Fort Protector is the 16th century Fort at the heart of historic Portlaoise. Built by the English in the 1560s, it was intended to provide a base for soldiers involved in supressing the native Gaelic tribes and to protect settlers. The modern town of Portlaoise grew up around the fort in the centuries that followed and for many years the fort was all but forgotten.
Thanks to a collaboration between Laois Heritage Society, local residents and traders and Laois County Council, and with the support of the Heritage Council, the importance of the Fort has been reasserted in recent years, with the start of a collaborative Conservation Plan process, which has already led to the generation of the Old Fort Festival, and the heritage led regeneration of the core of Portlaoise, starting at Fitzmaurice Place and including the presentation of the Fort and old St Peters Church and Graveyard just outside the Fort Walls.
The Fort Protector Conservation Plan was written by a team led by Lotts Architecture, and including Dr Eoin Sullivan Archaeologist, Dr Diarmuid Wheeler Historian, Teddy Fennelly, Michael Parsons and Sean Murray of Laois Heritage Society and Laois Heritage Office, with help and support from a wide range of local groups, residents, individuals and businesses, and advice and support from the Heritage Council. The plan was formally launched by Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Cllr. Conor Bergin on Thursday 23rd June 2022.
With the support of the Heritage Council an Interpretation Plan for Fort Protector was commissioned by Laois Heritage Society in 2018 and written by heritage interpretation specialists Tell-Tale. This plan, which can be downloaded below, has guided recent interpretative material for the historic core of Portlaoise, which will be installed in 2022, with the support of Laois County Council and Fáilte Ireland.
Regeneration of Fort Protector and Historic Portlaoise
The regeneration of the historic core of Portlaoise began in 2018 with the conservation of Fitzmaurice Place and part of the 16th Century For Protector wall. This has been followed by extensive conservation and regeneration projects at the Fort and Old St Peter’s graveyard, with URDF funding and the Old Fort Festival. More details on these projects here.