This photograph of the Shop Street façade of Lynch's Castle was originally taken in 1917. The castle is the only complete secular medieval building left standing in Galway today. The earliest reference, written or visual, to the building is on the 1651 map of the city. That map shows a number of town houses which were owned by wealthy merchants at the time. The only surviving examples are Lynch's Castle and that part of Blake's Castle in Quay Street which is still standing.
Lynch's Castle is a two-period structure the original sixteenth century castle was square in plan and limited to the space now occupied by the ground floor vestibule of the bank. That portion to the west in Shop Street, ( ie. To the left of our picture) was added in 1808. This extension is evident in the masonry of the exterior of the building, and the window hood-moulds of this section are very different from the earlier work. It seems that the whole interior was remodelled about this time, and the storeys altered; the window hood-moulds, panels, etc. being moved to their present location. As a result, the original locations of these features can only be guessed at.
It would appear that many of the moulding profiles and other ornamental details belonged to the original castle. They are finely carved from local limestone, and their abundance of detail and richness give us a clue as to the wealth of the early 16th century Galway merchants.
The premises were again much altered in 1880 when Peter Kirwan bought it from the Right Honourable Henry Ormsby. Kirwan had a candle making shop there, and as you can see from the signs in this photograph, The Connacht Fruit Stores were next door.
In the year after this picture was taken, 1918, The Munster and Leinster Bank leased the property from Peter Kirwan's daughter, as a preliminary to a later outright purchase. They converted the two shops we see on the ground floor into the Bank office. The round headed doorways and windows on this floor were inserted in the early 1930's.
A Dublin sculptor named Laurence Campbell carved the main entrance doorway. In the course of extending the bank premises at this time, they discovered an early 17th century fireplace, and this was re-erected in the vestibule. Frank Dorgan was the manager of the bank in the mid-sixties, and he oversaw the cleaning and repointing of the stonework, and the addition of an extension on the Abbeygate Street side.
Lynch's Castle is one of Galway's treasures. Most of us probably pass it by without a second glance, but it is worth taking a few minutes to pause and look at the wonderful carvings, and to wander into the vestibule and look at the amount of Galway history they have on display on the walls.
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