Office of Public Works properties in County Tipperary

I had initially published the County Tipperary OPW sites along with Munster counties of Clare and Limerick but the entry is too long so I am dividing it.

OPW sites in County Tipperary:

1. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary

2. Famine Warhouse 1848, County Tipperary

3. Holycross Abbey, County Tipperary – must prebook for tour

4. The Main Guard, County Tipperary – closed at present

4. Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary

6. Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary

7. Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

8. Roscrea Castle and Damer House, County Tipperary – closed at present

9. Swiss Cottage, County Tipperary

1. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary:

Cahir Castle, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Brian Morrison 2014 for Failte Ireland. [see 1]
Cahir Castle, June 2022. The geese are particularly picturesque! The outer walls are called the Barbican. When breached, the attacking force gains entry to this area and are vulnerable to missiles fired by defenders and it would be difficult to retreat, due to the enclosed nature of the barbican.

General information: 052 744 1011, cahircastle@opw.ie

Stephen and I visited Cahir Castle in June 2022, and I was very impressed. I had no idea that we have such an old castle in Ireland with so much intact.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/cahir-castle/:

Cahir Castle is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. It stands proudly on a rocky island on the River Suir.

The castle was was built in the thirteenth century and served as the stronghold of the powerful Butler family. [The Archiseek website tells us it was built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond] So effective was its design that it was believed to be impregnable, but it finally fell to the earl of Essex in 1599 when heavy artillery was used against it for the first time. During the Irish Confederate Wars it was besieged twice more.

At the time of building, Cahir Castle was at the cutting edge of defensive castle design and much of the original structure remains.

Our tour guide took us through the castle as if we were invaders and showed us all of the protective methods used. We were free then to roam the castle ourselves.

The name derives from the Irish ‘an Chathair Dhun Iascaigh’ meaning stone fort of the earthen fort of the fish.

The information leaflet tells us that the area was owned by the O’Briens of Thomond in 1169 at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. The area around Cahir was granted to Phillip of Worcester in 1192 by John, Lord of Ireland, who later became King John. His nephew William was his heir – I’m not sure of his surname! But then his great-granddaughter, Basilia, married Milo (or Meiler) de Bermingham (he died in 1263). They lived in Athenry and their son was the 1st Lord Athenry, Piers Bermingham (died 1307).

Edward III (1312-1377) granted the castle to the James Butler 3rd Earl of Ormond in 1357 and also awarded him the title of Baron of Cahir in recognition of his loyalty. The 3rd Earl of Ormond purchased Kilkenny Castle in c. 1392. Cahir Castle passed to his illegitimate son James Gallda Butler. James Gallda was loyal to his mother’s family, the Desmonds, who were rivals to his father’s family, the Butlers.

In their book The Tipperary Gentry, William Hayes and Art Kavanagh tell us that the rivalry between the Butlers of Ormond and the Fitzgeralds of Desmond turned to enmity when the War of the Roses broke out in England, with the Ormonds supporting the House of Lancaster and the Desmonds the House of York. The enmity found expression in the battle at Pilltown in 1462. The enmity continued for over a century, and the last private battle between the Ormonds and the Desmonds was the Battle of Affane, County Waterford, in 1565. [2]

Thomas Butler (d. 1558) was created the 1st Baron Caher (of the second creation), County Tipperary, in 1543. He married Eleanor Butler, daughter of Piers Butler 8th Earl of Ormond (d. 26 August 1539) and Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare (d. 3 September 1513). Their son Edmund became the 2nd Baron Caher (died 1560) but the title died with him and The Peerage website tells us his barony fell into abeyance between his two aunts.

The brother of Thomas 1st Baron Caher, Piers Butler (d. after February 1567/68) had a son Theobald who was then created 1st Baron Caher [Ireland, of the 3rd creation] on 6 May 1583. (see The Peerage website [3])

It was Piers Rua Butler, the 8th Earl of Ormond (c. 1467 – 1539), who brought peace between the warring factions of Fitzgeralds of Desmond and the Butlers of Ormond. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald (or Garret) Fitzgerald (1455-1513) 8th Earl of Kildare. His efforts culminated in a treaty called the Composition of Clonmel. It stated that Edmund Butler of Cahir should receive the manor of Cahir on condition that he and all his heirs “shall be in all things faithful to the Earl [of Ormond] and his heirs.” The Barons of Cahir were not allowed to keep their own private army nor to exact forced labour for the building or repair of their castle or houses. (see [2]).

This storyboard tells us that Ireland was dramatically different from Renaissance England in its language, customs, religion, costume and law. It was divided into 90 or so individual “lordships” of which about 60 were ruled by independent Gaelic chieftains. The rest were ruled by Anglo-Irish lords. Queen Elizabeth saw Ireland as a source of much-needed revenue. She did not have sufficient resources nor a strong enough army to conquer Ireland so she encouraged her authorities in Dublin to form alliances between the crown and any local chieftains who would submit to her authority. Many chieftains who submitted did so in order to assist them in their own power struggles against their neighbours. Elizabeth especially needed this support in order to ensure that if Spain invaded Ireland she would be able to quell rebellion.

Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, travelled to Ireland to subjugate Ulster and Shane O’Neill (“The O’Neill) in 1573. He failed, and had to sell of much of his land in England to pay debts accrued from raising an army. He died in Dublin of typhoid in 1576.

His son, the 2nd Earl of Essex came to Ireland to quell a rebellion which included the rise of Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone (1550-1616), cousin of Shane O’Neill.

The storyboard tells us that Hugh O’Neill fought alongside the 1st Earl of Essex in Ulster between 1573 and 1575. He also fought for Queen Elizabeth in 1580 against the rebel Gerald Fitzgerald, 14th Earl of Desmond (circa 1533, d. 11 November 1583), and as thanks he was made Earl of Tyrone. However, he turned against the crown in 1594 and formed an alliance with Red Hugh O’Donnell to fight against the Queen’s troops, in the Nine Years War.

The ties between the Earls of Essex and Queen Elizabeth I are complicated. When Walter Devereux the 1st Earl died in Ireland, his wife, Lettice Knollys, remarried. She and Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, married secretly, a fact which enraged the disappointed Queen. It was Robert Dudley who introduced his stepson Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex to Elizabeth and he subsequently became her favourite, alongside Walter Raleigh. However, Elizabeth was to be angered again when this next favourite, Devereux, also secretly married, this time to Frances Walsingham, who was the widow of Sir Philip Sidney. We came across her before when we visited Portumna Castle as she later married Richard Bourke 4th Earl of Clanricarde. Philip Sidney was the son of Henry Sidney (or Sydney) who had been Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Lord Deputy Henry Sidney is shown crossing a moat leaving Dublin Castle, setting out on a campaign. Above the gate are a number of severed heads!
The submission of Turlough Luineach O’Neill to Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney in 1575.

Robert Devereux the 2nd Earl of Essex sought to re-win courtly favour by going to fight in Ireland, following the footsteps of his father, and persuaded Elizabeth to name him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

In May 1599, Essex and his troops besieged Cahir Castle. He arrived with around two to three thousand men, a cannon and a culverin, a smaller and more accurate piece of heavy artillery.

Thomas Butler the 10th Earl of Ormond, who owned the castle in Carrick-on-Suir and was another favourite of the Queen, as he had grown up with her in the English court. However, the storyboards tell us that he at first rebelled, alongside Thomas Butler 2nd Baron Cahir (or Caher – they seem to be spelled interchangeably in historical records) and Edmond Butler, 2nd Viscount Mountgarret (1540-1602), another titled branch of the Butler family.

By the time of the 1599 siege, the Earl of Ormond was fighting alongside Essex, and Cahir Castle was held by rebels, including Thomas Butler’s brother James Gallada Butler (not to be confused with the earlier James Galda Butler who died in 1434). Thomas Butler 2nd Baron Cahir travelled with Essex toward the castle. Baron Cahir sent messengers to ask his brother to surrender the castle but the rebels refused. Thomas Butler 2nd Baron Cahir was suspected of being involved with the rebels. Thomas was convicted of treason but received a full pardon in 1601 and occupied Cahir Castle until his death in 1627. James Gallada Butler claimed that he had been forced by the rebels to fight against Essex. Essex and his men managed to capture the castle.

