Buttevant History

Buttevant is situated along the steeply sloping west bank of the Awbeg river, a tributary of the Blackwater, in the heart of the great limestone plain that stretches across North County Cork and northwards into County Limerick. The current town was founded by the Anglo-Normans in the early thirteenth century and significant archaeology remains from that time. However, archaeological work undertaken during clearing of the site for the new secondary school in 2015 uncovered a Bronze Age farmstead, which confirms that the area around Buttevant was settled much earlier than this.

The Irish name for the town is Cill na Mullach, the “Church on the Hill.” This Church, dedicated to St Bridget, predates the Normans and was an outside Church of the pre-Norman monastic settlement at Kilmaclenaine, about 8km west of Buttevant. It is believed that this St Bridget was a sister of Colman McLenin, more commonly know as St. Colman, first Bishop of the Diocese of Cloyne.

The town of Buttevant in North Cork has a fascinating history. The current town was founded by the Anglo-Normans in the early thirteenth century, and operated as a frontier town in Irish Gaelic territory. The current name of Buttevant is from the French word, boutavant, a military fortification or projecting tower along a defensive wall. The name occurs as Boutevent in several places in Northern France, as Botenan in Langedoc, and as Botevant in Yorkshire.

This settlement developed around de Barry’s castle stronghold and its adjacent parish church (built on the site of the earlier church). In 1234 David de Barry was given grant of ‘a weekly market on Saturday at his Manor of Botavant…and of a yearly fair..’ As the town developed in importance, a further grant was issued in 1317 ‘to enclose it with walls’. Medieval Buttevant was protected by an inner and outer wall, for which royal grants were received in 1317 and 1375. Buttevant is part of the Irish Walled Towns Network, which is co-ordinated by the Heritage Council of Ireland, based in Kilkenny. The Barry family guided Buttevant’s development into a prosperous market town. However, during the eighteenth century their fortunes declined and at the turn of the nineteenth century, the castle and manor lands were purchased by John Anderson.

This led to a new era in Buttevant’s fortunes as Anderson changed the layout of the southern end of the town, renovated Barry’s Castle, redeveloped the mill and brought new business interests to Buttevant. The most important of these was the Military Barracks at the northern end of the town. It was built after the Napoleonic Wars and housed up to 800 men. There was also a Military Camp at Ballyvonaire, some 3 miles outside Buttevant. During WW1, thousands of soldiers were trained in Buttevant and Ballyvonaire prior to their deployment to the Western Front. The Barracks was handed to the Irish Free State following  the War of Independence in 1922. It was occupied by anti-treaty forces and burnt in 1922. This is now the GAA grounds.

Buttevant has a rich archaeological heritage and its interpretation for visitors and locals is the principal role of the Buttevant Heritage Group. Guided tours, walled town days, medieval balls, conferences, archaeology lectures, research, exhibitions, etc have been held or fostered by the Group. A book on conference proceedings Buttevant: A Medieval Anglo-French Town in Ireland was published in 2013.

Please follow the links below to explore the many interesting people, events and sites we celebrate in Buttevant.