The Turret, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick V94 HV24

Donal Mc Goey

Tel: 086-2432174

Open dates in 2023: May 1-31, June 1-15, Aug 1-31, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/child/student/ free


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The Turret, County Limerick, August 2022.

We visited The Turret during Heritage Week 2022. It’s a very old building as evidenced by the date 1683 on the gable, under the date 1890. However, the foundations of the building may be older still and might date back to the 1100s and the Knights Templar.

The arms of Major John Odell are on the gable with the 1683 date. The Odell arms look rather Arabic, so the priest who renovated the building to make it into a presbytery in 1890 put a cross on the building. The National Inventory tells us that the early stone date plaque was said to have been moved from the chimneystack to its present position. [1]

The Dutch gable masks a roof ridge which is at right angles to the ridge of the main block. It’s a lovely gable in the Dutch Billie style.

The current owner, Donal, told us that it is thought that the house was built on to the turret of an old Hospitaller habitation. He told us that a Cistercian abbey was founded in the area in 1198 by the Fitzgerald family.

The Knights Hospitaller were related to the Knights Templar. I see that there is a book published about the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller in Ireland which would be a fascinating read! It is edited by Martin Brown OSB and Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB, Soldiers of Christ: the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller in medieval Ireland. A book review of this book in History Ireland tells us that both of the orders started out in the Near East, as part of the crusade to protect Jerusalem and the holy places. The Templars got their name from the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which the westerners called ‘Solomon’s Temple’, whereas the Hospitallers became associated with the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, founded by Italian merchants for the care of pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land, though they too had a military role to play in safeguarding roads and protecting religious sites. Started in the eleventh century, both orders took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. [2]

The book review tells us that the Templars, in particular, came into Ireland under the protection of the English crown and acted on behalf of the king against the native Irish. Because they often formed part of the royal administration, knights often gained high office in the government of Ireland while also attending to their own affairs.

There was a settlement of the Knights Hospitaller in Hospital, Any, County Limerick. Another Section 482 property which we have yet to visit which also has a link to the Knights is Temple House in County Sligo. The book review tells us that it was a Templar foundation, patronised by the de Burghs, but when that order was dissolved by papal decree it was not, unlike the others, transferred to the Hospitallers but rather to the Crutched Friars.

There is a ring fort on the property at The Turret, which is clearly visible on the Ordinance Survey map. The De Lacy family seems to have established Knights Templar in the area – Donal also brought us to see the nearby De Lacy castle.

The De Lacy castle in Ballingarry.

The National Museum of Ireland tells us that the Ballingarry castle may have been built by the Knights Templar, and was then occupied by the De Lacys. [3] It is situated on Knights Street in the village of Ballingarry. This place was called ‘Le Garth’ in 1291, or ‘Garthbyboys’ in 1319. Ballingarry ‘had evidently belonged to the Byboys family’; they witnessed charters, suits and other disputes here during the 13th century. [4] It was also known as Garthocconnyll from its central position in O’Connell country. This oblong tower was known as ‘Parsons Castle’ for a period after being repaired and modernised as a dwelling house for Reverend Gibbons in 1821.

I found a very interesting article on JStor, “Notes on the Family of De Lacy in Ireland” by Nicholas J. Synnott, published in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Sixth Series, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Dec. 31, 1919), pp. 113-131. In it, Synnott states that it seems that the Limerick De Lacys are not related to the more famous Meath De Lacy family. The Limerick Lacy origin may come from the family of De Lees, a name which occurs in documents for County Limerick from the early Norman period down to the reign of King Henry VI. The Lacys of Bruff, Bruree in County Limerick spelt their name in the sixteenth century as “Leash” and “Leashe” as well as “Lacy.”

De Lacy castle, 2022.
De Lacy castle, 2022.
De Lacy castle, 2022.
De Lacy castle, 2022.
De Lacy castle, 2022.
De Lacy castle, 2022.

Samuel Lewis writes that a perceptory was built where the Turret stands now in 1172. Donal believes that the current building was probably built on the foundations of that early structure!

Some research that Donal shared with me tells us that the Knights Templar were disbanded circa 1310, and after that it would have been the Knights Hospitaller who occupied the building.

The National Museum website tells us that in 1408-22 the town of Ballingarry was walled under a grant by Henry IV, after it was destroyed by Irish and English rebels. In 1513 the town was burned by Piers Butler.

In 1541 with the suppression of the monasteries, the Hospitallers in Any and also at The Turret were disbanded.