During the three days of the siege, the castle incurred little damage, mostly because the larger cannot broke down on the first day! Eighty of the defenders of the castle were killed, but James Gallada Butler and a few others escaped by swimming under the water mill. This siege was to be the only time that castle was taken by force. James Gallada recaptured the castle the following year and held it for some months. The Butlers regained possession of the castle in 1601.

Cahir Castle taken by the 2nd Earl of Essex in 1599.

Inside the castle in one room was a wonderful diorama of this siege of Cahir Castle, with terrifically informative information boards.

The Diorama of the 1599 Siege.
The Diorama of the 1599 Siege.
The Diorama of the 1599 Siege. The siege map and diorama show the wall of the barbican extending further than it does now, to the bridge across to the island. The plan also shows a number of buildings in the inner ward that no longer exist. The shape of the islands and riverbanks changed following construction of a weir.
The Diorama of the 1599 Siege.
Someone must have had great fun setting up the little toy soldiers in their fight formations in the diorama.
The Diorama of the 1599 Siege.
The Diorama of the 1599 Siege.
The first entrance gates, to the bawn (walled courtyard or outer enclosure) of Cahir Castle. Above the door on the top of the wall an eagle is perched, symbol of power. Below that is the crest of the Butlers of Cahir.

Failing to win in his battles in Ireland, however, Essex made an unauthorised truce with Hugh O’Neill. This made him a traitor. The Queen did not accept the truce and forbid Essex from returning from Ireland. He summoned the Irish Council in September 1599, put the Earl of Ormond in command of the army, and went to England. He tried to raise followers to oust his enemies at Elizabeth’s court but in doing so, he brought a small army to court and was found guilty of treason and executed.

Cahir Castle was taken again, this time by Murrough O’Brien (1614-1674, 6th Baron Inchiquin and later created 1st Earl of Inchiquin in 1647) in the Confederate War, which followed the rebellion of 1641. O’Brien fought on the side of the Crown – his ancestor Murrough O’Brien was created 1st Baron Inchiquin in 1543 by the Crown in return for converting to Protestantism and pledging allegiance to the King (Henry VIII). Since he took the castle for the crown, it implies that at this time Lord Caher fought against the crown again – and since the information boards tell us that the 1599 siege was the only time it was taken by force, force must not have beeen used at this later time. This must have been the time that Oliver Cromwell in 1650, when the occupants surrendered peacefully.

Cahir Caste, County Tipperary, June 2022.
Once over the surrounding moat and river, and through the outer gate into the inner courtyard or bawn, one has another gate to go through, which is protected by a machicolation above the gate, through which things could be dropped on the invader, such as rocks, boiling water or hot sand.
Cahir Castle, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by George Munday 2014 for Failte Ireland. [see 1] Barbican wall, courtyard, and gate with overhead machicolation, and the castle keep.
Round flaking towers are positioned at the outside corners acting as guard towers, accessed by wall walks that surmount the walls surrounding the courtyard.
Inside the barbican walls, Cahir Castle. Cahir Cottage was built by the Butler family in the 19th century.
Once one gets through the second gate, the invader would have to get through the portcullis, pictured here.
The portcullis, from the other side.
The mechanism for working the portcullis.

Once invaders get through the portcullis they are trapped in a small area, where defenders can fire arrows and stones at them. The walls of this area slope outwards towards the bottom, known as a base batter, so falling rocks bounce off them to hit the invaders.

The Butlers of Ormond also had to forfeit their land in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate. Both branches of the Butlers had their lands restored with the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1662.

The castle layout was changed considerably and enlarged during work to repair some of the damage caused by the battles, but was then left abandoned until 1840 when the partial rebuilding of the Great Hall took place. [4]

The core of the castle is the keep.

The square central keep of Cahir Castle, with watch tower, and river as moat, and entrance gate topped by eagle.
The Castle Keep. The door is protected by a machicolation, and through the door you can see a cross shaped gun loop so the defenders can shoot invaders. Inside the door is the spiral staircase.

There’s an excellent history of Cahir on the Cahir Social and Historical Website:

Throughout the reigns of Elizabeth I and Charles I, Cahir Castle appears as a frequent and important scene in the melancholy drama of which Ireland was a stage. The Castle was taken and re-taken, but rarely damaged and through it all remained in the hands of the Roman Catholic Butlers of Cahir. By this time Cahir had become a great centre of learning for poets and musicians. Theobald, Lord Cahir [I assume this was 1st Baron Cahir of second creation who died in 1596] was said by the Four Masters “to be a man of great benevolence and bounty, with the greatest collection of poems of any of the Normans in Ireland”.

A study of the Butler Family in Cahir in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reveals the rise and fall of one of the minor branches of the House of Ormond. At the end of the fifteenth century, they possessed extensive powers, good territorial possessions and a tenuous link with the main branch of the Butler family. During the sixteenth century, their possession was strengthened by the grant of the title of Baron of Cahir with subsequent further acquisition of land, but they came under closer central government control. A complete reversal in their relations with the Earls of Ormond occurred, strengthened by various marriage alliances. They also participated in political action, both in the Liberty of Tipperary and at National Level. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries their position was affected by their adherence to Roman Catholicism, which resulted in their revolt during the Nine Years War, and subsequent exclusion from power by the Central Administration. They formed part of the Old English Group and as such, suffered from the discriminatory politics practiced by the Government. From 1641 they became minor landowners keeping their lands by virtue of the favour of their relative, the Duke of Ormond. In 1647 the Castle was surrendered to Lord Inchiquin for Parliament but re-taken in 1650 by Cromwell himself, whose letter describing acceptable terms of surrender still survives. At the restoration of Charles II, in 1660, George Matthews, (as Warden of Cahir Castle and half-brother to the Duke of Ormond), retained the Cahir lands for the Lord Cahir, then a minor.” [5] George Matthew (or “Mathew,”1645-1735) was married to Eleanor Butler, daughter of Edmond Butler, 3rd/13th Baron Dunboyne. She seems to have married twice: first to Edmond Butler son of 3rd Baron Cahir, then to to George Matthew. Her son was Piers Butler, 4th Baron Cahir, who was just seven when his father died.

Cahir Caste, County Tipperary, June 2022. The view of the castle from the parkland beyond. See how it seems to grow out of the rocks!
Cahir Caste, County Tipperary, June 2022.
Cahir Caste, County Tipperary, June 2022.
Cahir Castle, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Liam Murphy 2016 for Failte Ireland. [see 1] The large square tower in the foreground was built later than the keep, for housing prisoners.

Piers Butler 4th Baron Cahir (1641-1676) married George Mathew’s niece, Elizabeth Mathew (1647-1704). They had no male issue, but two daughters. His daughter Margaret married Theobald Butler, 5th Baron Cahir (d. 1700), great-grandson of the 1st Baron Cahir.

Despite embracing the Jacobite Cause in the Williamite Wars, the Cahir estate remained relatively intact. However, the Butlers never again lived at Cahir Castle but rather at their country manor, Rehill House, where they lived in peace and seclusion from the mid-seventeenth century, when not living abroad in England and France.

By 1700 a sizeable town had grown around the Castle, although hardly any other buildings survive from this period. Agriculture, milling and a wide range of trades would have brought quite a bustle to the muddy precursors of our present streets. At this time, the Castle was quite dilapidated and was let to the Quaker William Fennell, who resided and kept a number of wool combers at work there.” [4]

Prisoners’ tower at Cahir Castle.

Margaret Butler daughter of the 4th Baron Cahir was the 5th Baron Cahir’s second wife. His first wife, Mary Everard, gave birth to his heir, Thomas (1680-1744), 6th Baron Cahir. Thomas had several sons, who became 7th (d. 1786) and 8th Barons Cahir (d. 1788), but they did not have children, so that title went to a cousin, James Butler (d. 1788), who became 9th Baron Cahir.

On the completion of Cahir House [in the town, now Cahir House Hotel] in the later 1770’s, Fennell rented Rehill House from Lord Cahir and lived there over half a century. [The Barons moved to Cahir House.] A strong Roman Catholic middle class emerged. James, 9th Lord Cahir [d. 1788], practiced his religion openly. He maintained strong links with Jacobite France, and paid regular visits to England. While not a permanent resident, he kept his Cahir Estates in impeccable order and was largely responsible for the general layout of the Town of Cahir. Under his patronage, some of the more prominent buildings such as Cahir House, the Market House and the Inn were built during the late 1770s and early 1780s. In addition, the Quakers built the Manor Mills on the Bridge of Cahir, the Suir Mills (Cahir Bakery), and the Cahir Abbey Mills in the period 1775-90.

