Civil unrest in England in 1640s provided an opportunity for the Irish Catholic gentry to attempt regain control from the English administration in Ireland; in the hope of securing religious freedom and political privilege. While this rebellion was partially successful and the Irish gained control of significant parts of Ireland from 1642 to 1649, Youghal remained an English controlled outpost throughout. In July 1649, Oliver Cromwell landed in Ireland in order to put down the rebellion. The geographical location and allegiance of Youghal offered him a strategic headquarters from which he could strike at any of the major towns of the south of Ireland. He arrived in Youghal in August and after brief inspection decided to winter his army of 10,000 cavalry and foot soldiers in the town. He lodged at the old priory of St. John’s on North Main Street (the original door-arch and small window which are still visible to-day). In January 1650 Cromwell took his leave of Youghal and continued his conquest of the country. In May 1651 Cromwell left Ireland, departing from Youghal, passing through the medieval Water Gate, known to-day as “Cromwell’s Arch”, to board the frigate “President” bound for Bristol.
Myth & Legend
In the chancel of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church rests a wooden chest – quite scarred with deep scratches. But this is no ordinary wooden chest – it is from this chest that a bereft Oliver Cromwell gave his very emotional eulogy at the funeral of his trusted Lieutenant-General Michael Jones, weeping openly. The scratches are the marks left by the spurs of Cromwell’s boots.