Roscommon - Places of Interest

Places of Interest

Golf

Roscommon Golf Club was founded in 1904, the course, set in parklands filled with mature sycamore, beech, whitethorn trees and ash trees, was extended to eighteen holes in 1996 and now measures 6,390 meters (6,900 yards).

GAA Park

Dr Douglas Hyde Park, with a capacity of 30,000 is an important Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) venue in Ireland and is home to the Roscommon county footballers and Roscommon Gaels club.

Horse Racing

A horse racing course is situated approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) from the town centre, the track itself is an oblong right-handed track 2 km (1.25 mi) in length, and the course has stabling for up to 95 horses.

Leisure facilities

Roscommon has a leisure centre which opened early 2002 and has a 25 m (82 ft) deck level pool with a learner swimming pool and spectator gallery and fully equipped gymnasium. Situated next to the swimming pool is the home of Roscommon's most successful sport - St Coman's handball club. Established in 1930 the club has produced many All-Ireland winning handballers and one world ladies junior champion handballer.

Woodland

Mote Park, the former estate of the Crofton landlord family, approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) from the town centre is a woodland area covering several miles and is popular with walkers.

Castle

The impressive ruins of Roscommon castle are located on a hillside just outside the town, the castle is quadrangular in shape, it had four corner D-shaped towers, three storeys high, and twin towers at its entrance gateway, one of which still retains its immensely sturdy vaulted roof. The entire castle was enclosed by a lofty curtain wall. It was built in 1269 by Robert de Ufford, Justiciar of Ireland, on lands he had seized from the Augustinian Priory. The castle had a most chequered history. It was besieged by Connacht King Aodh O’Connor in 1272.

Eight years later it was again in the hands of an English garrison, and fully repaired. By 1340 the O’Connor’s regained possession of it, and, except for a few brief intermissions, they held it for two centuries until 1569, when Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy seized it. It was granted to Sir Nicholas Malbie, Elizabethan Governor of Connaught, in 1578. Two years later the interior was remodeled and large mullioned windows were inserted in the towers and curtain walls. Again, in 1641 the Parliamentarian faction gained it until Confederate Catholics under Preston captured it in 1645.

It remained in Irish hands until 1652 when it was partially blown up by Cromwellian "Ironsides" under Commissary Reynolds, who had all the fortifications dismantled. It was finally burned down in 1690, and, from the closing years of the 17th century, it gradually fell into decay. A symmetrical moat some distance from the curtain walls surrounded the entire castle and safeguarded it. It s now a national monument.

Harrison Hall

In the town's main street is the prominent and beautifully renovated Bank of Ireland known also as Harrison Hall. Once a 17th century sessions house, it was remodeled in 1762 by Sir William Morrison and converted into a court house and market house. It is built in the classical architectural style with a cupola. It became a catholic church in 1863. After 1903 it became a recreational hall to commemorate Dr John Harrison (who was a physician in Roscommon town’s workhouse, during the famine of the 1840s) it was used as a dance hall, cinema and theatre before it was sold to the Bank of Ireland in 1972.

Former jail

The Old Gaol is the second most prominent building in the town and faces the back of the Bank of Ireland now houses a modern shopping centre, the facade is all that remains of the original structure. The original building is thought to have been designed by Richard Cassells in 1736. The gaol had the distinction of having a hang woman ‘Lady Betty’, a criminal who had her sentence withdrawn on the provision that she perform the unpaid task of hang woman. In 1822 it was taken over for use as a lunatic asylum. In 1833 it became a ‘Lazaretto’ – a place where outcasts who suffered from small pox were confined. Sometime after 1840 the building was converted to residential and commercial use.

Former Presbyterian church

Next to Harrison hall in the town square is a small Presbyterian church built in 1863, the building now houses the County Museum and the Tourism office. The building is of cut limestone with a large recessed door, circular headed windows and fenestration on the wheel window over the door is in the form of the ‘Star of David’ to commemorate its Welsh Builders. The building was renovated in 1991 and now contains many exhibits and artifacts illustrating and interpreting the history of Roscommon. Among the artifacts on display are a 9th century grave slab from St Comans Abbey and a Sheela na Gig from Rahara church.

