© Donal G. Burke 2013
A castle or tower house was erected at Newtown in the parish of Lusmagh by the early seventeenth century, prior to that parish’s separation from County Galway and Connacht and inclusion with King’s County. Hugh O Madden of Newtown, gentleman, a significant landholder in Lusmagh at the end of the Nine Year’s War was described as holding, among his other lands, the castle of Newtown and five ninths of the lands of Carowancastle in Newtown about 1618.[i] From its name it would appear the castle itself stood within Carowancastle, translating as ‘the quarter of the castle.’
Newtown lay to the east of, and in close proximity to, Cloghan castle. No significant residence was given at Newtown in the barony of Longford about 1574 (the nearest being Cloghan), which may imply that the structure was a tower house as opposed to an earlier type of fortified structure and built between about 1574 and about 1619. This would also imply that the structure may have been a relatively late tower house, built by one of the O Maddens.
Hugh O Madden died in December of 1624 and, having no male heir, his property at Newtown was inherited by his only daughter Margaret Cooge alias Madden.[ii] It was as a result of the marriage of Margaret that by the late 1630s the bulk of Hugh O Madden’s property, entirely in Lusmagh, was held by Doroghan mcEdmond mcCooge or MacHugo.[iii] A legal case, taken about 1638 by McCooge against Donnogh O Madden, gentleman, accused O Madden of having encouraged one Daniel O Madden and his wife Margaret to enter, and take possession of, a house or cottage located within the grounds of Newtown Castle and who then held it in opposition to tenants of McCooges. This may imply that a bawn, fencing or at least a hedgerow may have formed an enclosure about the castle, in which lay at least one house.
Philip Bigoe, a Protestant settler, ‘maister and owner’ of a glass factory at nearby Gloster in Lusmagh, was resident at Newtown Castle by 1641. The castle was described by another French Protestant settler, established at Gloster, as ‘the Castle of Newtowne alias Ballinoe in the County of Galway then alsoe belonging to the said Mr. Bigoe.’[iv] His property was despoiled and his castle at Newtown, where Bigoe, his family, forty-two settler families and twelve soldiers maintained by Bigoe held out following the Insurrection of 1641, was besieged in 1642 by a force of local rebels and, after twelve days, surrendered to the rebels. Bigoe, afterwards forced to pay a large sum of money to the besiegers, obtained quarter and safe passage for himself, his family and the remaining defenders and settler families.[v]
No trace of the castle survived into the mid nineteenth century but the approximate site of a castle identified as ‘Feddaun Castle’ was given on the Ordnance Survey maps dating from about 1842 as lying immediately beside a small hamlet of houses named as Newtown in Lusmagh. While the hamlet lay within the modern townland of Newtown, the site of the castle lay within the modern townland of Ballynasrah, but between Newtown and an adjacent area known as Lower Newtown, itself located within Ballynasrah. This appears to be the location of the former Newtown castle and it is unclear if the naming of this site as that of Feddaun is a mistake for that of the castle of Fadden in the parish of Tissarin in the west of the modern County Offaly.
[i] Hugh O Madden of Newtown, gent., held the castle of Newtown; 5/9 of Carowancastle in Newtown; 1/6 qr of Carowchara; 1/3 qr of Bally-Ilirie; 1/3 qr of Gortcrinan; 7/18 qr of Leanagh, 1 qr of Ballynashrahy. The remainder of Carowancastle was held equally by the two sons of Owen O Madden.
[ii] Repertories of Inquisitions (Chancery) Co. Galway, Eliz. I – William III
[iii] MacHugo held Hugh O Maddens parcel of Newtown (five ninths of the quarter) and, therefore, he also held O Maddens former residence therein.
[iv] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 814, fols. 271r-272v. Deposition of Glawde Bonny, dated 16th June 1646.
[v] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 830, fols. 132r-133v. Deposition dated 24th March 1643 and Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 814, fols. 271r-272v. Deposition dated 16th June 1646.