The earliest surviving murage grant for Trim in 1290 was renewed in 1308 and 1316 (Bradley and King 1985, 163), so the town walls might have been in place by 1315, as Edward Bruce refrained from attacking either the town or castle during his Irish campaign (1315-18). Additional murage in 1393, which also diverted the tolls of Athboy, Navan, and Skreen to Trim, testifies not only to the need to refurbish the walls but also to the status of Trim as the centre of the liberty that it retained until 1906 when the county council offices moved to the more central town of Navan (Hennessy 2004, 7). In 1422 Dunshaughlin, Dunboyne, Greenoge and Slane replaced the original tree towns in the supporting financial role. The town walls and the paving of the streets preoccupied the burgesses throughout the fifteenth century and in 1584 the quality of its walls was cited unsuccessfully to promote Trim as the site of Ireland’s first university. Although it is depicted as a walled town on the Down Survey maps (1658) the walls were known to be in a poor condition at that time, and the last recorded repairs were conducted in 1689. Thereafter they were neglected and even removed at some points, particularly where they hindered traffic, but considerable stretches remain.
The town wall had a circuit of almost 2km with five gateways, but only the ‘Sheep Gate’ (ME036-048011-) between the Augustinian abbey and the Porch Field (ME036-048054-), which it owned as demesne land in 1540 (White 1943, 303), survives. At least three mural towers can be identified from maps but there may have been more. The course of the wall can be traced on maps dating from 1770 onwards but the most detailed record is provided by the unpublished 5-feet to 1 mile map prepared for the 1836 edition of the OS 6-inch map. The castle is the natural focus of the defences at the SE corner of the town, and from its SW angle the wall ran W to the Dublin Gate and beyond (L c. 275m) to the point where the Luppard stream is culverted. A section still can be inspected in a car-park off the modern street called Finnegan’s Way, and it had a wide fosse (ME036-048042-) outside it at this point. From the SW angle it proceeded N (L c. 225m) to where a square tower survives at the crest of the slope down to the river. In this section the wall was revealed (ME036-048044-) at the core of an earthen bank. Archaeological testing (E004250) by D. Fallon outside the line of the wall and c. 17m S of the tower identified a cut for the outer edge of the town ditch (Wth 6.2-6.7m) (excavations.ie 2010:0543). Just N of the tower it turns NE to the site of the Watergate that survived long enough to be photographed in 1889 (Potterton 2005, Pls 5.8, 5.9), and some boundaries (ME036-048034-) have been identified in excavation outside the line of the wall here.
The mill that was on the N bank of the river across from the Watergate could be on the site of one of the three mills of the Civil Survey (1658). The town wall ran N from the mill and might still be incorporated in the filed boundaries behind properties that front onto the W side of Loman’s Street. North of St Patrick’s church its line was destroyed by the glebe associated with that church (Coughlin 2007) but it extended to the site of Athboy Gate, which is at a complicated road junction, where a SW-NE wall (T 1m) with the footing of a curving structure extending NW from it into the terminal of a NW-SE ditch (Wth 4.6m; D 1.5m) were uncovered (Seaver 2008, 12-16; 2009). This fragment is the only possible remnant of the town wall in this sector recorded through excavation, but more probably lies buried. The ditch (Wth 4.6m; D 1.6m), which was filled with organic layers and sealed with what is probably a levelled bank, could have bordered the road to Athboy.
Potterton (2005, 180-1) suggests that the original town wall may have turned E just N of St Patrick’s church and that the wall running E from Athboy Gate was a later wall enclosing a suburb, but the location of the Dominican friary (ME036-048022-) intimates that a recognised boundary, if not a wall, was already present on this line at the foundation of the friary in 1263. On the E side of the town opposite the castle a long stretch of surviving wall (L c. 250m) extends from the Sheep Gate (ME036-048011-) almost at the riverside northwards to the site of the Navan Gate. Excavation (E002398) here did not uncover the gateway, but medieval deposits, two pits, a ditch and a small wall were recorded (Shine 2007; Seaver and Shine 2010). From here its line is known as it continues N to the open space around the Dominican friary where it turned west, running S of the friary to the site of Athboy Gate, although none of it survives visibly.
Where it survives the wall (Wth c. 0.9m-1.2m; H up to 3m) is constructed of well coursed limestone blocks with a rubble core, and the outer face usually has a stronger finish than the inner. The wall, or certain parts of it, had an outer fosse (ME036-048042-) that can be revealed through excavation as between the Dublin Gate and the castle. A stream, known as the Water of Luppard (Leppar?) still runs in a culverted form outside the Dublin Gate and fed into the fosse outside the S section of the castle’s curtain wall. The only surviving gate, the Sheep Gate, is a rectangular block (dims N-S; 3.6m E-W) that has an entrance passage with a round arch at either end. A vaulted passage leads S from the entrance passage to the Porch Field, and a doorway on the N side of the entrance passage leads to a newel or spiral stairs to an upper storey.
The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Meath' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1987). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of revision: 10 July 2019Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.