Twinned with PlourivoFrance

Medieval Buttevant 

 

The Norman presence in Buttevant dates from the earliest phases of the Norman

colonisation of Ireland. In 1177 King Henry of England granted the kingdom of Cork

jointly to Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen, the western half to the former and the

eastern half to the latter. FitzStephen in turn granted parts of his territories, including

Muscridonegan in North Cork, of which Buttevant became the principal manor, to his

nephew Philip de Barry (MacCotter 1996, 64-80). Phillip was succeeded by his son

William, who was in turn succeeded by his son David (O’Murchadha 1996, 23). In 1234

this David was granted a fair and market at Buttevant. The thirteenth century was clearly

a period of huge investment in Buttevant by the Barrys. The grant of a fair and market

clearly indicates the establishment of a town and manor early in the century, followed by

the establishment of two monasteries, an Augustinian Abbey to the south at Ballybeg

founded in 1229, and a Franciscan Friary founded within the town c. 1251. What little

remains of the original castle suggests that it too was built in this century, probably in the

second half. The earliest evidence for town walls dates to 1317, when money owed to the

exchequer was released to the town “to enclose it with walls” and a further grant, in

1375, refers to a “north gate” (Thomas 1992, 28). The walls are again mentioned in 1479

on the will of one David Lombard of Buttevant (Ó Brien 1993, 131). In addition the town

is said to have had “several small town ‘castles’” (Nicholls 1993, 176), though it is not

clear at what date they were constructed. Only one, Lombard’s Castle, survives today. It

is an urban tower house of the 15/16th century period, though there may well have been

an earlier castle on the site.

From the evidence of the first edition Ordnance Survey maps it can be seen that the

medieval town of Buttevant was a highly organised, planned unit, laid out on a regular

rectangular grid pattern, with the lengths of the tenement properties exhibiting a high

degree of uniformity along both sides of the central main street. This level of planning

and this grid pattern of streets are found in many medieval towns across Europe, most

notably perhaps in southwestern France, where a large number of planned fortified towns

were established in the thirteenth century. One prominent academic has already noted this

comparison between Buttevant and these French towns, known as bastides (O’Keeffe

2004, 162).

The foundation of the medieval town of Buttevant should therefore be seen, not just in

the context of the Norman invasion of Ireland, but in the context of a great European

expansion of commerce and trade, which involved rapid population growth, expansion

and the development of agriculture, and the foundation of thousands of towns.

 Eamonn Cotter ma,miai, Consulting Archaeologist

Medieval Town

The medieval town is believed to have covered an area from the North end of St Marys Church (North Gate) to Mill Lane (South Gate) This is supported by the organised grid pattern within this area. The properties to the North of St Marys Church are not laid out in this organised grid pattern so these are believed to come from a later period.

Looking at a modern day map of the town shows the Southern end of the Main Street sweeps West by the Market Green before arcing back East to join the North, South tradjectory of the Main Street. A Map from 1800 shows the Main Street origonally ran straight South with houses both sides as far as Knockbarry Road.
John Anderson who bought Buttevant Castle in 1801 cleared the whole area and re-routed the road in order to enhance the demise of the Castle.

The Inner Wall:
The North Gate is believed to have been around the North end of St Marys Catholic Church, the South Gate around Mill Lane and the West Gate up Kerry Lane.

The Outer Wall:
It is believed the outer wall started behind St Johns Church to the South of Buttevant Castle, it then curved around the back of the Nursery Cottages until it reached the Kanturk road, it then headed East for a bit before turning North running along the back of Abbey View, before turning East again possibly around Healy's Lane crossing the main street until it reached the river.