Fanning’s Tower House Farrenrory Co Tipperary Ireland

Farrenrory Castle in Co Tipperary was home to William Fanning an Anglo-Norman. He owned 1,000 acres there in 1650. Included are photos of the castle and surrounding buildings and land as of 2012.

Ballingarry Fanning Castle Farrenrory View from

Ballingarry View from Fanning Castle Farrenrory Co Tipperary (3)Above are views from Fanning Castle tower house in Farenrory Ballingarry Co Tipperary.

On my recent trip to Ireland and Co Tipperary I thought I would have a look around Ballingarry as there are Fannings documented living there in medieval times.

There were different Fanning families at Ballingarry, Mohober, Farrenrory, Garynegre, Gortfree and Glengall.  In 1305 William Fanning was leased the Manor, Castle and lands of Mohober.

The earliest mention of Farranrory I have come across so far is the following:

25th April 1555 Inquisition taken at Clonmel

The jurors say that Nicholas Richard and John Fanyng Fitz Geoffery of Ballyngarry, Teige Beare O’Howlaghan and Dermot O’Treassy alias O’Twee of the same, kearns, advised procured and abetted by Geoffrey Fanyng gent, willfully burned a house at Ferenrory conmtaining 40 cows with 60l of William Fanyng gent and also a girl called Sawe Iny Canlyen who was in the house.” From the Calendar of Ormond Deeds.

Dec 20 1579 Edmund Fanning of Farrinrory, gentleman, son of William fanning late of the same grants to Thomas….

Richard Fannynge of Farrenrory 1589 Fiants of Elizabeth
Richard Fannynge of Farrenrory pardoned 1589 Fiants of Elizabeth

Dec 13, 1592 Edmund Fanning of Faren Rory is mentioned in a commission.

In 1641 in the Down Survey William Fanning of Upper and Lower Ffarrenrowry owns lands.

1654-56 In the Civil Survey the castle at Farrinrory is inhabited by William Faninge, gent and papist.

1654 William Ffanninge of Farrenroe has been issued a certificate of transplanation.

Even though death was the punishment for not leaving I have read that the transplantation scheme was a bureaurocratic nightmare and not everyone left for Connaught, some stayed on without their estates.

In the Hearth Money Rolls 1665-67 a David Fanning de Fearanrory has one hearth and 2s.

1670 the lands of the Fannings at Farranrory are owned by Sir George Ingoldsby, Earl of Anglesey, Protestant. He most likely got it from Ltn Jessy. While the soldiers of Cromwell were rewarded with land many sold their estates on.

When I got back to Dublin I looked up the pedigree of a William Fanning of Farrenrory in the National Library and found this document:

William Fanning of Farrenrory Pedigree cr
Pedigree of a William Fanning of Farranrory Co Tipperary National Library Dublin

John D’Alton in his Illustrations Historical and Genealogical of King James’s Irish Army List of 1689 outlines some of the family lineage of the Fannings of the Ballingarry area and of Kilkenny:

Richard Fanning captain King James's Irish Army List 1689 Vol1cr
Richard Fanning captian King James’s Irish Army List 1689 p621

Farrenrory Castle is described in the Ordinance Survey Letters by John O’Donovan. These letters are now online at Ask About Ireland.

In Oct 1840 it was described in the Ordinance Survey Letters as ” a round castle measuring 17′ 6″ in diameter on the inside and its walls well grouted 9ft in thickness and about 40 ft in height. It is three stories high; the third floor rested on a stone arch still remaining the others were of wood and have long since disappeared, as usual. The doorway which is on the N.W. side is pointed and constructed of cut lime stone. The windows are all constructed of cut lime stone and are some quadrangular, some roundheaded and some pointed. ( See Dic Noyer’s Sketch)

(Vol 1 Tipperary page 559. So far I haven’t been able to find the sketches.)

In William Healy’s “History and Antiquities of Kilkenny” published in 1893 there are these pages relating to the Fannings of Farrenrory and Ballingarry:

William Fannynge of Farranrory and Kilkenny died 1590 page1 cr
William Fannynge of Farranrory and Kilkenny p2 cr

William Fannynge of Farranrory and Kilkenny died in 1590. (From History and Antiquities of Kilkenny William Healy). In John D’Alton’s book “Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical of King James’ Irish Army List” 1861, William Fannyng who died in 1590 is described as “the settler”.

