Traditional Irish Name

Caisleán de Búrca.

Associated Families



BaronyLimerick City.
Civil ParishSt Mary’s.
OS Map Ref
Sheet 5.

Protected Structure Record

Reg. No: 3011.
Ref.  No: N/A.


More commonly referred to as Bourke’s House, this fortified building probably dates from the sixteenth century.1

According to the text on the Limerick Civic Trust plaque attached to the wall, the building itself is older:

“This building … is also reputed to be the remains of a medieval stone residence said to have been built by the O’Briens after [King] Donal Mór donated his palace as the site for St Mary’s Cathedral.

[Bourke House is] also known as the Castle Friary. It was used [during the Penal Laws] as a Franciscan Penal Friary from c.1730-1780.”2

A gothic-style drinking fountain (the site of an earlier door) was built in 1860 into the surviving wall, which reads:  ‘Protect what is erected for your benefit.’

For an architectural description of the building, see the Office of Public Works’ (OPW) commissioned study from the mid-1990s.3


The destruction of most of the building is attributed to the formation of Athlunkard Street, where the remaining frontal wall of the building stands.


The remaining frontal façade is adjoining a public walkway. Interior access is blocked.

Historical Timeline

1655:The Civil Survey for Limerick recorded the following two buildings in the parish of St Mary’s:

Alderman John Bourke was the late proprietor of:

‘a stone house, scituated upon the East side of high street, now in the occupation of Mr Bayle’.

William Bourke was proprietor of the second, the fortified building known as Bourke’s House:

A stone house in the high street’.4

1668:Nicholas Bourke owned the fortified building, referred to as James Bourke’s House.

1 B.J. Hodkinson, Aspects of Medieval North Munster, Collected Essays (Thomond Archaeological Society, Limerick, 2012), 14, 80; Colm Donnelly, ‘Typological Study of the Tower Houses’, 31, 37.
2 See Limerick Civic Trust plaque in Image Gallery.
3 See the OPW report by J. Bradley, A Halpin, and H.A. King in Limerick City Urban Archaeology Survey: part XVII (iii) (1996).
4 Civil Survey … Limerick, 435-6. Thanks to John Elliott for clarifying this entry (see John Elliott, Medieval Limerick (2009), 10).


All historical information is compiled from archival material; primary sources (such as State Papers); secondary sources; plus authoritative digital sources (such as CELT). Any direct quote or a further reading suggestion is footnoted.

For queries, suggested amendments, or other relevant information, or if you would like to contribute an archival image of Bourke’s Castle (of which you own the copyright), please leave a comment at the bottom of the page, or email (below).


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Location of castle

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