The son of the 9th Baron Cahir, Richard, became 10th Baron and 1st Earl of Glengall.

… The young Lord Cahir married Miss Emily Jeffereys of Blarney Castle and together they led Cahir through the most colourful period of its development…Richard, Lord Cahir, sat in The House of Lords as one of the Irish Representative Peers, and in 1816 was created Earl of Glengall, a title he enjoyed for just 3 years. He died at Cahir House of typhus in January 1819, at the age of 43 years. Richard, Viscount Caher, (now 2nd Earl of Glengall), had already taken his place in political circles while his mother, Emily, ran the Estate with an iron fist.” [4]

Cahir Castle 1943, photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 5]

During the Great Famine (1846-51), Lord and Lady Glengall did much for the relief of the poor and the starving. Lord Glengall’s town improvement plan was shelved in 1847 due to a resulting lack of funds and his wife’s fortune being tied up in a Trust Fund. The Cahir Estates were sold in 1853, the largest portion being purchased by the Trustees of Lady Glengall. This sale came about due to Lord Glengall being declared bankrupt. The Grubbs had by now become the most important Quaker family in the district and bought parts of the Cahir Estate during the 1853 sale...

In the interim, Lady Margaret Butler (elder daughter and heir of Lord Glengall) had married Lieut. Col. Hon. Richard Charteris, 2nd son of the 9th Earl of Wemyss & March. Using a combination of her mother’s Trust and Charteris funds, Cahir Town and Kilcommon Demesne were repurchased.  

Lady Margaret, although an absentee landlord, resident in London, kept a close watch on her Cahir Estates through two excellent managers, Major Hutchinson and his successor William Rochfort… Her son, Richard Butler Charteris took over her role in 1915 and remained resident in Cahir from 1916 until his death in 1961. In 1962, the House, and circa 750 acre estate core (within the walls of Cahir Park and Kilcommon Demesne) were auctioned…And so ended the direct line of Butler ownership in Cahir, almost 600 years. [5]

The castle became the property of the state after the death of Lord Cahir in 1961; it was classified as a national monument and taken into the care of the Office of Public Works. (see [4])

The great hall, and adjoining guest accommodation in the northwest tower. This 13th century building was attached to the keep, but in 1840 it was shortened, leaving the original fireplace in the open outside.
Great Hall and northwest tower of Cahir Castle.
The end of the Great Hall, with its stepped gable. It was originally attached to the keep, pictured on the left.
This is the exposed fireplace, which was in the now foreshortened Great Hall.

Our tour guide took us through the outside of the castle, showing us its defenses. Our tour ended inside the Great Hall, or dining hall.

The Great Hall, with giant Irish elk antlers. The fireplace is not genuine – it is made of papier mache and was installed for the filming of a movie.

The dining hall has a magnificent ceiling. The building would have originally been of two storeys, and taller. The appearance today owes much to restoratation work carried out by William Tinsley in 1840, when the building was converted into a private chapel for the Butler family. The hammer-beam roof and the south and east wall belong to this period. The external wall dates from the 13th century.

Ceiling of the Great Hall, Cahir Castle.
Inside the northwest tower of Cahir Castle.
Upstairs in the northwest tower. It is fitted with fifteenth century windows and has a Tudor fireplace inserted where the original portcullis machinery was housed.
The stairs to the upper level of the northwest tower are spiral.
I love the passageways between the walls of the castle.
Top floor of the northwest tower.

Next we explore the keep building.

One can descend these steps and up again on the other side for a view over the river.

2. Famine Warhouse 1848, Ballingarry, County Tipperary:

General information: 087 908 9972, info@heritageireland.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/famine-warhouse-1848/:

How did an ordinary farmhouse near Ballingarry, County Tipperary, become the site of a bloody siege and a monument of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848?

It was here that rebels, under the leadership of Protestant aristocrat William Smith O’Brien, besieged 47 police officers who had barricaded themselves into the McCormack homestead, taking 5 children hostage. After two of their number were killed, the rebels finally gave in. They were later transported to penal colonies abroad.

The Warhouse, as it became known, is now a museum. Its contents illuminate the history of the Young Irelander Rebellion, the trials of its leaders, their exile in Australia and escape to the USA. The exhibition places the rebellion in the context of the Great Famine and the upheaval that rocked Europe during that turbulent year.

Traditionally it was known as Ballingarry Warhouse or The Widow McCormack’s House.

3. Holycross Abbey, County Tipperary:

Holycross Abbey, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Liam Murphy 2016 for Failte Ireland. [see 1]

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/holycross-abbey/:

As destination for pilgrims, Holy Cross Abbey, near Thurles, County Tipperary, has a rich history. Pilgrims travelled here for eight centuries to venerate the relic after which the abbey and surrounding villages are named – a piece of the True Cross of Christ’s crucifixion.

Today this working parish church is a peaceful landmark and a place for quiet contemplation and historical discovery. As well as inspecting the relic of the cross, you can marvel at the building’s ornate stonework. The chancel is possibly the finest piece of fifteenth-century architecture in the country. The abbey also houses one of the only surviving medieval wall paintings in Ireland.

4. The Main Guard, Sarsfield Street, Clonmel, County Tipperary:

The Main Guard, or Clonmel Courthouse, County Tipperary. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: five-bay two-storey courthouse and market house, built 1673, with arcaded ground floor to front and north gable, and pediment and cupola to roof. Until restored c.2000, building had been five-bay three-storey with triple public house front to ground floor, and timber sliding sash windows. Now in use as museum. The columns of the arcaded facades were recycled from the ruins of the Cistercian abbey of Inislounaght, to the west of the town and retain some decorative elements that testify to this fact. 

General Information: 052 612 7484, mainguard@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/the-main-guard/:

In the seventeenth century County Tipperary was a palatinate, ruled by James Butler, duke of Ormond. When the duke decided he needed a new courthouse, he built one in the heart of Clonmel [built in 1673]. Later, when it was used as a barracks, it became known as the Main Guard.

A fine two-storey symmetrical building, some elements of its design were based on works by the famous Sir Christopher Wren.

In the eighteenth century it was the venue for the Clonmel Assizes. The most notable trial it witnessed was that of Father Nicholas Sheehy, the anti-Penal Laws agitator. Sheehy was hanged, drawn and quartered.

In about 1810, the ground floor was converted into shops, but the building has recently undergone an award-winning restoration. The open arcade of sandstone columns is once again an attractive feature of the streetscape, while inside you will find a fantastic exhibition and event space.

Main Guard, 1948, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. [6]

5. Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary

Nenagh Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 067 33850, castlenenagh@gmail.com

The OPW doesn’t seem to have a site for this currently, but there is information at a site about Nenagh:

Nenagh Castle was built by Theobald Walter (the first of the Butlers of Ormond) around 1200. To this day the cylindrical keep adorns the town and like most keeps it formed part of the perimeter of the fortress. The walls have now almost disappeared, but fragments remain. 

Built from limestone Nenagh Castle measures fifty-five feet in external diameter at the base and rises to a height of one hundred feet. The Castle features four storeys and thanks to a recent renovation this wonderful landmark now represents the town’s premier tourist attraction.

The building and has stone spiral stairs to the top. There are 101 steps in all to the top.  Access to the tower is through a passageway within the base of the wall.  This has low head room and visitors will need to stoop to avoid hitting the stone above. All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. [7]

Nenagh Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

6. Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary:

Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018. Maurice Craig tells us in The Architecture of Ireland from the earliest times to 1880 that in style Carrick-on-Suir is like hundreds of buildings in Northamptonshire or the Cotswolds, but like no other in Ireland.

General Information: 051 640787, ormondcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/ormond-castle/:

Joined on to an earlier medieval riverside castle, Ormond Castle Carrick-on-Suir is the finest example of an Elizabethan manor house in Ireland. Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormond [“Black Tom” (1531-1614)], built it in 1565 in honour of his distant cousin Queen Elizabeth. 

The magnificent great hall, which stretches almost the whole length of the building is decorated with some of the finest stucco plasterwork in the country. The plasterwork features portraits of Queen Elizabeth and her brother Edward VI and many motifs and emblems associated with the Tudor monarchy.

Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, National Library of Ireland Mason Catalogue.

The castle has a low and wide-spreading addition to an older castle, which consisted of two massive towers set rather close together. The castle is joined to these towers by a return at each side, making an enclosed courtyard. The facade is of two storeys with three gables and a central porch and oriel. It is only one room thick. It is virtually unfortified, having no basement, and windows only three freet from the ground, and a few shot-holes for defence by hand-guns, Craig points out. The windows on the ground floor may have been widened at some point.

Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir 1949, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archive. [6]
Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir 1949, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archive. [see 6]

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

The house, which is horseshoe shaped, forming three sides of a small inner court, and the castle the fourth. The house is of 2 storeys with a gabled attic; the towers of the castle rise behind it. The gables are steep, and have finials; there are more finials on little piers of the corners of the building. There are full-sized mullioned windows on the ground floor as well as on the floor above, the lights having the slightly curved heads which were fashionable in late C16. There is a rectangular porch-oriel in the centre of the front, and an oriel of similar form at one end of the left-hand side elevation. The finest room in the house is a long gallery on the first floor, which had two elaborately carved stone chimneypieces – one of which was removed to Kilkenny Castle 1909, but has since been returned – and a ceiling and frieze of Elizabethan plasterwork. The decoration includes busts of Elizabeth I, who was a cousin of “Black Thomas,” Ormonde through her mother, Anne Boleyn, and used to call him her “Black Husband”: she is said to have promised to honour Carrick with a visit. The old castle served as part of the house and not merely as a defensive adjunct to it: containing, among other rooms, a chapel with carved stone angels.” [8]

Detail from National Library of Ireland, Ormond Castle.
Carrick Castle, County Tipperary, by the River Suir 1796, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018.
Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018.
Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018.

Thomas Butler (1582-1614) the 10th Earl of Ormond is a fascinating character. He was the eldest son of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond, and his wife Joan Fitzgerald, daughter of the 10th Earl of Desmond. Because he was dark-haired, he was known to his contemporaries as “Black Tom”or “Tomas Dubh”. As a young boy, Thomas was fostered with Rory O’More, son of the lord of Laois (his mother was granddaughter of Piers Rua Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond) before being sent to London to be educated with the future Edward VI. He was the first member of the Butler family to be brought up in the protestant faith. In 1546, he inherited the Ormond earldom following the sudden death of his father. He fought against the Fitzgerald Earls of Desmond in the Desmond Rebellions, as he was loyal to the British monarchy. He was made Lord Treasurer of Ireland and a Knight of the Garter.

He was highly regarded by Queen Elizabeth to whom he was related through her mother Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn was the granddaughter of the 7th Earl of Ormond making Elizabeth and Thomas cousins. Thomas married three times but left no heir and was succeeded by his nephew Walter Butler 11th Earl of Ormond. He died in 1614 and was buried in St Canice’s cathedral, Kilkenny.

James Butler the 12th Earl of Ormond and 1st Duke of Ormond (1610-1688) spent much of his time here and was the last of the family to reside at the castle. On his death in 1688 the family abandoned the property and it was only handed over to the government in 1947, who then became responsible for its restoration. 

Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018.
Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018.
Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, May 2018.

7. Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary:

Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Brian Morrison 2018 for Failte Ireland. [see 1]

General Information: 062 61437, rockofcashel@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/rock-of-cashel/:

Set on a dramatic outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale, the Rock of Cashel, iconic in its historic significance, possesses the most impressive cluster of medieval buildings in Ireland. Among the monuments to be found there is a round tower, a high cross, a Romanesque chapel, a Gothic cathedral, an abbey, the Hall of the Vicars Choral and a fifteenth-century Tower House.

Originally the seat of the kings of Munster, according to legend St. Patrick himself came here to convert King Aenghus to Christianity. Brian Boru was crowned High King at Cashel in 978 and made it his capital.

In 1101 the site was granted to the church and Cashel swiftly rose to prominence as one of the most significant centres of ecclesiastical power in the country.

The surviving buildings are remarkable. Cormac’s Chapel, for example, contains the only surviving Romanesque frescoes in Ireland.

Rock of Cashel, 1955, from Dublin City Library and Archives [see 6].
Rock of Cashel ca. 1901, photograph from National Library of Ireland Flickr constant commons.

8. Roscrea Castle and Damer House, County Tipperary:

Roscrea Castle, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Chris Hill 2014 for Failte Ireland. [see 1]

General information: 0505 21850, roscreaheritage@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/roscrea-heritage-centre-roscrea-castle-and-damer-house/:

In the heart of Roscrea in County Tipperary, one of the oldest towns in Ireland, you will find a magnificent stone motte castle dating from the 1280s. It was used as a barracks from 1798, housing 350 soldiers, and later served as a school, a library and even a sanatorium. 

Sharing the castle grounds is Damer House, named for local merchant John Damer, who came into possession of the castle in the eighteenth century. The house is a handsome example of pre-Palladian architecture. It has nine beautiful bay windows. One of the rooms has been furnished in period style.

The grounds also include an impressive garden with a fountain, which makes Roscrea Castle a very pleasant destination for a day out. There is also a restored mill displaying St Crónán’s high cross and pillar stone.

This was originally the site of a motte and bailey fortification known as King John’s Castle. The original wooden castle was destroyed in the late 13th century and was replaced with a stone structure built in 1274-1295 by John de Lydyard. The castle was originally surrounded by a river to the east and a moat on the other sides. [9] It was granted to the Butlers of Ormond in 1315 who held it until the early 18th Century. The castle as we see it today was built from 1332.

Eoin Roe O’Neill, at the head of 1,200 men, stormed Roscrea in 1646 and reportedly killed every man, woman and child. The only survivor was the governor’s wife, Lady Mary Hamilton (1605-1680), who was a sister to the Earl of Ormond [married to George Hamilton, 1st Baronet of Donalong County Tyrone and of Nenagh, County Tipperary]. She was again forced to play host in the castle to O’Neill three years later which again ended by the guests looting everything in sight. [10]

Damer House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural heritage.

Damer House is of three storeys and nine bays and has a scroll pediment doorway and inside, a magnificent carved staircase. The Irish Georgian Society was involved in saving it from demolition in the 1960s.

Roscrea Castle was sold to the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, by the James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormond in 1703. It was bought by Joseph and his nephew John Damer (1674-1768) in 1722. The Damer family who built an elegant three-storey pre-Palladian house in the courtyard in c. 1730.

In their book The Tipperary Gentry, Hayes and Kavanagh tell us that Joseph Damer was born in Dorset in England in 1630. The came to Ireland after the restoration of Charles II when land was being sold cheaply by Cromwellian soldiers who were given land instead of pay but did not want to remain in Ireland. He bought land in Tipperary and became a sheep farmer. He also became involved in banking in Dublin. His nephew John acted as his agent in Tipperary. Jonathan Swift wrote a ditty mocking Joseph Damer’s parsimony:

“He walked the streets and wore a threadbare cloak

He dined and supped at charge of other folk

And – by his look – had he held out his palms

He might be thought an object fit for alms.”

He had no children and left his vast fortune when he died in 1720 to his nephews John (1674-1768) and Joseph (1676-1736), sons of his brother George Damer. He was so wealthy that he entered folklore with tales of how he gained his wealth, and he was compared to King Midas, as if everything he touched turned to gold.

The nephew John had no children and his brother Joseph inherited. Joseph became MP for Tipperary in 1735. He died three years later.

Robert O’Byrne tells us that his son Joseph (1717-1798) inherited the house and castle was later created the Earl of Dorchester. [11] He was an absentee landlord and his brother managed his Irish properties. He built a mansion named Damerville which was very grand, but was demolished in 1775. Their sister Mary married William Henry Dawson, 1st Viscount Carlow, who lived at Emo in Laois. It was her offspring who later inherited the Damer properties.

Joseph’s son John (1744-1776) married Ann Seymour, a sculptress. He spent all of his inheritance and killed himself. Subsequently it was his younger brother George who inherited the title to become 2nd Earl of Dorchester. None of Joseph’s offspring had children, however, so the properties passed to the 2nd Earl of Portarlington, a second cousin, who assumed the name Dawson-Damer.

