WhereMillmount Terrace Millmount Drogheda Louth
How has the fort at Millmount changed over the last 800 years?
The flat-topped mound known as Millmount still stands out in the townscape of Drogheda, due to its high position and monumental scale. It has the aura of a neolithic tumulus, although there is no evidence that it is a prehistoric structure. It is a focus of Irish mythology, for Amhairgin (pronounced Aver-gin), a Milesian poet, who is celebrated as the inventor of song and poetry, is reputed to be buried here. The Song of Amhairgin has come down to us. Here is the beginning, as translated by Lady Gregory:
I am the wind on the sea;
I am the wave of the sea;
I am the bull of the seven battles;
I am the eagle on the rock.
What we see today is a motte (mound), originally constructed with a bailey (enclosure), probably by Hugh de Lacy before 1186. Strategically important to the Anglo-Normans, King John took it over in 1217. However, exceptionally for a major civic fort, the motte and bailey were not replaced by a stone castle. Instead, a circular stone keep was constructed on the summit of the motte. By the 1520s the importance of the keep to the crown had diminished and it was granted to Drogheda Corporation. It played a pivotal role in the sieges of 1641–2 and 1649. It was passed back to the government in 1702.
For the next two hundred years Millmount became an army base, accumulating structures to support a resident soldiery. A U-shape barracks was built against the town wall below the motte in the early eighteenth century. The Martello tower (which survives), accommodating a magazine, gunners’ store and soldiers’ quarters, was constructed on the summit in 1808. Other buildings were added in the nineteenth century; officers’ quarters, governors’ house, canteen and armoury, guard house and entrance. On the 4 April 1922, after the British army had left, the fort was taken over by republican anti-treaty forces. The last military engagement at Millmount occurred three months later when the Free State army shelled the fort with an 18-pounder field gun from across the river. The tower was damaged and the republican soldiers withdrew.
In 2000, Millmount was restored as a cultural centre, housing Drogheda Museum.