It seems that these Fannings who lived at Farranrory originally came across from Kilkenny. I have read that they came to Kilkenny from Waterford, not sure if there is any way of knowing if this is true.

I have also seen a family tree which has Edmund, the brother of William Fanning of Farranrory who died in 1590, being the the Edmund Fanning who settled in Connecticut. Again, who knows?

“Ballingarry History The Fannings, Lords of Ballingarry by Michael J. Fitzgerald on also has more information and stories of the exploits of the medieval Ballingarry Fannings.

I asked around in Ballingarry and was directed to the house of Martin Maher who I was informed by a local  man in the street “is into all that crarp”.  Martin was very helpful and assured me that there is nothing left in terms of buildings associated with the Fannings in Ballingarry or Mohober but that at Farrenrory there is a round towerhouse in Pollard’s Field.

After getting lost the usual number of times we found it. The castle was up a drive and just visible from the road. It was unfortunately surrounded by layers of mud and cow poo which we sank into.  Afterwards we went to visit a fourth cousin and had to turn up in our socks. Although, they being farmers didn’t seem to mind. “Where there’s muck there’s money ” they told us.

The townland of Farranrory was owned by William Fanninge of Farrenrory, son of James Fanning according to the pedigree above, in 1641 recorded in the Civil Survey. It was described as a good little castle with a good thatched house and some cabins. In the Down Survey 1655-6 it is depicted along with five houses surrounding it. Farranrory became the property of Lieutenant William Jessy of the Cromwellian army, who is recorded with two hearths in the Hearth Returns for 1666/7. He was most likely an absentee landlord.

The following description of the tower house/castle comes from the Slieveardagh site which sourced their information from Richard Clutterbuck’s thesis. I wish we had had this with us when we were looking over the Tower House:

“Location: Farranrory is situated in the east of Slieveardagh on the hills overlooking the Munster River Valley. The land is used predominantly for pasture today and was estimated to be mostly pasture in 1654 (Civil Survey I, 115). The site is approximately 4.2km northeast of Ballingarry parish centre.

Farrenrory castle is sited at an altitude of 210 metres on ground sloping gently to the southeast. The site has a south-easterly aspect and is sheltered by the hills. A small stream tributary of the Munster River runs approximately 40 metres to the east of the tower house cutting a small valley in the shale bed rock. The tower house is 190 metres north-west of a road which runs east-west into Co. Kilkenny.

Ballingarry Fanning Road Castle Farrenrory Road uo to
Road up to the tower house from Farranrory Rd

A lane connects the site to the road and probably served the original settlement and the modern farm yards and houses as well as continuing up the hill as a lane to the fields.

Fanning Tower House Original Entrance
Fanning Tower House Original Entrance on the west side

Description Farrenrory Castle is a free standing tower house with a circular plan. The castle is constructed of coursed limestone surviving to the level of the second floor above which it is derelict. The interior has mural chambers (vaulted chambers in the thickness of a wall),  stairs and an internal vault. The exterior ground level of the structure has a very slight base batter (thicker at the base).

The gable of a derelict farm house is attached to the west side of the tower house, partially obscuring the original entrance (Fig. 45, Plate 19). The tower house has a maximum external diameter of 10.4 metres and an internal diameter of 5.2 metres for the main ground floor chamber. Farrenrory survives to an approximate height of 8 metres.

None of the original woodwork or door survives in the interior of the tower house and was probably salvaged for a later building. This robbing resulted in the breach in the ground floor embrasure (an embrasure is an opening in the defences of a castle used for shooting at attackers) and also the destruction of the tower above the second floor.  Farrenrory tower house has a major structural crack in its facade and may be in danger of collapse.

Fanning tower house Farrenrory Co Tipperary
The derelect farmhouse attached to the tower house on the west side
FAnning Tower House Farrenrory Ballingarry structural crack on the west side
Fanning Tower House Farrenrory Ballingarry showing the structural crack on the west side

The tower house was entered through pointed-arch cut limestone door located in the western quadrant of the tower. The door frame has two orders one of which accommodated a yett (gate or grille of latticed wrought iron) held in place by chains through holes in the left jamb and the apex of the door frame. The gable of the later farm house obscures the right hand side of the jamb.

