Why Nenagh – Nenagh Castle

Nenagh CastleNenagh Castle

Did you know that Nenagh Castle had five large towers at one stage, which, back then, were thought to be the largest towers in Ireland and Britain? Or then there is the story of a local stern puritan, Solomon Newsome, who decided he wanted to blow up the castle remains because he reckoned the sparrows and other birds that were living on the ivy which was growing on the walls of the ruins were conspiring daily to steal his growing barley crop? Well, this week I’m going to take a look at Nenagh town’s most prominent building – Nenagh’s Legendary Castle, or the Nenagh Keep – so please join me on this historical trail; Another wonderful reason to visit Nenagh town and North Tipperary.

Butler Arms

First up, Nenagh Castle was built between 1200 and 1220 and this fortress was the main seat of the Butler family until the 14th century. Theobald FitzWalter le Boteler, 1st Baron Butler, was granted the land of the Barony of Ormond Lower by King John of England. The Butler’s were eventually driven out in 1391 to Gowran in Kilkenny, in no small part to pressure from the native O’Kennedy clan and their allies. The Butler’s, however, would later acquire Kilkenny Castle, which would remain their seat of power for the following 500 years.

Above: Butler Coat of Arms

O'Kennedy - Butler TreatyThe Original O’Kennedy Clan – Butler Treaty from 1336

In 1336, when the Butler’s were still in resident in Nenagh Castle, a peace treaty was signed between the O’Kennedy’s and James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond; Included in the treaty were terms of peace and grants of lands for the O’Kennedy clan. Six hundred and twenty seven years later, this original treaty was presented as a gift to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, while he was on a state visit to Ireland. It can now be seen in the J. F. K. Library in Massachusetts. The terms of the treaty were eventually broke in 1347/8, when the O’Kennedy’s, O’Carroll’s and the O’Brien’s attacked the Castle. In the process the town of Nenagh was burned, but the attack on the Castle was unsuccessful.

Tomb of Richard ButlerDuring the sixteenth century, the first of a number of events occurred which would have historical consequences in relation to Nenagh Castle and Nenagh town. In 1533, the Castle was returned to the Butler’s from the hands of the Mac Ibrien family (the O’Brien clan) under Piers Butler, Earl of Ossory. Then in 1550 the town of Nenagh and the local Friary was burned again; this time by the O’Carroll clan, who must have been peed off about something or another. Onwards to 1641, and the town of Nenagh and it’s Castle was captured by Owen Roe O’Neill and his Irish forces, but this was short-lived, as Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin, retook the town. Then, in 1651 Cromwell’s troops paid Nenagh a visit and battered Nenagh Castle from high grounds to the East; the garrison eventually surrendered to Henry Ireton, who was Cromwell’s Parliamentary Deputy. In the aftermath, Ireton is said to have had the Castle’s Governor hung from the topmost window of the keep that is now known as Nenagh Castle. At the end of the Cromwellian Wars, the Castle was granted to Daniel Abbot, along with extensive lands, in lieu of payment form Cromwell, although the Castle was then returned again to the Butlers after the Restoration in 1660. (Image shows the tomb of Richard Butler, son of Piers Butler, resting in St Canice’s, Kilkenny.)

Nenagh Castle RuinsBut that’s not the end of the troubled times for Nenagh Castle! Following this, there are a couple of reports from different sources. One of them claims that during the Jacobite War, which is said to have initially began in 1688, Anthony O’Carroll took the Castle from James Butler, the 2nd Duke of Ormond, who was supporting William of Orange, but the fortress was retaken yet again in 1690 by General Ginkel, who was later to become the 1st Earl of Athlone. Another report states that during the Williamite Wars, Patrick Sarsfield came this way too and also burned Nenagh castle. What I can gather is that O’Carroll was fighting with Sarsfield and it’s a simple case that what one report is stating is the Jacobite Wars, the other is stating the Williamite Wars. But if that wasn’t enough for poor old Nenagh Castle, following the Williamite Wars, Nenagh Castle was dismantled so that it would not be used again in further conflicts, with William of Orange ordering its destruction so that it would be “rendered indefensible in ill hands“. (Image shows the ruined Nenagh Castle as it once was.)

Nenagh Castle Plan LayoutAnd that brings us to 1750, when a certain Solomon Newsome (he from the O’Newsomes over yonder) decided it would be a good idea to blow up the rest of the Castle because flocks of birds that were nesting in it’s remnants were destroying his barley crop nearby. (had they no scarecrows back then?) Seemingly this genius decided to undermine the Castle by digging a great hole underneath it in the hope that it would fall, but this didn’t work, so instead Newsome came up with an idea of using a barrel of gunpowder. It exploded alright, but all it did was make a great hole in the tower’s side, and so the tower, or the great Keep of the Nenagh Castle remained standing. (Image shows the layoutplans for Nenagh Castle)

Nenagh Castle 1And onto 1860, when Bishop Flannery initiated plans to build a Cathedral in Nenagh town. To do this, a lot of funds were needed and so a number of priests were sent to North America on a fund-raising mission. In the meantime, Bishop Flannery bought the Castle ruins and the surrounding lands, and he then set about restoring the Castle Keep so it could be incorporated in the new Cathedral he was building. Everything was going well until War again intervened; This time the American Civil War and so with funding drying up from the United States, Bishop Flannery’s plans came to an abrupt end. Even still, his endeavours had been a blessing to Nenagh Castle and it’s appearance. Bishop Flannery’s plans saw the uneven top of the tower was raised and dressed with a new parapet wall. There was also an area of land nearby that was known as ‘The Stony Field’ which was cleared up around this time with the building of the Town Hall and the local Court House, but I’ll come to that another day. (Old Photo of Nenagh Castle probably taken during the late 1800’s – the new crown is clearly visible as been newly laid.)

