West Gate and Town Walls

Wexford Town was established as a Viking settlement in the mid 9th century named "Weissfjord" meaning "Bay of the Mud Flats." The Vikings used the deep harbour as a safe haven for their longboats. The Norse town was protected with a defensive wall that may have consisted of an earthen bank with stone revetment and a wooden palisade.

During the 12th century the King of Leinster, Diarmuid McMurrough, invited the Normans over to Ireland to help him retrieve his Kingdom. In 1169 the Normans conquered the town and proceeded to build the stone defenses we see today. It was during the early 13th century when the walls were completed.

Through the entrance

Selskar abbey gate

Westgate gate exterior

Modern wall walk

A stone castle was also built here in the 13th century but this was demolished in the 1730s to build a barracks. The town walls covered a distance of 1.25 kilometres, about 800 metres of it still remains today. The walls formed a narrow 'C' shape from the northern seafront west to the southern seafront. There were originally six gates, Cow Gate, John's Gate, Bride Gate, Peter's Gate, Castle Gate and Friar Gate. Selskar Gate was a private gate to the abbey. At some stage in the medieval period Cow Gate was renamed West Gate. But to confuse things even more, the original six gate ways were rebuilt in 1759 in a less substantial form before finally being removed in 1835. In the 1990s the Selskar Gate was greatly restored and it is now known as Westgate. The town was targeted again by invaders in 1649 when Oliver Cromwell's army killed half of it's residents.

Pictured above is an external section of the walls with the Selskar/West gate on the left, behind the tree, with the 15th century tower of Selskar abbey standing inside the walls. A modern timber wall walk has been erected inside the Selskar abbey section. As you walk further south along the wall you will see the mural tower, pictured below left, known as the Crusader tower. A second mural tower, pictured below right, can be viewed from Abbey street.

Crusader mural tower

Abbey St exterior

Pictured above is the second mural tower viewed from Abbey Street.

If you walk further south along Abbey St to the Cornmarket, you will see the last viewable exterior part of the town wall with a small rectangular tower, best viewed from St Marys Church car-park. The image below shows the interior of the wall.

Situated: From Wexford Train Station head west on Station Road (R730). After 125 metres it bends right and changes to Westgate. The Selskar/West Gate is forty metres up here on your left.

Discovery Map 77: T0451 2220. Last Visited Aug 2019.

Longitude: 6° 27' 59" W

Latitude: 52° 20' 30" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey

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