Mary who had married the 1st Viscount Carlow had a son John Dawson (1744-1798) who became 1st Earl of Portarlington, Queen’s County. He married Caroline Stuart, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bute and his writer wife, Mary Wortley Montagu. He commissioned James Gandon to built Emo Court in Queen’s County (Laois). It was his son John Dawson (1781-1845), 2nd Earl of Portarlington, who inherited the Damer fortune and lands, and added Damer to his surname.

The castle was used as a barracks from 1798, housing 350 soldiers. It was used later as a school, a library, and a tuberculosis sanatorium. Roscrea Castle fell into disrepair in the 19th century, and when the roof collapsed extensive repairs were needed in the 1850s. It was named a national monument in 1892, and is now under the care of the OPW. 

9. Swiss Cottage, Ardfinnan Road, Cahir, County Tipperary:

General Information: 052 744 1144, swisscottage@opw.ie

Swiss Cottage, June 2022.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/swiss-cottage/:

The Swiss Cottage, just outside the heritage town of Cahir, is a cottage orné – a fanciful realisation of an idealised countryside cottage used for picnics, small soirees and fishing and hunting parties and was also a peaceful retreat for those who lived in the nearby big house.

Built in the early 1800s [around 1810] by Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall, who, we believe, managed to persuade world-famous Regency architect John Nash to design it [he also designed Buckingham Palace for the Crown]. Originally, simply known as “The Cottage” it appears to have acquired its present name because it was thought to resemble an Alpine cottage.

Inside, there is a graceful spiral staircase and some exquisitely decorated rooms. The wallpaper is partly original and partly the fruit of a 1980s restoration project, in which the renowned fashion designer Sybil Connolly was responsible for the interiors.

We visited the Swiss Cottage in June 2022. The guide told us that the Glengalls probably never even spent a night in their cottage! They used it for entertaining. A Swiss Cottage, or cottage ornee, was the ultimate in impressive entertainment. It was meant to look like it had grown from the ground, and it was designed deliberately off-kilter and asymmetrical with different windows, wavy rooves, oddly shaped rooms. Even the expensive floorboards were painted to look like they were made of a cheaper wood!

The National Inventory describes it:

The building, constructed as an architectural toy, was used as a lodge for entertainment purposes and was designed specifically to blend with nature. The roof pitches and tosses and varies in length while differing window sizes and openings punctuate it. The verandah and balconies, although luxury features, have been fashioned to appear humble with exposed rustic tree trunk pillars. The asymmetrical design of the cottage, although immediately apparent of architectural detailing, is deliberately flawed and distorted to appear unsophisticated. Both the building and its setting right down to its cast-iron rustic fencing maintains a sense of blending with nature as it was originally designed.” [12]

Swiss Cottage, photograph from the National Library of Ireland.
Timber rustic oak posts with triangular arch detailing between posts to verandahs and to bowed bay, having latticework rail to balcony.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside. I took a few photographs looking through the windows. You can see better photographs of the interior on the OPW website.

The timber spiral staircase in the extremely plain front hall. The plainness is deceptive, however, as it has an expensive cobweb patterned parquet floor.

Downstairs has a room off either side of the hallway, the Dufour Room and the Music Room. The Dufour room is so called due to some original Dufour wallpaper, depicting Constantinople, much of which has been reproduced to line the room. Dufour was one of the first Parisian manufacturers creating commercially produced wallpaper. Another door from the central hall leads to a limestone stairway and basement. The first floor interior comprises a landing with rooms leading directly to the west (Small bedroom) and east (Master bedroom) through angular-headed timber panelled doors.

Looking through the windows, to the wonderful wallpaper, a reproduction of the original which pictures Oriental scenes.

Every window has a different shape.

Walking under the balcony one is embraced with the glorious scent of the roses and other flowers.

The setting for the cottage is idyllic, over the River Suir.
Even the wrought iron fencing and gate were made to look natural, like thorny vines.
There is a walkway/cycleway/kayak way along the River Suir, which I’d love to walk.

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

[2] p. 58. Hayes, William and Art Kavanagh, The Tipperary Gentry volume 1 published by Irish Family Names, c/o Eneclann, Unit 1, The Trinity Enterprise Centre, Pearse Street, Dublin 2, 2003.

[3] http://www.thepeerage.com/index.htm

[4] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Tipperary/Cahir-Castle.html

[5] http://www.cahirhistoricalsociety.com/articles/cahirhistory.html

[6] https://repository.dri.ie/

[7] https://www.nenagh.ie/places-of-interest/details/nenagh-castle

[8] Mark Bence-Jones. 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.

[9] See the blog of Patrick Comerford, http://www.patrickcomerford.com/search/label/castles?updated-max=2019-03-03T14:30:00Z&max-results=20&start=27&by-date=false

[10] https://curiousireland.ie/roscrea-castle-1281-damer-house-1730-rosscrea-co-tipperary/

[11] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/09/23/bon-anniversaire/ and see my write-up about Emo Court, in OPW properties in Leinster: Laois.

[12] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22208107/swiss-cottage-kilcommon-more-north-tipperary-south

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare

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

Kildare:

2. Castletown House, County Kildare

3. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

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

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

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]

From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
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:

2. 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

https://castletown.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.
Castletown Gates, built in 1783 by Lady Louisa Conolly, by John Coates of Maynooth. They are mounted with sphinxes.

The Conolly family sold Castletown in 1965. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. In 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres, to be 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. It is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and the Castletown Trust.

William Conolly (1662-1729) 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.

William Conolly had property on Capel Street in Dublin, before moving to Celbridge. Conolly’s house was on the corner of Capel Street and Little Britain Street and was demolished around 1770. [4] The Kildare Local History webpage gives us an excellent description of William Conolly’s rise to wealth:

In November 1688, William Conolly was one of the Protestants who fled Dublin to join the Williamites in Chester alongside his late Celbridge neighbour Bartholomew Van Homrigh.

On the victory of William III, he acquired a central role dealing in estates forfeited by supporters of James II, commencing his rise to fortune with the forfeited estates of the McDonnells of Antrim.

In 1691 he purchased Rodanstown outside Kilcock, which became his country residence until he purchased Castletown in 1709.

A dowry of £2,300 came his way in 1694 when he married Katherine Conyngham, daughter of Albert Conyngham, a Williamite General who had been killed in the war at Collooney in 1691.

He was appointed Collector and Receiver of Revenue for the towns of Derry and Coleraine on May 2nd 1698.

Conolly was the largest purchaser of forfeited estates in the period 1699–1703, acquiring also 20,000 acres spread over five counties at a cost of just £7,000.” [5]

He rose to become Speaker of the House of Commons in the Irish Parliament. William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle in County Meath (see my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/). As well as earning money himself, his wife brought a large dowry.

William Conolly purchased land in County Kildare which had been owned by Thomas Dongan (1634-1715), 2nd Earl of Limerick, in 1709. Dongan’s estate had been confiscated as he was a Jacobite supporter of James II (he became first governor of the Duke of York’s province of New York! The Earldom ended at his death). Dongan’s mother was the daughter of William Talbot, 1st Baronet of Carton (see my entry about Carton, County Kildare, under Places to stay in County Kildare https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/).

William Conolly (1662-1729) in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder (1806-1872), portrait in Hall of Castletown. The portrait was donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston. This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room.
Statue taken from the funeral monument of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife, by Thomas Carter.
The Funerary monument with William and Katherine Conolly. The Latin inscription reads: “William Conolly who attained as the reward of his medit the highest honours, was for about twenty years a Commissioner of the revenue in the reign of Queen Anne and George I, was a Privy Councillor in the reign of George II. He was twice unanimously elected Speaker of the House of Commons in the Parliament of this realm and then ten times held the Office of Lord Justice of Ireland, being the first to whom both the Sovereign and the people entrusted at the same time of their privileges with the happiest result. As a subject, he was loyal, as a citizen, patriotic. In perilous times he not once or twice proved that he served his King without forgetting his duty to his country. Firm, resolute, just, wise, formed by nature for the ilfe of a statesman, his administration of affairs was crowned with success to the greater advantage of the Commonwealth. He made a modest, though splendid use of the great riches he had honestly acquired, distinguished as he was alike for the courtesy, integrity and munificence of his disposition. Kind-hearted towards all men, he was loyal to his friends, whom he bound to himself in great numbers – retained their friendship when once he had gained it. Wishing to do good even after his death, he gave directions by his will that a building should be erected on the adjacent lands for the maintenance and education of the children of the poor and he endowed it forever with large revenues. Having lived long enough to satisfy the claims of nature and his fame, he died October 1729 in the 67th year of his life. Cath of the Conyngham family has erected this monument to her worthy husband.”
Katherine Conyngham, wife of William Conolly, also from the funeral monument.
Katherine Conyngham (c. 1662-1752) who married William Conolly, with her great-niece Molly Burton. Portrait by Charles Jervas.
I’m not sure but the top portrait looks like Katherine Conyngham to me.

