Throughout Kilmallock there are constant reminders of the town’s importance during the Middle Ages. Its legacy can be seen in the large sections of town wall still standing, the merchants houses, the 13th century Collegiate Church and the impressive Dominican priory. However, Kilmallock is not just its medieval past. The town is now the hub for a network of walking and cycling routes that, depending on which one you choose, are as hard or easy as you want. For those wishing for something even a bit more wild, the 52km of mountain bike trails on the Ballyhoura Mountains located just a few kilometres away, should do the trick!
A brief history of Kilmallock
Kilmallock gets its name from a seventh century monastery dedicated to St. Mocheallóg. This saint was an abbot and bishop who lived at the end of the 6th and beginning of the 7th century. The original foundation was on a hill to the north west of the town but the monastery appears to have relocated by the eleventh century to the present site of the Collegiate Church. The town therefore, may be among a handful in Ireland that owe its origin and certainly its location to a monastic foundation.
When the Anglo-Normans arrived, Kilmallock formed part of the estate of the Bishop of Limerick who may even have been responsible for founding the town. In 1199 it is recorded that Geoffrey de Marisco held the episcopal lands at Kilmallock. There is a mention of a castle at Kilmallock by 1206. Fairs were licensed in 1221. The Collegiate Church was built by 1251 and the Dominican Priory was founded in 1291.
The first reference to the town’s defences dates to the 1280s and mentions the communal fosse. It is clear that the town was rapidly enclosed with a stone wall. It has been suggested that the first murage grant was made prior to 1300. Murage grants continued throughout the 14th to the 16th centuries. The wall enclosed an area of 13 hectares and the perimeter is 1700m in length. There were five main gates of which one, the Blossom Gate, remains.
Kilmallock grew in importance after the arrival of the Anglo Normans to become second only in the region to Limerick City. The town’s corporation was created by a very early charter, possibly dating to before the end of the 13th century. In the later Middle Ages Kilmallock became the chief stronghold and town of the Earls of Desmond. Surrounding the town was a large dependent tract of land known as the liberties, estimated at 2450 acres in 1640. Largely due to its strategic position between the cities of Cork and Limerick, Kilmallock became the key point for government rule in North Munster up to the end of the 17th century.
The town suffered during the rebellions of the 16th century, most famously when it was burned by James FitzMaurice FitzGerald on 2nd March 1571. It was rapidly repaired by Sir John Perrott. In 1585 Kilmallock became a borough and gained Parliamentary representation. Cromwellian forces dismantled the walls following the surrender of the town in 1645 but these were re-built by the Corporation. They were partially destroyed again in the Williamite Wars of 1690-91. Although the town continued to return two members of Parliament until the Act of Union in 1800, the 18th to the 19th centuries was a period of stagnation, partially due to the opening up of an alternative route to Cork City from Limerick City via Charleville.
For further information on the town’s history contact:
Kilmallock Tourism Development
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