Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny

Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Carlow:

1. Altamont Gardens

[Dublin 2-21]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House, County Kildare

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny

25. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

26. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny

Carlow:

1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:

Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General information: (059) 915 9444

altamontgardens@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.

For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.

With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” [2]

Altamont, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:

Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.

Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” [3]

Altamont House and Gardens lake, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. [3] Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.

The Temple, Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photo by Mark Wesley 2016, Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General Information: castletown@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.

The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.

The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.

Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.

It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.

This photo was taken probably by Robert French, chief photographer of William Lawrence Photographic Studios of Dublin, National Library of Ireland flickr constant commons.

William Conolly rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

The Archiseek website tells us:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [4]

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Mark Bence-Jones tells us in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses:

The centre block, of three storeys over a basement, has two more or less identical thirteen bay fronts reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity. The centre block is joined by curved Ionic colonnades to two storey seven bay wings; the wings and colonnades having been designed by Pearce, who also designed the impressive two storey entrance hall, which has a gallery supported by Ionic columns. Apart from the hall, the long gallery upstairs and some rooms with simple wainscot, the interior of Castletown was still unfinished at the time of Speaker Conolly’s death, and remained so until after his great-nephew, the popular Irish patriot Tom Conolly, married Lady Louisa Lennox (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) 1758.” [5]

William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754) via his brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James died just two years after Katherine nee Conyngham, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs, painted 1758. The German painter Mengs captured Conolly as a 19 year old on his Grand Tour. He is shown posting in front of a Roman sarcophagus, the “Relief of the Muses,” now in the Louvre. He is wearing a rich satin suit with gilt braid, portraying a young cultured aristocrat. In reality he displayed little interest in ancient civilisation, and brought back no souvenirs from Rome save for this portrait. Portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas’s wife, Lady Louisa Lennox, was one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster) where she was exposed to the fashionable idea of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [6]

Carton House, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” [4]

Interior view of Castletown. Country Life 27/07/2016 
Image Number: 5499871  
Photographer: Will Pryce. In the niches are a pair of marble busts of the Earl and Countess of Dartrey by Lawrence McDonald carved in Rome in 1839. They came from Dartrey in County Monaghan which has been demolished (bequeathed to the Irish Georgian Society by Lady Edith Windham of Dartrey). The eighteenth-century organ was originally in the chapel of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (restored by the Cleveland Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society). 

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 4]

The staircase at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873959  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Country Life Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E.Henson.

 
Castletown House, June 2015. ‘The Boar Hunt’ by Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked. The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776. The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers. Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly. It eventually passed to 6th and present Lord Carew [William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994)], whose mother was a Conolly of the Pakenham line. He sold it 1965; the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. Then, in 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres as the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. The house is open to the public.” 

Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
Castletown House, June 2015.
My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. The portrait, on the west wall, is of William Conolly in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons by Stephen Catterson Smith the elder (1806-1872) (donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston). This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room. Note the vase on the side table, one of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III.
The portrait over the fireplace in the dining room is a half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 

The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:

This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false. 

Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.

Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809).
Castletown House, June 2015.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs. 

The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.

Castletown House, June 2015. A Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinet on Irish stand, with a pair of doors later painted with vignettes of romantic landscapes and birds on floral sprays. The landscapes on this lacquered cabinet are said to have been painted by Katherine Conolly as a gift for her great-niece, Molly Burton, in about 1725. Katherine, who had no children herself, looked after Molly after her father died. [7]
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770.
The Green Drawing Room, Castletown House, June 2015. Portrait of the woman and child is Mrs Katherine Conolly with Miss Molly Burton, by Charles Jervas. The man on the other side of the door is Speaker William Conolly.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.

The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:

measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work. 

In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland). The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room. 

In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.

The gallery at Castletown House, as decorated for Lady Louisa Conolly circa 1790. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873951  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017. A set of three 18th-century Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials. These three Murano glass chandeliers are unique in Ireland and rare even in Italy. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778 for the redecorated Long Gallery. The chandeliers were wired for electricity in the mid-1990s; they were cleaned and restored by a Venetian firm of historic glass-makers in 2009. [see 7]
The Print Room, Castletown House, June 2015.

Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them – and Lady Louisa’s remains the only intact 18th century print room in Ireland. Those featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline. [see 6]

The State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015. In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.
The library at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873961  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The Blue Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017.

From the website: “The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.

In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.

Castletown House, July 2017.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017.
Lady Kildare’s Room is named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. She bore her husband, James FitzGerald, nineteen children, but when her younger sister Louisa suffered a miscarriage that put an end to her hopes of ever having children, Emily came to stay with her in Castletown until she had recovered.
As members of the aristocracy in eighteenth-century Ireland, Louisa and Emily garnered much attention. Emily described herself and her sister as ‘women of fashion’, a term that emphasised not only their social position, but their knowledge and love of fashion. This room now displays five remarkable eighteenth-century gowns worn for formal ceremonies from the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.
Statue taken from the grave of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife.
Statue of Lady Catherine Conolly, from the grave (see above), by Thomas Carter.
Obelisk, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:

Maynooth Castle, photograph by Gail Connaughton 2020, for Faitle Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 01 628 6744, maynoothcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.

Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.

Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, Mothel, Ballyfoyle, Castlecomer Road, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 776 7726, dunmorecaves@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.

The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.

Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.

25. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey, May 2016.

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.

Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials. 

Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.

A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.

26. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells. 

Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by macmillan media 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. It sits on the banks of the River Nore. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National Inventory describes: Random rubble stone walls with sections of limestone ashlar construction (including to breakfront having full-height Corinthian pilasters flanking round-headed recessed niches with sills, moulded surrounds having keystones, decorative frieze having swags, moulded course, modillion cornice, and blocking course with moulded surround to pediment having modillions), and limestone ashlar dressings including battlemented parapets (some having inscribed details) on corbel tables. The classical frontispiece was designed for James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde possibly to designs prepared by Sir William Robinson. 

General information: 056 770 4100, kilkennycastleinfo@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.

The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. [8]

1n 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.

William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.

By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. [9]

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)

The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.

The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell.[10] After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National inventory describes the newer wing: Renovated, 1858-62, with eight-bay two-storey range to north-east reconstructed having canted oriel windows to first floor, and pair of single-bay single-stage corner turrets on octagonal plans
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by me in May 2018.

Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.

The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Roselinde Bon 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Mark Wesley 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Finn Richards, 2015 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

The 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom,” had no direct heir so the Earldom passed to his nephew, Walter, a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash. Unlike his uncle, who had been raised at Court and thus reared a Protestant, Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond was a Catholic. See my entry about the Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir for more on “Black Tom.”

Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles. Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue.

James Butler (1610-88) 1st Duke of Ormond, 12th Earl of Ormond was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates, as she was the sole heiress of her mother Elizabeth, daughter of the 10th Earl of Ormond, who had married Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Tulleophelim, and secondly, Elizabeth’s father Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond.  

James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.

The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641.  He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650.  Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II.  After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king.  Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669.  When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin.  The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy 1703-1707 and 1710-1713. Artist: Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). He is wearing robes of the Order of the Garter, Ormond holds the wand of office of Lord Steward of the Household in his right hand.

The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire.

During the 1st Duke of Ormond’s tenure the castle underwent improvements. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved; supervising the contruction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” [11]

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond painted by John Michael Wright (1617-1694), and in centre, Elizabeth Poyntz (1588-1673), mother of the 1st Duke of Ormond, painted by John Michael Wright, and Elizabeth Preston (1615-1684), wife of the 1st Duke of Ormond, with her son Thomas, who became the 6th Earl of Ossory.

Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory, was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was also Lord Butler of Moore Park and Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, he was the second but eldest surviving son of the Duke of Ormonde. His childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Ossory was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.

Ossory enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to that country. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend, who referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey

James Butler 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory. First married Anne Hyde and then Mary Somerset; below, Mary Somerset (1665-1733), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. In middle, Thomas Butler (1634-1680), Earl of Ossory, Lord Butler of Moore Park, Lord Deputyof Ireland. Second son of the Duke and Duchess of Ormond and father of 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Mary Somerset’s father top right, Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 1st Duke of Beaufort, 3rd Marquess of Worcester; below Anne Hyde (1669-1685), the 2nd Duke’s first wife, daughter of Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, artist: William Wissing (1656-87).

