Doonaha Quadrangular Tower and Battery

Doonaha Quadrangular Tower taken from the sea
Robert Brown
Doonaha Battery

Reasons for construction.

Since Theobald Wolfe Tone and the Society of United Irishmen attempted to rally France behind the Irish cause in the 1790s and with the coming to power of Napoleon Ireland was seen as the likely landing place for an invasion force. The Mouth of the Shannon was one of the three invasion areas ( the others were Galway and Bantry Bay) included in the French Directory’s instructions to Vice- Admiral Villaret de Loveuse in October 1796, during the preparations of an expedition to Ireland.This led to the British Admiralty constructing the a system of Signal Stations (51) as observation posts, together with 50 Martello towers, each maintaining a garrison of troops, officers and heavy artillery.

In addition to these a total of 10 quadrangular towers protecting batteries were built in Ireland between 1809 and 1817 on the coast in places that were particularly vulnerable to invasion.  Seven were built to defend the River Shannon which was thought to be place the invasion was most likely to take place as it provided access to Limerick and the centre of Ireland. Six of these quadrangular towers were constructed along the shores of the Shannon Estuary below Limerick,  Tarbert and Carrig Island on the south shore and Kilcredaun, Doonaha, Scattery Island and Kilkerrin on the north shore. The other one was built on the Upper Shannon  to defend a  ford at Keelogue below Athlone. Two others were built on the shores of Lough Swilly in County Donegal and one on Bere Island in Bantry Bay in County Cork.

Description of the Quadrangular Towers and Batteries.

These Quadrangular towers were always to be found closing the gorge of a detached battery and were there to protect the battery from a landward side attack as well as cover for the battery of 24 pounder guns.

The batteries housed the gunners and the ordinary troopers. It was well defended by deep dry moats and was bombproof.All the 10 batteries formed a D-shaped enclosure in plan with masonry on the the scarp and counterscarp of the dry moat . Entrance to the batteries was  across a drawbridge over the dry ditch or moat. The defensible guardhouses were entered from within the battery by a drawbridge slightly wider than the entrance doorway, over which the keystone bears the dates of construction.  The guardhouses had  basements or lower ground floors, level with the base of the dry moat in which it stands. The upper floor, level with the ground level of the battery, was approached by the drawbridge; above this floor level  is the gun platform carried on the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the first-floor apartments.Musket-loops were provided at the lower levels, allowing for close defence of the moat in the manner of a caponnière. Musket-loops at the upper floor levels, were fitted with shutters on the outer face of the wall, commanded the interior of the battery. Other loops are arranged on the opposite side at this level, facing the approach to the rear of the battery on the landward side. On the roof-level gun platform, protected by broad parapets some six feet in height, were two guns mounted on traversing platforms: howitzers or carronades for defence of the landward side of the battery and they fired exploding projectiles. The traversing platforms, one at each end of the roof, enabled the guns to be trained through an angle of about 270 degrees, covering the ground on each flank of the battery and to the rear.

The main armament of the battery consisted of six 24-pounder guns mounted on traversing platforms, each revolving on a front pivot behind the inner face of the parapet.The range of the 24 pounder guns was 2km.Most of the guns could be simultaneously pointed at the same point. They fired either hot cannon shots to set fire to a vessel or cold shots to sink a vessel. The cannon shots were held in a bomb proof section within the barracks.

Description of Doonaha Quadrangular Tower and Battery

Some three miles north-east of Kilcredaun Point on the north side of the estuary, Doonaha battery was similar in layout to the other batteries except that it was slightly smaller and mounted four 24-pounders instead of the usual six. It took 600 men 18 months to build in the years 1813/14. The dry moat is badly eroded, though it retains more masonry and is more complete than that at Corran Point battery ( Carrig Island ) on the opposite shore. The bombproof barrack or defensible guardhouse is half demolished, but clearly demonstrates how strongly built these structures were, with a massive barrel-vault supporting the gun platform.There was two drawbridges , one over the moat and one into the battery. The drawbridges always had sentries in place.

It was unfortunately blown up to recover the masonry for building around 1947 however thankfully the stone was found not to be suitable and the destruction was stopped. The present owners have lovingly restored and maintained what is now left and it is still a beautiful place to visit. It is on private property so please get the owners permission before visiting.

The iron pivot for the centre mounting for one of the traversing platforms is visible at the western end of the roof terrace. Doonaha battery is some 200 feet wide from the outer face or scarp off the flank walls, compared with an average of 250 feet for the other batteries.There is a Lightening Conductor and a Flagstaff also present. There was mains drainage from the well in the bomb proof barracks. There was a toilet and a turf house nearby. 7 NCOs  and one married couple lived in the battery on what would be the second floor which had an open fire. There was also a limekiln within the fort.There has been a lot of erosion however still one of the stones that marked the high-water is present.

The site also included the Master Gunners House and 4 acres of land into which came a Cart Road.The site was bordered by 8 boundary stones with WD (War Department) engraved on each one, there is only 6 remaining. An1850 plan shows the design of the house and it is fully intact within the extended house now at the site.The Master Gunner had his own garden and each of the soldiers had smaller ones. There was a fowl house for chickens nearby.

The soldiers brought trade to the village of Doonaha and it at one time had 2 shops , hardware store and a pub. Local stories tell of dances and music on the roof of the Barracks at various times of the year. However the guns were never used and the garrison was withdrawn to barracks in the early 1890s. The property was put up for sale by the British War Office in 1911 for the price of £55 and the people were warned from the alter by the parish priest not to bid against the buyer. The desecration of the battery happened in 1947 when Irish people had little or no interest in historical buildings. It was dynamited and a lot of stone was removed however thankfully it was not totally destroyed. The present owners took over in 2005 and the process of regeneration and removal of rubble began and the building again became exposed  showing its strength and beauty.

The hard work along with time and money that has now been spent on restoring this artifact is a great credit to the owners. Your community thanks you.

 

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