Revamp of King John’s Castle

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    • #711309

      €4.7m approved for revamp of King John’s Castle
      By Jimmy Woulfe Mid-West Correspondent
      Wednesday, January 19, 2011
      FÁILTE Ireland and the Department of Tourism has approved €4.7 million for a major redevelopment of Limerick’s King John’s Castle. Shannon Development will allocate a further €1m.

      Shannon Development has been heavily criticised for the decline in King John’s Castle as a tourism attraction. It had responsibility for running a tavern adjacent to the site which has been closed for a number of years.

      Shannon Development chief executive Dr Vincent Cunnane said yesterday the planned redevelopment was a strong indication of the agency’s commitment to the future of Limerick.

      “This project puts a key priority on Limerick city as the centre of a strong Shannon Region. Tourism is one of the drivers identified by Shannon Development to help us achieve this objective and this is why the redevelopment of King John’s Castle is vitally important,” he said.

      “The project is scheduled to be completed by 2012 to co-incide with the 800th birthday of the castle and will be strongly promoted in conjunction with that event.”

      Dr Cunnane said the development will make the castle a core attraction. He said: “We will be introducing a wide range of new technologies and specialist multi-media techniques which will be used to bring the castle’s development and historical events to life within the context of improved exhibition, interpretation and visitor facilities.”

      Fiona Monaghan head of operations for Fáilte Ireland in the West Region said: “As we all know, Limerick has always enjoyed a great reputation for sports and events — however, we hope this significant investment will go a long way in helping to highlight Limerick’s already strong cultural and heritage offering.”

      This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Wednesday, January 19, 2011

      Read more:

      The Irish Times – Wednesday, January 19, 2011
      Castle to undergo €5.7m revamp

      King John’s Castle: to get improved visitor facilities


      MIDWEST TOURISM company Shannon Development has secured almost €6 million for the redevelopment of a 13th-century landmark castle in Limerick city.

      Built in 1212, King John’s Castle stands on the banks of the river Shannon and is located in Limerick city’s medieval quarter.

      The €5.7 million redevelopment project is scheduled to be completed by 2012 to coincide with the 800th birthday celebration of the castle.

      Shannon Development chief executive Dr Vincent Cunnane said the essence of the project was to make the castle the core attraction, boosted by interpretative facilities and re-enactment.

      “We will be introducing a wide range of new technologies and specialist multimedia techniques which will be used to bring the castle’s development and historical events to life within the context of improved exhibition, interpretation and visitor facilities,” he said.

      “Our next step will be to secure a design consultant through a public tendering process.

      “We intend to look for imaginative submissions from design consultants in the coming weeks,” he added.

      A grant of €4.7 million was approved by Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport under the National Development Plan for the project. The balance, an estimated €1 million, will be met by Shannon Development.

      Dr Cunnane said it was an indication of Shannon Development’s commitment to the future of Limerick. “This project puts a key priority on Limerick city as the centre of a strong Shannon region.

      “Tourism is one of the drivers identified by Shannon Development to help us achieve this objective and this is why the redevelopment of King John’s Castle is vitally important,” he said.

      It is hoped the redevelopment of the castle and the adjacent Castle Lane complex will have the potential to significantly increase visitor numbers to Limerick city.

    • #816567
      Paul Clerkin

      Maybe I’m old and odd but when I visit castles and old ruins, I wander around, touch the stones, read my little guides, take in the surroundings but I never look at multimedia displays and interpretative centres….

    • #816568

      your not alone…

    • #816569

      @Paul Clerkin wrote:

      Maybe I’m old and odd but when I visit castles and old ruins, I wander around, touch the stones, read my little guides, take in the surroundings but I never look at multimedia displays and interpretative centres….

      I’m sure a lot of people would agree with you (I actually prefer to know of the history, read about sieges etc so each to their own) but the entire area has come in for a lot of criticism recently. The castle is situated at one end of Nicholas Street (the main medieval street in Limerick) and the entire street is virtually derelict. There’s a separate plan (think there’s a thread on it?) to refurbish the street but I guess they felt the castle’s tourist facilities were outdated too.

    • #816570

      Forgive me if I am a little out of date its been a few years since I was down this way; but assuming limited if any progress in the interim; then Nicholas Street really needs a total refurb; I can understand why it was defered as pre tunnel the street was one of the more popular routes with trucks going from the N7 to N18; the first thing you would want to see is a 7.5 tonnes weight limit save as for access. The second thing you would want to see are tax breaks on both the intital capital outlay and then the income derived from restored buildings for a period of 50 years; the third thing you would want to see are CPOs on buildings in poor condition if renovation or redevelopment (later buildings only) to a good standard were not commenced within 5 years from launch of the scheme as clearly any owner would with the benefit of extremely generous tax breaks be able to find a buyer.

