Archaeologists, historians and academics are to examine Kilmallock and other surviving walled towns in an effort to visualise what Ireland’s urban areas may have looked like during the 16th century, regarded as one of the least understood and studied periods in the country’s history.

Organised by Limerick City and County Council and funded by Limerick City of Culture and the Irish Walled Towns Network, a con-ference in Kilmallock on June 5th and 6th will examine strands of 16th century Ireland by focusing on town fortifications, the role of the merchant classes, and the function, design, origins and influences of their domestic buildings. 

Evidence from Limerick city, Kilmallock and other towns with notable remains of the period, such as Kilkenny, Galway, Kinsale and Youghal, will also be considered.

Sarah McCutcheon, Executive Archaeologist, Limerick City and County Council, explained that Kilmallock, which is one Ireland’s most intact walled towns, is an ideal case study for any examination of 16th century Ireland.

Kilmallock’s town walls, 70% of which are still standing, show that it was one of the most strategically important towns in Ireland, resulting in its direct involvement in almost every Irish conflict since medieval times. Hundreds of metres of the town’s medieval walls have been restored as part of the Kilmallock Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan and Kilmallock Walled Town Public Realm Plan in 2009.

According to Ms McCutcheon: “Kilmallock reached its zenith in the 16th century and nowhere was this more clearly reflected than in the building programme which created an urban landscape of merchant houses lining the main street which exuded wealth, security and confidence in the future. Yet by the time of the Civil Survey in the 1650s the town was laid waste. Though this was a similar experience in many Irish towns, Kilmallock is rela-tively unique in its descent from importance to com-parative obscurity and its consequent lack of devel-opment in subsequent centuries. This allowed for the preservation of many of the buildings of the 16th century town, whether by 18th and 19th century antiquarian drawings, or by their incorporation into the modern fabric of the town.”

‘Kilmallock Conference:The 16th Century Walled Town’ takes place on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th June at Friars’ Gate Theatre.