Ardee - Roodstown Castle

Tower Houses were the standard defended residences of the rural gentry in Ireland for over 200 years from AD c.1400 to 1650. They are the most common type of stone castle in Ireland constituting well over 75 % of all castles built. While no accurate totals have yet been calculated, it is estimated that there must have been well over 2500 of these structures originally (for further details, see Leask 1951, 75 and appendix). Towers of similar design also occur in parts of Scotland emphasizing that until the 17th century, Scotland and Ireland formed part of a single cultural province stretching form Kerry to the Orkneys. On a macro- level, the popularity of these towers can also be read as an index of the breakdown of centralized power in Ireland and Scotland in late medieval times.

Built to a fairly standard design, Tower Houses were usually square or rectangular buildings comprising three or more storeys surmounted by a crenellated parapet and gabled roof with a garret or attic. The ground floor was usually a dimly-lit vaulted store but the upper floors with their larger windows, fireplaces, latrines and sometimes separate bed-chambers, were purpose designed living quarters (for further details, see Leask 1951). Most tower houses originally had bawns or walled courtyards attached. Within the bawn were located the servants' quarters, kitchens and outbuildings, and sometimes a separate dining hall. From the early 17th century onwards, tower houses were gradually replaced by the more commodious and well-lit, Towered & Gabled houses.

Amongst the 26 Tower Houses that have been identified in Co. Louth (see also Termonfeckin Castle and Ardee Castle), that at Roodstown is widely regarded as one of the most perfectly preserved examples. It sits on the side of a by-road c.3.5km NE of Ardee amid some of the best land in the county. Standing almost 15m in height, it is a rectangular tower of four storeys with small projecting turrets placed at diagonally opposed corners. The latter house the spiral stairway (SE corner) and garderobes (NW corner). Only the vaulted floor between the ground and first storey survives. As to the lives of its inhabitants, history appears to be silent: not even the names of its builders seem to have been recorded.

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