Friary

The ruined Abbey of Roscommon is on the outskirts of the core of the town, and is reachable by a path at the back of the Abbey Hotel running alongside the Abbey boy's school. It was founded just over 750 years ago by King Felim O' Connor (Irish: Fedlimid Ó Conchobair), king of Connacht, who was buried there himself in 1265. The effigy in a niche on the north side of the chancel is either that of himself (but carved 35 years or more after his death), or of one of his successors; dating from around 1300, it shows a king dressed in a long robe and mantle of a kind that suggests he may have been aping an English regal costume of the period, an idea supported by the fact that he carries a sceptre with fleur-de-lis head in his right hand. The tomb front supporting his effigy slab (but not originally belonging to it) bears eight niches containing fifteenth-century carved figures of gallowglasses, mercenaries of Scottish origin who played a major role in Irish wars of the Later Middle Ages. These have their bodies protected by a coat of mail and each wears a helmet known as a bascinet. All are armed with a sword, except one who bears an axe-like sparth, a typical gallowglass weapon.

Usually called the ‘Abbey’, it is more accurately described as a friary, it was created for Dominican friars. During the course of its existence, it experienced many misfortunate events, starting with a fire in 1270, a lightning-strike in 1308, and having Lord Audley take large sums of money deposited in it by the poor people of the town for the use of his army against a king of Connacht. But the main part of the church must have survived these misfortunes, for much of its existing fabric dates from the thirteenth century, as seen in the style of the lancet windows in the north and south walls. The east wall of the church probably had five such windows grouped and graded together, but they were replaced in the fifteenth century by one single large traceried window which probably shed more light inside during the morning. At the same period, a chapel - also with a large window - was added to the north, at right angles to an aisle which is separated from the nave by an arcade supported by round columns which still partially survive. Suppressed at the Reformation, the ruined buildings were denuded of their majestic tower, and probably also of the cloister to the south, when they served as a handy stone-quarry for their owner.

Former Infirmary

In Abbey Street opposite the CBS secondary school is a building which now houses Roscommon County Library was built in 1783 as an Infirmary. It is a 3-storey over basement limestone structure. Two symmetrical wings flank the north and south end of a central portion. It was used as a hospital until 1941. Major reconstruction work was undertaken in 1989 and the building was refitted as the County Library.

Catholic church

The Sacred Heart church dominates the skyline of the town. The church spire is 52 m high. Built of local cut stone and opened in 1903, it was completed in 1925. The church is built on rising ground and fronted by a sunken grotto. Over the main door is a fine example of mosaic, carried out by the Italian firm of Salviate, depicting two bishops of the diocese of Elphin connected with the building of the church. The interior is equally impressive and contains a replica of the Cross of Cong. This wonderful example of Irish Craftsmanship was made in Fuerty between 1120 - 1123.

Former workhouse

A former workhouse now known as the Sacred Heart Home is situated on the outskirts of the town approximately 500m from the town on the golf links/ Curraghboy road. Outside this building is an Irish Famine Memorial. It was constructed on behalf of the people of Roscommon in 1999, as a permanent memorial to the thousands of Roscommon people who perished in the Famine. It is built next to the master’s residence of the Workhouse. The workhouse building was constructed in 1840, in response to a sudden increase in extreme poverty and famine in the Roscommon town area. Roscommon was severely affected during the great famine, with one of the highest death rates per population recorded in the whole of Ireland, during this period the population of Roscommon suffered a 31.5% drop. The work house was designed for 700 paupers but housed up to 1,600 people during the famine years.

Hundreds flocked to the workhouse for sustenance and refuge. However the workhouse could not cope with the numbers requiring assistance. This situation was reflected in a notice which was posted outside Roscommon Workhouse in January 1847, which stated that no new applicants seeking assistance could be admitted. Many who died there were buried in Bully's Acre, a short distance away.

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