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The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland

cromwellian conquest of Ireland
Cromwell’s forces in Drogheda
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About Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was a Huntingdon born English general and statesman. Cromwell was Chancellor of Oxford from 1650-57 and was also appointed Lord Protector of the British Isles from 1653 until 1658.

The Cromwellian Conquest

The first cannon was introduced to Ireland at the end of the 15th century.  

Cromwell was a highly resilient member of parliament from 1640-1642. In the summer of 1649, he was sent to Ireland with two objectives: to place it firmly under English control and to superintend the confiscation the land of all ‘rebels’.

In his book, The Cromwellian settlement of Ireland, John Patrick Prendergast summarised what happened next:

 “As their object was rather to extinguish a nation than to suppress a religion, they seized the lands of the Irish, and transferred them (and with them all the power of the state) to an overwhelming flood of new English settlers, filled with the intensest national and religious hated of the Irish”.

The heavy weaponry employed during the campaign was used to devastating effect. The brutality displayed by Cromwell at Drogheda (The siege of Drogheda) is said to be motivated by revenge (many Protestants were massacred during the Irish Rebellion of 1641).

2,500 men, mainly in arms, were killed and several hundred more (such as officers, catholic priests and every tenth common soldier) were killed, many bashed to death. Cromwell then carried out a messier massacre at Wexford in 1649 (The sack of Wexford).

Castles captured and/or destroyed                     

Cromwell’s armies covered much of the island, destroying many of the great castles as they went…

  • Castle Donovan – 1650 castle attacked and blown up by Cromwellian forces (O’Donovans played part in 1641 rebellion)
  • Glanworth castle – The Roches continued to hold Glanworth down to the 17th century, when it was confiscated and granted to English settlers after the Cromwellian wars
  • Kilbolane castle– Passed through various hands over following centuries, then granted to Cromwellian soldier John Nichols in 17th century
  • Kilmeedy castle– The MacCarthys held Kilmeedy until it was confiscated after the Cromwellian wars
  • Liscarroll castle – 1649 captured by Cromwellian forces under Sir Hardress Waller
  • Minard castle – Destroyed by the forces of Oliver Cromwell
  • Monkstown castle – In the fallout from the rebellion of the 1640s and the following Cromwellian wars, the catholic archdeacons, were evicted out of Monkstown and other lands. It was granted to a Cromwellian soldier, who then sold it to Michael Boyle, protestant bishop of cork 1661-63
  • Templemicheal castle – Cromwell planted a cannon on a hill near Ballinatray house and practically demolished the castle
  • Togher – Branch of MacCarthy’s lands and castles were confiscated for the part they played in the rebellion against English settlement in the 1640s, granted to a Cromwellian settler

The Irish rebel

Tynte’s castle – During the reign of James II some Cromwellians, who had tortured the townspeople, were confined in the castle. An attempt was made to burn down the castle, but a man named Nicholas Ronayne intervened.

Conclusion

Cromwell’s Irish campaign was a military success. When he returned to England in May 1650, the provinces of Ulster, Leinster and Munster were largely under the control of the English Commonwealth.

It should be pointed out, that the towns that surrendered during the Cromwellian war were spared. However, in Irish folk memory, the massacres that were carried out by Cromwell and his army are considered unjustified and deeply cruel. Cromwell remains one of the most hated figures in Irish history.

Sources

  • A pocket guide to Irish castles: the story of Ireland’s amazing heritage by Fiona Biggs
  • Heritage castles of County Cork by the heritage unit of Cork County Council 2017
  • The history of Youghal by H.Wain
  • The Cromwellian settlement of Ireland by John Patrick Prendergast        

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