Irish Version of Site
Athenry, 23kms east of Galway City, proudly claims to be the finest surviving medieval town in Ireland. It was established as a market town in the 13th century and its streetscape reflects its medieval past, with narrow streets and town walls. The town has been very well preserved - 80% of the walls, five out of six wall towers and one fine arched gateway still remain. Today, Athenry is a bustling town with a number of charming cafes and shops and a good choice of pubs for socialising and traditional music.

The development of Athenry dates back several millennia as evidenced by the finding of
prehistoric objects including late bronze-age spear-heads and shields in the area. The region
was an importance centre for Early Christian activity with a monastery founded in nearby
Tysaxon (Tech Sachsan, the Saxon’s house) in the mid Sixth Century.

Athenry was the first town established by the De Burgos and De Berminghams, the Anglo-
Norman invaders of Connaught. They were responsible for the construction of the walls –
enclosing approximately 28 hectares of land, and the development of the Town as a
significant stronghold. The Dominican Monastery was founded and completed in 1261. King
John’s Castle built at this time also acted as a focus for the development and growth of the
Town with the narrow, winding streets. The Castle, town walls, associated towers, gates and
moat (or fosse) are all evidence of the Town’s status in medieval times.

The town was sacked and burned a number of times in the late 1500’s and each time was rebuilt. In 1644, the restored Dominican Priory became a university and – along with four
other Dominican monasteries, attracted students from the Continent. The Abbey was
destroyed in 1649 by Cromwell’s soldiers and by the late 1700’s was in a ruinous condition.

The Town went through a period of decline at the end of the 1800’s but with increased
prosperity a new phase of building in the early Twentieth Century saw the development of
new houses along Abbey Row and civic buildings such as the Town Hall.

The significance of Athenry in historical terms arises from the intact nature of much of the
medieval fabric and the scale of the enclosed town itself – which ranks among the largest
walled towns in Ireland. The town centre retains a significant number of intact monuments
and features – although in a number of cases their context could be significantly enhanced.
The relationship between the Town and the surrounding countryside is particularly unique
with open views of the Town remaining – although this has been eroded in specific places
through insensitive modern development.

Athenry's Local Historian Links

Ronan Killeen - http://athenrylocalhistory.blogspot.com/
Finbarr O'Regan - http://homepage.eircom.net/~oreganathenry/oreganathenry/index.html