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    Each of the four Burgess Court towers is a typical Irish tower house, the type of basic castle favoured by the minor nobility during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Together with Prior's Tower in the Precinct they are the best preserved of all the priory buildings. The Burgess Court towers can be grouped into two sizes, the small South and Southwest Towers and the moderately sized and more comfortable Southeast and West Towers (Figure 8).
Among those who frequented Burgess Court would have been the occupants of these towers, but who were they? Having built Burgess Court, it seems likely that the exercise of'coign and livery' would have been voluntarily extended to the maintenance of a small garrison. Such a garrison would have comprised lightly armed spearmen and archers and they may well have been housed in the Burgess Court towers. The garrison captain, perhaps a local gentleman, was probably housed in one of the two larger towers.
Of these, Southeast Tower seems a natural choice since it stands at the highest point of the priory and overlooks the main gate and the approach to Kells from the east. It would also have looked out across the town of Kells, and only the road south would soon have been out of view over the crest of the slope against which the tower is built. In
Figure 4 the southeast corner of Burgess Court is depicted as a timber-fenced yard containing the stables and store-houses of the captain's household (the crease of a penthouse roof against the tower's north wall is relatively modern). A company of garrison troops is also shown mustering under the captain's supervision in the yard.

Shared architectural features

Entrances and windows (excluding narrow slits) in the Burgess Court towers are framed by large, alternating wide and narrow blocks of cut or chiselled stone. Entrance doorways have pointed arches while internal doorways are square-headed, and the larger windows have chamfered edges around their openings.
Windows other than slits come in a variety of forms. The simplest are square-headed or round-headed and have only a single vertical opening or light. The principal rooms often have ogee-headed windows - an ogee being a doubly-curved, concave-convex and sharply pointed arch - and these are a typically fifteenth century style. Twin-light ogee-headed windows also illuminate the principal rooms of the two larger towers.
Inspection of the masonry of tower walls where they are flush with the curtain indicates that the curtain pre-dates the towers. This is particularly clear on South Tower where the regular masonry of the curtain on either side extends some way into the tower before it is replaced by the rubbly masonry typical of the rest of the tower. There is no evidence for the time interval between building the wall and breaching it for insertion of the towers. It appears that the rubbly masonry of the towers was concealed beneath a plaster finish which is still patchily preserved.
The tower parapets are either ruined or altogether lost. What remain reveal the stepped battlements so typical of Irish castles of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In each case the paving for the wall-walk extends through to the face of the tower as a thin course of flagstones below the parapet which was built onto the paving. The paving is inclined outwards and rainwater drains off the roof through a row of square openings above the flagstone course. The two larger towers are given extra height by the addition of a narrow turret along the length of (at least) one of the shorter walls.
When viewing the tower interiors today it must be remembered that a vital part of their structure is missing - namely the floors that divided them into individual rooms. Each of the Burgess Court towers has five storeys. The absence of floors allows the visitor to see the overall internal arrangement of the towers but floors and ceilings must be envisaged to appreciate individual rooms. The only exception is in West Tower where the stone vaulted ceiling of the second storey provides a solid floor for the storey above. The towers had a relatively simple floor construction, with square holes for supporting timbers visible in the walls.
The interior walls of each room would have been plastered and white-washed to maximise illumination from the narrow windows. The ground level room in all cases was a low-ceilinged and dimly lit store-room and in West Tower the second storey seems to have served the same purpose. A better lit room on the second storey of Southeast Tower may have been used as an office by the garrison captain.
The third and fourth storeys provided the principal suite of rooms in each tower. Both had higher ceilings than those below and the third storey always has the best natural lighting as well as a large fireplace. These rooms may have had additional painted decoration on their walls, probably geometric designs in bright colours, as well as curtains and tapestries. Furniture is likely to have been minimal: a large table, a few chairs and stools in the third storey living room; a large bed in a bed-chamber on the floor above. Occasional wooden chests might have supplemented the built-in wall-cupboards which are a feature of nearly every floor of every Burgess Court tower.
Only Southeast Tower has a second fireplace, so these towers were clearly designed for residents of modest means with few or no servants (unlike nearby Clara or Burnchurch castles). Food preparation, cooking and eating must all have taken place over the fire in the main living room. The second fireplace in Southeast Tower is on the floor above and, with the garderobe (private latrine) on the same floor - the arrangement in all the towers, it probably only warmed the bed-chamber.

Southeast Tower (3) (PLAN)

The garrison captain's likely residence is a smallish tower house which projects outside the southern and eastern curtain walls (Figures
2,8). It is entered through a ground level doorway in the west wall protected by an overhanging machicoulis at roof level. The entrance passage leads directly into a modest store-room which is lit by two arrow slits. A mural passage off the side of the entrance passage turns the northwest corner to reach the first of several straight staircases between storeys. These occupy a succession of narrow passages which climb within the north wall, also turning the northeast corner to reach the third and fifth storeys. Each staircase is lit by narrow slits.
The second storey room has square-headed windows in both south and west walls. The principal living room on the third storey is lit by an ogee-headed window, set high above a long wall-cupboard in the south wall, and a twin-light ogee-headed window in the west wall. Externally, the latter is a finely moulded window set in a rectangular frame. Inside, it has a broad slightly splayed embrasure with stone benches on either side. The fourth storey room has an ogee-headed window in the west wall and a round-headed window in the south wall.
Both third and fourth storey rooms have fireplaces close to the southeast corner. A doorway at the west end of the fourth storey's south wall enters a short passage which must lead to the garderobe projecting from the outer face of this wall. The second and fourth storey rooms each have large recesses, the one on the fourth storey with an arched vault, as well as the usual wall-cupboards.
The top storey is lit by a round-headed window in the west wall and a narrow slit in the south wall. The room might have been open into the eaves of the steeply pitched roof, but probably had a low ceiling with an overhead attic reached by ladder. This storey (and perhaps the attic above) may have provided additional sleeping space, perhaps for a family. Servants, if there were any, probably slept in the attic.
The roof of the tower is raised along the length of the north wall to form a narrow turret. Turret and roof are reached through a doorway in the roof space, presumably from the attic. This door is visible from the hillside to the south, below the surviving crease for the roof. The passage within the turret is lit by three small triangular openings, one opposite the entrance and one at either end. Access to the wall-walk is through a door at the west end of the turret while a flight of stone steps at the east end rises from the wall-walk to the turret roof.
Complete loss of the southern parapet to below the wall-walk makes it possible that this tower had a second turret at that end, comparable with nearby Burnchurch Castle (and as suggested in
Figure 4). Otherwise, the steep southern gable of the roof would have risen from behind the parapet. Two chimneys must have been situated close to the southeast corner of the tower, not just the one shown in Figure 4.

(c) Daniel Tietzsch-Tyler