A bawn is a defended enclosure, usually rectangular, attached to, or surrounding the fortified residences of the English and Scottish plantation owners of 17th century Ulster. It is derived from the Irish words "ba" (cow) and "dhun" (fort). The resultant "badhun" was anglicized to become "bawn".

Because the Irish people were seen by the imperial English to be "more uncivill, more uncleanly, more barbarious and more bruttish in their customs and demeanures, then in any other part of the world that is known" and that they "live like beastes, voide of lawe and all good order", the English constructed bawns as defensible courtyards, generally with stone walls, or alternately with brick, clay, timber and sod. A bawn served to protect the properties of a plantation landlord, which included the house and the family. Families were property back then. The walls met at flankers, which allowed for monitoring of the whole length of each of the two adjoing walls.

The most famous bawn is probably the Bellaghy Bawn in County Londonderry. There are many others in Ireland. Aughnanure Castle is a tower house surrounded by a double bawn, in Oughterard.

Bawn (?), n. [Ir. & Gael. babhun inclosure, bulwark.]

1.

An inclosure with mud or stone walls, for keeping cattle; a fortified inclosure.

[Obs.]

Spenser.

2.

A large house.

[Obs.]

Swift.

 

© Webster 1913.

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