Located on a peninsula jutting out into Lough Ree, Rindoon in Co. Roscommon is an amazing abandoned medieval town. With its town wall, castle, medieval hospital, church, and mill, there is nothing that compares to it in either Ireland or the UK. Built in the first half of the 13th century, the town was the high water mark in the Anglo-Norman’s conquest of Ireland. For a while it thrived as a trading post strategically located on the Shannon. However, with the Gaelic resurgence of the late 13th and early 14th centuries the town was sacked and later completely abandoned. Despite a few years when the castle was garrisoned during the Elizabethan period, the site has remained largely untouched since the 14th century. It is this lack of later development that makes Rindoon so special. The site is accessible via a fantastic looped walk. There is though, a more interesting way of getting into the town. The new pontoon opposite the Castle permits people boating on the Shannon to land in the same harbour as medieval traders did. A few kilometres away is the picturesque village of Lecarrow. With two great pubs and one of the best restaurants in the county, it makes a great place to relax after a visit to the medieval town.
A brief history of Rindoon
The deserted medieval town of Rindoon is situated on the peninsula of St. John’s Point, on the western shore of Lough Ree. The surviving remains constitute one of the most important complexes of medieval monuments in the country. There is little physical evidence to indicate settlement before the coming of the Anglo-Normans but the place-name Rindoon (Rinn Dúin), “the fort of the promontory”, is itself an indication of pre-Norman occupation.
The pre-Anglo-Norman fort was most likely a promontory fort, consisting of the peninsula south of the castle, where it is cut off by a bank and ditch. The discovery of an early medieval cross-slab in the graveyard neighboring the medieval hospital of the Fratres Cruciferi indicates that there was also a pre-Anglo-Norman medieval church or monastery present.
Rindoon was not occupied by the Anglo-Normans until 1227 when Toirdelbach Ó Conchobhair and
Geoffrey Marisco erected a castle on the peninsula. The town was also established about this time because its market cross, bawn and ditch are mentioned in the account of the 1236 attack by Phelim Ó Conchobhair. The bawn and ditch were later superseded by a town wall. No charter of incorporation survives but references to a portreeve indicate that it was administered by a corporation.
Rindoon’s location on the Shannon at the edge of Norman held territory provided it with opportunities for it to act as a profitable trading centre between Norman controlled towns on the river and the native Irish. The increase in prosperity of this frontier town is illustrated by its tax bill. In 1259 the town’s owed tax was assessed to be £8-5-8 per annum. By 1285 this had risen to £320 a year. In conjunction with the hides and dairy products that were exported, items such as corn, cloth and wine from Bordeaux were brought in. Ultimately though it was the geographical attributes of the town that were to make its existence untenable as the native Irish regained their strength.
From 1229 until 1321/3 Rindoon was subjected to a series of attacks. It culminated in 1342-3 when the town was described as being in Irish hands. This is also the last time that Rindoon was mentioned in documentary sources until 1544 when the Earl of Clanrickarde petitioned for the land of St. John’s of Rindoon. The castle may have been in ruins by this time because the grant eventually made to Christopher Davers and Charles Egingham mentioned only the hospital of the Crutched Friars and cottages in the town. In effect the there was no urban settlement left. By 1574 Rindoon was back in Irish hands but in 1578 it was granted to Thomas Chester and George Goodman on condition that they maintained one English archer there. In 1605-6 it was granted to Edward Crofton and described as “the monastery of St. John the Baptist, alias the Crotched Friars of St. John the Baptist… a slated church, belfry, cloister and all other buildings, gardens … six waste cottages in the town of St. John’s”.
For further information on the town’s history contact:
St. John’s Parish Heritage Group
If you want to read more about Rindoon/ Lecarrow, click on the PDF below: