The Hall of the Red Earl, a fascinating medieval archaeological site in the heart of Galway is now one of the city’s top visitor attractions. The site which is invigilated by Dúchas na Gaillime - Galway Civic Trust - dates to the 13th century as is linked to the founding of Galway by the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family at this time. The hall was Galway’s first municipal building and was used to collect taxes, dispense justice and to host banquets. In essence it acted as a tax office, courthouse and town hall rolled into one! It took its name from Richard de Burgo, the Earl of Ulster, who was the grandson of the town’s founding father.
In the late 15th century the famous ‘Tribe’ families of Galway seized power from the De Burgos and forced them out of the city. The hall subsequently became abandoned and fell into ruin. Over the intervening centuries it was covered over and built upon. The remains of the building were, however, unearthed by Office of Public Works (OPW) archaeologists in 1997, when plans to extend the adjacent offices onto this site were proposed. The site was easily identifiable from the famous c. 1651 Pictorial Map of Galway city.
A major excavation took place on site with over 11,000 artefacts being uncovered. The discovery of the Red Earl’s Hall led to the proposed extension to the Revenue Commissioners offices being completely redesigned to allow for the preservation of the archaeological site. Added to this, the Hall was housed within glass panelling and a viewing gangway complete with flood-lighting was erected around it. Interpretive panels now explain the significance of the site and artefact replicas are prominently displayed.
Since moving to its new office adjacent to the site in 2009, Dúchas na Gaillimhe – Galway Civic Trust has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to The Hall of Red Earl where friendly guides are on hand to inform and direct visitors. Recently, the Hall had the distinction of being listed as the top attraction in Galway City by Lonely Planet guidebook. This hugely important site stands as testament to the medieval origins our modern, vibrant city and is a must-visit for anyone wishing to learn more about the story of Galway.