Drogheda - St Lawrence's Gate

St Laurences Gate - Drogheda

Wright's drawing of St. Lawrence's Gate appears as a small scrolled illustration at the foot of the contents page to Book II of Louthiana (1748). Yet despite its diminutive size, this elevational view is full of interesting detail, such as the luxuriant vegetation growing out of the tops of the towers. The drawing shows the west or inner fašade of the gate flanked by adjoining portions of the town walls. The latter are shown complete with stepped parapets supported on a series of blank arcades. As no trace of the town wall survives in the vicinity of St. Lawrence's Gate today, these details are not without interest. While the design of the wall looks rather ornate, it is actually quite similar to some of the surviving portions of the medieval town wall of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

St Laurences Gate - Drogheda

St Laurences Gate - Drogheda

Wright's drawing of St. Lawrence's Gate appears as a small scrolled illustration at the foot of the contents page to Book II of Louthiana (1748). Yet despite its diminutive size, this elevational view is full of interesting detail, such as the luxuriant vegetation growing out of the tops of the towers. The drawing shows the west or inner fašade of the gate flanked by adjoining portions of the town walls. The latter are shown complete with stepped parapets supported on a series of blank arcades. As no trace of the town wall survives in the vicinity of St. Lawrence's Gate today, these details are not without interest. While the design of the wall looks rather ornate, it is actually quite similar to some of the surviving portions of the medieval town wall of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

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The concept of urban life came late to Ireland and even within the island the distribution and foundation dates of the major modern towns and cities vary considerably. The first settlements clearly identifiable as urban in character are the port-towns of the east and south coasts, e.g. Dublin and Cork, which were founded as trading centres in the ninth and tenth centuries. Even before that time though, a number of the major ecclesiastical settlements, such as Armagh and Clonmacnoise, had probably developed some of the functions and characteristics of urban life. However, the two major periods of town foundation in Ireland occurred in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, in the wake of the Anglo-Norman colonisation, and in the late-fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a result of the plantations of Munster and Ulster.

St. Lawrence's Gate, in Drogheda, is the by-product of Anglo-Norman concepts of defining urban space with stout walls and earthworks pierced at intervals by heavily defended gates (for further details, see O'Keeffe 2001). It was originally one of ten gates which gave ingress and egress to the medieval town of Drogheda which was founded in the last years of the 12th century by the powerful Anglo-Norman de Lacy family. The term 'gate' is in this case a misnomer as this structure is in fact a barbican, or defended fore-work which stood directly outside the original gate of which no surface trace survives. Barbicans were generally placed on the outer edge of the fosses which encircled town walls and acted, along with the gate behind it, as an extra line of defence. Both the gate and the barbican would have possessed stout gates with a drawbridge between the two, which could be raised in case of attack.

Today, as in the 18th century, these technical details pale into insignificance in comparison to the main impact of St. Lawrence's Gate, which lies in its scale and massiveness. Standing five storeys and almost 20 metres in height, it is one of the most impressive examples of its type in either Britain or Ireland.


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