James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde, 13th Earl of Ormonde, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Amelia van Beverweerd. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.

Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, he was impeached and a year later a Bill of Attainder was passed against him. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France and was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.

Christopher Butler (d. 1758?), Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, son of Walter Butler of Garyricken and brother of Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash, portrait by James Latham (1696-1747); Charles Butler (1671-1758) 2nd Earl of Arran, youngest son of Thomas Butler Earl of Ossory and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde; Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738) by James Latham. He was the son of Walter Butler and Garyricken and Mary Plunket. He inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard, youngest brother of the Duke of Ormond. His wife was Margaret Burke. Portrait attributed to Hans Hysing (1678-1753).

Charles Butler (1671-1758), 2nd Earl of Arran, de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, de jure 14th Earl of Ormonde was born on 4th September 1671, the youngest son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and Amelia of Nassau and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Arran was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates.

A younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond was Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary. His son was Walter Butler of Garyricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are the sons of Walter Butler: Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).

Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and Lady Mary Plunket, inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler, youngest brother of James, 1st Duke of Ormond.  A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, he married Margaret Bourke, widow of Viscount Iveagh and daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. They had three sons: Richard (d.1711), Walter who died in Paris and John Butler of Kilcash, who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as de jure 15th Earl in 1758 on the death of his cousin Amelia, sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. The couple also had five daughters: one, Honora married Valentine Brown, Lord Kenmare.

A son of Thomas became the 15th Earl of Ormond, John Butler (d. 1766), because the 14th Earl (the 2nd Earl of Arran) had no children.

The title then passed to a cousin of the 15th Earl, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He was the only son and heir of John Butler of Garryricken and Frances, daughter of George Butler of Ballyragget. He inherited the Ormonde titles in 1766 which he did not assume but took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, who remained a Roman Catholic, exercised no political role but undertook the restoration of the Castle and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre, and the Dower House, today Butler House.

Walter the 16th Earl of Ormonde carried out various repairs, decorating some of the rooms with simple late C18 plasterwork.

He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary, and of Susanna, daughter of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved  into the Dower House, today Butler House, across the road from the Castle.

Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.

John Wandesford (1725-1784), Earl of Wandesford, father of Anne; below, Susan Frances Elizabeth (Anne) Wandesford (1754-1830), Countess of Ormonde, wife of 17th Earl of Ormonde and mother of 18th Earl, Artist: Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739-1808); Landscape with Waterfall from the Italian school of 18th century and below, Before the Hunt. To right, Gilbert Clarke (d. 1725), by Sir Godffrey Kneller (1646-1723) and below, possibly Susanna nee Boun, wife of Gilbert Clarke.

Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title and was recreated at 1st Marquess of Ormonde and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was created Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.

James Wandesford Butler the 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.” [see 11]

The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).

John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across  Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.

The second eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, Anne Wandesford Butler married in 1838, the Right Honourable John Wynne of Hazelwood, Co. Sligo, which is now a distillery.

Another daughter, Louisa Grace Butler (1868-1896), the third eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, married Thomas Fortescue of Ravensdale, Co. Louth,  1st Baron Clermont in 1840.

The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess. His brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943), 4th Marquess, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, was the brother and heir to James Edward Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.

As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.

John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess of the 3rd creation, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland. He died while bathing; Frances Jane Paget in middle (1817-1903), with her son James, Earl of Ossory. She was the daughter of General E. Paget and niece of Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquis of Anglesey, and wife of 2nd Marquess of Ormonde. Following the death of her husband, she managed the Ormonde estates and continued the rebuilding of Kilkenny Castle.  On top of the three,  over her father and uncle, is France Jane Paget again, with her dog. Below is her father General the Honourable Edward Paget (1775-1849), soldier and Governor of Ceylon. He was second in command under the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wards. He lost his right arm in Spain. Below him is Field Marshall Henry William Paget (1768-1854), 1st Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, brother of Edward, above.