Dedication plaque
Dedication plaque above main entrance, now blocked up.

A dedication plaque is set in the wall above the door; unfortunately this plaque is illegible. Presumably is a dedication to the builder and owner of the tower house, probably a member of the Fanning family.

The main entrance leads to a small lobby area. Two inward opening pointed-arch doors led from the lobby to a mural chamber and a secondary lobby. There is a cruciform musket loop with downward splayed expanded terminals directly in front of the main entrance. This is set in a single flag of limestone and is reached by a recess in the main ground floor chamber.

Ballingarry Fanning Castle Farrenrory Interior (9)
Cruciform musket hole

There is also a murder hole in the lobby ceiling which drops from a mural chamber in the first floor.

The small ground floor mural chamber probably acted as a guard chamber or storage space. This chamber has a vaulted roof and has two recesses in the walls for cupboard space.

The secondary entrance lobby gives access the main ground floor chamber and the vice (spiral staircase) through inward opening door set in pointed-arch limestone frames. The jambs still retain some pivot holes and hanging-eyes for the heavy wooden doors as well as the holes in the jambs for the cross bolts. The chain for the yett can also be drawn through an aperture from this lobby.

The ground floor main chamber is circular in shape with coursed shale walls and three deep set embrasures for windows. The embrasure in the south-west quadrant has been broken out. The floor of the chamber is obscured by rubbish and debris from the walls and corbel roof (corbels are stone brackets). The chamber originally had a wooden ceiling.

The embrasures are vaulted, still with the impression of the wicker-work centring. Narrow slit windows are round-headed and constructed of dressed limestone with splayed ingoings. The exterior of the southern light has carved spandrels with a triple-leaf motif. On either side of the lights are musket loops. These are deep apertures splayed at an angle to the windows, although their exits on the outside of the tower house have been removed and blocked. Portions of the vaulting of the southern embrasure have collapsed where it corresponds with the first floor embrasure overhead.

Window on the second floor
Window on the second floor

The vice is accessed through an inward opening segmented pointed-arch door from the secondary lobby and was lit by a single narrow window. The first floor was reached through a pointed-arch door directly off the vice. A mural passage (a passage in the thickness of a wall) from the vice leads to the chamber with the murder hole. The passage is lit by slit windows and has a small gun loop next to the murder hole over the ground floor main entrance.

The wooden floor of the second storey was supported on corbels. The floor has three deep embrasures each with narrow ogee-headed windows of dressed limestone.

On each side of the lights are apertures for gun loops. These pierce the wall as small circular holes created by two shaped pieces of limestone. The first floor has a vaulted ceiling which is now in a dangerous state of repair.

Fanning Tower House Farrenrory Ceiling
Ceiling of second floor

The second floor can still be reached by the remains of the vice though some of the steps have been removed. This floor as too dangerous to inspect but appears to have been larger then the lower floors. The original walls partially survive and contain the remains of a number of windows around its circumference and a slop stone on the north-east side of this floor.

Ballingarry Fanning Castle Farrenrory Slop Stone
Slop stone for carrying away kitchen waste Farrenrory Fanning tower house

The remains of the second floor are obscured by the growth of grass, ivy and a tree. The tree is probably destroying the internal vault with its roots.

Interior from second floor
Interior from second floor

There is no apparent garderobe or a fire place in the tower house, although these may have been contained on the second or upper floors. (there is a garderobe or medieval toilet) There is no evidence for a bawn or wall around the tower. However, the area around the castle has been used as a farm yard with stone out-houses and these may have robbed and obscured any original bawn walls.”

Richard Clutterbuck has also written another article discussing Farranrory Tower House in Trowel Vol. IX, 1998/9, titled “Farrenrory Tower-House, County Tipperary A Gentleman’s Home” :

Farranrory Tower House Richard Clutterbuck Trowel 1998 p13

Farranrory Tower House Richard Clutterbuck Trowel p14 Farranrory Tower House Richard Clutterbuck Trowel p15

Farranrory Tower House Richard Clutterbuck Trowel p16

Richard Clutterbuck’s article on Farranrory tower house from Trowel printed with his kind permission.

