Hugh de Lacy established a manor at Kells but its castle, probably a motte, was abandoned in 1176 after an Irish attack (Orpen 1911-20, 2, 78). However, a castle is mentioned again in 1212 (Davies and Quinn 1941, 31), although neither its subsequent fate nor its location are known. A description of the town in 1663 (Simington 1960, 234, 262) describes a stone and lime walled castle of three storeys with a vault that was known as the Thoulsell at the S end of Maudlin St., now Castle St. This may have been designed to serve as a town hall and market house at the centre of the market, and in the early eighteenth century it was used as a court house (Simms and Simms 1990, 4).
Two Headford estate maps dating from 1762 and 1817 show this castle in an island surrounded by streets opposite the Market Cross (ibid. maps 4, 5), and it is probably the castle described by Isaac Butler in 1740 (1892, 129). Two early nineteenth century illustrations (Simms and Simms 1990, 1, 9) depict it as an oblong block of two or three bays and two storeys, with a circular corner tower on Market St. The tower was probably for a stairs and has machicoulis on the parapet and a high conical roof. There is also a lintelled doorway in a round-arched surround, probably inserted, at the base of the tower. The windows were large rectangular sash windows that had probably been inserted under brick relieving arches. One view shows trees growing on the parapet, although it was still occupied. Perhaps it is not surprising that it had been removed by the 1830s when the Ordinance Survey mapped the town. (Bradley and King 1985, 74)
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of revised upload: 16 April, 2019Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.