News and Events

Secrets of King John’s Castle to be unveiled

“A Place of Great Consequence” is the title of the book which details four major archaeological excavations carried out at the castle between 1990 and 1998 led by Mr Wiggins. These uncovered a wealth of information on the history of the castle and what life was like in Limerick from before the Viking settlement to the last days of the Castle Barracks.
More than 13,000 artefacts, including ceramics, objects of copper-alloy, iron, wood, leather, bone and stone, were found during the course of the excavations.
Among the finds was a pistol with a copper alloy barrel, iron firing mechanism and wooden stock, used during the great siege of the castle between 18th May and 23rd June 1642, and authenticating contemporary written accounts of the events. A pamphlet printed that year, reporting the capture of the castle, described Limerick as ‘a place of great consequence’, a phrase that provides the title for this major new book.
Pottery found during the excavations also provided proof that the castle was a centre for trade with Europe during the middle ages, with goods being transported by sea. During the 1993 excavation Limerick’s oldest house, built on the castle site before 1175, was uncovered. Limerick’s oldest road, dating from the same period, was discovered by archaeologists 5 metres below the courtyard of the castle.
The Hiberno-Norse (‘Ostman’) inhabitants of Limerick, of mixed Irish and Viking descent, established a thriving community on the site with their own houses, laneways and property boundaries, which had to be abandoned when the castle was built during the reign of King John in the early thirteenth century. Original nails used in the construction of a Hiberno-Norse house dating from around 1190 were uncovered. A thirteenth-century gold stirrup finger ring, set with a small oval sapphire, was among the jewellery uncovered during the excavations.
Speaking at the launch of the book at King John’s Castle, Ken Wiggins said: “It has been my pleasure to explore the treasure trove that is King John’s Castle. The book provides a unique insight into life at the castle through the ages and is written in a way that will appeal to the general public and academics alike.”
In this lavishly illustrated book, the archaeology of King John’ Castle is fully described and interpreted for the first time. Beginning with the earliest evidence for settlement, from pre-Viking days, the narrative moves on to show how the Hiberno-Norse inhabitants of Limerick further developed the site before the Anglo-Normans arrived, and the decision to build the castle was made.
Every aspect of the castle’s development is explored, from construction in the medieval period down to reinvention as a heritage property in the late twentieth century. Through the discovery of a range of structures and a variety of artefacts a fascinating story emerges, providing extraordinary insight into the nature and meaning of this exceptional example of military architecture.
Congratulating Mr Wiggins on the new publication John Ruddle, Chief Executive, Shannon Heritage said: “We are delighted to be managing the castle as a visitor centre and understanding the castle’s past through these fascinating artefacts and interpreting them for our visitors has been crucial. I know that this publication will be a wonderful resource to explore Limerick’s rich heritage and I wish Ken every success.”
Published by Wordwell in association with Shannon Commercial Properties, the book is available from and all good book shops, retailing at €30.