One of the most distinctive features of Youghal is the unusual Clock Gate which can be found on the Main Street. Once one of the most important trading centres in Medieval Ireland, Youghal served many important trade routes to both northern and western Europe. Like many such towns of the time, it need to be a safe place for both residents and the merchants whom traded here. It was a town which was protected by a heavily guarded wall with numerous defensive towers and gates. Over time, the town required expansion, and another wall was built outside the town into which it could expand. By the mid-16th Century the Corporation decided to lease out the castle for private use. In 1563 the merchant Melchior Bluet leased the building. One of the gates which connected the old and new parts of the town, was the massive South Gate, which consisted of a pair of circular towers connected with a portcullis. Not only did this serve as an access point between the two parts of the town, but it is also said to have served as a prison. It was soon renamed the Trinity Gate/Castle, as a new South Gate had been constructed on the outer wall.
Trinity Gate once had a sundial in place, but in 1620 the Town Corporation decided that they wanted a clock installed on the tower. In order to finance the project, freedom of the town was given to merchants and other wealthy persons whom made financial contributions towards the work, which resulted in the final cost to the Town being the tidy sum of £113. In 1622 a man called Balthazar Portingale was appointed as the clock-keeper and was given free quarters in return for ringing the clock at certain times throughout the day. Despite numerous repairs over the years that followed, by Oct 1776 a decision was made to demolish the structure and to replace it with a gaol, along with clock and bell. The Gaolers lodgings consisted of two rooms over the arch, with another two rooms above to serve as the prison. With a bell room above that and a Spire to top it all off. A William Dyke is reported to have been paid £12 to demolish the old building and work began on the construction of the new tower, with workers being paid 2 shillings and 8 pence per day.
By May 1777 an engraver was employed to prepare two marble stones for the Clock Castle, with the Corporation arms and the magistrates names engraved on them. With the ever increasing number of rebels being arrested, in 1795 a new storey was added to the tower to make space for the number of prisoners being held. A number of United Irishmen were in fact publicly hung from the towers windows. As a symbol of terror and tyranny, I quite surprised that the native Irish did not burn this building to the ground. It continued to be used up until 1837, when it ceased to be used as a gaol and gallows. It then became a family home until 1959 when the last family left. The Clock Gate has not been in public use since housing a museum in the 1970s. What I found most interesting was the fact that you can still drive your car through the arch. If you do happen to be in the area, I would highly recommend that you see this building for yourself.