      This particular street is on a knife edge; on the one hand you have great proximity to the City Centre and the Castle and proximity to the river; equally not too far away you have reputational issues which certainly deter private sector investment. The intention of a well targeted urban renewal incentive programme is to give streets like this the tax advantage to overcome the private sector reluctance to invest; to my mind both optimism and caution on the part of investors are rational at this location hence why you need tax intervention to correct the balance. As one of the last reminants of Irelands great Medieval cites it is to be welcomed that the Minister for Limerick has by publicly at least propping up Biffo secured a grant for the castle; it is however only a belated tokenistic start; the wider area also requires assistance in the form of favourable tax treatment.

    • #816571
      Paul Clerkin

      I know its too late now – because the Murray O’Laoire visitor centre is there – but maybe they rshould have refurbished some old buildings on the street as the visitor centre – would have helped kickstart regeneration better than a centre within the curtilage of the castle.

    • #816572

      any idea if the plan for the development is in place yet ?

    • #816573

      Hello All,

      Great to see that there is some debate active on the revamp of King John’s castle.

      I was born within the courtyard of that castle. I believe that my late grandmother and grandfather were the first to make a home in the Castle Barracks.

      The privileged experience of being part of that close knit village within a city made me what I am. It nearly lasted until I finished secondary school; not quite, alas no easy milestone, no counterbalanced finality.

      A neighbour and friend, Noel Troy catalogued the destruction of my community with each house that was torn down. He photographed in vivid black and white the slow cleansing of our physical and social history. One photograph of our homes as they were up until the late 80’s is all that is displayed in the castle’s glass and steel addition.

      In 1991 I went to see what our cleansing had made way for. Not much.

      King John’s Castle is a testament to people and stone as a building material. Just looking at the castle and its relationship with the mighty Shannon tells a story.

      The glass, steel, multimedia all have such a short lifespan; all rapidly wear and become outdated, are expensive to maintain and to my belief serve to reduce the impact of a might castle nearly eight hundred years young.

      So what do I propose?

      People, castle, stone, river. Keep it authentic, pure and respect the value of ‘local’.

      Best Regards,

      Simon Spratt

    • #816574

      Is there any old maps or idea of what the surrounds of the castle looked like over the past 1,000 years?

      Each time I drive past I wonder why there is an area fenced off with Medieval Quarter sign stuck in front of the castle, is there any plans to landscape this, or develop a courtyard with shops, coffee shops, outdoor seating? Seems like a wasted space at the moment.

    • #816575

      Dozens of images in the Historic Towns Atlas for Limerick, give glimpses of the surrounds of the castle, many of which and others can be found by scrolling back on the various Limerick threads on Archiseek.

      As you say, erecting a giant billboard announcing the ‘Medieval Quarter’, in the middle of where the medieval quarter used to be, is a pretty feeble substitute for regenerating the medieval quarter itself, but on the other hand I’d be so apprehensive of what current architectural ideology would give us by way of an urban regeneration on a site of this sensitivity, maybe we’re better off with just our big billboard.

    • #816576

      Additionally check this one out too at O’Mahony’s Bookshop


      c. 840 to c. 1900

      Viking Longphort to Victorian City

      By Eamon O’Flaherty and Jennifer Moore (9781904890713)

      This pocket map is an ancillary to Irish Historic Towns Atlas, No. 21: Limerick by Eamon O’Flaherty (2010). Similar in format to such maps produced for Belfast, Dublin, and New Ross, the booklet includes over 250 features of the city of Limerick for the period c. 840 to c. 1900, plotted onto a modern base and indexed. Color-coded streets indicate the start of the Viking settlement, through to the medieval, early modern, and modern development of the urban core of Limerick. It also contains a commentary on the urban development of Limerick and a chronological index to sites. It offers a new visual insight into the evolution of the city over the centuries and is an ideal aid for walking tours of historic Limerick.

    • #816577

      Seventeenth-century drawing from Pacata Hibernia

      A. Three round towers that beare Ordinance.
      B. The new bulwarck capable of 5 or 6 great peeces.
      C. The storehoufe.
      D. The Drawbridge.
      E. The Ditche. (E = denotes also east)
      F. A Saly porte.
      G. parte of the Townewall.
      H. The bridge ouer into Towmond.
      I. Dores into the tower.
      K. an aßcent by staires to the footepath on y wall.
      L. a Slope aßcent to y Platforme on y bulwarck.

      There is a lot of interesting reading to be found on the local studies site of the city library.


      The newspaper clippings from the 1960s to the present day, document City Halls aspirations for the castle (i.e. tourist attraction).

