Situated on a slight bluff on the flood-plain of the Broad Meadow River with a W-E section of the stream c. 30m to the N, and Killegland parish church (ME045-004----) is c. 340m to the S. The castle is at a ford (ME045-005002-) of the river, described as ‘stepping stones’ on the 1836 edition of the OS 6-inch map. The castle is thought to have been built by a member of the Walter Wafre family who may have held Killegland from the early thirteenth century. The church had been granted to the Augustinian abbey of St. Thomas’ (DU018-020051-) by Hugh de Lacy, and this was endorsed in later grants up to the early thirteenth century (Gilbert 1889, 8, 11, 26, 45-6), one of which, probably from the 1190s, mentions a mill and fish stocks. The church was still in the possession of St Thomas’ at its suppression in in 1540 (White 1943, 36).
The castle is thought to have been built by a member of the Wafre or Wafer family. In 1427 the castle and manor of the Wafres passed to Patrick Segrave through marriage with the heiress Mary Wafre. When he died, or was murdered, in 1453 his son Richard inherited Killegland and Baltrasna after a struggle. Richard died in 1494 and the property passed to his son John (ob. 1532). Then John’s younger son, Richard, held the property until his death in 1543. Richard married firstly Elizabeth Dowdall but his second wife, Jannet Eustace, held land in Cabragh, Co. Dublin, and this established a second branch of the family there. The Killegland property passed to Richard and Elizabeth’s son Patrick (ob. 1571) who was married to a Joan Begge. Their only son Richard (ob. 1598) was reckoned one of the great gentlemen of the county, by which Dublin is probably intended. This Richard was also married twice, but his son Patrick (born 1577) from his first marriage to Beale Stokes, inherited Killegland. Richard had been a lawyer, as was Patrick who was briefly imprisoned and dismissed from the Exchequer in 1603 for illegal land deals (plus ca change).
Patrick was also married twice, firstly to Mary, a daughter of Sir Robert Dillon of Riverstown (ME031-031001-), which ended in divorce. However, his son Richard from this union having pre-deceased his father in 1598, the Killegland property passed to Richard’s son Patrick when his grandfather died in 1633. This younger Patrick was Sheriff of Meath in 1627 and, as a prominent Catholic, he took part in the 1641 rebellion. He fled abroad after the Battle of Kilsallaghan in 1642, and Killegland castle was then taken by Royalists (Gilbert 1973, 2, 281-3). Patrick’s son, Luke, failed to regain possession of any of his father’s property, which was held by Henry Cromwell, the fourth son of Oliver and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1657-59, during the Commonwealth. At the Restoration in 1660 Killegland was granted to the King’s younger brother, the Duke of York and the future King James II. After the Battle of the Boyne Killegland was owned by a Thomas Carter. (Segrave and Sadlier 1936, 76-84, 202-08, 220-28; Frazer 2008, 10-12)
According to the Civil Survey (1654-6) the small parish and town of Killeglan consisted of 360 acres owned by Patrick Segrave of Killeglan in 1640, and on the premises were ‘a castle, a stone house with outhouses, a church, a mill and divers cabins’ (Simington 1940, 98). Patrick also owned 280 acres at Ballybin and had a share in land at Milltown and Harlockstown (ibid. 100, 102). The castle is depicted as a tower with a chimney stack, probably representing a tower house, on the S side of the W-E Broad Meadow River on the Down Survey (1656-8) barony map of Ratoath, and as a small square feature (dims c. 5m x c. 5m) described as ‘Killegland Castle’ on the 1836 ed. of the OS 6-inch map. In 1990 it was described (SMR file) as a circular, grass-covered mound (diam. c. 16m; H 0.5m at S to c. 2.5m at N) with a broad hollow (Wth c. 5m; D 0.5m) on the E side curving around to the N side of the mound as a berm, which probably represents quarrying. There was no visible evidence of a masonry structure.
Archaeological testing (02E0708) by W. O. Frazer identified a double-faced wall (Wth 2m) with a cobbled surface on its E side that is probably the SW wall of the castle (O’Donovan and Frazer 2002, 14). Further testing (05E0423) by W. O. Frazer under the road just S of the castle site produced evidence of a drainage channel running N to the river W of the castle, a metaled area at the castle and a revetment E of it, which suggests that the castle may have had an enclosure (Kavanagh 2007, 11-13).
Further archaeological testing (17E0335) by J. Stirland (2017) discovered that a great deal of disturbance had occurred in the vicinity since 2002 with the introduction of soil including builders’ waste (excavations.ie 2019:686). However, a demolition layer of the castle in the form of mortar and slates was found at several places overlying paved or cobbled surfaces. In addition fragments of mortared rubble-core faced walls (Wth 0.8-1m) were encountered at various points, and their distribution suggests that they may have been from a rectangular enclosure or bawn (dims c. 20m NE-SW; c. 15m NE-SW) around the castle. What might be the base of a protruding rectangular tower at the N angle was partially uncovered. Archaeological testing (05E0423) by W. O. Frazer (2005) in Area C of a road-improvement scheme and later excavation by J. Kavanagh with the same licence just to the SW of the castle recorded a number of large pits (diam. 2.5-4.2m; D 0.35-1.1m) that were filled with limestone from its construction. One pit had an oxidized base from the production of lime (excavations.ie 2005:1124; 2006:1495).
See the attached image of Killegland Castle from the Down Survey (1656-8) barony map (N at bottom), courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
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 upload; 10 July 2007
revision: 13 July 2013; amended: 13 December 2021Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage