Castleknock College Union

Castleknock Castle: its Owners

1935 Centenary Record

Mar 1, 1935
Castleknock Castle: its Owners -

Castleknock Castle as it stood in 1935


CASTLEKNOCK, at the present day, is the name of an extensive parish and barony west of the City of Dublin. Originally the name was applied to the Norman Castle, the ruins of which are in the grounds of St. Vincent's College. The Castle was built towards the end of the twelfth century on a mound which had formerly been the site of an ancient royal residence, as well as a tumulus. Within the College grounds is another mound surmounted by a tower erected in the eighteenth century; this mound has traditionally been said to be the burial place of Cumhal, father of Fionn Mac Cumhail. These two mounds are now generally considered to be the termination of the line of hills, known as the Eiscir Riada, which figure so largely in early Irish history. The mote upon which are the remains of the Castle is about sixty feet in height; the present condition of the ruins have been described by a competent authority in the following words: "The mote was evidently a natural hillock larger than that on which the tower stands, and the only question is how far the makers of the Castle modified the original mound. Round it two great trenches were dug: the first about thirty feet below the summit, the second about thirty feet lower. Round the western, northern and north-eastern flanks these trenches are in good preservation; but round the southern and south-eastern slopes they have been obliterated. There seems to have been a small platform, perhaps for an outstanding turret or bretesche at the north-eastern point, whence there is a steep descent where the mote has been partly cut away.

The circuit of the upper fosse measures about three hundred and eighty feet. The trenches vary in height, and their summits vary from twenty to twenty five feet in width. The keep of the Castle, which was originally eighty feet in height, stood at the east side of the mote; but all save the western half has been destroyed, together with the courtyard wall round the south of the bailey. The keep seems to have been multiangular, as in many contemporaneous Norman Castles. The wall, which is still over thirty feet high, is of good rubble masonry grouted, but no cut stones. There was a gateway to the bailey, of which the arch remains, and over the latter a spiral stair leads to a passage which runs northward with curving steps to a defaced doorway opening into the upper storey. The main stair ran up to the battlements. Inside the gateway was a higher arch. In the north-east angle of the bailey a passage leading to a little projecting turret remains. It once flanked the north face of the bailey and of the keep. On the western side of the bailey is the only perfect opening, a small postern gate with the remains of the steps which led to it. Several small openings are still visible, high up in the walls.

The bailey, now used as a cemetery, is a hundred feet from east to west, and sixty from north to south. It is irregular in plan, its west face not being curved, but being a series of bends forming slight angles with each other. A well was found close to the keep within the bailey; as there are outflows from the mound lower down, a good supply of water must have been secured."

Another authority (Armitage: The Antiquary, August, 1906. " Early Norman Castles of the British Isles) briefly describes the site: "An oval motte walled round the top, carrying on its edge a smaller motte (with traces of a ditch) on which stands the ruins of an octagonal keep. There is no other bailey; ditch and bank are double for half the circumference."


Under the name Cnucha, the place is mentioned several times in the Annals of the Four Masters, Keating's History of Ireland, and in several of the older Annals, both in reference to pre-Christian times and the earlier ages of Christianity. Here we are told, during the Milesian era, Conmhael of the race of Ebher defeated the descendants of Eremhon; later, it is described as the dumha of the sons of Eremhon, implying that it was a place of note and used as a residence; Conn of the Hundred Battles resided here; Feilim son of Conn is described as the brave King of Cnucha; a famous battle was fought here in the second century. All these events are recounted more than once by the early Irish writers, and in an ancient poem as well as in the prose of the Dinn Sencbus which gives an account of the origin of the name.


Castleknock, or its Irish equivalent Caislean Cnucha, is a name of comparatively recent origin. The word Castle, of course, does not appear until Norman times; in documents relating to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the place is called Castrum Cnoc, or simply Cnoc. Norman-French writers use the expression Chastel-cnoc or Castel-Cnoc. The earliest Irish name seems to mean the Druid's mound or grave: [Ferta in druid a ainm reme—says the Dinnsenchus]; it was also called Cnoc Bran, probably from the name of the druid buried there; it is referred to as Dumha Meic Eremhoin, which may imply either the residence or grave mound of the sons of Eremhon. But the best known name, and the one by which it is always called in later Irish annals is Cnucha. It seems almost obvious that this name is derived from the Irish word Cnoc—a hill, and that the reference is to the position of the ancient residence or mounds, or probably to both hills. The position in ancient times must naturally have attracted attention; for on the south side of the fort the land slopes down to the banks of the Liffey in a direct line, the river being only between five and and six hundred yards distant, and 130 feet below the base of the mound, and 190 below the summit; hence, it is described as "overhanging the Liffey." Ancient Irish writers are, however, unanimous in deriving the name not from the site, but from a person called Cuncha or Cnucha; they do not, how ever, agree in their identification of this person. Some state she was one of the earliest settlers; others that she was the foster-mother of Conn of the Hundred Battles. Both versions are found recorded in the Dinn Senchus, the literal translations of the passage being given thus:

Cnucha, whence was it named? Not hard to say. When the five sons of Dela Mac Loith came to Erin . . . they brought five queens with them . . . and Cnucha wife of Genam—she died on that hill and was buried therein, and from her the hill is named Cnucha, etc.

The second passage is as follows:

. . . Cnucha daughter of Connad from the mcadow land of Limerick and nurse of Conn the Hundred-Fighter died there of a sickness in her own house, and was buried by Connad in the hill of Cnucha yonder. Hence it is called Cnucha.

Here follows a very ancient poem which is found at greater length elsewhere (Book of Lismore, Book of Lecan, as well as the Dinn Senchus. Variations occur in the different MSS.), and from which we quote the following stanzas:

Cuncha (Cnucha) a hill above the Liffey,
There was a time when it was a kingly seat,
It was a house for guests once on a time.
When Tuathal the Rightful owned it;
Tuathal in the beginning, built it,
It was the fortress of Kings, a royal work;
There was only Tara was a better dwelling
That was more beloved by the King of Eire.
Felim took possession of it afterwards.
The son of Tuathal, the son of Feradach;
Conn son of Felim, a prince of Fal
Lived in the white-waved mound.
The Mound of the Druids was its name of old,
In the days of the reign of Iughain,
Till the reign of Conn at Cnoc Bran,
Till came the daughter of Connadh.
The foster-mother of Conn, who loved strife.
Was Cnucha of the beautiful head,
She dwelt in the painted fortress,
In the days of Conn of the Hundred Fights.
Cnucha, daughter of Connadh, of the curly hair,
From Limerick's green, broad meadowland,
She died there of a sickness in her home,
Great was the grief of the Gaels.
The woman was buried, sorrowful it was.
In the right centre of the hill;
So that Cnucha from that time forth.
Is its name till the day of judgement.
There was fought the sharp battle.
On the spot where stand the two cairns,
There met in combat the hosts
By whom was slain Cumhal son of Trenmhor.
The mention of "two cairns" in the last quoted verse is significant. It may also be noted that burial in a mound already occupied by a fort and used as a dwelling is not unusual, as references to such a custom are found in old Irish writings.


Though several battles were fought in the neighbourhood in early times, the best known is that referred to in Stanza 8: it is described in more than one of our oldest MSS., and frequently mentioned in the literature of the Fianna Eireann. The Annals of the Four Masters date this battle under A.D. 190. Accounts do not agree in assigning the causes of the battle; but all relate the chief event of the day—the death of Cumhal, leader of the Fianna of Leinster, by the hand of Goll Mac Morna, champion of the Knights of Connacht:
Coohal of the Hosts was slain
Upon the ensanguined field,
By Morna's son who ne'er in vain
Upraised the golden shield.
—Brooke's translation from old Irish poem

Some say the battle was waged by Conn of the Hundred Battles, Ard Ri of Ireland, assisted by the forces of Connacht, against Cumhal and Eoghan Mor, King of Munster, the rival of Conn for the sovereignty of Ireland.

Another account describes in detail how Cumhal carried off Murinda or Muireann Munchaomh, "the fairest woman in Eirinn," daughter of the chief druid of Allen, in Kildare, who appealed to Conn, the High King, against Cumhal. As the latter refused to restore the fair Murinda, the royal troops from Tara, assisted by Mac Morna and his heroes marched towards Cnucha where they defeated and slew Cumhal, and restored Murinda to her father. Other versions differ slightly from the above.

Although we have no direct evidence that Cumhal was buried on the spot where he fell, there seems to be sufficient support for the tradition that the Tower Hill immediately inside the College entrance is his tumulus. The question is too long to be discussed here; but a paper on the subject was printed in the College Chronicle for 1904.


So far as is at present known, our Irish annals have no later reference to Cnucha in pre-Christian times. There is a tradition which connects the name of our national Apostle with Castleknock. The visit is said to have occurred during his missionary journeys through Leinster. The first certain documentary evidence we possess on the point is found in the life of St. Patrick written in Latin by Jocelin, a Cistercian monk from Furness, who became prior of the monastery at Downpatrick at the installation of the Cistercians there in 1180. At the special request of the Primate of Armagh and of the Bishop of Down and Connor he wrote this life which was completed in 1185. Jocelin had access to all the ancient lives extant at the time, some of which apparently are no longer in existence. In addition, in Downpatrick and its neighbourhood, he was in a position to come into touch with traditions of St. Patrick which had, perhaps, never been previously recorded or which are now forgotten. Having described the Saint's visit to Dublin, he goes on to relate how he proceeded thence to Castleknock. Here is the account as recorded in Chapter 72 of the life:

Incolis Duvliniae tum sanctae praedicationis instantia turn signorum efficacia confirmatis in fide suscepta, pontifex sanctus benedixit et valefecit: atque ad simile opus se accingens iter proprium inchoavit. Proficiscens ergo ad oppidum vicinum pervenit quod a modernis Castellum Cnoc dicitur ubi quidam vir tunc Belial et infidelis Murinus nomine dominabatur. Voluit Sanctus praedicator ilium in viam vitae et veritatis inducere: at filius mortis audiens famam virtutis et sapientiae ejus quibus neminem putabat posse resistere, absentavit se ab eo velut a saevissimo hoste. Mandavit illi sanctus ut saltern sibi sui copiam exiberet. Remandavit ille latitans in quodam conclavi, quatenus se dormire sineret. Quae cum utrinque saepius repetita fuissent et sanctus Spiritu Sancto docente, virum ilium gehennae filium intelligens, Dei justitiae concordans subintulit, dicens: dormiat, dormiat, nec ante diem judicii evigilet aut resurgat. Haec dicens Sanctus inde recessit et ille miser somno utriusque mortis oppressus, occubuit. Sic profecto qui dormiens ad vocem amici sponsi se excitantis a mortuis exsurgere contempsit ut illuminaret se Christus, tenebris infidelitatis, obvolutus, ad terram tenebrosam, opertam mortis caligine descendit perpetuo mansurus. Unde et inepto sopore stertenu Hibernica imprecatione solet dici: sic tu dormis, sicut Murinus obdormivit ad verbum sen' tentiantis S. Patricii.

This passage may be rendered briefly into English as follows:

St. Patrick having blessed his Dublin converts and bade them farewell, proceeded to a neighbouring place called in modern times Castleknock. The ruler of the place at that time was Murinus, an infidel, in every sense of the word. The Saint wished to induce him to accept the true faith, but Murinus, having heard that it was impossible to resist the power and eloquence of the Apostle, refused either to admit him or to see him. To the repeated requests of the Saint, Murinus always sent back the same answer that he did not wish to be disturbed from his sleep. At length the Saint, perceiving the hopelessness of converting Murinus, said: "Let him sleep, let him sleep, and may he never awake or rise again before the day of judgement". The Saint thereupon departed; and his words proved too true for Murinus. Hence has arisen the Irish imprecation: "May you sleep, the sleep of Murinus"

Difficulties have been raised with regard to the historical accuracy of this story; but for the main fact, there can still be adduced a good deal of support. The whole question has been examined at length in the Castleknock Chronicle for 1932.


Although the following centuries are generally regarded as the brightest in the history of Ireland, and our annals give expanding accounts of the events which distinguished them, we find only one reference to Cnucha. The Four Masters under the date 726 record the death of Congalach of Cnucha. The same fact is mentioned by other annalists. No indication is given by the Annalists whether Congalach was a prince or layman; he may have been Abbot of the Monastery of Cnucha. During the Danish invasions, the ancient fortress comes into prominence again. Towards the middle of the ninth century these invaders had established themselves in Dublin, and had strongly fortified that city, recognising its strategical as well as its commercial advantages.

About the beginning of the tenth century, however, the Danes in Dublin were driven out by an attack organised by Maelfinia, King of Bregia, assisted by Carroll son of Murigean, King of Leinster. The foreign garrison "escaped half dead across the sea" leaving behind them a great many of their ships. Some of the refugees were afterwards besieged and dislodged from Inish Mac Nessan (Ireland's Eye) whither they had fled for safety. In 915 large bodies of Danes began to enter Ireland, but do not seem to have been sufficiently strong to retake Dublin until 919. In that year "an immense fleet" under the command of Sitric Gale, grandson of Ivar, landed at Dublin, put the Irish to flight and recaptured the city.

Three years previously Niall Gliindubh, of the Northern Ui Neill, had become King of Ireland. He is called by the annalists "Niall of Cnucha" (Tara had long since been abandoned as a royal residence). This monarch proved himself one of the greatest leaders that fought against the Danes. According to O'Curry's MS. Materials for Irish History: "With the exception of the immortal Brian Boru no monarch ever wielded the sceptre, which was the sword, of Erinn with more vigour than this truly brave northern prince. . . . His victories were many and glorious, and himself and his father Aedh were the only monarchs who ever attempted to relieve Munster of these cruel foes (the Danes) before Brian." His reign, however, was short. As soon as the Danes had regained possession of Dublin, Niall assisted by a large number of Irish chiefs, both of the Northern and Southern Ui Neill, advanced to dislodge the invaders. Castleknock was the headquarters from which the attack was directed. A fierce battle ensued called by the Irish annalists "the Battle of Ath Cliath." The brunt of the fighting took place midway between Castleknock and Dublin at a place called Kilmahavogue, identified only in modern times as the ford across the Liffey near Island Bridge just below the present Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park. The result was disastrous for the Irish cause. King Niall himself was slain, and with him twelve sub-kings (their names are fully recorded in the Chroniton Sotorum), a great number of the nobles of the Northern part of Ireland, and a countless army besides. The battle was fought on the 17th October, 919, was for long afterwards commemorated in prose and verse: it terminated the period called by the authors of the Wars of the Gael with the Gall "the forty-years' rest", as during that time Ireland had been comparatively free from Danish incursions.

One result of the battle was that Cnucha ceased to be an Irish fortress and became a Danish residence: according to some authorities this occupation continued up to the time of the Norman invasion when the inhabitants sided with the Irish against the invaders. A poem from which an extract is to be found in the Four Masters refers to the change of occupiers:

This is a pity, O beloved Magh Breagh
Country of the beautiful face;
Thou hast parted with thy lordly king;
Thou hast lost Niall, the wounding hero;
Where is the Chief of the Western World?
Where the sun of every clash of arms?
The place of great Niall of Cnucha
Has been changed, O ye wretches!

The sentiment of the last line is also echoed in a poem attributed by the Four Masters to Gormley, the widowed queen of Niall. Here are some lines from it:

Evil to me the compliment of the two foreigners who slew
Niall and Cearbhall;
Cearbhall was slain by Hulb—a great deed—
Niall Glundubh by Amhlaibh.


In 1169 the Normans landed at Bannow Bay in the south of County Wexford. With the help of the Leinster forces they quickly captured the towns of Wexford and Waterford, and later advanced upon Dublin from which they drove out the Danish garrison. Upon the death of Diarmuid Mac Murcha, Strongbow who held Dublin with the other Norman chiefs, proclaimed himself King of Leinster, and proceeded at once to act as feudal King of the Province. The Irish chiefs, hitherto apathetic in resisting the invaders, were roused to action; spurred on also by the appeals of the saintly Lorcan O Tuathail, Archbishop of Dublin, they determined to unite in an effort to drive out the enemy. The three captured cities were invested. An army sixty thousand strong (this account is for the greater part taken from a contemporary writer, Maurice Regan, secretary and interpreter to Diarmuid McMorrogh, as well as from Ciraldus Cambrcnsis: Expugnatio Hibcmica, c. xxii, et seqq.) under the Ard-Ri, Ruairi O Concubhair, surrounded Dublin on all sides in the summer of 1171; he was assisted by most of the provincial chiefs. The main army, that of Ruairi, occupied the country from Finglas in a line to the Liffey near the hill of Knockmaroon, the headquarters being at Cnucha. The Ulster army, under its chieftains, Mac Dunlevy, King of Ulster, O'Rourke, and O'Carroll of Airgilla, lay along the shore by Clontarf; Murrogh Mac Morrogh of Hi Kinsella was on the southern shore, towards Dalkey; and the Leinster forces occupied the remaining ground towards Kilmainham; a fleet of thirty Danish ships held the mouth of the Liffey. The policy of the besieging forces was one of "lordly inactivity." They practically had the beleaguered garrison at their mercy. Strongbow's effective fighting men were small in numbers—so small that he was afraid to risk a direct attack and show his real weakness to the enemy; they were cut off from succour; even if their friends in England were willing to come to their assistance—which it appeared, they were not. Provisions were running short; supplies could not be obtained. The Irish had apparently only to wait. Roderick held court at Cnucha. If tradition is to be trusted, it was not Roderick's first time to make Cnucha his royal residence. (see Lewis* Topographical Dictionary) Some years before he had assembled his forces, marched into Leinster against the Danes, especially those of Dublin, taken the fortress at Cnucha and forced the enemy to acknowledge him as King. He was then solemnly inaugurated (probably in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin) as monarch of Ireland with the Danes as his allies. Now he was again on the scene of his former conquest; it seemed as if an easy victory lay within his grasp. The time was passed in feasting and amusements.

The besieged garrison in the city could not stir. The months of July and August went by slowly; the Normans had exhausted their resources, so desperate became the situation that at last the leaders determined to send a deputation to the Ard-Ri to ask for terms. Laurence O'Toole was chosen as mediator. Accompanied by Maurice de Prendergast he came out to Roderick in his camp at Cnucha. Strongbow was willing to acknowledge the Ard-Ri and become his vassal as King of Leinster. The Irish monarch, confidently secure in his position, refused all terms: the Normans should evacuate the three cities and withdraw their forces completely from Ireland.

"These conditions" says a certain historian, "cannot be considered harsh or vindictive. The Normans were invaders; no punishment was being inflicted for the destruction and slaughter they had already done"

Consternation in the city resulted; but de Prendergast had learned much while negotiations were being carried on at Cnucha; with the watchful eye of the trained soldier, he noticed the lack of discipline, the carelessness of the guards, the general inactivity of the Irish troops. His report to Strongbow was that a surprise attack could hardly fail. The garrison made immediate preparations. Under cover of darkness, Miles de Cogan led a body of horse towards Finglas, slipped unnoticed through the gap between the army at Cnucha and that at Clontarf; at the same time two other forces approached Cnucha, by the direct road along Stony Batter, and when the morning light came the army at Cnucha found themselves suddenly attacked on the front and flank. So unexpected was the attack that the uttermost confusion prevailed. The Irish were driven back before they could even seize their arms. " Roderick," says the chronicler, " was in his bath at the time "—(the Liffey was alongside his camp) and had to flee in such garb as would not have afforded much protection against the mail-clad warriors. Before the Normans retreated to the city they had seized all the supplies and provisions of the main Irish army— supplies sufficient to sustain the garrison for over a year. The despondency produced in the entire Irish ranks seems incredible: there was no thought of renewing the siege. Roderick fell back from Cnucha, the other chiefs, in disgust, silently withdrew their forces and returned to their respective provinces.


The Norman adventurers now remained secure in their possession of Dublin, and quickly also recaptured the other cities of Leinster. Henry II, successful in his wars against his rebellious barons in England, hastened to Ireland, received the homage of most of the Irish chiefs, and proceeded to make grants of Irish territories among his vassals in accordance with the English feudal system. Strongbow was reinstated as King of Leinster, having acknowledged the suzerainty of Henry; Hugh de Lacy who had arrived in Henry's train, received huge grants of land stretching from Dublin to the Shannon, including extensive districts in Meath. He was thus set up as a strong rival to the new King of Leinster.

