower house is constructed of limestone rubble, roughly coursed, with remains of external harling and an external base-batter. It originally had three storeys and in the 16th century a fourth storey and a mural chamber at parapet level were added. The entrance to the tower house, at the N end of E wall, is protected by a machicolation at parapet level. The doorway is completely broken out and has been since at least 1906 when described by Crawford, who mentions a groove at the apex of the former pointed doorway, presumably a yett hole. About 2m above the former doorway is a Sheela-na-gig. The entrance lobby is protected by a large murder-hole overhead and there is a narrow guardroom to the N running E-W in the thickness of the N wall. The ground floor was accessed through a doorway, now broken out, directly in front of the main doorway. It was divided, possibly in the late 17th/18th century, by a stone wall running E-W which rises up to the stone vault above the first floor, though the upper courses of this cross-wall are gone. The internal floor level appears to have been deepened by, possibly when the cross-wall was being built. The ground-floor chamber was lit by three windows, one in the centre of the N wall, another in the S wall, slightly E of centre and a third in the W wall, blocked externally. There are also three wall cupboards. The first floor was carried on stone corbels on the E and W wall and was entered from a doorway off the mural stairs which rises from the entrance lobby within the E wall. It was lit by an unusual cinquefoil single-light window in the N wall and a flat-headed two-light window in the S wall. The stairs is lit by a number of simple flat or round-headed loops and is defended at each angle by a murder-hole. Between the first and second floor there is a vaulted mural chamber in the E wall, lit by a window at the E end of the N wall, and in the E wall there is also a small angle fireplace, in a recess in the S portion of the chamber, with a flue which exits through the wall 3m above the floor level. The second floor, above the barrel vault, is entered from the mural stair in the S wall. It is lit by five windows, two in both the E and W walls and one in the N wall. There is also a window in the S wall opposite the entrance to the main chamber and a window in the N wall, near the NW angle, which lights the stairs up to a mural chamber. There is an inserted fireplace in the W wall where there was formally a two-light ogee-headed window which was blocked up in the late 16th century. There are three wall cupboards. There may have been a gallery at the S end of the main chamber, accessed via an internal wooden stair, which would have provided access to the lintelled mural chamber in the S wall which is lit by three windows in the S wall and has two wall cupboards, one at either end of the mural chamber. In the main chamber a doorway, roughly centrally placed in the S wall, gives access to a garderobe chamber which is lit by a single-light window towards the W end of the S wall. The garderobe chute exits at the base of the W end of the S wall. Another mural chamber is accessed from a doorway W of the window embrasure in the N wall. This gives access to a stair which decends steeply to a vaulted chamber, lit by three loops, which runs N-S along the W wall. Towards the back of this mural chamber there is a partition wall with a low doorway giving access to a small unlit chamber. In the late 16th century a third floor, with a fireplace above that at second floor level, was inserted. This floor has no windows or doorway so must have been accessed from the chamber below via a wooden stair. A doorway at the W end of the N wall provides access to a stair up to a mural chamber at parapet level and gives access to the battlements. This mural chamber is also a late 16th-century addition. It is lit by three windows in the N wall and one at the N end of the E wall and is roofed with stone capping.There are good coping stones projecting from the S face of the mural chamber showing the line of the A-frame roof. There are also rafter holes in the wall above the third-floor fireplace to support a timber roof. The parapet is in good condition with stone-capped crow-stepped crenelations and drain holes and water spouts in situ.View image on Flickr

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