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Lea Castle
 

County

Laois

Coordinates

N 53° 09' 22.5"   W 007° 08' 51.54"

Nearest town

Portarlington

Grid Ref.

N 57007 12090

Map No.

55

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

72

Date of visit

Sunday 4 June 2017

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The ruins of the castle among the vegetation.


Lea Castle is on a private land, but we asked a man who granted us the permission to go and see it.
It was built by Meilyr FitzHenry,a Cambro-Norman nobleman and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland during the Lordship of Ireland, in the early 13th century on the site of a previous motte-and-bailey structure. The current ruins stand on a rise of the ground, probably the original motte.
The castle was destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. The first time in 1284 when the O'Dempseys attacked and burned the builiding which was rebuilt by de Vesey. The second time in 1307 when the adjacent town was destroyed as well. Until 1450 the castle was captured four times by the O'Dempseys who lost the building two years later. In 1460 they captured the castle for the last time and kept it in their hands until the early 16th century. The castle had other owners until 1650 when it was nearly completely destroyed with explosives by the Cromwellian forces.

What we see today is a keep inside a bawn wall along the River Barrow. The building had four corner towers, but only the north (0°) one survives. The castle is in bad conditions and much overgrown. Only the northeast and northwest wall survive. Some breaches in the walls allow visitors to look inside the surviving corner tower.
The walls are thick and have mural passages and staircases, but the state of conservation discourages the visitors to venture along them.
One of these passages leads to an underground level.
I think that there are vaulted chambers below the ground level of the castle, in some places it seems that these vaults are going to collapse because there are tricky and dangerous holes in the ground.


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