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Round Towers

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ROUND TOWERS. This term is applied to a particular class of towers built upon a circular plan, which are found in considerable numbers in Ireland, and almost exclusively in that country. They are evidently of great antiquity, and have long been a subject of antiquarian dispute. Mr. Petrie has, within the last few years, published a very elaborate work upon the subject, upon which he brings to bear very considerable knowledge and a clear judgment. IIis general description of the towers is as follows:— They are rotund, cylindrical structures, usually tapering upwards, and varying in height from 50 to perhaps 150 feet ; and, in external circumference, at the base, from 40 to 60 feet, or somewhat more. They have usually a circular pro jecting base, consisting of one, two, or three steps or plinths, and are finished at the top with a conical roof of stone, which frequently, as there is every reason to believe, terminated with a cross formed of a single stone. The wall towards the base is never less than 3 feet in thickness, but is usually more, and occasionally 5 feet, being always in accordance with the general proportions of the building. In the inte rior they are divided into stories varying in number from four to eight, as the height of the tower permitted, and usually about 12 feet in height. These stories are marked either by projecting belts of stone, set-offs or ledges, or by holes in the wall to receive joists, on which rested the floors, which were almost always of wood. In the uppermost of these stories the wall is perforated by two, four, five., six, or eight aper tures, but most usually four, which sometimes face the car dinal points, and sometimes not. The lowest story, or rather its place, is sometimes composed of solid masonry, and when not so, it has never any aperture to light it. In the second story, the wall is usually perforated by the entrance-doorway, which is generally from S to 30 feet from the ground, and only large enough to admit a single person at a time. The intermediate stories are each lighted by a single aperture, placed variously, and usually of very small size, though, in several instances, that directly over the doorway is of a size little less than that of the doorway, and would appear to be intended as a second entrance.

In their masonic construction, they present a considerable variety ; but the generality of them are built in that kind of masonry called spawled rubble, in which small stones, shaped by the hammer, in defliult of suitable stones at hand, are placed in every interstice of the larger stones, so that very little mortar appears to he intermixed in the body of the wall ; and thus the outside of spawled masonry, especially, presents an almost uninterrupted surface of stone, supplemen tary splinters being carefully inserted in the points of the undried Ills conclusion, with respect to the use to which such towers were put, and also as to their date and origin, is : 1. That the towers are of Christian and ecclesiastical ori gin, and were erected at various periods between the fifth and thirteenth centuries. 2. That they were designed to answer, at least, a twofold use, namely to serve as belfries, and as keeps or places of strength, in which the sacred uten sils, books, relics, and other valuables, were deposited, and into which the ecclesiastics, to whom they belong, could retire for security in cases of sudden predatory attack. 3. That they were probably also used, when occasion required, as beacons and watch-towers.

These conclusions, which have been already advocated, separately, by many distinguished antiquaries, among whom are Molyneux, Ledwiteh, Pinkerton, Sir Walter Scott, Mont morenci, Brewer, and Otway, will be proved by the follow ing evidences : For the first conclusion, namely, that the towers are of Christian origin : 1. The towers are never found unconnected with ancient ecclesiastical foundations. 2. Their architectural styles exhi bited no features or peculiarities not equally found in the ori ginal churches with which they are locally connected when such remain. 3. On several of them Christian emblems are observable, and others display in the details a style of architecture nnivet.sally acknowledged to be of Christian origin. 4. They possess invariably architectural features not found in any buildings in Ireland, ascertained to be of Pagan times.

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