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BURGESS COURT TOWERS (2)
|South and Southwest Towers (4,5)
These are the smallest towers in the priory, South Tower being the smaller of the two. Both project outside the curtain wall (Figure 8) and are entered at ground level through a doorway in the north wall. Southwest Tower has a slight batter (outward slope) at the base of its walls and a roof level machicoulis over its entrance (not the chimney of Figure 4!). The staircase to the second storey comes off the east side of the entrance passage in each tower, turning within the northeast corner before continuing inside the east wall. Stairs between the upper floors, all lit by narrow slits, are within the east wall.
Accommodation in South and Southwest Towers may have been arranged differently from that in Southeast Tower if they served as garrison barrack blocks. The third storey room would have been used as communal space for cooking, eating and off-duty activities (such as drinking and gambling!). Second, fourth and fifth storey space could have been given over to sleeping accommodation.
Neither South Tower nor South west Tower has a turret. In each case the wall-walk was probably reached by ladder through an opening in one or other of the roof gable ends (none surviving). The crenellated parapets of South Tower and Southwest Tower would have been interrupted by chimneys on the west and south sides respectively.
The ground level store-room in South Tower
(4) is lit by three arrow slits. The second storey room has a square-headed window in each of the south and west walls. A large modern opening in the exterior of the east wall was probably once the site of a staircase slit. The main third storey living room has a fireplace near the southwest corner and is lit by a square-headed window in the south wall and a round-headed window in the wall opposite. This and the rooms above are slightly larger than those below because the north wall thins, its inner face stepping back. The internal arrangements of the fourth storey were modified and those of the fifth storey completely destroyed during conversion of the latter into a dovecote. The lower room was originally lit by a square-headed window in the north wall and a narrow slit in the south wall, both now filled-in. The upper room must have had only one opening in the east wall which was crudely enlarged during conversion. The garderobe projecting from the external east wall of the fourth storey must have been approached from the staircase near the southeast angle of the tower.
The lowest room in Southwest Tower (5) is lit by three arrow slits, one now blocked up. The room above is lit from the south and west by single square-headed windows. The main living room on the third storey has an ogee-headed window in the west wall with stone benches in its internal embrasure. A wall-cupboard is recessed into the splayed embrasure of a square-headed window in the north wall of this room and there is a fireplace situated close to the southwest corner.
The fourth and fifth storey rooms are slightly larger than those below, once again because the north wall is thinner here. The fourth storey room is lit by a square-headed window in the north wall and a round-headed window in the west wall. The garderobe, projecting out from the east wall of the tower, must have been reached from the staircase passage. Natural light entered the topmost room through two narrow slits, one in the south wall and the other in the west wall.
|West Tower (6) (PLAN)
West Tower is the second and slightly more elaborate of the two larger tower houses in Burgess Court. If Southeast Tower housed the garrison captain, it is probable that West Tower was the one granted to prior Nicholas Johne (or Jon) around 1470 (to compensate for his removal from office). If true, this tower might better be called Nicholas Johne Tower! Nicholas Johne was a local man and undoubtedly of some importance -probably with family interests in the borough of Kells so it seems appropriate that he should reside in a comfortable house overlooking the town.
West Tower projects almost entirely outside the west curtain of Burgess Court (Figures 3,8) and has a marked batter at the base of its walls. It is the only tower to be entered at second storey level, a defensive feature commonly employed in the keep (the principal tower, a strong refuge) of castles of an earlier age. There are no traces of stone steps up to the arched entrance so the square holes in the wall beneath probably supported a timber staircase. (Some skill in climbing or a short ladder was required to gain entry at the time of writing!.). The roof of the entrance passage is pierced by a murder-hole through which missiles could be dropped from the floor above onto attackers who gained entry.
The second storey room has a vaulted ceiling, and the cellar beneath could only be reached by ladder from above. Both rooms are lit by two arrow slits in the west wall, with a third in the east wall of the upper room (recessed beneath the mural staircase from the entrance passage. Both were probably store-rooms, broad recesses in their walls giving them greater capacity. The recesses in the west wall also extend as short passages into the corners of the tower.
The upper store-room also has two short, outward splaying and rather crude openings, inserted for the use of firearms. These are in the north and south walls so clearly were for defending the curtain on either side of the tower. They are probably sixteenth century insertions (perhaps modifying earlier arrow slits). They confirm the continued occupation of this tower well into the sixteenth century by someone with an interest in improving its defense - perhaps Nicholas Johne.
A continuous mural staircase climbs to the upper storeys in the east, south and then west walls, lit at intervals by narrow slits. The floor of the principal room on the third storey is formed by the vault below. The room is lit by an ogee-headed window in the north wall (the frame partly missing), a window in the south wall (without its frame) and a twin-light ogee-headed window in the west wall. Both north and west windows have deep unsplayed embrasures without stone benches. Close to the centre of the north wall there is a large fireplace with stone corbels for a broad hood (long since gone) projecting from the wall on either side. A recess in the west wall provides access to the murder hole in the entrance passage ceiling.
The fourth storey room, presumably the master bed-chamber, has a single round-headed window in an unsplayed embrasure in each of the east and west walls. A passage opening off the western embrasure probably leads to the tower garderobe, the chute of which must be within the wall (unlike the other towers). The fifth storey room is larger than those below as only the west wall maintains its full thickness at this level. It has only a single arrow slit in each of the north, east and south walls. This upper room may have served as family bed-space with any servants probably sleeping in an attic above.
A ladder from the fifth storey provided access to the attic and from there to a doorway into the narrow turret which rises above the west wall. The turret is lit by slits at the centre of the west wall and in the narrow end walls. A doorway at the south end of the turret opens onto the roof. The wall-walk passed around a gable at the east end to reach a flight of steps from the north wall to the turret roof. A chimney will have risen from the northern parapet (not the east as shown in Figure 4).
(c) Daniel Tietzsch-Tyler