Funded by The Heritage Council through the Irish Walled Towns Network, essential conservation works have been completed on Athlone Town Wall at Court Devenish/Railway View.
“Originally constructed in the mid-13th century, Athlone Town Wall underwent several stages of repair, rebuilding and extension over the centuries. The walls of our town have been witness to battles, sieges and settlement over the centuries and are an important part of the story of the town,” Westmeath County Council Heritage Officer, Melanie McQuade, remarked.
Only a few sections of the Town Wall in Athlone are still standing today. Many people will be familiar with the stretch of ‘Dublin Gate Wall’ in front of the Civic offices or the remains of the bastion at Lucas Lane. There are also less visible stretches of the town wall, behind the gardens of the houses on Railway View.
Westmeath County Council, with funding from the Heritage Council through the Irish Walled Towns Network, carried out conservation works in September at Court Devenish and Railway View. This work safeguarded one of the earliest surviving stretches of the town wall which includes a circular tower, possibly dating from the 16th century.
“A large sycamore tree growing within the grounds of Court Devenish was putting a strain on the wall. Tree roots were causing displacement of masonry and threatening the stability of the wall. There was also a concern that if this large tree was to fall or be blown over by storm winds, it could cause this part of the town wall to collapse” Melanie continued.
Westmeath County Council commissioned arborist, Noel Lane of Dorian Tree Care and conservation specialist Dr Jason Bolton to investigate this stretch of the town wall. As Athlone is a member of the Irish Walled Towns Network of the Heritage Council (IWTN ) https://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/, guidance and grant assistance is available for projects like this.
“We applied for a grant to assist with this project and were really delighted when we heard that our application was successful,” Melanie commented.
As the town wall is a recorded monument, Westmeath County Council informed the National Monuments Service (part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht ) about the works and methodology.
“Tree felling has to be carried out between September and the end of February, in order to avoid any impact on nesting birds,” Melanie noted.
Works commenced on September 7 when Culbert and Cons Tree Care carefully felled the tree in sections. Revamp Conservation specialist contractors and stonemasons carried out the conservation works. Kevin Clancy Conservation Engineer from PUNCH Consulting Engineers, oversaw the works and ensured that everything was done to safeguard the stability of the Town Wall.
“The Irish Walled Towns Network was delighted to support Westmeath County Council with this work as it ensures that an important aspect of Athlone’s heritage has been conserved for generations to come”, Róisín Burke, project manager, Irish Walled Towns Network, explained.
A short documentary following the progress of the works, commissioned by Westmeath County Council and the Irish Walled Towns Network, will be available on YouTube in the coming weeks.