“Ancient ruins, previously used to collect taxes”

Hall of the Red Earl, situated in the city centre of Galway, was built in the 13th centurty by Richard the Red Earl to entertain guests and visitors. In reality, this banqueting hall was a tribute to his growing power.

The wonder of the Hall of the Red Earl is that it was lost to historians for several centuries. Despite the fact that it was located inside the medieval walls of Galway, archaeologists were unaware of its existence until the 1990s, when its foundations were uncovered during a Custom House expansion project.

It 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. 

The hall itself may have fallen into ruin, but its sturdy foundations remain. Today, they are encased in glass panelling for visitors to admire. More than a thousand ancient artifacts were uncovered as well—everything from gold cufflinks to clay pipes—and the finest of these are also on display.


1230 - Richard De Burgo arrives to wrest control of Connacht only to be thwarted by the native O'Connor and O'Flaherty clans.

1232 - De Burgo seizes control of the river crossing where he builds a castle on the site of a captured fort.

1233 - The castle is retaken by Felim O'Connor.

1235 - De Burgo returns with a large army and defeats the O'Connors.

1270 - Richard's son, Walter, begins the process of building a defensive wall to defend the town.

1271 - Walter dies and is succeeded by his son Richard the Red Earl. This is the most likely date for the construction of the Hall of the Red Earl.

1484 - Galway granted mayoral staus. As the 'Galway Tribes' come to power, De Burgo's power wanes.

1556 - The hall falls into serious disrepair.

18thC - The Galway County Courthouse is built on the site.

1820 - The Customhouse is built on the site.

1997 - Hall of the Red Earl is uncovered during building works.

1999 - Excavation completed.

2001 - Extension to Custom house incorporating the excavation is opened.

Hall of the Red Earl


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