The Archiseek website tells us about the design of Castletown House:

“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.” [6]

Alessandro Gallilei (1691-1737).
Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] Started in 1722 to the designs of Alessandro Gallilei, it was continued by Edward Lovett Pearce, who was influenced by Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Pearce designed the colonnades and pavilions. In the wings on the left (west wing) are the kitchens and on the right, the stables (east wing).

Mark Bence-Jones describes Castletown in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses. The centre block is of three storeys over basement, and has two almost 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.” [7] The centre block is made of Edenderry limestone, and is topped by cornice and balustrade. On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments.

On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments. The upper floor is half size.
The doorcase is gracefully tall and is framed by Ionic columns, and is reached by a sweeping set of steps. Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013, from flickr constant commons.

Pearce added the curved Ionic colonnades and two two-storey seven bay wings. He also designed the impressive two-storey entrance hall inside.

Back of Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals2022 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Colonnade by Edward Lovett Pearce, October 2022.
The East Wing.
The east side of Castletown, and the back of east wing. The back of the curved colonnade can be seen.
The Sensory Garden and the side and back of the West Wing.
The East side of the house. The West Wing houses the Café.
The Café in the West Wing.
Side of the West Wing, October 2022. Extending the facade of the house are pedimented gateways to the kitchen yard and stable yard.

William died in 1729 aged just 67, so he had only a few years to enjoy his house. His wife Katherine lived on in the house another twenty-three years until her death at the age of 90 in 1752. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754), son of William’s brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James married Lady Anne Wentworth, the daughter of the Earl of Strafford. Her father, Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford is not the more famous Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford who was executed (of whom there is at least one portrait in Castletown) but a later one, of the second creation. William James died just two years after Katherine Conolly, 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.
Lady Anne Conolly (née Wentworth) (1713-1797) Attributed to Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas married Louisa Lennox in 1758, 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). At Carton, Louisa was exposed to the fashionable ideas of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [8] Louisa loved Castletown and continually planned improvements, planting trees, designing the lake and building bridges.

Louisa Lennox who married Thomas Conolly.
In the dining room, over the fireplace, half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, by Jean-Baptiste Van Loo, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 
Carton House, 2022.

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.” (see [6])

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 6]

Great Hall, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
The Gallery of the Great Hall. Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.

The polished limestone floor with its chequered design and the Kilkenny marble fireplace reflect William Conolly’s desire to build the house solely of native Irish materials. Unfortunately when we visited in October 2022, the hall was half hidden with a large two storey curtain, as the windows are all being repaired. As we can see in the photograph, the room has an Ionic colonnade to the rear, and a gallery at first floor level, and the stair hall is through an archway in the east wall.

Hall of Castletown, with picture of Leixlip Castle by Joseph Tudor over the black Kilkenny marble fireplace, and portrait of William Conolly 1662-1729, by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder.
Picture of Leixlip Castle, which was also owned by William Conolly and by Desmond Guinness.

When the owners were selling off the items in the house, they tried to sell the picture of Leixlip Castle that is in the front hall over the fireplace. It turned out to be painted on to the wall, so had to remain in the house! See my entry about Leixlip Castle https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/04/leixlip-castle-county-kildare-desmond-guinnesss-jewelbox-of-treasures/

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 large curtain, in October 2022, is protecting the room from where the windows are being repaired. Instead of capitals, the cloumns in the upper storey are topped with baskets of fruit.
Great Hall, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The coved ceiling of the Hall has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame, modillion cornice and central roundel with shell decoration. A modillion cornice is a cornice of the Corinthian order, made up of modillions, or ornamented brackets, frequently used as the cornice of a ceiling.
Ceiling of Great Hall, Castletown House, June 2015.
Photograph from the album of Henry Shaw, of the Entrance Hall, in the time of that later Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.
Photograph from the album of Henry Shaw, of the Entrance Hall, in the time of that later Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.

From the entrance hall, one enters the magnificent Stair Hall. The Castletown website describes the stair hall:

The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). Prior to this the space was a shell, although a plan attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce suggests that a circular staircase was previously intended.

The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’. The opulent rococo plasterwork was created by the Swiss-Italian stuccadore Filippo Lafranchini, who, with his older brother Paolo, had worked at Carton and Leinster House for Lady Lousia’s brother-in-law, the first Duke of Leinster, as well as at Russborough in Co. Wicklow. Shells, cornucopias, dragons and masks feature in the light-hearted decoration which represents the final development of the Lafranchini style. Family portraits are also included with Tom Conolly at the foot of the stairs and Louisa above to his right. The four seasons are represented on the piers and on either side of the arched screen.

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.

 
Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Stair Hall, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). The plasterwork is by Lafranchini brothers. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’.
Thomas Conolly, who inherited the estate, in stucco on stairs of Castletown, and his wife Louisa is further up on his right. Her sister Emily, who lived at Carton nearby, is also pictured in the plasterwork.
Thomas Conolly, grand-nephew of William Conolly.
Lady Louisa Conolly, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Ceiling of Stair Hall, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, a copy of ‘The Bear Hunt’ by 17th century Flemish painter Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork. It was cut down at some stage on the right side to fit into the central plaster recess above the cantilevered staircase, which would indicate that the painting was not commissioned for the space. Our guide told us that men would bet on how quickly the dogs would kill the bear. What a dreadful past-time! The Conollys imported a bear, and kept it in the dog kennels but it died, and they had it stuffed and put in the nursery!
In this old photograph of the nursery on the second floor, we see not only the stuffed bear but the skin and head of another. The photograph is one from an album of photographs on display at Castletown, belonging to Chris Shaw. His father Henry was the brother of Sarah Eliza Shaw who married Thomas Conolly (1823-1876), who inherited Castletown.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The staircase in the 1950s, prior to the sale of the house and the auction of two of the three large canvases above the stairs, photograph by Hugh Doran.

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.

In the dining room, the Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809). There are three of these mirrors, and one is cracked. I took this photograph when our friend Mark was visiting Ireland in 2017.
The cracked Cranfield mirror, cracked by a Bible which the local prelate had thrown at the Devil!

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.

My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. 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 dining room, 2017. 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. Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables, which are also attributed to Richard Cranfield. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms.
The frieze on the giltwood side tables in the Dining Room is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms.
The Dining Room, October 2022, with the giltwood side table, Meissen vase, and portrait of Katherine Conyngham with her niece. Portraits over the landscape painting are of Harriet Murray (1742-1822) who married Henry Westenra (1742-1809) and Hester Westenra – this portrait could be of Harriet Murray’s daughter Hester (1775-1858) who married Edward Wingfield (1772-1859).
Harriet Murray (1742-1822) married Henry Westenra (1742-1809) and Hester Westenra – this portrait could be of Harriet Murray’s daughter Hester (1775-1858) who married Edward Wingfield (1772-1859). There are many portraits of the Westenra family currently in Castletown House. I don’t know if there is any connection between the Westenra family and Castletown – perhaps the portraits belong to the Office of Public Works and are used to suitably furnish Castletown.
Anne Murray (1734-1827), sister of Harriet in the photograph above. Anne married Theophilus Jones (1725-1811). Perhaps the man in the portrait is Theophilus Jones. Anne was second wife of Theophilus Jones, who had previously married Catherine Beresford of Curraghmore, daughter of Marcus Beresford 1st Earl of Tyrone.
Josephine Lloyd (1827-1912) who married Henry Robert Westenra, 2nd (UK) and 3rd Baron (Ireland) Rossmore of Monaghan.
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. I don’t know who is featured in this portrait – I’ll have to find out! It’s very beautiful. Tell me if you can identify our lovely lady in white and blue. To me she looks like Anne Hyde (1637-1671), Duchess of York, wife of King James II.

