In 1551 Elizabeth Duke, a widow, took a lease of the manor of Castlejordan consisting of the land of Castlejordan, and the largely unknown territories of Killynaghe, Balycowen, and Kilecroo alias Hardewood, Co. Meath, and Ballyaghtree, Co. Kildare. These were the late possessions of Thomas Lynaghe, attainted (Nicholls 1994, 1, 178). Elizabeth married Richard Crofte, who received title in 1566 but the property was to revert to Elizabeth’s sons from her first marriage, Henry and then Edward (ibid. 2, 111). This was confirmed in 1583, but the following year Henry Duke took a lease on the lands of the former abbey of Ballyboggan (ME046-018----) (ibid. 2, 600-01, 3, 50). Henry must have come into his inheritance, but he mortgaged his property for £100 in 1592. However, this was redeemed in 1596-7 by Edward Loftus of Rathfarnam, husband of his daughter Anne, and Richard Gyfford of Ballymaggarrett (?), Co. Roscommon, husband of his daughter Mary. They received title with the intention of dividing the property, which now included the castle of Clonmore (OF004-010----) (ibid. 3, 269-70, 276). Gyfford died in 1595 but his son Sir Richard became established at Castlejordan. According to the Civil Survey (1654-6) Sir John Gifford, a Protestant, owned almost all the land in Castlejordan parish within Co. Meath (Simington 1940, 190-1).
Mary Duke married a second time to Sir Francis Rush, with whom she had a son and three daughters. Mary married for a third time to Sir John Jephson, whose daughter Elizabeth from an earlier marriage married Sir Richard Gifford of Castlejordan (Shirley 1879, 172-3, 180). Henry Duke’s interests had been extensive, and in 1586-7 he had discovered the ‘hidden’ lands of Clones abbey (MO011-010001-), which he promptly leased from the Crown. Rush renewed the lease on the Clones land in 1603 and this property descended through their eldest daughter, Elanor, and her husband, Sir Robert Loftus, to the Lennard-Barrett family (ibid. 174), who remained a prominent, although absentee, family in Clones into the nineteenth century (Lewis 1837, 1, 359-60). This outcome may have been unsatisfactory for Elanor’s sister, Mary Rush, as in 1632 she and her step-father, John Jephson of Lecarrowlonbyogge (Lecarrow village?), Co. Roscommon, sought a share of the Henry Duke estate (Cal. Pat. Rolls, Charles I, 608).
The tower house might have been built by any of these people, but if the date-stone (ME052-005001-) came from it then Sir John Gifford is probably responsible. The date-stone (Wth 0.31m; H 0.24m) is limestone with 1632 carved in relief, and it is now built into the outer wall of the return of the present farmhouse. The tower house is situated in the valley of the Castlejordan River with a NNE-SSW section of the stream c. 80m to the SE, and it is located c. 1km N of where the Castlejordan River meets the W-E Yellow River, which forms the boundary with Co. Offaly and is a tributary of the River Boyne.
Only the N part of this structure (int. dims 4m plus N-S; 3.65m E-W) survives, consisting of the ground floor apart from evidence of the S wall, and it is surrounded by cairn material developed as a rockery. A circular tower at the NW angle only survives at the ground floor with evidence of a cross-loop, but the NE circular tower (int. diam. 2m) contained a newel stairs, now completely removed, and it survives to what is probably the third floor. There is a limestone plaque (Wth 0.54m; H 0.42m) with a chamfered frame (dims 0.62m x 0.0.46m) on the outside of this tower at ground level on the N side, but the inscription is worn away. Two pointed doorways in limestone lead from the stairs tower to the main chambers at upper levels, which do not survive otherwise, and there appears to have been no vaulting. There are narrow lights on the stairs tower but some facing N are expanded into larger, though still small, rectangular windows and the top of the tower might have been rebuilt in brick.
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: 29 August 2016Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.