The recent siege of Dublin had shown the importance of Cnucha from a strategical point of view—if made a strongly fortified place it would be a protection for Dublin, on the West, as on the other hand, in the possession of an enemy it was a menace. De Lacy therefore, acting as King's bailiff, granted by charter—later confirmed by another charter of Henry's—the fort of Cnucha and the surrounding district "to his dear friend" Hugh Tyrrell. (copies of both these Charters have recently been found in the Public Records Office, London. See Charters of Castleknock, page 11) The district comprised in this grant (said to contain 12,001 Irish Acres) included practically the whole of the present Phoenix Park, and on the West and North the modern lands of Castleknock, Clonsilla, Mullhuddert, and several others.

The new Lord of Cnucha seems to have been descended from a well known Herefordshire family. He was not only renowned for his personal valour but was distinguished by a line of noble ancestors said to be able to claim kinship with the Prince of Poix: one of his ancestors had fought under the Conqueror at Hastings, another had gained notoriety as the archer who fired the fatal arrow at William Rufus, in the New Forest. Hugh Tyrrell is not mentioned as one of the first invaders under Strongbow; he seems to have arrived in Ireland only in 1171, as one of "De Lacy's Knights".

As already stated the first Tyrrell was the trusted friend of de Lacy—in Henry's charter he is described as "the man of Hugh de Lacy". In 1173 de Lacy had to leave Ireland for a time. In his absence he left Tyrrell in charge of his fortress of Trim, as described in a contemporary poem:

 Then Hugh de Lacy
Fortified a house at Trim;
And threw a trench around it,
And then enclosed it with a stockade;
Within the house he then placed
Brave knights of great worth ;
Then he entrusted the Castle
To the wardenship of Hugh Tyrrell.

But according to Giraldus Cambrensis (Expugitatio Hibemica, Liber ii. c. j .) in the following year Roderick O'Connor invaded Meath, drove out Tyrrell and destroyed the Castle at Trim, and several others; only by the arrival of Raymond Fitzgerald was the situation saved, Roderick was driven off and the Castles reconstructed:

And Hugh Tyrrell went to Trim,
And refortified his fortress,
And after that he safeguarded it with honour
Until the arrival of his lord. (O'Regan)

As soon as possible after the settlement the new owner of Cnucha—from now on described as the Baron of Castleknock—proceeded to fortify his residence. No definite information is available regarding the buildings erected at this time, or whether the present remains are those of the first castle upon the mote. It is not unlikely that a wooden structure, as was not unusual at the time, came first, the trenches were then certainly dug and the whole hill was enclosed by a stockade. A stone building followed in due course. According to one competent authority, (Armitage : Early Norman Castles, etc) however, when ever the vassal could afford it and time allowed, the stone building was begun at once. This may have been the case at Cnucha, as Tyrrell would at least have the resources necessary for the work. Undoubtedly, as years passed changes and improvements were made to strengthen the Castle and adapt it to changing conditions of warfare.

For the next two hundred years the Tyrrells, as "Barons of Castleknock" figure largely in the State Papers relating to Ireland—sometimes helping the Justiciar against the Irish, at other times fighting abroad with the English kings. Eight Barons occupied the Castle from 1171 to 1370. Their lives were not always spent in warfare: the thirteenth century was one of uninterrupted prosperity, and the Castle' knock district has been described as " the land of peace." Liberal tracts of lands were bestowed on religious houses within the jurisdiction or adjoining it. About 1176 Hugh Tyrrell the elder bestowed grants of lands covering the district now part of the Phoenix Park from Island Bridge to Chapelizod on the recently'founded Priory of St. John the Baptist at Kilmainham. His son Richard is said to have brought the Benedictines from Little Malvern, Worcestershire, to found a monastery at Castleknock, and gave them a site almost beside the Castle. It is perhaps more true to say that he reestablished an older monastic house which had formerly existed under Augustinian rule, and which had been destroyed or deserted during the Danish raids.

The new monastery and church, like the former, was under the patronage of St. Brigid—the buildings then erected remained up to the time of the Reformation, when the monks were expelled and the church pulled down. A new church was then built on the same site; this in turn was superseded in 1801 by the present parish church. In prcReformation times the church and parish of Castleknock were of considerable importance—two prebends were nominated to the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Dublin ; even to the present day two canons of the Catholic chapter of the Archdiocese derive their titles from the parish. St. Brigid is still the patron of the Catholic parish of Castleknock, though the parish church is now in Blanchardstown. A well named after St. Brigid still exists near the site of the ancient monastery.

Another Hugh Tyrrell, Lord of Castleknock in 1288 " for the health of his soul and that of his wife Letitia together with the fine of 40 shillings in hand, paid, assigned and made over to this priory (All Hallows' in Dublin) the lands of Kilmellan with its appurtenances free from all rent and services whatever."

