The Lighthouse > History
The Anglo-Normans landed in Ireland in 1169 as mercenaries in the service of Dermot MacMurrough, deposed King of Leinster. Their landing places, at Bannow, Baginbun and Passage can all be seen from the Tower of Hook. The Norman leader, Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, was given Dermot’s daughter, Aoife, in marriage. After Dermot’s death, Strongbow became Lord of Leinster. Strongbow was succeeded by his son-in-law, William Marshal, who came to Ireland in the early thirteenth century. Realising the importance of Waterford Harbour and its river system for trade and shipping, Marshal established the port of New Ross on the River Barrow, about 30 km from the open sea.
Marshal knew that, if his port of Ross was to be successful, shipping would need to be guided safely into Waterford Harbour through the dangerous waters off the point of Hook. As a navigation aid, he had a 30m high circular tower constructed at the tip of the peninsula to act as a landmark by day and a fire-tower at night. Marshal granted the monks from the nearby monastery of Rinn Dubhán an annual allowance to act as custodians of the light, a task which they had performed for several centuries. The monks lived in the tower which served as a monastery as well as a lighthouse. Traces of their chapel which projected to the east of the building still survive. Marshal’s idea for a light-tower may have been inspired by Mediterranean examples, such as the lighthouse of Pharos in Alexandria, which he may have seen when he was on crusade to the Holy Land. The design of the tower was based on was based on the cylindrical castles which were popular in France where Marshal spent many years.
As well as the Tower of Hook, Marshal was responsible for building a number of other important buildings in Ireland. These included Tintern Abbey, Ferns Castle, Carlow Castle, Kilkenny Castle and St. Mary’s Church in New Ross. Most of these castles built by Marshal in Ireland also had circular towers.