By 1570 the castle and lands were owned by John Lacy. Lacy was pardoned after the Desmond Rebellion in 1584, but land in Knight Street was granted to Henry Billingsley.

In 1612 the castle, lands and manor of Ballingarry were regranted by James I to William Lacy. In 1691 Ballingarry Castle was burned by Irish Jacobite forces during the Williamite War.

In 1667 Major John O’Dell (1620- c. 1700) was given land in Ballingarry. Documents that Donal shared with me tell us that Lewis writes that the Turret was erected by a branch of the De Lacy family and that John O’Dell repaired the building in 1683. The Ordnance Survey Field Name Book refers to an inscription on the wall of the building which recorded the O’Dell family inhabiting the building in 1683.

The Turret, 2022.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

“(Odell/LGI1958) A three storey house, one room deep, with a curvilinear gable at one end of its front; built 1683 by Major John Odell; said to have incorporated a turret surviving from an old house of the Knights Hospitallers, hence its name. Became a presbytery at the end of C19, when an enclosed porch was added on the front and a wing at the back.” [5]

The house looks very large from the front since it is three storeys high, but it is not large inside, since it is only one room deep, although there is an extension in the back built in 1890. The walls are one and a half metres thick in some parts.

The porch was added when the house became a Presbytery.

Major John Odell was High Sheriff for County Limerick from 1678 to 1679 and held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Askeaton Borough in 1692. [6] Donal’s notes tell us that John and Elizabeth O’Dell gifted a silver chalice to the church, where it remains today!

John and Elizabeth had several children. A son, also named John, married Constance Fitzmaurice, daughter of William, 18th Baron of Kerry and Lixnaw. The Odells were from Bealdurogy, and another son of Major John, named William, lived in Bealdurogy, and was a Justice of the Peace.

There is one very fine chimneypiece in the house. The house is spread over five levels.

There is also a study with timber panelling.

A daughter of Major John, Judith, married Captain Charles Conyers of Castletown, County Limerick. The National Inventory tells us about Castletown Conyers, which still stands, that it has a traceable history stretching back to the to the medieval period with the ruins of a castle within the estate, the property was originally known as Castletown McEnery, becoming Castletown Conyers in 1697 when it was sold to Captain Charles Conyers from Charles Odell. The house that stands there now was built in 1710. [7]

It is a descendant of Major John’s son William who we find later living in The Turret. William, who died before 1722, married Anne Hunt. His son John, who also became High Sheriff for County Limerick and lived in Bealdurogy, married twice. First he married Elizabeth Fennell from Curraghbane, County Cork, in 1748, with whom he had two daughters. He then married Jane Baylee, in 1751.

His son William became an MP and and held the office of Lord of the Admiralty. He lived in The Grove nearby. Another son, Thomas, was Colonel in the Connell’s Light Horse and lived in The Turret.

Colonel Thomas married Sarah Elizabeth Westropp. They had many children. Colonel Thomas died in 1830. I’m not sure who lived in the The Turret after him but it was sold in 1887 to a Father Shanahan, according to Donal’s notes.

One of Colonel Thomas and Sarah Elizabeth’s sons added Westropp to his surname to become Edmond Odell Westropp.

The house has a fine entrance in the wall, with a lovely carved stone on top of a pillar.

Extracts from the Ballingarry Vestry Book include several entries about members of the Odell family. In 1803 an Alexander Odell lived in The Turret, along with Colonel Thomas Odell. In 1826 Alexander Odell lived in nearby Odellville (a property we have yet to visit! He lived 1808-1847 and married a cousin, Catherine Odell), and William Odell in The Grove, who was an MP for County Limerick. In 1837 Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary lists The Grove of Major Thomas Odell (probably Colonel William and Aphra Crone’s son, b. 1778, a Barrister); Odellville of T.A. Odell (Thomas Alexander, 1772-1842); Fortwilliam of T. H. O’dell and Ballykevin of Crone Odell.

There are some Odell graves in the graveyard next to the church nextdoor.

Ballingarry, 2022.
Ballingarry, 2022.
Ballingarry, 2022.
Ballingarry, 2022.


[2] Review by Peter Harbison, History Ireland issue 5 (Sept Oct 2016), volume 24.


This page references P. Fitzgerald & J.J. McGregor, History of Limerick, i (1826), 381.

[4] ibid. This page references Westropp, ‘Ancient Castles … Limerick’, 335.

[5] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.