The Tower houses of West Cork
This is a study of the local development of Irish Tower houses in West Cork that were built between c.1400-1650; these buildings were mostly built by Gaelic clans or Hibernicised Norman families. The study is based on fieldwork and published historical research. A corpus of individual tower house reports provide the raw data. The purpose has been to date these structures by reconstructing the development of their layout. The internal layout of these features is analysed in terms of function; apparent role changes indicated by these are related to changes in Gaelic society known from text-based research. Where possible, inferences are made from the layout of the regional tower houses to better understand the role they played in Gaelic society. The western part of the Survey region has an exceptionally high concentration of fifteenth-century tower houses. These 'raised entrance' tower houses are argued to be an archaic form directly inspired by relic Anglo-Norman hall houses; another ancestral form in the east part of the Survey region is the 'refuge tower'. The role of the tower house and its associated settlements in post-medieval seigneurial settlement and Gaelic/planter interaction is discussed. Sophisticated construction technology, including the systematic use of ratios and units, has to be considered against perceived notions of Gaelic society. The relationship of tower house construction to a wave of Friary construction in the Fifteenth Century is considered; it is argued that an undocumented fifteenth-century economic boom and population expansion in the Gaelic regions was connected with a need for the elite to define land holdings; the latter was an important departure from traditional Gaelic social organisation. The importance of 'castle studies' as a major tool of Irish archaeology is emphasised and possible inter-disciplinary avenues for further research are suggested.