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 The headland, originally known as Rosláir (the middle peninsula), was
 actually formed by the drifting currents that moved along a tortuous
 sweep of Wexford Bay and grew from a ‘mere sandpit of accumulated
 gravel deposits' over many years.

 It had extended almost three miles seawards when its strategic
 importance was recognised by the Confederates of Kilkenny who,
 during 1642, planned to utilise it for a defence fort as a safeguard and
 protection of the walled town of Wexford against possible invasion.
 Seven sturdy cannons were promptly installed there, each pointing
 seaward and a garrison, under the command of Paul Turner was
 appointed ‘in charge’.

 Turner’s family then owned Ballygeary Castle in nearby Kilrane.
 A ‘Reserve Force’ was also maintained at Butlerstown Castle, seat of the Ormonde family. It is said to have been
 connected by an underground passage or tunnel to Bargy Castle, the home of Insurgent leader Bagenal Harvey during
 the short-lived Rebellion of 1798. The fort extended over 750 acres. Speed’s map of Ireland dated 1610 indicates the existence of a lighthouse
 near the fort.  The earliest recorded mention of the peninsula is found on Boazio’s Map of Ireland, dated 1599.

 Houses were built gradually to accommodate the growing population there. Close on 50 dwellings were built altogether. A cluster of 12 houses
 in the form of a square was first erected. It had a cobble-stoned courtyard with a central flagstaff, 70 feet high, and a large cannon in
 readiness at its base. This served as the focal point of the fortification.
All the houses had earthen floors covered with ‘refined silver sand.’

A frigate with 12 mounted guns stood firmly moored close by as a further safety measure.

An Observation Post erected on the highest sand-dune on the peninsula provided panoramic views of the harbour, so that approaching vessels could be clearly detected and scrutinised.

This was known to the Fort dwellers as ‘The Hill of 
Sixty’. It was manned continuously as a secure safety valve. The second highest sand-dune was identified as ‘The Hill of Bull’.
Two wooden wharves extended into the harbour and were distinguished as the ‘Pilot’ and the ‘Lifeboat’ jetties. Not far away the rocket house, village pump and boathouse were located.
 As soon as Cromwell arrived in Wexford during the autumn of 1649, he ordered a well equipped ‘fleet of
 twenty sail’ under his son-in-law Henry Ireton to attack and seize the ‘Fort of Rosslare’. Fierce storms
 prevented their approach for more than a week however. So, in the meantime, he dispatched a large
 force of horse and foot soldiers under Lieutenant General Michael Jones to besiege it by land.

 It was stoically defended under Captain Sinnott on October 5th. The small garrison fought heroically
 until their supply of ammunition was exhausted. Retreating to the frigate moored nearby, they made
 their last stand. Jones’s Dragoons took possession of the Fort, while Cromwell’s fleet headed unimpeded for the strongly walled town of
Jones’s army then promptly rounded-up the wives and children left behind and forced them to trudge along to the cavern (long since disappeared) facing the spot where the Centra shop and post office now stand.
Despite their pleas and the heart-rending shrieks they were all massacred without mercy. For centuries afterwards the dreaded cavern was known locally as ‘Cromwell’s Murder Hole’

By all accounts the ravaged Fort lay idle for many years. Philip Hore in his 1906 ‘History of Wexford Town’ recorded that in 1654, it was decreed that the Fort of Rosslare be restored and preserved for the defence of the Kingdom. It was then utilised for many years as a ‘Marine Revenue Station’ and Custom House.

In 1800 a commander named Warren was appointed in charge. He was the first Catholic to hold such office and he promptly established the first ‘Village Chapel’ there - utilising the upper floor of a hipped-roofed house at
 the southern corner of the Square. By 1870 more than half of the Forts dwellings had fallen into disuse and disrepair. By then the last school
 teacher, Miss Shanahan, had moved to Wexford town where she opened a private school in South Main Street.
 The old Fort continued to attract the interest and curiosity of Wexford people from all parts of the
 county nevertheless. Many travelled from afar to explore it at weekends - during the summer and
 autumn months especially.
 Some even acquired the vacant houses as summer homes. A familiar sight at weekends was to  see
 dozens of ‘Wexford cots’ moored along the wooden jetties while their owners explored the peninsula or
 spent their time fishing.
 The Fort dwellers were ranked under three categories - Revenue / Custom Officers; Pilots and Lifeboat men. The Head Revenue Officer was
 ranked as the Commander of the Fort. He alone had the authority to decide when the ‘Big Guns’ should be fired. The womenfolk were
 renowned because of the unusual shapely ‘Prawskeens' (aprons) they wore in their homes.
 They were rectangular in shape and made of strong jute fibre.

 By a strange quirk of fate the Wexford sea, that had played a leading role in the formation of the Fort Peninsula during the earlier centuries
 was mainly responsible for its ultimate demise.
 The laying down of Wexford’s system changed the flow of the currents
 that eroded, ultimately, the storied peninsula.

 The final blow came during the winter of 1924-25, when gale force winds
 drove a tidal wave across the peninsula, severely breaching it in two
 vulnerable places.
 By January 12th 1925, it had been reduced to a wind-swept ridge.
 The Lifeboat men could no longer withstand the onslaught and were forced
 to seek the safety of the Wexford mainland for their wives and children.
 Pilot men Peter and Larry Furlong were the last to leave, settling down near Raven Point. Only at low tide can the last vestige of the
 ‘Vanished Fort’ be seen.


Wexford Web 2016

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