Kilkenny Castle

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Kilkenny Castle
Irish: Caisleán Chill Chainnigh
Kilkenny-castle.jpg
General information
Type Castle
Location Kilkenny, Ireland
Construction started 1195
Completed 1213

Kilkenny Castle (Irish: Caisleán Chill Chainnigh) is a castle in Kilkenny, Ireland built in 1195 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.

The property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50[1] and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue. Awards and conferring ceremonies of the graduates of "Kilkenny Campus" of National University of Ireland, Maynooth have been held there since 2002.

Previous owners of the castle[edit]

Earls of Pembroke[edit]

Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, commonly known as Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. The Anglo-Normans had established a castle in 1173, possibly on the site of an earlier residence of the Mac Giolla Phádraig kings of Osraighe. Kilkenny formed part of the lordship of Leinster, which was granted to Strongbow. Strongbow’s daughter and heiress, Isabel married William Marshall in 1189. The Earl Marshall owned large estates in Ireland, England, Wales and France and managed them effectively. He appointed Geoffrey fitz Robert as seneschal of Leinster and so began a major phase of development in Kilkenny, including the construction of Kilkenny Castle and the agreement of rents and privileges with burgesses or citizens of the borough. The first stone castle on the site, was completed in 1213. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day

Butler dynasty[edit]

James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, bought the castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. This James built Gowran Castle in 1385 and made it his Usual residence. He is buried in St. Mary's Collegiate Church Gowran.[2] James was called the Earl of Gowran. The Butler dynasty then ruled the surrounding area for centuries. They were Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde and lived in the castle for over five hundred years. Among the many notable, Lady Margaret Butler (c. 1454 or 1465–1539) the Irish noblewoman, the daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. Lady Margaret Butler was born in Kilkenny Castle. She married Sir William Boleyn and was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England.

The Castle became the seat to the very powerful family, the Butlers of Ormonde or Butler family, who lived there until 1935.

Kilkenny castle was the venue for the meeting of the General Assembly, or parliament, of the Confederate Ireland government in the 1640s.

Kilkenny Castle, the signature symbol of the Mediaeval city

The Irish State[edit]

The last member of the Butler family sold the castle to the local Castle Restoration Committee in the middle of the 20th century for £50. Shortly afterward it was handed over to the State, and has since been refurbished and is open to visitors. There are ornamental gardens on the city side of the castle, and extensive land and gardens to the front. It has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland. Now a property in state care. Part of the National Art Gallery is on display in the castle.

History[edit]

Interior courtyard
The castle seen from the nearby River Nore.

Richard de Clare (also known as Strongbow) and other Norman knights came to Kilkenny in 1172, the high ground beside the River Nore was as an ideal site on which to build a wooden tower. He built a wooden castle of the type known as motte-and-bailey.

This strategic site was where the local Kings of Osraige had their chief residence before the Norman invasion.

Twenty years later, de Clare's son-in-law, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, built the first stone castle on the site, of which three towers still remain.

The castle was owned by the seneschal of Kilkenny Sir Gilbert De Bohun who inherited the county of Kilkenny and castle from his mother in 1270, in 1300 he was outlawed by Edward I but was reinstated in 1303, he held the castle until his death in 1381. It was not granted to his heir Joan, but seized by the crown and sold to the Butler family.

Butlers of Ormond[edit]

The Castle became the seat to a very powerful family, the Butlers of Ormonde or Butler family. They were a remarkable family, resilient, politically astute and faithful to the crown and to Ireland. These loyalties determined their fortunes and career. The Butler family arrived in Ireland with the Norman invasion, and originally settled in Gowran. They changed their name from FitzWalter in 1185 to Butler. The family had become wealthy, and James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, bought the castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The Butler dynasty then ruled the surrounding area for centuries.

By the 18th century, the castle had become run down, reflecting the failing fortunes of the Butler family. However, some restoration was carried out by Anne Wandesford of Castlecomer, who brought wealth back into the family upon marrying John Butler, 17th Earl of Ormonde.