      Any new developments here?

    • #816578

      Limerick City Museum leaves Castle Lane and moves temporarily to the corner of Patrick Street and Ellen Street.

      Shannon Development is to begin work in the coming weeks on the €5.7 million redevelopment of King John’s Castle/Castle Lane.

      See Limerick Leader

    • #816579

      I used to put on gigs around Limerick and was once in contact with the people who The Tavern at the Castle with the possibility of doing something in there. Inside is possibly the finest looking pubs I’ve ever seen and normally I hate them. Such a shame it was only ever for hire/special occasions, I’m not even sure they still hire it out anymore.

    • #816581

      Contracts have been awarded to LM Keating Ltd. for this much touted project but still no start date or plans. It is planned to be open for the summer but I’ll believe that when I see it.

    • #816580

      Work has started ages ago afaik. Check their facebook page for updates. Not a huge amount of info…but they are updating with photos. There’s a video there as well, but doesnt give a whole pile of detail on the plan

    • #816582

      Structural people, I want your professional opinion on this one.
      I like the new grey paint job on the steel of the visitors’ centre. For me it overcomes to a good extent the stark clash of material between the steel and the limestone when it was painted white.

      Yet looking at the steel formwork & glass for the visitors’ centre, the one thing that spoils its visual integrity for me is the diagonal bracing from the end portals down to the lowermost horizontal span.
      Are these really necessary — I mean was there no other way to brace this structure against end loads other than having these view-disrupting incongruities running across the serenity of the glass frontage ?

      It’s not a huge structure. You have 2 portals about 4.5m apart at the entrance, each separated from the end portals by ~ 15m divided into 5 x 3m segments with their own lighter vertical steel columns.
      The portals are more than stout enough to my eye to support a light 2 floor building, although they are set to provide support for transverse rather than longitudinal loading. If the corner pillars of these end portals were boxed, i.e. made as stout along their breadth as on their depth, would this eliminate the need for the diagonal bracing ?
      Or is the bracing there to support more complex twisting movements ?

    • #816583

      @teak wrote:

      Or is the bracing there to support more complex twisting movements ?

      teak, I think the complex twisting movements that the diagonal braces are there to support may be the death spasms of Miesian Modernism.

      . . . and you want to take those diagonals away!

    • #816584

      For me the frame with its diagonals gave the modern pavilion a barricaded look, which would suggest to the passer-by that it was part of the castle complex.

      I’d imagine the diagonals are necessary supports because the foundations of the pavilion would not be allowed to disturb an archaeological site.

      The long pavilion hovers over the remnants of mines and countermines from the various sieges and who knows if they are all accounted for?

      As for painting them grey?

      I sure the grey colour compliments the limestone on a bright day but after weeks of typical heavy overcast weather, a bit of white could cheer up the pavilion for the visitor.

      The use of white colour on the river projects has in my opinion been positive too.

    • #816566

      It does barricade the look of the building.
      But I see no reason to go as far as that.
      Limerick already has enough castellation motifs to last an aeon of urban building.
      Personally, I’d try and brace through the roof and floor sections and let the light come through the visitor centre.

    • #816585

      Teak, have you had the opportunity to view this model exhibit of the castle and the surrounding buildings?

      I would be curious to know more about it (period, authenticity etc.)

      Image by Limerick Guide

    • #816586

      I personally know little or nothing about the castle’s history.

      For detailed information on this I’d recommend that you run through back issues of the North Munster Antiquarian Journal for a detailed article on St John’s Castle.
      NMAJ is the official publication of Thomond Archaeological & Historical Society.

      Maybe if you ask this society on its blog or Facebook, a member may recall the year/date of the articles.

    • #816587

      The latest volume (53) of the North Munster Antiquarian Journal has a very good article on the growth and development of King John’s castle by Dan Tietzsch Tyler ( The article goes into great depth about the morphology and dating of the castle. Backed by thorough historical and archaeological research, the development of the site from an earthen ringwork through to the 13th cent royal castle id discussed in great detail.
      Included in the article are four isometric reconstruction drawings of the castle at different stages of its development; 1216,1250, 1316 & 1642 that were undertaken for the Heritage Council prior to the castle’s redevelopment. The illustration attached of the castle in 1642 is from an article in the Limerick Leader last year.
      To my knowledge there haven’t been any other articles by the Thomond Archaeological & Historical Society that have specifically dealt with the castle. Other sources on the castle are of course Ken Wiggins’ ‘Anatomy of a Siege’ book which deals mainly with the 1642 Confederate siege of the castle but there is a good bit of background into the archaeology of the site. Also David Sweetman’s excavations at the castle were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (PRIA) in 1980.

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