The Fishery Watchtower is one of Galway’s most treasured architectural features and is also one of the city’s most recognisable historic landmarks. Built in 1852/53 by the Ashworth Brothers, the building is the only one of its kind in Ireland and was originally designed as a draft netting station. Draft netting involved the process of netting fish using a row-boat and a long net secured at one end to the shore. The building also served as a look-out tower for fishery personnel to monitor fish stocks as well as illegal fishing activity along the river! The tower served its function for over 120 years until the practice draft netting died out in the 1970s. Over the next numbers of years the building fell into disrepair until Galway Civic Trust, with the agreement of the Western Fisheries Board, undertook to restore the Fishery Watchtower as a functioning entity which would exhibit the history of the building and the river Corrib to the public free of charge. This restoration and renovation project was initially completed in 1999. However, the footbridge to the tower was damaged in 2006 and the building was closed for a number years until funding was sourced to construct a new bridge. This work was completed in conjunction with a refurbishment to the exhibition in 2014 and since then the Fishery Watchtower has welcomed thousands of visitors through its doors to be greeted and informed by our knowledgeable guides.
The Fishery Watchtower is architecturally unique in Ireland and its exterior has a typically Victorian symmetrical style. This obedience to symmetry is evident in the fact that a stairway runs across a window on the first floor show, showing that external proportions of the building were far more important to the Victorians than how the building looked on the inside. The building is constructed over three floors with the ground floor built of stone and incorporating a sloping floor in order to drain away water from the nets and fish catches. The first and second floors were built of brick which was originally used as ballast on the many cargo ships which plied their trade out of Galway docks. This recyling of construction material makes the Fishery Watchtower one of Galway’s earliest environmentally friendly buildings! These upper two floors were home to the fisheries workers as indicated by the fact that both held fireplaces, which are now blocked up. The remains of a brick structure at the rear of the tower were the basic toilet facilities of the staff! Another interesting feature of the tower is the ornate stained glass window over the ground floor entrance which was restored to its former glory with glass sourced in Germany.
The Fishery Watchtower Museum now houses one of Galway's smallest museums and has stunning views over the river Corrib. It has a wonderful collection of fisheries memorabilia and vintage photographs. Entrance is free and guided tours are available.
Opening hours: Monday 11-3pm, Tuesday to Friday 10-4pm and Saturday 11-3pm