Belfast Telegraph

Project to reveal secrets of second Carrickfergus castle

By Staff Reporter

Carrickfergus has a second castle - although it is largely hidden inside a hotel.

Extensive excavation work on the family-run Dobbins Inn hotel in the Co Antrim seaside town has uncovered a type of castle dating back to the 1300s.

A joint project is under way to investigate the building and experts will examine how much of it has survived.

The tale of the building is a complex one, but it is finally beginning to unveil its secrets.

Work on the outside of the Dobbins Inn shows that there have been at least three major building phases throughout the structure's long history.

The first phase was the construction of a medieval, urban tower house, which is a type of castle, possibly as early as the 1300s. This would have been occupied by a merchant or trader.

This phase can be seen in the ground and first floor.

A sawn-off scaffolding timber can still be found in the wall, which experts are now working on to see if it can be dated.

Originally the tower house would have stood to the second or third floor, but was lowered and extended to create a house in the 1700s.

Tower houses were primarily for defence and as the modern era developed, the need to display one's wealth became more important.

The extension on the tower house also allowed for the insertion of fireplaces.

In the 1800s, as Carrickfergus once again grew as a strategically important town, new buildings were constructed around the Dobbins Inn.

It is likely that the addition of the second floor dates from this era, as does the roof.

The bricks are of local manufacture and the windows would have been wooden sashes. A metal tie was also inserted to reinforce the junction between the stone wall and the new brick addition.

Hotel manager Kirsty Fallis said: "The interest in the work which has been undertaken has been amazing and the public support has been fantastic.

"We now know that we have an early example of an urban tower house, and our future works to restore and conserve the building will reflect this."

The 'other' Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman Irish castle that is one of the town's main attractions.

It was originally built by John de Courcy in 1177 after he conquered eastern Ulster.

Belfast Telegraph

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