There is also a description and evaluation of Farranrory in the Archaeological Survey of Ireland from a 2003 visit:

Farranrory Castle National Monuments Description page 2
National Monuments Service description of Farranrory Tower House

Martin Maher edits the Ballingarry Journal and is involved with a fantastic site for the Ballingarry area and people with excellent articles on the history of the area. He gave me a copy of the 2004 edition which has a photo of Farrenrory Castle with this information :

” Farranrory Castle (also known as Prout’s Castle) is situated about three miles from Ballingarry village and about half a mile to the west of the Munster River. It was a round castle, three stories high, the third floor rested on a stone arch still remaining; the others were of wood and have long since disappeared. The doorway on the northeast side was pointed and constructed of cut limestone, as were all the windows. The Fannings, who were the greatest landowners and most numerous Norman family in the area occupied the castle for many years. The ruins of the castle which are situated on Pollard’s land can still be viewed.”

Dr Thomas McGrath writing in Landlordism in Ballingarry Parish in 1650 and 1850 describes the various Fanning holdings differently:

“In comparision to the Butlers, the Fanning Family, who were also of Anglo-Norman origin, were of minor importance though they were well established in Ballingarry holding 4,454 acres. Nicholas Fanning held 1600 acres at Ballingarry. Jeffry of Glengall held 474 acres consisting of Glengall(1184) Grawn(100), Ballaghboy(150) and Gortnassy(40). William Fanning of Farrinrory held 1,980 acres: Farranrory(1,000), Cappagh(680), and Kilmackenoge(300). Edmond Fanning of Gortfree held 400 acres therein.”

I don’t know if there is any connection between my Fanning ancestors and those at Farrenrory as there are no records after about 1680 to make any connections. There don’t appear to be any Fannings living in the Ballingarry area today or during the 1850’s (Griffith’s Valuations) and they may have moved to the Thurles area. There is mention made on the site of a Mr Fanning setting aside land for the new Ballingarry Church before he sold his land to Mr Jacobs. The new church was built in 1731 so there was a Fanning around at or just before this time.

Visitation Book of James Butler Land for Ballingarry Chaopel Mr Fannin 1754
Visitation Book of James Butler 1754

The Fannings who lived at Lissaroon are said to arrived there in 1741 but from where we don’t as yet know. Perhaps some one reading this may know what happened to the Ballingarry Fannings. Certainly in our family the names William and Edward appear frequently.

It was a highlight of my time in Co Tipperary climbing around this castle. The first time we were there it was raining and I discovered that all the photos I took had a big raindrop in the middle, so we had to go back the next day. This time armed with gumboots (in Ireland they call them wellingtons) kindly lent us by Eileen Creed our Cashel B&B (Ard Ri House- highly recommend) host and her husband.

It was also a lovely sunny day so much more enjoyable. I loved the land around the castle, very pretty and protected, my kind of place. We climbed up on top and sat up there and surveyed the surrounding countryside and imagined what it must have been like living there.

While exploring the castle ruins it was great not to have to worry about snakes !! Thank you St Patrick. At home it would be highly prized snake habitat. To be honest we didn’t see a lot of wildlife in Ireland and Spain compared to back home which is a bit sad. I guess centuries of occupation have taken there toll. The downside of all that history. At least while driving around Ireland I got a break from seeing roadkill which is so prevalent on my drive to work on the Pacific Highway in NSW.

Entrance to the road leading up to the tower house


Fanning Tower House Farrenrory Co Tipperary
Fanning tower house window
Fanning Castle Farrenrory Arrow Loop Window
Ceiling of Fanning tower house Farrenrory
Fanning tower house Farrenrory interior arches

Ballingarry Fanning Castle Farrenrory Interior (9)

Richard Clutterbuck mentions that ” the multiple gun or musket loops place this tower house in the sixteenth century when hand held guns became numerous in Ireland.”

Ballingarry Fanning Castle Farrenrory Interior


Ballingarry Fanning Castle Farrenrory, the garderobe or medieval toilet which emptied down to the outside of the castle.
Back of the castle, toilet waste exit?
Internal stone staircase


Land Around Farrenrory Castle, View from the Top

If you want to read more about Farrenrory and the medieval Fanning family go to this site It is worth looking at along with