A prospect of Galway, 1685

This hand coloured prospect of Galway, looking northeast, was drawn in 1685 by Captain Thomas Phillips, surveyor-general of the fortifications in Ireland. It is especially important as it is the only quasi-objective pictorial record of Galway to survive from this period.

Viewed from the shoreline on the western side of the river, the prospect looks across at the walled town and a wide-angled panorama that stretches from a group of thatched cottages outside the West Bridge (on the left ) to the earthwork remnants of the former St Augustine’s Fort to the south. The fort is shown as a very substantial earthwork which seemed to have all but disappeared on maps made of the fortifications a few years later.

Of particular interest is the representation of the houses that not only rise above but also form part of the town defences. This view confirms their depiction on the pictorial map (which is dated 1651 ) where they are shown with dormer windows and tall chimney stacks. The representation of the town walls is especially significant since it serves as a correction to their stylised, ashlar, and uniform crenelated appearance on the pictorial map. The walls are very substantial. The scene is dominated by the tower of St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. The tower you can see the far side of the west bridge is Terryland Castle.

The above information is taken from the recently published Irish Historic Towns Atlas of Galway. The drawing has also been used to illustrate a new book entitled The Tribes of Galway 1124 – 1642 written and published by Adrian Martyn. Adrian has written on this subject before, but nothing like the remarkable work of research that this book represents. There is extensive information on all 14 of the tribes or families who came from the medieval Irish lower classes and rose to become Galway’s prime merchant families, and the good news is that there is at least one other volume to follow. The book is profusely illustrated with maps, photographs, and a significant number of family trees, and contains a huge amount of genealogical material. There are extensive footnotes all of which add greatly to the scholarship of this city.

This book is an important addition to any Galwegian’s library, highly recommended and available in good bookshops at €25.

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