In the 19th century, the Butlers then attempted to restore it to its original medieval appearance, also rebuilding the north wing and extending the south curtain wall. More extensions were added in 1854.

View from the river, 1841 by William Henry Bartlett

The Butler family remained living in the castle until 1935, when they sold its contents for £6,000, moved to London, and abandoned it for thirty years. The impact of rising taxes, death duties, economic depression and living costs had taken their toll. While the Ormondes had received £22,000 in rental income in the 1880s, investment income in the 1930s was in the region of £9,000 and by 1950 these investments yielded only £850. They disposed of the bulk of their tenanted estates in Tipperary and Kilkenny, 21,000 acres (85 km²), by 1915 for £240,000. Death duties and expenses following the death of James Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde in 1919 amounted to £166,000.[3]

Auction Catalogue, 1935

In 1967, Arthur Butler, 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, sold the abandoned and deteriorating castle to the Castle Restoration Committee for £50, with the statement: "The people of Kilkenny, as well as myself and my family, feel a great pride in the Castle, and we have not liked to see this deterioration. We determined that it should not be allowed to fall into ruins. There are already too many ruins in Ireland." He also bought the land in front of the castle from the trustees "in order that it should never be built on and the castle would be seen in all its dignity and splendour". Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull turned up at the castle hand over party, with Jagger telling the newspapers "We just came to loon about."[citation needed]

Confederate Ireland[edit]

In the 17th century, the castle came into the hands of Elizabeth Preston, wife of then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, another James Butler, also 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormonde. Butler, unlike most of his family, was a Protestant and throughout the Irish Confederate Wars of the 1640s was the representative of Charles I in Ireland. However, his castle became the capital of a Catholic rebel movement, Confederate Ireland, whose parliament or "Supreme Council" met in Kilkenny Castle from 1642-48. Ormonde himself was based in Dublin at this time. The east wall and the northeast tower of the Castle were damaged in 1650 during the siege of Kilkenny by Oliver Cromwell during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. They were later torn down. Then, in 1661, Butler remodelled the castle as a “modern” château after his return from exile. A new entrance gateway in the south wall was built around this time.

Irish Civil War[edit]

During the Irish Civil War in 1922, Republicans were besieged in the Castle by Irish Free State forces. The Ormondes, together with their pet Pekinese, chose to remain in situ in their bedroom over the great gate, which was the main focus of attack. There was a machine gun outside their door. Only one man was injured but a great deal of damage was inflicted on the castle, which took many years to repair.[4]

Restoration[edit]

The rest of the 20th century saw a large amount of restoration and maintenance take place, as well as the castle being opened to visitors.[5] The Butler Gallery, in the castle basement, holds rotating exhibitions put on by the Kilkenny Art Gallery Society in a venue named for Peggy and Hubert Butler.

There are ornamental gardens on the city side of the castle, and extensive land and gardens to the front. It has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland. Now a property in state care. Part of the National Art Gallery is on display in the castle.

Excavations and building surveys by Ben Murtagh in the 1990s revealed traces of an earlier castle, exposed a postern gate (side entrance) and section of the castle ditch facing on to the Parade (now visible), and also partly uncovered the lost south-east side of the castle.

The entrance was through the (now missing) east wall. Various other features of the original castle have also been excavated, including original stone buttressing and a garderobe. Parts of this castle survive to the present day but the castle has changed over centuries. The south curtain wall is long gone, the elaborate entrance gate is a 17th-century addition, and in much of what can be seen from the castle park side is a 19th-century reconstruction.

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Parks and Monuments Service, Kilkenny Castle
  2. ^ A History of St. Mary’s Church. Text by Imelda Kehoe. Published by the Gowran Development Association 1992
  3. ^ Dooley, Terence (2001). The Decline of the Big House in Ireland. Wolfhound Press Ltd. ISBN 0-86327-850-7. 
  4. ^ Melosina Lenox-Conyngham (2006-08-21). "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times. 
  5. ^ "Kilkenny Castle Guide". Kilkenny Information Age. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°39′01″N 07°14′57″W / 52.65028°N 7.24917°W / 52.65028; -7.24917