Nenagh Castle

But all of this history brings us right up to today. In recent times Nenagh Castle has been renovated and after being reopened by President Michal D. Higgins in 2012, it is now a museum that is open to the public, whereby you can walk right to the top for a completely unique panoramic view of the town and countryside. When you visit Nenagh town, this is most definitely a major tourist attraction that you do not want to miss. It is filled with history with a mountain of connections to Kings and Kingdoms, Rebels and Rebellions, Tyrants and Arsonists, Irish Clans and Celtic Leaders, and also an American President, and that’s just the start. It’s bloodied history is well behind it now, so come along and share in the experience of Nenagh Castle – another reason to visit Nenagh town! (Image shows Nenagh Castle under a stormy Tipperary Sky, but this Fine Keep has endured a lot more stormier times than just a drop of rain in its time.)

And finally to finish off this week’s post, here are a number of other images taken from Nenagh Castle. If anyone wants to add anything to this post, please leave a comment or contact us at nenaghsilentfilmfestival.wordpress.com, or even if there’s someone out there who might have spotted any inaccuracies in this post – I’m happy to be corrected. As things stand the information here has been gathered from a number of sources including: Hidden Tipperary, eBook Ireland, Tudor Place, JFK LibraryWikipedia and Irish Fireside. See y’all next week so.

Nenagh Castle

Castle Interior 2Castle Interior 2

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Interior Views of the Newly Renovated Nenagh Castle

Interior of Nenagh Castle

Below is a High Definition Scanned Image of Nenagh Castle. Click on Image for more details

Nenagh Castle HD

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

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Why Nenagh – Historical Trail (1)

So this week, as promised, we are going to look at some places that are well worth going to see when in and around Nenagh town. In fact there is so much to see and do, I’ve decided to divide them up. That way I can do six this week on, lets say, History, and in a few weeks time when I come back to this topic, I can concentrate on six sporting organizations, or six organizations connected to the arts, and so on. So, what six historical features in and around Nenagh are well worth visiting:

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Okay, well top of the list would of course have to be the Nenagh Castle, or what’s left of it. But don’t let that put your off. The unique Nenagh round keep was part of a castle that was built around 1200 by Theobald Walter (1st Baron Butler) and was completed by his son around 1220. Down through the centuries the castle was attacked and demolished until we have what remains today. In recent times the castle has been renovated and is now a museum with several floors, with the original staircase which will take visitors right to the top where there is a viewing platform. Well worth a visit.

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Across from the Nenagh Castle is the old Jail gatehouse and the Governor’s  House. There are loads of history connected to these two buildings, aside from the fact that they are now house the Nenagh Heritage Centre. Even the gatehouse has an unwelcome piece of history attached to it in relation to the scene of execution of the Cormack Brothers back in the 1800’s. So when you’re in Nenagh, why not drop into the Heritage Centre and learn all about Nenagh’s history.

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The Nenagh Franciscan Friary is situated in the centre of the town and it dates back to the 12th century when it may have been founded by a Butler during the reign of Henry III of England. The friary became the main Franciscan friary of the West of Ireland and it was at that time one of the richest religious houses in Ireland. The Annuals of Nenagh were written in the Nenagh Franciscan Friary.

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Just outside the town at Tyone, the Butlers founded the medieval Priory and hospital of St. John the Baptist. This has fallen into ruin, but there is a surviving east gable of the priory still standing. Local legend states that a tunnel exists between this priory and the Nenagh Franciscan Friary in the town.

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The Nenagh Court House dates from 1843 and it was built to the design of John B. Keane. A splendid building, it is still in use today after it was modernized and refurbished a few years back. it isn’t the first court house in Nenagh as there was a previous one in Sarsfield Street, which isn’t standing anymore.

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There was at one time a main workhouse in Nenagh that was situated where the Nenagh Hospital now stand today. There were a number of other workhouses in the town, but this was the main building. During the Potato Famine in Ireland, sheds and sleeping galleries were erected to accommodate an additional 260 inmates. In 1847, a 70-bed fever hospital was erected at the east of the site. There is a Famine graveyard that is situated to the rear of Nenagh hospital and this tragic spot can be visited at any time.

 Rex Ingram Plaque

Last but not least we have to mention Rex Ingram. The building where he lived is still standing and in fact a thriving business is run from the premises. A specially commissioned plaque by the Nenagh Silent Film Festival was erected on the front of the building during the inaugural Nenagh Silent Film Festival. The building is situated across from the local post office.

Apologies for the delay in posting this week. As you can see there are plenty of historical features to see in and around Nenagh town, but there is so much more besides. Next week I’ll look at famous athletes that are connected to Nenagh, but if you want to add to these posts in any way, please do post a comment below, or sign up onto Contact Us page. Also, don’t forget that July 21st in closing in on us rapidly, so if you want to be in with a chance of winning one of our jackets, get your name on the list on the Supporters & Sponsors page by signing up the Contact Us form.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee