Swords Round Tower
At a Glance
County Dublin
OS Map 50
OS Coordinate O 180 467
Condition complete
Height 26 meters
Doorway Type lintelled
Window Type square-headed/ flat arched
Number of Windows 8
Ground to Doorway 70 cm
Distinguishing Features ragged top storey/ surmounted by stone cross
Traditional Association St. Columba
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Swords Round Tower, Co. Dublin

Swords Round Tower
County Dublin
O.S. Map 50

Location: Due North of Dublin off the N1. Take the first Swords exit. Take the 2nd road to the left as you enter the town of Swords. Either the 2nd or 3rd left will take you past the churchyard (on the left) where the tower resides. Be aware that at least one of these roads is one way into the valley and up the hill to St Columba's Church of Ireland (on the left as you almost reach the top of the hill). The round tower is hidden in the trees on the church grounds and is difficult to see at first. Park in the lot across the road opposite the church.

Dimensions: No offset is visible at the base, though a curb of stone bricks rings the base (modern). Circumference just above the base is 16 meters. Height of the tower is 26 meters to the top of the deformed cap. The lintelled doorway, just 70 cm above the present ground level, faces east and is fitted with a modern metal-grilled door. The door, once padlocked, was unsecured at the time of our visit, allowing access to the interior from which two partial wooden floors could be viewed, mostly decayed. This doorway was reportedly walled up as recently as 1839. There is a large east-facing window with a slightly jutting sillstone at the second storey level. The 3rd, 4th and 5th floors each have a small square-headed windows to the north, south and west, respectively. At the top storey are four large crumbling windows with flat arches (some with red brick indicating repair work) roughly facing the cardinal compass points. The cornice is barely recognizable in some areas and the cap has a rather squashed appearance. It was suggested in 1779 that the cap appeared close to collapse.

Features: Swords roundtower is instantly recognizeable from it's very deformed top storey. The crumbling windows and the collapsing cap give it a very ancient feel. The tower also possesses a stone cross at it's apex, something that is shared with few other towers. The very low doorway is also unusual, but is most likely due to the ground level being raised, rather than being built at ground level.

Comments: It takes a little bit of effort to find this tower, but it is worth it. The tower is difficult to photograph because the site is heavily treed and the tower and medieval belfry are situated so close together. While the door to the roundtower was not locked, the floor inside the door is covered in bird droppings, feathers and nesting material in large piles, making it unhealthy to enter for very far and for very long. Construction work was being carried out on the church at this time (Oct. 2005).

History: The monastery was reputedly founded by St. Columba in 512. As with many of the monasteries near Dublin, a long and violent period of burning, pillaging and destruction by Irish and Vikings were recorded over several centuries. In 1014 the bodies of King Brian Boruihe (Boru) and his son Murrough rested overnight, after being carried here from the field of Clontarf, on their way to Armagh for burial. Brian Boru's army defeated the Danes (Vikings) and broke their stranglehold on Ireland. The cross atop the tower was reputedly placed there by the Rev. Henry Scardeville, vicar from 1682 - 1704. Early drawings show it complete, much as it is today. References were made to repairs to the top in 1775, but no further details were given as to what kind of repairs took place. Floors and ladders were placed in 1832, but the ladders were unusable by 1877.

Other Items of Interest: The square belfry, standing 6 meters to the southeast of the round tower was most likely built in the 14th century. The ground at a corner of this belfry is at the same level as the ground at the base of the round tower. The floor level of the belfry is said to be 1.6 meters lower than this, indicating that the ground level has been raised significantly and that the doorway of the roundtower may have been closer to 2 meters above ground level when it was built.

  © 2004-2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.