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Bowles DNA Project
The Bowles of Canada and their Roots in Ireland and England

The Early History of Castletown

note: this Castletown is not the better known Castletown west of Portlaoise near Mounthrath, co. Laois which was also the site of a Norman castle in the 1300's.  For clarification this town is sometimes called Killabban-Castletown.

See also The Bowles of Ballickmoyler and the Church at Castletown, The Early History of Ballickmoyler, The Bowles of Ballickmoyler, The Bowles of Ballickmoyler and the Coopers of Cooper Hill Demesne and Ballickmoyler in the 1798 Rebellion.

While this area would have been settled from the earliest days of Ireland's history, Castletown itself developed around the 12th century castle which originally stood at this location.  All that remains today is the mound  (motte) which the original castle stood on which is still visible in the garden of Castletown House and which is represented by the black circle on the map.  The original Norman borough of Castletown would likely have stretched from the motte at Castletown House to the site of the present church just down the road.  It has been estimated that perhaps 30 families or about 150 families lived there in 1348 when 30 s. was rendered by the burgesses of the town to the Earl of Pembroke.  The usual annual rental was 1 s. from each burgess (a citizen of a borough).  It's quite likely that a town of this size would have also had a church which would have likely been located on the same site as the present church. Click on the map for the full archaeological map of the Castletown area.

The Archaeological Inventory Report on Castletown states that "Castletown was the site of one of the most important Anglo-Norman boroughs in Laois."  The Anglo-Normans of the 12th century are only known to have established three boroughs in co. Laois and Castletown was one of these.  The earlier Irish name for Castletown, Baile chaisleain Ua mBuidhe, would be consistent with the name which the Norman's gave to their castle which was Castle Oboy.  This castle would have been the manorial home of Robert de Bigarz who was granted this area before 1176 by Strongbow.  The castle was built in 1182 for Bigarz by Hugh de Lacy and passed through several hands in the subsequent years.  In the 1300's the borough at Castle Oboy was first referred to as Castleton.  The town would have been quite prosperous in the 12th and 13th centuries but then declined rapidly with the decline of the Norman fortunes after the 14th century.  There is no further recorded mention of the town or castle until 1570 when the castle as well as the surrounding land were granted to John Barnyse during Queen Elizabeth's reign.  The castle and remaining town site disappeared during the next 200 years.

In the Parliamentary Returns of 1766 there is only one chapel listed in Killabban parish and that was at Arles.  Coote's statistical survey of 1801 records that there is "not one parish church now existing, there is service each week alternating at Ballickmoyler and at the Rector's house at Sheffield near Ballylynam (Ballylynan)".

That same year a group of Protestant parishioners of the area led by Rev'd. Arthur Weldon met at Churchtown to discuss the "rebuilding" of the church at Castletown.  This would seem to imply that this had been the location of the previous church for the parish.  Others currently believe that the previous church had been at Ballickmoyler and that it was burned in the 1798 rebellion.  Neither theory has been proven yet but with the help of the Church of Ireland Archives it should be possible to establish whether there had been a church at either Ballickmoyler or Castletown prior to 1801.  The role that my Bowles ancestors played in the building of the new church is told at The Bowles of Ballickmoyler and the Church at Castletown.

The 1850's Griffith's Valuation of Castletown lists all the landowners and the size and value of their property at that time.  The names listed include: Furney, Ward, Hickey, Kelly, Doonan, Brennan, Keating, Moore, Farrell, Walsh and McDonald.   Griffiths Valuation of Castletown


This site was last updated 04/24/16