Lismore Castle

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Lismore Castle
County Waterford, Ireland
Irland 2010.08.18 026.jpg
Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford
Lismore Castle is located in Ireland
Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle
Coordinates 52°08′20″N 7°55′59″W / 52.139°N 7.933°W / 52.139; -7.933
Type Victorian
Site information
Owner Cavendish family
Condition Inhabited, grounds open to the public
Site history
Built most current structures circa 1850[1]
Built by Dukes of Devonshire
Materials Assorted

Lismore Castle is a castle in Ireland. The stately home located in the town of Lismore in County Waterford in Ireland, belonging to the Earl of Desmond, and subsequently to the Duke of Devonshire from 1753. It was largely re-built in the Gothic style during the mid-nineteenth century by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Early history[edit]

Built in 1185 by Prince John, the castle site was originally occupied by Lismore Abbey, an important monastery and seat of learning established in the early 7th century. It was still an ecclesiastical centre when Henry II, King of England stayed here in 1171, and except for a brief period after 1185 when his son King John of England built a 'castellum' here, it served as the episcopal residence of the local bishop. It was a possession of the Earls of Desmond, whose lands were broken up during the plantations following the killing of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond in 1583.

In 1589, Lismore was leased and later acquired by Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh sold the property during his imprisonment for High Treason in 1602 to another infamous colonial adventurer, Richard Boyle, later 1st Earl of Cork.

The Earls of Cork & Burlington[edit]

Boyle came to Ireland from England in 1588 with only twenty-seven pounds in capital and proceeded to amass an extraordinary fortune. After purchasing Lismore he made it his principal seat and transformed it into a magnificent residence with impressive gabled ranges each side of the courtyard. He also built a castellated outer wall and a gatehouse known as the Riding Gate. The principal apartments were decorated with fretwork plaster ceilings, tapestry hangings, embroidered silks and velvet. It was here in 1626 that Robert Boyle The Father of Modern Chemistry, the fourteenth of the Earl's fifteen children, was born. The castle descended to another Richard Boyle, 4th Earl of Cork & 3rd Earl of Burlington, who was a noted influence on Georgian architecture (and known in architectural histories as the Earl of Burlington).

Lismore featured in the Cromwellian wars when, in 1645, a force of Catholic confederacy commanded by Lord Castlehaven sacked the town and Castle. Some restoration was carried out by Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Cork (16121694) to make it habitable again but neither he nor his successors lived at Lismore.

The Dukes of Devonshire[edit]

The castle (along with other Boyle properties – Chiswick House, Burlington House, Bolton Abbey and Londesborough Hall) was acquired by the Cavendish family in 1753 when the daughter and heiress of the 4th Earl of Cork, Lady Charlotte Boyle (17311754) married William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, a future Prime Minister of Great Britain & Ireland. Their son, the 5th Duke (17481811) carried out improvements at Lismore, notably the bridge across the river Blackwater in 1775 designed by Cork-born architect Thomas Ivory.

The 6th Duke (1790–1858), commonly known as 'the Bachelor Duke', was responsible for the castle's present appearance. He began transforming the castle into a fashionable 'quasi-feudal ultra-regal fortress' as soon as he succeeded his father in 1811, engaging the architect William Atkinson from 1812 to 1822 to rebuild the castle in the Gothic style, using cut stone shipped over from Derbyshire. Lismore was always the Bachelor Duke's favourite residence, but as he grew older his love for the place developed into a passion. In 1850 he engaged his architect Sir Joseph Paxton, the designer of The Crystal Palace, to carry out improvements and additions to the castle on a magnificent scale – so much so that the present skyline is largely Paxton's work. At this time J.G. Crace of London, the leading maker of Gothic Revival furniture and his partner the leading architect A.W.N. Pugin were commissioned to transform the ruined chapel of the old Bishop's Palace into a medieval-style banqueting hall, with a huge perpendicular stained-glass window, choir-stalls and Gothic stenciling on the walls and roof timbers. The chimney-piece, which was exhibited at the Medieval Court of the Great Exhibition of 1851, was also designed by Pugin (and Myers) but was originally intended for Horstead Place in Sussex, it was rejected because it was too elaborate and subsequently bought for Lismore – the Barchard family emblems later replaced with the present Irish inscription Cead Mille Failte: a hundred thousand welcomes. Pugin also designed other chimney-pieces and furnishings in the castle and after his death in 1851 Crace continued to supply furnishings in the Puginesque manner.

King Edward VII visiting the Duke of Devonshire in May 1904

In 1858, the Cavendish family sponsored a new bridge over the Blackwater, which replaced the one built in 1775. This new construction followed designs by Charles Tarrant and was done by E.P.Nagle and C.H.Hunt.[2]

After the bachelor Duke's death, Lismore remained substantially unaltered. Fred Astaire's sister, Adele lived in the castle after marrying Lord Charles Cavendish, a son of the 9th Duke and, after his death in 1944, continued to use the castle until shortly before her death in 1981.[3] The castle was inherited by his nephew, Lord Andrew Cavendish upon Adele's remarriage in 1947.[4] It is still owned by the Dukes of Devonshire, but it is lived in for only a short part of the year. Chatsworth House is the main family seat and the home of the Dowager Duchess.

The 12th Duke, who succeeded to the title in 2004, continues to live primarily on the family's Chatsworth estate. His son, William Burlington maintains an apartment in the castle and recently converted the derelict west range (2006) into a contemporary art gallery, known as Lismore Castle Arts. For most of the year the family's private apartments at Lismore are available to rent by groups of up to twenty-three visitors.

In 2004 The Robert Boyle Science Room was opened nearby in the Lismore Heritage Centre dedicated to his life and works where students have the opportunity of studying science and participating in scientific experiments. Robert Boyle is also responsible for creating the 17th century upper wall gardens.

Recently Lismore Castle was used as Northanger Abbey in the 2007 ITV dramatisation of that name during its Jane Austen season.

The castle's gardens are open to the public and feature contemporary sculptures, including works by Anthony Gormley, Marzia Colonna and Eilís O'Connell. The upper garden is a 17th-century walled garden,[5] while much of the informal lower garden was designed in the 19th century.

When the original Lismore family immigrated to Canada, their last name was changed from Lismore to Lizmore. To this day the Lismore family is known as Lizmore in North America.


  1. ^ "National Registry of Architectural Heritage, Main Castle". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  2. ^ "National Registry of Architectural Heritage, Cavendish Bridge". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  3. ^ Giles, Sarah (1988). Fred Astaire – his friends talk. Doubleday. p. 90. ISBN 0-385-24741-9. 
  4. ^ Deborah Devonshire (15 September 2011). All in One Basket. John Murray. pp. 292–. ISBN 978-1-84854-594-6. 
  5. ^ "National Registry of Architectural Heritage, walled garden". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  • Terence R Smyth. (1994). Irish Country Houses
  • Megan Aldrich, ‘Crace, John Gregory (1809–1889)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

External links[edit]