When we read of these donations we may find it hard to reconcile them with some incidents recorded in the career of the donors. Attacks were often made upon religious houses which were plundered, and sometimes destroyed ; but the Irish annals frequently refer to raids made by all parties on monastic institutions both of men and women, even by the Irish chiefs themselves. We learn from Giraldus Cambrensis (Topographic Hibernica, c.) that in 1185 Hugh Tyrrell accompanied Philip of Worcester—who had taken de Lacy's place as procurator in Ireland—on an expedition of plunder to Armagh. They invaded the monastery and forced the monks to contribute a large sum in gold. Amongst the spoils was a huge bronze cooking cauldron—a valuable piece of goods for a large establishment in those days—which Tyrrell desired specially to bring to his own home at Castleknock. As the raiders left with their booty they were followed, according to Giraldus "by the maledictions of the monks" or, as another authority (Cox : Hibemica Anglicana) quaintly puts it: "they set out loaden with curses and extortions".

On the return journey the army encamped for the night in Louth; but before morning a fire broke out in the camp, the shed in which the cauldron was stored was totally destroyed as well as the team of horses employed in hauling the booty. Whether this fire was due to design or accident or the "prayers" of the monks we are not told definitely—though the last is hinted at. It was most likely the result of the carelessness of the soldiers after their drunken orgies. The first effect upon Tyrrell was that he immediately sent the cooking pot back to Armagh. The Bishop of Louth, according to Giraldus, at once predicted that a great misfortune would light upon the spoilers, which actually happened before the year ended. Hugh Tyrrell and his friend de Lacy, for some obscure reason, had a violent quarrel which involved the neighbourhood of Castleknock in disturbance for several years.

Later on Hugh Tyrrell, the elder, as he has been called, joined in the famous Third Crusade, and is known to have been present at the siege of Acre. He died in 1199 and was buried at Selincourt. His estate was divided among his three sons; Walter the eldest was given Poix, the lands in Hampshire went to Roger, and Castleknock passed to Richard, commonly known as Ruadh, or the Red Baron.

Whether the repercussions of the dispute over de Lacy lasted into the thirteenth century or not, cannot now be clearly seen ; one thing at least is certain that during the early years of that century the Barons of Castleknock seem to have fallen foul of the overlords of the day. The Lord of Cnoc and his castle were considered as a menace to the city of Dublin and the peace of the State. This may have been owing to the fact that the de Lacys had fallen into disgrace with the King, and the Tyrrells, as friends, were involved in the same cause. Richard Tyrrell the Second Baron soon found his Castle and lands confiscated; and though they were later restored, the estrangement between King John—as well as his son Henry III—and their Irish vassal continued for some years. Four times at least peremptory orders were sent by the King to the Justiciar—then the Archbishop of Dublin—that "the Castle of Cnoc be prostrated" as its destruction would tend to the safety and security of the King's land of Ireland; that the castle of Cnoc be levelled to its foundation, as being a "nuisance" to the King's City of Dublin; that the "Castle and Vill of Cnoc" be delivered up to the Justiciary and Tyrrell accommodated with an equal estate elsewhere; that Tyrrell's title should be inquired into. On each of these occasions, however, Tyrrell evaded the carrying out of the order, either by giving adequate security for his conduct, or by handing over his son as a hostage as a proof of his loyalty.

The third Baron, Hugh, who succeeded his father in 1223, seems to have lived on better terms with his sovereign—probably the time he spent as hostage at the King's Court helped to bring about this favourable result. Two years after he came into possession of the Castle, he entered into an agreement with the King that in the event of military necessity he would surrender the Castle to the Justiciar, and the King on his part undertook to restore the Castle when the military necessity ceased.

This arrangement seemed to work out satisfactorily: the necessity for surrender did not arise. In fact, the Baron was placed in several positions of honour and trust —he was the King's Seneschal in Ireland, and married a daughter of the Justiciar, Geoffrey de Marisco; he received a royal grant to hold each year a fair lasting for eight days at Newtown Fortulagh in County Westmeath—which was one of the manors he owned in addition to Castleknock. He even was thanked by the King for help given to the Justiciar. In 1252 the Justiciar John Fitz Geoffrey made a campaign against Ulster, and was accompanied by Tyrrell who thus paid his feudal dues by "the full service by his body". Some years later he again was with the Justiciar in County Down, and took part in the destruction of Greencastle. Between these expeditions, he saw military service with the King in Gascony (1253-54), as Henry had appealed to the Prelates and Barons of Ireland for men and money to assist him in repelling a threatened invasion of Gascony by the King of Castille. Hugh Tyrrell died in 1270 leaving his estate to his son Richard. The latter was succeeded in 1285 by his son Hugh, the fifth Baron. After the death of Hugh, the fifth Baron, in 1299, an order was given that an Inquisition be made into his estate.

An extract from this Inquisition is interesting as showing not merely the extent of the Castleknock estates at the time, but also as containing some illuminating references to the feudal customs. It is said that

Hugh held of the King, in capite, 60 carucates (a carucate of land varied in extent according to times and places; it might contain from 80 to 120 acres. In Ireland it was usually the latter figure. Wharton's Law Lexicon, nth cd. p. 147.) of land at Castle Cnoc, making suit to the County Court of Dublin, and £6 of royal service when it happens; he held also 2 marks of rent of the King, in capite, at Monalewy; and of Geoffrey de Geynville 3 knights fees, doing service at Geoffrey's Court of Trim, and £6 of royal service ; and he held the Manor of Mainclare of said Geoffrey for half a knight's fee, 20 shillings of royal service. The carucates of Castle Cnock and the rent of Monalewy, which are held of the King, are worth £62 0s. 7.5d yearly. Of the fees held from Geoffrey nothing can be received at this time, but one pair of gilt spurs. Richard Tyrell is next heir, aged 28 years and married 13 years.

A second extract from the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland supplements the foregoing:

On this comes Richard and gives to the King five marks for mesne profits by pledge of Gerald Tyrel, Reginald Barnival, Richard de Cruise, Andrew Tyrel; Richard Tyrel before the Justiciar and in presence of the Council did fealty to the King. And he has a day to do homage within a year.

It is interesting to note here that before the end of the thirteenth century a number of families had become established upon the Castleknock lands, some by grants direct from the Crown, others by becoming tenants of the Tyrrells. These families have left their names on the districts which they occupied at that time—such as Abbot, Blanchard, Keppok (Cappoge), Luttrell, Pilate (Pellet), Deuswell (Diswell), etc. , the addition of the word town gives practically all the townlands at present in the Barony of Castleknock.

Richard Tyrrell, the sixth baron, who succeeded to the title in 1299, seems to have had an exciting time. He served in Edward the First's expedition into Scotland; afterwards he was first involved in a State trial in Ireland owing to the loss of a falcon by the Chief Justice. Richard was accused of having detained the falcon which had flown to Castleknock, although he knew that the loss of the falcon was preclaimed and a reward offered for its recovery. He escaped condemnation by delivering up the falcon. Later on, he was again involved in litigation with the Priory of Kilmainham, making claims for service for the lands granted by the first baron.

In addition to these disputes, he had trouble with his neighbours owing to the conduct of his younger brother, John. This John Tyrrell was evidently a troublesome fellow. He seems to have had a fierce dislike for his neighbour John Deweswell, who lived not a mile from the Castle, on the land owned by the Baron. Here are two of John's escapades as described in the records under the year 1305:

It is found by the jury that John de Deweswell did not assault John Tyrrell, but that J.D. and Hugh his brother were sitting in a garden and J.T. hearing this and being angered against them wished to enter the place where they were sitting; he met a servingman of J. de D. and struck him and afterwards followed J.D. who was not able to escape from him, and having drawn a dagger which he had for the protection of his life, resisted him. J.T. withdrew and went to his brother's house at Castlecnoc and there armed himself and mounted his horse and rode to the house of the mother of J.D. where John and Hugh his brother fearing the malice of J.T. remained with closed door. When J.T. could not enter he got down from his horse and attacked those within by throwing stones at them over the gate. And they say that unless J.T. was prevented by hue and cry raised by which the neighbours of those parts came there, he would have done much evil. . . . John Tyrrell was committed to gaol for the assault and trespass.

But we find again, that:

Divers poor men complaining that John Tyrel on Friday before the quinzaine of St. John the Baptist, took their goods, viz., bread, flesh, fish, and other victuals for sale, against their will, the Mayor (of Dublin) had him attached before him and the bailiffs of the city, as is customary. John could not deny this— they arrested him until he should make satisfaction for the goods so taken. But "John took an axe and forcibly left; which the Mayor learning caused him again to be attached and arrested until he gave his horse as a gage for said debt. John was committed to jail for breaking prison.

If there is any truth in the well-known story of the abduction of Eileen O'Byrne, the blame must be laid at the door of this John Tyrrell. (see Appendix II: The White Lily of Castleknock. p.36)

Further misfortune befell the sixth baron in 1317. On the feast of St. Matthew in that year, Edward Bruce with an army of 20,000 men approached Castleknock on his march to Dublin. The castle was surrounded and quickly captured, the baron and his wife were made prisoners, and Bruce took up residence in the castle as his headquarters while his army encamped in the neighbourhood. His stay however, was not of long duration. A day or two after his arrival he reconnoitred in person the approaches and fortifications of the city. At the news of his advance towards Dublin, the citizens had become thoroughly alarmed, and set at once about repairing the city walls and strengthening its fortifications. Bruce, perceiving that the city was strongly fortified and the citizens prepared for a vigorous siege, returned to Casdeknock. He was not anxious to undertake a long siege, as he had not the necessary equipment, and time was essential to his plans. The Baron of Castleknock and his wife were freed on payment of a ransom. Bruce left the Castle the next day, leading his army through Leixleap to Naas.

The sixth baron died in 1321 and was succeeded by his son, Hugh. He had a less stormy reign than his father, and held the title till 1364, being followed by Robert, the eighth baron, and the last of the direct line of the Tyrrells to reside in Castleknock. The plague of 1370 was responsible for his death as well as that of his wife Scholastica, and of his son and heir. As there was no remaining issue of the eighth Baron the estate passed to his two sisters, Joan and Matilda, between whom it was divided. Both of these sisters were married twice. From 1370 to 1408 the Castle and surrounding lands were occupied, with the permission of the Crown, by William Boltham, in right of his wife Joan Tyrrell; but when he died Thomas Sergeant, son of Joan's first husband, obtained a writ for possession of the Castle and estate. This writ is of much interest, and is treated elsewhere. (See Appendix I: Charters of Castleknock. p.33) Thomas Sergeant took possession in May, 1408, assumed the style and title of Baron, but did not live long to enjoy his property; he died in September of the same year, and was succeeded by his son, John Sergeant. The moiety of the estate possessed by John Sergeant passed through various hands during the first half of the fifteenth century until we find the Burnells in possession of the Castle and estate towards the end of that century and the beginning of the following.


