Taaffe’s Castle is situated in the beautiful medieval town of Carlingford and is located what is now currently located at the centre of the Village. It was mostly likely to have been built at the start of the 16th century as a fortified townhouse and a trading depot , But when it was built it was most likely a Shoreline Merchant House where deliveries from the sea where stored and collected. Now try to imagine the original shore line coming to the base of the building. It must have been very convenient for the merchant who lived here, The merchants could have loaded or unload their wares on or off a small boat which would bring the goods to and from a larger ship anchored in deeper waters out in the harbour. This tower house was a very popular style of building amongst the merchant and upper classes of towns all around Ireland, it was easily defended and its height meant that you could have a lot of living space in a small area, it allowed for the construction of substantial buildings on small burgage plots. But Taaffes Castle had more space than most because at the corner of the building there is a number of projecting stones which are the remains of a brawn wall. Brawn walls enclosed an open area around the tower house which usually contained a garden and wooden buildings and outhouses. They are normally found around similar buildings in the country, However it is quite unusual to find one of these in an urban setting.The Taaffe’s were a powerful family and later they became the ‘Earls of Carlingford’ in 1661. Their appointed Earldom is the most likely reason to why the Merchant House was referred to as property of the Taaffes, However there is evidence that it was constructed before their earldom was secured. There is no actual evidence to say the Merchant house was the direct property of the Taaffe Family. Carlingford’s strategic position on the east coast of Ireland along with Carrickfergus and Dundalk, made it a vital trading port. This trade led to Carlingford’s relative prosperity between the 14th and early 16th centuries. It even received five Royal charters for trading — the first in 1326 by King Edward II and the last in 1619 under King James I. The increased trade encouraged the rich mercantile class to build such buildings as ‘The Mint’ as well as ‘Taafee’s Castle’. The following centuries were however not as prosperous for the town after the Cromwellian Conquest of 1649 and the Williamite Wars of the 1690s. By 1744 Carlingford was described as ‘in a state of ruin’ and the following century saw the disappearance of the prosperous herring shoals in the lough. This charming town has recently ‘bounced back’ as a top tourist destination due to it’s spectacular setting, wonderful pubs and medieval architecture.
The goods would have been stored in the vaulted basement located in the building and the living quarters and offices would have been in the floors above.
The building was actually constructed in two phases, the older portion was the tower house which featured most prominently and it was built in the early 1500’s. It still has many of the original windows while the ground floor entrance to the basement has been altered. The annex appears to be much younger than the tower but it was only added on about 50 years later to provide more spacious living quarters. The present windows are later insertions and gave it its more recent appearance. The building was probably owned by the Earl of Carlingford, Nicholas Taaffe, who was killed while fighting on King Jame’s side at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The Locals may likely have called the building Taaffes Castle by association but there is no evidence to suggest Taaffes were ever in the building.