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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Kirkistown Castle
- Nick Brannon

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Kirkiston Castle in County Down stands on the eastern shore of the Ards Peninsula, facing the Irish Sea. This castle, built in 1622, stands in stark contrast to the English and Scottish architecture of the planters further west in the province. This in fact was built by Sir Roland Savage, one of the Anglo-Norman gentry descended from the twelfth-century colonists. It’s in the late-medieval style of the tower-house, a tall building with single floors rising one above the other with divisions of space, very unlike the English castles.

At ground floor level one enters almost a dungeon, rising through a spiral staircase into larger rooms above which functioned as halls and bedrooms with built-in toilets running through the walls. The whole stands within a fortified courtyard or bawn which must have been the everyday living and working space - the subsidiary buildings, houses, and everyday activities taking place there.

The building as it stands today was the product of the Gothic revival of around 1800 when crenellations were added, when wide sash-windows were inserted, and the whole atmosphere and structure of the building changed according to style at the time. Those alterations, however, had their impact because the structure of the castle was weakened and large buttresses had to be built to prop it up, while steel bands were wrapped around the castle to keep its fabric tightly confined.
 

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