Between the front of the house, with its Entrance Hall, Stair Hall and Dining Room is a corridor, or rather, two corridors, one to the west and one to the east of the Entrance Hall. This corridor is on every storey, including the basement. To the rear (north) of the house on the ground floor is an enfilade of rooms: the Brown Study to the west end, next to another staircase, then the Red Drawing Room, the Green Drawing Room, the Print Room, the State Bedroom, and then small rooms called the Healy Room and the Map Room.

One of the corridors between the front and back of the house on the ground floor, October 2022.
The high ceilinged corridors end in large windows.

The corridors now hold paintings and art works, and one has a cabinet of Meissen porcelain.

Meissen porcelain pieces were created specially for clients, with favourite symbols and objects.
King George III
Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.
Queen Victoria.

Next to the Dining Room at the front of the house is the Butler’s Pantry, which contains photographs of the servants of Castletown, and a portrait of a housekeeper, Mrs Parnel Moore (1649–1761). It’s unusual to have a portrait of a housekeeper but perhaps someone painted her because she was a beloved member of the household, as she lived to be at least 112 years! This is a very old portrait dating back to the 1700s.

The Castletown website tells us about the Butler’s Pantry: “The Butler’s Pantry dates from the 1760s and connected the newly created Dining Room with the kitchens in the West Wing. Food was carried in from the kitchens through the colonnade passageway and then reheated in the pantry before being served. The great kitchens were on the ground floor of the west wing, with servants’ quarters upstairs. Upwards of 80 servants would have been employed in the house and kitchens in the late eighteenth century under the direction of the Butler and the Housekeeper.”

A house like Castletown relied on an army of servants and this portrait of former housekeeper Mrs Parnel Moore – aged 112 according to the inscription – dates back to the beginnings of Castletown and is one of the oldest original items in the collection.
English servants of Castletown, photograph in Butler’s Pantry of Castletown.
Irish servants of Castletown, photograph in Butler’s Pantry of Castletown.
Enfilade of rooms on the north side, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.

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.

The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio, and is modelled after one in Leinster House (belonging to Lady Louisa’s sister’s husband the Earl of Kildare). The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768.

The Red Drawing Room in 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. [9]
The Red Drawing Room in October 2022.
The Red Drawing Room in October 2022.
The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768. Andrew Tierney tells us in Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. The Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly that it is by John Devall & Son and based on Isaac Ware’s Designs of Inigo Jones (1731).
The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio. There is also a modillion cornice and a Rococo frieze.
The wallpaper has been specially recreated from original material, and the curtains have been made to match.
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770, photograph from 2015.

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.”

The Castletown website tells us: “The Green Drawing Room was the main reception room or saloon on the ground floor. Visitors could enter from the Entrance Hall or the garden front. Like the other state rooms it was extensively remodelled between 1764 and 1768. The influence of the published designs of Serlio and the leading British architect Isaac Ware can be seen in the neo-classical ceiling, door cases and chimney-piece...The walls were first lined with a pale green silk damask in the 1760s. Fragments of this silk, which was replaced by a dark green mid-nineteenth century silk, survived and the present silk was woven as a direct colour match in 1985 by Prelle et Cie in Lyon, France.”

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 door to the entrance hall is gilded and pedimented and is by Richard Cranfield of Dublin (after that by Ware in the saloon of Leinster House), with “pulvinated” (i.e. having the shape of a cushion) bay-leaf frieze. The chimeypiece replicates the key pattern on the ceilng.
Our guide showed us how the Green Drawing Room opens into the Great Hall.
The Green Drawing Room, October 2022.
Charles Lennox 2nd Duke of Richmond (1701-1750). I’m not sure if this is his wife Sarah Cadogen beside him.
I think this is a portrait of Louisa’s brother Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond.
King Charles I, and below, a mistress of King Charles II, Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, who was the mother of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond.
Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), Lord Deputy of Ireland 1632-1640 for King Charles I.
The website tells us about this Musical Clock by Charles Clay c.1730. “Katherine and William Conolly are credited with bringing this important musical clock to Castletown. It was made by Charles Clay, official clock-maker to His Majesty’s Board of Works in London. It is the only clock of its kind known to be in Ireland and its sweet chime can be heard throughout the enfilade.”

The Brown Study is at one end of this enfilade of rooms. The website describes it:

The Brown Study with its wood-panelled walls, tall oak doors, corner chimney-piece, built-in desk and vaulted ceiling is decorated as it was in the 1720s when the house was first built. This room was used as a bedroom in the late nineteenth century and then as a breakfast parlour in the early twentieth century.

Between the windows is a piece of the ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782. Thomas Conolly was active in the Volunteer leadership in both Counties Derry and Kildare. The Volunteers were a local militia force established during the American War of Independence to defend Ireland from possible French invasion while the regular troops were in America. They were later linked to the Patriot party in the Irish House of Commons led by Henry Grattan and to their campaigns for political reform.

Brown Study, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The Brown Study. Jonathan Swift portrait, and King William III.
The ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782.
Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 1779, by Francis Wheatley.
Key to the Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 1779 by Francis Wheatley. In the centre facing forward is the Duke of Leinster. I found it odd to see that James Napper Tandy is one of the Volunteers pictured, since I know he is famous for being a rebel, along with Edward FitzGerald. It turns out that James Napper Tandy was expelled from the Irish Volunteers in 1780 because he proposed the expulsion of the Duke of Leinster! Tandy went on to help to form the United Irishmen, along with Theobald Wolf Tone.
Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798). He fought with the British side in the American War of Independence but was injured and as he recuperated with the help of his servant, his sympathies turned to those fighting for Independence from the British. He continued this fight in Ireland, joining the United Irishmen. He was imprisoned and died in prison, his last visitor being his aunt Louisa Conolly.
Our guide showed us a photograph of the Brown study in the time of the Conolly Carew family, when they struggled with the upkeep of the house.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “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 website tells us about the Print Room, completed in 1769: “More than any other room in Castletown, the Print Room bears the imprint of Lady Louisa, who assiduously collected, cut out, and arranged individual prints, frames and decorations. The prints were glued on panels of off-white painted paper which was later attached to the walls on battens covered with cloth. Lady Louisa thus created an intimate, highly individual room which has survived changing tastes and fashions and is now the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in Ireland.”

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. Prints 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.

The room was later used as a billiards room, and this helped inadvertedly to save the prints, as our guide told us, as the smoke from their pipes helped to protect against silverfish insects which eat wallpaper.

The print room, central picture of Louisa’s sister Sarah Lennox, who married first Thomas Charles Bunbury 6th Baronet, then George Napier.
Sarah Lennox was at first expected to marry King George III. His advisors dissuaded him, and so she married Thomas Charles Bunbury 6th Baronet. However, she left him to elope with a lover, Wililam Gordon with whom she had a daughter. He abandoned her, however, and she was left in disgrace, moving to her brother’s family home. She was finally allowed to divorce, and she married George Napier, and they moved to Celbridge.
Many of the prints reflect fashionable cultural figures at the time that Louisa made the print room. Above the chimneypiece is David Garrick, an English actor, playwright and theatre manager. Louisa loved the theatre. A small temple in the grounds of Castletown is dedicated to actress Sarah Siddons.

Next to the Print Room is the State Bedroom. The website tells us:

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 State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
State Bedroom, 2022.
Harriet St. Lawrence (d. 1830), daughter of William 2nd Earl of Howth. She married Arthur French St. George (1780-1844). Olivia Emily Ussher-St. George married William Robert Fitzgerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, the son of Emily, Louisa’s sister.

Next to the State Bedroom is The Healy Room: “This room originally served as a dressing room or closet attached to the adjoining State Bedroom. It was used as a small sitting room and later became Major Edward Conolly’s bedroom in the mid-twentieth century, as it was one of the few rooms that could be kept warm in winter. It is now known as the Healy room after the pictures of the Castletown horses by the Irish artist Robert Healy (d.1771).”

Upstairs has more bedrooms, and the beautiful Long Gallery. A corridor overlooks the Great Hall.

Corridor overlooking the Great Hall, below the railings on the left.
The door on the left enters the Long Gallery.

To one side of the Stair Hall upstairs is Lady Kildare’s Room, 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. Currently being renovated, in the past the room housed 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.