You can take an online tour of the castle on the website https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

Tapestry Room, in the North Tower. There are two tapestries from the “Decius” suite in the Tapestry room: The obsequies of Decius Mus. The Story of ‘Decius Mus’ is a heroic tale of a Roman Consul who foretold his own death at the Battle of Veseris (Vesuvius) in the Latin War (340BC). The tapestries are attributed to the workshop of Jan Raes, after designs by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The ‘Decius’ suite had been in the ownership of the Ormonde family for over 300 years and was displayed in several of their residences before being acquired by OPW for display in Kilkenny Castle. Tapestries were an important feature of the interior decoration of large houses in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and helped provide interior interest, warmth, and colour. You can read more about these tapestries on the Kilkenny Castle website.
Tapestry Room, in the North Tower: Desius Mus and Manlius Torquatus leave to fight the Latins.
The 12 foot thick walls of the Tapestry Room in the North Tower.
The Nursery. Boys were usually sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. The Butlers traditionally sent their sons to Harrow. Girls however generally received less formal education at home including sewing, drawing, etiquette and instruction on running a household. 
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. On the walls are remnants of hand painted Chinese wallpaper original to the room with monochrome infill carried out by the studio of David Skinner. This delicate paper was probably ordered as part of the redecorations done to the castle by the 18th Earl, Walter Butler. During the 19th century ladies withdrew here from the dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars after dinner, as was the social convention.
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. A tulipiére is an ornate vessel in which to grow tulips. They are typically constructed to accommodate one bulb per spout with a larger common water reservoir base. It is usually made of hand crafted pottery, classically delftware. This tulipiére was hand-made in Delft in 2009 as a one off.
The Ante Room.

From the website: “Today the first floor space is occuppied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘ enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below,  today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.

The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”

The Moorish Staircase: Created by the architects Woodward & Deane to allow better access to the Picture Gallery and provide another staircase in this awkwardly shaped building. It is a rising half-turn stairs around a sky-lit well. Charles Harrison (1835-1903), the stone carver, is credited with the carved naturalistic foliage and small animals which adorn the stairs.

The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.

From the website: “The Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth century building programme carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall…. The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.

The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”

From the Poole photographic collection, National Library of Ireland. Royal visitors to the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny Castle: the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary with James Butler the 3rd Marquess of Ormond and his wife Elizabeth Grosvenor, also Two other Ormondes (likely the Marquess’ daughter & brother), Marshal & Lady Roberts (Frederick Roberts & Nora Bews), 4th Viscount & Viscountess De Vesci (John Vesey & Evelyn Charteris), Lady Eva Dugdale (later Lady of the Bedchamber), Earl of Ava (Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood d.1900), Sir Charles Leopold Cust (baronet), Sir Francis De Winton, Mr J. T Seigne JP (officer of Ormonde’s estate – we came across him when we visited Kilfane, as he lived in the house there), and “Mr Moncrieffe” 
King Charles II (1630-85); Artist: attributed to John Michael Wright (1617-1694)
Son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. During the civil war in England, Charles played an active role and fought with the army. After the defeat of the royalist, he left England for France to join his mother. In 1649, after the execution of his father, he was proclaimed king of Edinburgh and later in parts of Ireland by Ormond. In 1660 the monarchy was restored.
Full-length, standing in robes of the Garter in a pose frequently used in the studio of Sir Peter Lely. The portrait has suffered severe paint loss, and it is difficult to be certain about the attribution. The carefully delineated folds of linen, and the treatment of textures in general, are similar to those featured in the work of John Michael Wright. Other than the pose, it does not resemble the work of Sir Peter Lely. It may be one of a group of portraits which were undertaken by Wright when he painted several works for Ormond in the early 1680s.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 6894, breda.lynch@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery. 

The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney. 

The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.

[1] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

[3] p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[4] https://archiseek.com/2011/1770s-castletown-house-celbridge-co-kildare/

[5] p. 75. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[6] p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

[7] https://castletown.ie/collection-highlights/

[8] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

[9] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/characters-of-kilkenny-castle/

[10] http://www.stevenroyedwards.com/kilkennycastle-timeline.html

[11] p. 167. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

3 thoughts on “Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny

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