[Extracts from the Enniskillen list by Hugh Dixon, published by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 1973 (reprinted 1974).]
Enniskillen Castle has a building history stretching back for more than five centuries. The present castle yard retains much of the atmosphere of the barrack which Lt. Chaytor, the Ordnance Surveyor, visited in 1834. In the centre of the yard, topped by two, parallel, hipped roofs, stands the Keep, the oldest building. Around this, buildings and perimeter walls of various dates mark out the limits of the ancient castle ward. To the south, with its two, long, cone-capped bartizans, is the Water Gate. Connected to this and running north westward along the line of the water is a two-storey range with coach arches. Another two-storey range forms the straight northern edge of the yard west of the gate. The block to the east of the gate, which has had zig-zag modifications on the ground floor, is not shown on the first Ordnance Survey but must date from soon after (c.1840). On the east side the buildings, which are set perpendicular to, rather than parallel with, the wall, are less regular and, with the exception of the vaulted magazine, less interesting. Until the eighteenth century the Castle was defended on this side by 'a doble diche of deepe water' which continued round the north side along the present line of Wellington Place to meet the river again. Thus the Castle stood on its own island: and could only be entered across a draw-bridge which must have been sited near the present gates.
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The Water Gate is the most distinctive feature of the castle, and also the one which has caused most puzzlement. It is a section of parapet wall about twenty feet wide, topped with double-stepped, Irish battlements and flanked by two two-storey bartizans supported on corbels and capped with sandstone cones. Two symmetrical vertical slits beneath the battlements suggest the former use of some kind of draw-bridge or portcullis lifting-gear, but no satisfactory evidence has yet been presented that there ever was an entrance at this point. Indeed, the discovery of a well beneath the west slit seems to suggest exactly the contrary. It may be that the Water Gate is just an elaborate flanker. It is supposed, on fairly thin evidence, to have been built by Chonnacht Og Maguire, who resided at the castle from 1566 until 1589; it does not, however, appear with certainty on any of the early views, and is surely too significant a structure to have escaped Thomas' detailed drawings of 1594. Having a height of over forty feet, it would have towered over the 'barbegan wall' which he found to be 'in hi'th 14 foote' and would have rivalled the fifty-six feet of the Keep (taller then than now). The unavoidable conclusion seems to be that the Water Gate was built after 1594 and taking into account the repeated destructions of the late sixteenth century, probably after 1607, when William Cole took permanent possession Cole's building activity has already been mentioned. Could the Water Gate not be part of that 'fair strong wall ... 26 foot high with flankers, a parapet, and a walk'? An independant stylistic analysis of the building might reach the same conclusion. The detailed carving of the window mouldings and their cornices relates to contemporary developments in Scotland in the assimilation of classical style. Moreover, the carving of the corbelling is so like that at Castle Balfour, Lisnaskea, firmly dated to 1618, as to suggest that they might be by closely related hands.
Refs: Rogers, pp.ll6 117; Castle Museum folder (1969); Notes
by J.W. Charlton (1953-4); Trimble, I, pp.271-2; British Museum:
Ms. Cotton Augustus I(ii)39; Public Record Office, London Ms.
MPF 80; P.S.A.M.N.I. pp.162-3; Ancient Monuments of Northern Ireland,
II, pp.53 4; P.R.O.N.I. T1668/32; Map c.1550 (original in Library
T.C.D.) T1668/19; John Speede's printed view 1610.
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