Costumes from the Berkeley Costume Collection, in Lady Kildare’s Room, 2017.

Across the upstairs East Corridor from Lady Kildare’s room is the Blue Bedroom. The website tells us that the Blue Bedroom provides a fine example of an early Victorian bedroom. Like the Boudoir, it forms part of an apartment with two adjoining dressing rooms, one of which was upgraded into a bathroom with sink and bathtub. The principal bedrooms, used by the family and honoured guests, were on this floor. Bedrooms on the second floor were also used for guests and for children, while the servants slept in the basement. This room has a lovely pink canopied bed, but we did not see the room when we visited in 2022.

At the front of the house on the other side of the Great Hall upstairs are the Boudoir, and Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, and across the West Corridor upstairs, the Pastel Room. The website tells us:

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.

The Boudoir, October 2022.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017. The website tells us about the writing bureau, Irish-made around 1760: A George III mahogany cabinet with dentilled-scrolled broken pediment carved with rosettes. Throughout her life, Lady Louisa maintained a regular correspondence with her sisters and brothers in Ireland and England, and it is easy to picture her writing her epistles at this bureau and filing the letters she received in the initialled pigeonholes and drawers. A handwritten transcription of her letters to her siblings can be accessed in the OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre in Castletown. 
The writing bureau has no “J” or “U” as they are not in the Latin alphabet.
The Boudoir, October 2022. In this photograph we can see the false door, with glass panels, which had previously been covered by Lady Louisa’s writing bureau.
The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery.
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.
Castletown House, June 2015.
From the photograph album of Henry Shaw.
Castletown House, June 2015, 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.
In 2022, Louisa’s bedroom now features a tremendous bed.
I have yet to identify this portrait. It looks remarkably similar to Lady Anne Conolly (née Wentworth) (1713-1797) Attributed to Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767, and she is even wearing the same dress. Maybe the artist did two portraits.

Across the West Corridor upstairs is the Pastel Room. The Corridor has more portraits.

Charles I and Henrietta Maria.
William Robert FitzGerald (1748-1804), 2nd Duke of Leinster, son of Louisa’s sister Emily.

The Pastel Room, the website tells us, was originally an anteroom to the adjoining Long Gallery. It was used as a school room in the nineteenth century and is now known as the Pastel Room because of the fine collection of pastel portraits. The smaller pastels surrounding the fireplace include a pair of portraits of Thomas and Louisa Conolly by the leading Irish pastel artist of the eighteenth century, Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

The small medallion in the centre is Lady Louisa by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. The one of the two girls on the right is of Louisa Staples and her sister, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. William James Conolly (1712-1754) was the nephew of William Conolly who built Castletown, and he inherited the estate. He was the father of Thomas Conolly (1734-1803). Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown, and added Conolly to his surname, to become Pakenham Conolly.
The pastel on the top left is Thomas Conolly (1734-1803), Louisa’s husband.
The parents of Louisa and Emily: Sarah Cadogen (1705-1751) and Charles Lennox (1701-1750) 2nd Duke of Richmond.
Pastel of Lady Louisa Lennox, from the circle of Geoge Knapton, c.1747, it depicts Lady Louisa at the tender age of four. Louisa was the daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, and his wife, Lady Sarah Cadogan. Her parents died when she was eight years old, and both she and her two younger sisters, Sarah and Cecilia, went to live with their older sister Emily, Countess of Kildare, in Ireland.

From the Pastel Room, we enter the Long Gallery. The website tells us about this room:

Originally laid out as a picture gallery with portraits of William Conolly’s patrons on display, its function and layout changed under Lady Louisa. In 1760, she had the original doorways to the upper east and west corridors removed, replacing them with the central doorway above the Entrance Hall. The new doorcases as well as new fireplaces at either end were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. The Pompeian style decoration on the walls dates from the 1770s and was inspired by Montfaucon’s publications on the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and by Raphael’s designs for the Vatican. The murals were the work of an English artist and engraver Charles Ruben Riley (1752–98). The Long Gallery became a space for informal entertaining and was full of life and activity as the following excerpt from one of Louisa’s letters suggests: “Our gallery was in great vogue, and really is a charming room for there is such a variety of occupations in it, that people cannot be formal in it. Lord Harcourt was writing, some of us played at whist, others at billiards, Mrs Gardiner at the harpsichord, others at chess, others at reading and supper at one end. I have seldom seen twenty people in a room so easily disposed of.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.
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.
The Long Gallery in the 1880s, photograph from the album of Henry Shaw.

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.” 

The Long Gallery: its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s and is by Edward Lovett Pearce. It was painted and gilded in the 1770s.

Archiseek continues: “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 portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard. The fireplaces installed by Louisa at either end of the room were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. It contains a Wedgewood encaustic centrepiece.
The portrait of Tom is in the style of Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland).
The new doorcases were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. Thomas Conolly imported the statue, a seventeenth century statue of Diana, in the centre, supposedly smuggling it home in a coffin! Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

Archiseek tells us: “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.

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. 

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “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.

The Obelisk, or Conolly Folly, was reputedly built to give employment during an episode of famine. It was restored by the Irish Georgian Society in 1960.

Obelisk, Castletown, attributed to Richard Castle, March 2022. Desmond Guinness’s wife Mariga, who played a great role in the Irish Georgian Society, is buried below.
Obelisk, Castletown, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022, created in 1743.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
When we went to find the Wonderful Barn, we discovered there is not just one but in fact three Wonderful Barns!
The smaller Wonderful Barn.

As Bence-Jones tells us, Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly, to become Pakenham Conolly. Thomas and Louisa had no children, and Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown.

The house then passed to his son, another Thomas Conolly (1823-1876). He was an adventourous character who travelled widely and kept a diary. Stephen and I recently attended a viewing of portraits of Thomas and his wife Sarah Eliza, which are to be sold by Bonhams. His diary of his trip to the United States during the time of the Civil War is being published.

Thomas Conolly (1823-1876), painting by William Osbourne.
Sarah Eliza Conolly, wife of Thomas.

Sarah Eliza was the daughter of a prosperous Celbridge paper mill owner, Joseph Shaw. Her substantial dowry helped to fund her husband’s adventurous lifestyle! A photograph album which belonged to her brother Henry Shaw, of a visit to Castletown, was rescued from the rubble of his home in London when it was destroyed by a German bomb in 1944. Sadly, he died in the bombing. The photograph album is on display in Castletown.

Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.

Sarah Eliza and Thomas had four children. Thomas, born in 1870, died in the Boer War in 1900. William died at the age of 22. Edward Michael (Ted), born in 1874, lived until his death in Castletown, in 1956. Their daughter Catherine married Gerald Shapland Carew, 5th Baron Carew, the grandson of Robert Carew, 1st Baron Carew of Castleboro House, County Wexford (today an impressive ruin), and son of Shapland Francis Carew and his wife Hester Georgiana Browne, daughter of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo.

Sarah Eliza sits reading while her daughter Catherine descends the stairs.
Photographs of the Conolly family. Thomas Conolly who died in the Boer War is pictured on the left in the striped cap.
View of Castletown House from the meadow from Henry Shaw’s album.
Sarah Eliza with Catherine and her children seated at the table in the Dining Room. William Francis in foreground.

Catherine’s son, William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994), 6th Baron Carew, inherited Casteltown, and added Conolly to his surname.

Lord William Francis Conolly-Carew relaxing in the Green Drawing Room in the 1950s.
The grounds around Castletown are beautiful and one can walk along the Liffey.
In front is a photograph of William Francis Conolly-Carew, 6th Baron Carew.
The Round House and the Gate Lodge (below) at the gates of Castletown can be rented for accommodation from the Irish Landmark Trust – see my Places to visit and stay in County Kildare page https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/.

3. 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 https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/maynooth-castle/:

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.

[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] p. xiii, Jennings, Marie-Louise and Gabrielle M. Ashford (eds.), The Letters of Katherine Conolly, 1707-1747. Irish Manuscripts Commission 2018. The editors reference TCD, MS 3974/121-125; Capel Street and environs, draft architectural conservation area (Dublin City Council) and Olwyn James, Capel Street, a study of the past, a vision of the future (Dublin, 2001), pp. 9, 13, 15-17.

[5] http://kildarelocalhistory.ie/celbridge See also my entry on Castletown House in my entry for OPW properties in Kildare, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

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

[7] 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.

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

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