Visitors to the Heritage Centre can find out about the rich heritage of Lough Gur by visiting the interactive multimedia exhibition that brings to life over 8,000 of archaeology and history.
The exhibition brings the visitor on a journey through the history of Lough Gur starting during the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) Era, and progressing until the 19th century (1800’s), when the Farm By Lough Gur was written.
The exhibition is suitable for all ages and abilities. Visitors can learn about the history and archaeology of Lough Gur. They can find out more about many of the areas archaeological sites, including some that are not publicly accessible.
Visitors also have an opportunity to actively engage with the exhibition, and can have a role in forming their individual experience at the centre by choosing which interactive elements to investigate, either on their own or with their family/friends.
What is the exhibition at the Heritage Centre about?
Neolithic – Although hunter-gatherers may have frequented the area during the Mesolithic people first started to settle at Lough Gur to farm the land during the Neolithic. Lough Gur was one of the first places that Neolithic habitation sites to undergo archaeological excavation in Ireland. Neolithic houses were excavated at Knockadoon. Evidence of Neolithic life has been found all over Knockadoon, but the principle sites interpreted in the exhibition are:
- Knockadoon house sites
- The Giants Grave (Wedge Tomb)
- House site “A” (Rectangular house)
Prehistoric Pottery – Archaeological excavations at Lough Gur frequently reveal pottery fragments dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Prehistoric people made pottery vessels for a wide range of uses, including cooking, storage and sometimes as grave goods to accompany burials.
Bronze Age – Metallurgy (the process of extracting metal from its ores and smelting it) began to appear during the Bronze Age. The most famous metal object to be discovered at Lough Gur is the Lough Gur Bronze Shield. Many metal objects dating from this period have been found in the lake. They may have been deposited there for ritual purposes, but we can never know for sure.
The principle sites Bronze Age interpreted in the exhibition are:
- Grange Stone Circle
- Circle K (enclosed settlement)
Lough Gur is famous within the Irish archaeological community as Seán P O’Riordáin’s work excavating its Neolithic archaeology was seminal. However there is a long history of antiquarians visiting Lough Gur, and interest was at a peek when the lake level was lowered in the 19th century as part of a drainage scheme. This revealed many artefacts in the lakebed, including the Lough Gur Shield. Some archaeological sites at Lough Gur have revealed evidence dating from several different eras. Archaeologists look at how the archaeology is layered, or stratified, to pinpoint its date.
Dressing up Corner
The adult costumes represent those of the Earl and Countess of Desmond
(Gerald Fitzgerald and Eleanor) who symbolically donned the traditional
saffron robes of the Irish when they returned to Lough Gur Castle in 1573 after escaping imprisonment in Dublin. The children’s costumes represent the clothing of less well-off Irish (adults) of the sixteenth century (i.e. 1500’s).
Early Christian times – Clues about what Lough Gur might have been like in the opening centuries of the first millennium can be found both in the archaeological record and in the earliest written manuscript sources. The listening post in this area gives excerpts of the history of the early history of Lough Gur up until 1300AD. The track titles are as follows:
Desmond – What’s in a name?
Emperor of the Irish
Viking: friend or foe?
More Irish than the Irish, the Norman Fitzgeralds
The principal Early Christian sites interpreted in the exhibition are:
- Carraig Aille (ringforts)
- The Spectacles (farmstead)
- Bolin Island (crannóg)
- The Earls of Desmond
FitzMaurice’s grandson, John FitzThomas Fitzgerald, was granted the lands of Deices and Desmond and the title of Baron Desmond by Prince Edward, son of King Henry III, in 1259. Maurice Fitzgerald became the first Earl of Desmond in 1329. Now established as a major force within Munster, the family would play an important role in the province for centuries to come.
Below Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798).
In 1579, Gerald FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond, was killed and his confiscated lands were parcelled out to English settlers during the Plantation of Munster. Lough Gur itself was granted to Sir George Bourchier. The Bourchier family owned the castle at Lough Gur until the end of the seventeenth century (1600’s).
Below portrait of Henry, 5th and last Earl of Bath (1587-1654)
The principle sites interpreted from this era are:
- Bourchiers Castle
- Black Castle
- Garret Island Castle
The listening post in this area gives excerpts of the history of the early modern from 1565AD until the end of the seventeenth century. The track titles are as follows:
The fall of the House of Desmond
The Saigain Earl
English troops at Lough Gur
The mystery of the missing chalice
The harpist of Teampall Nua
Folklore of Lough Gur
Lough Gur has a rich folklore tradition, which features a mix of historical fact and more ancient mythology. It frequently contains references to historical figures (such as the Earls of Desmond), but these are often combined with mythical deities (such as Áine). The folklore tradition of the area is heavily reflected in the historical novel, The Farm by Lough Gur, which was written by Lady Carbery from the recollections of Mary Fogarty nice O’Brien, gives us a vivid account of the lives of a prosperous Catholic farming family in the decades following the Great Famine.
The folklore audio guides feature recordings of the following tales:
- The Legend of Gearóid Iarla
- The Golden Comb
- Teampall Nua
- The Laundry Girl
- Young Áines curse
- The Lady of the Lake
- The Bourchiers at Lough Gur
- The Farm at Lough Gur
- Fer Fa, King of the Fairies
- Knockfennel, the hollow hill
Lough Gur Heritage Centre: 52.523175 -8.520098 (Co-ordinates)
The Honeyfitz Theatre: 52.50564 -8.50664 (Co-ordinates)
Pass through Ballyneety and follow road for a further 4 miles. Take the second left after Reardons Pub in Holycross, then take the first left for Herbertstown and the Honeyfitz is on the right, beside Patrickswell National School and Church at the crossroads or look at the below map: