The Battlements

These fortifications are an outstanding example of early 19th century artillery fortifications, built following the 1778 rising, to guard against a further French invasion. They were part of a line of fortifications on the Shannon: the defences face towards Connaught, assuming a French landing on the West coast. This had in fact happened with General Humberts landing in North Mayo at the end of the 1778 rising.

There were extensive fortifications to the West of Athlone (Demolished to make way for a housing scheme); at Banagher; two batteries at Inchereky Island, and a Martello tower at Meelick, similar in type to the later towers in England – 1808 – 12, mounting 3 guns.

Also at this time batteries were built along the Shannon estuary, on the north shore in Co. Clare from the West, at Kilcredaun, Doonaha and Kilkerin, on the South shore on Carrig Island and Tarbert Island, and in the centre of the estuary on Scattery Island.

Shannonbridge Fortifications

The principle fortifications in Shannonbridge are on the West bank of the river Shannon, a large barracks and two earthwork batteries were on the East bank south of the bridge, while to the north of the bridge on the island was a further earthwork battery or gun emplacement for several cannon.

The permanent fortifications remaining on the west bank act as a ‘bridge-head’ fortification. The road from Shannonbridge passes through the defences, originally having to pass through a defended gateway.

To the west is a long artificial slope or glacis sloping up to mask the main fortification or redoubt, from which it is separated by a fosse or a dry moat. The main structures and the flanks of the glacis are faced in stonework.

4 guns, most likely 24 pounder cannon, or possibly carronades or howitzers firing explosive shells, were arranged along the front of the redoubt. Remains of the iron pivots and semicircular track indicate that they were mounted on traversing platforms.

In the centre of the moat a small vaulted roofed casemate or ‘caponiere’ provided with musket loops project from the main fortification. More musket loops protect the flanks of the Caponiere.

The overall layout of the fortifications is generally symmetrical, approximately on the axis of the bridge. The roof of the fortified barrack block carried 3 guns on traversing platforms, with a line of fire directly along the road from Ballinasloe. On the north flank of the fortifications was a small arms battery for musketry defence, symmetrical with the barrack block.

The description of Shannonbridge in the parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, 1844-45 is as follows:-

‘Shannon-Bridge, a village and fortified military station……”The Roscommon end of the bridge is occupied by a military work, which forms a ‘tete de pont’ capable of accommodating a small garrison. The public road wends between the barracks and the fort, passing through a strong gate; and the place, besides being defended by the guns of the fort is protected on the Connaught side by an advanced redoubt on a rising ground to the north of the highway". The fortifications are closely similar to those at Banagher: but the barracks are larger, and the battery more conspicuous. Shannonbridge is one of the three fortified passes still maintained upon the Shannon, the other two being Banagher and Athlone.’

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