Aghagower Round Tower
At a Glance
County Mayo
OS Map 31
OS Coordinate M 034 803
Condition Much Restored
Height 16m
Doorway Type Arched
Window Type 1 block, 2 lintelled
Number of Windows 3
Ground to Doorway 2m
Distinguishing Features Additional Doorway
Traditional Association St. Senach
 
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Aghagower Round Tower Co. Mayo

Aghagower Round Tower
County Mayo
O.S. Map 31

Location: In an old cemetery beside the Catholic Church in the center of the village of Aghagower, four miles southeast of Westport. From Westport, take R330 southeast approximately three km to a side road on the right. It should be signposted. If the first turn is missed, there is another signposted right turn about 2 more km down R330. The roads are very small, but considerably improved in recent years. The churchyard and round tower would be difficult to miss as they are the dominant feature of the village.

Dimensions: If there is an offset at the base of the tower, it is below ground level and not visible. Circumference just above ground level is 15.76m and an external diameter of roughly 5 meters. The top level is slightly lower on the north than the south. This area was reconstructed in 1969 as the wall was breached nearly halfway down that side. The tower leans slightly to the north and there were fears that the reconstruction might increase the lean, but such has not been the case. It is easy to distinguish the reconstructed area as the building technique is distinctly different from the original. The tower stands about 16 meters high from external ground level.

Features: The original doorway faces east, just over 2 meters from the external ground level. It's shattered stones show signs of heavy fire damage, though whether by accident or vandalism is impossible to know. It has an arched three-stone top, three stones in each jamb (all stones carry through the width of the wall). The later doorway at ground level faces northwest, is square-headed and roughly made. There are three windows, the lowest of which is blocked up. The other two windows are lintelled. The tower is open to the sky, having no roof.

Comments: The modern ground floor doorway allows entry into the tower. The ground level inside is approx. 9 inches lower than the external ground level. Five rings of stone corbels for floor supports can be seen; the first ring just below the original doorway and the highest just below the top of the present wall.

History: Traditionally founded by St. Senach who was created bishop of Aghagower by St. Patrick, but there is little information about it. In letters of 1838, local lore has it, the top was blasted by lightning to the hill of Tevenish, half a mile to the south. It had been in a single piece there up until a few years previous to 1838 when the stones were all burnt for limestone with the exception if the capstone which is preserved in the churchyard.

Other Items of Interest: The church ruin, cemetery and round tower are situated in what amounts to an island in the middle of the village as roads circumvent it. Behind the church, to the NNE, there are two holy wells, now dried up due to a drainage scheme. Along the front of the wall of the holy well across from the bar, there is a very small sheela-na-gig (approx. 10cm x 10 cm) embedded into the stonework. Because it is so tiny and due to the arrangement of lichen growth, it is difficult to spot and harder to photograph unless the light is just right. There are several entrances into the cemetery, at least two of which are by way of projecting stones from the wall that surrounds the graveyard. Because of the uneven ground, care must be taken when walking through the graveyard. Along the "front" side of the church ruin, on the same side as the "new" cemetery across the road, there is a lovely streamside walkway and park recently re-landscaped. The new cemetery has also been revamped (2003) - stones set upright and ground leveled. "Rounds" are still paid here by devout pilgrims, usually enroute to nearby Croagh Patrick. Tochar Paidrig (the Pilgrim's Walk) runs through the site, between Ballintubber Abbey and "The Reek", as locals call St. Patrick's holy mountain.

  © 2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.