Blake’s Castle, Quay Street

This drawing of Blake’s Castle was done in 1847 by George Victor Du Noyer, a Dublin born artist, geologist, and antiquarian who spent much of his life recording natural features and archeological sites around the country in the 19th century.

Blake’s Castle is a medieval town house built c1470 having single bay ground and first floors and a two bay second floor. It has a flat roof with a crenelated parapet with a projecting machicolation on supporting corbels on the top floor above the entrance. This was an opening at the parapet through which defenders could drop stuff like boiling water down on would-be attackers. It was built with coursed roughly dressed limestone rubble walls with square-headed window openings to the upper floors.

It originally belonged to the O’Halloran sept but then the Anglo-Norman Blake family took it over. It was forfeited by them in 1641 and was granted to a Monksfield-based family named Morgan. From 1686 to 1810, it served as the county gaol. It was described in 1788 as being “Near the river. There is a new court but no pump. The criminals are all in two rooms with dirt floors and no fireplace, the debtors have small rooms upstairs. Allowance to felons, a sixpenny loaf of household bread every other day (weight 3 pounds 12 ounces ) which they often sell for four pence halfpenny to buy potatoes.” The gaoler’s salary was £20 and on April 1 that year, there were four debtors and seven felons resident. In 1807, construction work began on the new county and town gaol on the site where the cathedral is today, and on its completion, the gaol moved from here.

By the end of the 19th century the building was being used as a corn store. In 1967, the ESB used it as housing for an electricity transformer and it sadly grew more derelict and uglier. In the 1990s, when Jurys Hotel was being constructed, this castle was cleaned up to look like a castle and it has been functioning as a restaurant since.

All of the above has been taken from a book which was published just before Christmas by the indefatigable William Henry who has been producing volumes of Galway interest for many years now. This is one of his best. It is titled Galway, Walking through History and is a very good concise history of the city. It starts with Galway in pre-history and brings us right up to date, describing many of the recent cultural changes. It is profusely illustrated, a valuable addition to any library. Available at €20 from good bookshops and highly recommended.

Another recently published book we highly recommend is Gaillimh, Diolaim Cathrach, a collection of writings in prose and poetry in the Irish language compiled by Brian O Conchubhair and published by Cló Iar-Chonnacht. The subject of all the creative pieces is the city of Galway and with creators like Pádraic O Conaire, Domhnall Mac Amhlaigh, Liam O Flaherty, Máirtin O Cadhain, Micheál O Conghaile, Pauline Ni Chonaonaigh, and many others, the reader is presented with a fascinating overall impression of Cathair na dTreabh. Available at €25 in good bookshops.


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