Kilkenny Castle

From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 11, September 8, 1832

Kilkenny Castle
The Castle of Kilkenny, the Seat of the Marquess of Ormonde.

There is perhaps no Baronial residence in Ireland that can boast at the same time of a foundation so ancient, a situation so magnificent, and so many historical associations, as the princely residence of "The chief Butler of Ireland"- Kilkenny Castle. It appears to have been originally erected by Richard de Clare (Strongbow) as early as 1172, but this structure having been destroyed by Donald O'Brien, King of Limerick, it was rebuilt in 1195, by William Lord Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, in the possession of whose descendants it remained till the year 1391, when it was purchased by James Butler, the third Earl of Ormond, from Thomas le Spencer, lord of Glamorgan and Kilkenny, whose grandfather, Hugh, acquired it and the earldom of Gloucester in marriage with Eleanor de Clare, third sister and co-heir of Gilbert, ninth earl of Clare and Gloucester.

From this period to the present it has been the chief residence of the illustrious House of Ormond; and we trust shall long continue so. Here in 1399, the earl had the honor of receiving King Richard II. and of entertaining that sovereign for fourteen days. In March 1650, when the city was invested by Oliver Cromwell, and its defence entrusted to Sir Walter Butler, the cannon of the former were opened on the castle, and a breach was effected on the 25th, about mid-day, but the besiegers were twice gallantly repulsed, and the breach was quickly repaired. On this occasion, it is said that Cromwell apprehending a longer resistance than suited the expedition necessary in his military operations at the time, was on the point of quitting the place, when he received overtures from the mayor and townsmen, offering to admit him into the city. He accordingly took possession of Irishtown, and being soon after joined by Ireton with 1500 fresh men, "Sir Walter Butler, considering the weakness of the garrison, few in number, and those worn out for want of rest by continued watching, and hopeless of relief, determined to execute Lord Castlehaven's orders, which were that if they were not relieved by seven o'clock the day before, he should not, for any punctilio of honour, expose the townsmen to be massacred, but make as good conditions as they could by a timely surrender. A parley was beaten, and a cessation agreed on at twelve o'clock the next day, when the town and castle were delivered up." The articles of capitulation were highly creditable to the garrison, and it is recorded, that Sir Walter Butler and his officers, when they marched out, were complimented by Cromwell, who said, "that they were gallant fellows; that he had lost more men in storming that place than he had in taking Drogheda, and that he should have gone without it, had it not been for the treachery of the townsmen!"

Of the original castle, as rebuilt by the Earl of Pembroke, but little now remains. It was an oblong square of magnificent proportions, with four lofty round towers at its angles. This castle was re-edified by the first Duke of Ormond towards the close of the seventeenth century, in the bad style of architecture then prevailing on the Continent, a taste for which had probably been imbibed by the Duke in his repeated visits to France. It retained, however, three of the ancient towers, but changed in character and disfigured by fantastic decorations to make them harmonize in style with the newer portions of the building. That structure has again been removed by the present Marquess, and one of better taste, the subject of our present engraving, erected on its site, preserving, however, the ancient towers, and restoring them to something like their original character. The Architect is Mr. Robertson of Kilkenny.

The interior of the castle will shortly be adorned with its original collection of ancient tapestries and pictures, valuable as works of art, but still more as memorials of some of the most distinguished historical personages of the two last centuries.

Nothing, as we have already observed, can be finer than the situation of Kilkenny Castle-placed on a lofty eminence immediately overhanging that charming river-

-- "the stubborn Newre, whose waters grey
By fair Kilkenny and Rosse-ponte board."

In a future number we shall give some account of the beautiful cathedral and abbey churches for which Kilkenny is so justly celebrated.