Matilda Tyrrell, the younger sister of the eighth Baron of Castleknock, married as her second husband, John Burnell who thus came to have a share in the Castle knock estate. The Burnells were landowners of extensive property at Balgriffin in North County Dublin. After the rebellion of Silken Thomas, the head of the Burnell family was attainted for having taken a prominent part in the rising; but some years later John Burnell was granted a lease of the Castle—the estate was still in the hands of the Crown. John resided in Castleknock for some forty or fifty years, and is described as "a Gentleman of the Pale." On his death the Castle and demesne became the residence of his son, Henry.

It was in the time of John Burnell that the historian Stanihurst, in describing the wonders of Ireland, wrote the oft quoted description which has been applied to the Castle:

There is in Castleknock, a village not far from Dublin, a window not glazed nor latticed but open, and let the weather be stormy, the wind bluster boisterously on every side of the house, yet place a candle there and it will burn as quietly as if no puff of wind blew; this may be tried at this day, whoso shall be willing to put it in practice.

Henry Burnell seems to have been an outstanding figure in his time. He was a lawyer of great eminence, considered by contemporaries one of the best speakers and most learned men of the day. He was the champion of the cause of the gentlemen of the Pale and their special adviser. So successful was he in his profession that he was able to keep up a style in the Castle far beyond anything approached by his father. Sir Henry Sydney writing in 1577 to the Lords of the Council in England says of him:

Of Burnell I will say little, but wish he had been better occupied; he is a man well spoken and towardly enough, if he would have applied himself to his profession and followed his clients' causes, and not have so busily meddled with her majesty's prerogative. . . . Burnell's father is alive and an old man, but neither in youth or age was able to live in half that appearance that this man doth. He thirsteth earnestly to see the English Government withdrawn from hence" (Ireland).

Burnell further incurred the enmity of the English Government by his defence of Gerald, eleventh Earl of Kildare, and of other noblemen of the Pale. This led to his imprisonment in the Fleet Prison and in the Tower of London. His liberation was only effected at the loss of his wealth and of his popularity. As representative of County Dublin in 1585 he successfully opposed several Government measures in the Parliament which assembled under Perrott, the Lord Deputy. His advocacy of the repeal of Poynings' Law brought him into direct conflict with the Deputy. Strange as it may seem, though a consistent professor of Catholicity at a time when that faith was so strongly penalised, he became Recorder of Dublin, and a Justice of the Queen's Bench. In 1605 he was accused of having drafted a petition asking for toleration for the Catholics of the Pale; for this he was put under restraint in his own residence in the Castle, but afterwards brought to Dublin. His knowledge of the law carried him over many difficulties; but his friendship for the Fitzgeralds of Kildare led to his being heavily fined by the Star Chamber of Ireland, on the charge of tampering with a deed. He died at an advanced age in 1614, and was buried in the family vault in the parish church of Castleknock, one aisle of which was long known as the chapel of the Burnells.

The Castle passed in succession to his son and grandson: the latter gained fame as the author of a play called Lanigartha, acted in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day, 1639, and greatly praised by a contemporary critic.


The course of events in Irish History during the years after 1641 is not easy to follow, and the same difficulty seems to be found in tracing the history of the owners of the Castle during that eventful period. The Burnells seem to have given up their Castleknock estate, and the Castle with the demesne came into the hands of Christopher Barnewall and later of Phillip Hoare. Dublin was held by the English forces for the King, and the owner of Castleknock sided with the Anglo-Irish of the Pale. The stronghold of Castleknock was too important a position to be left in the hands of the enemy close to the walls of Dublin. Attempts were made in 1642 to secure it for the King and to place a royalist garrison therein. It is not unlikely that though the position was important the old Castle was not of sufficient strength to withstand a siege with the new artillery. Nevertheless, the first attempts to capture it were futile; but as the year advanced General Monk sat down before it. The siege was short, the defence stubborn. The walls crumbled before the cannonade of the besiegers, and the Castle was taken by assault. Eighty of the garrison were killed, the remainder were taken out and hanged. Though the Castle was now in the hands of the Royalists, the Irish army continued to occupy the surrounding district, and made attacks upon the English supplies coming to and leaving the city.

As the years passed the position of parties changed. Dublin was handed over to the Parliamentarians by the desertion of Ormonde; Owen Roe O'Neill commanded the Irish forces. In 1647 the latter advanced upon Dublin, and came as far as Castleknock. He quickly got possession of the Castle, but apparently was not strong enough to lay siege to the city, although we learn that portions of the walls were in poor condition. He therefore decided to withdraw in the direction of Drogheda; but as he retreated he destroyed all provender and buildings likely to be of advantage to the enemy. We are told that the " citizens looking out from one of the tall steeples in the city could count over two hundred fires blazing." The Parliamentarian leader in Dublin, Colonel Michael Jones, marched out with a strong force to Castleknock, but when he perceived the state of affairs, he dared not advance further, but retired to the city.

Two years later another attempt was made to regain Dublin by the Royalists. The Marquis of Ormonde advanced with his forces and, having encamped at Castleknock, engaged in skirmishes with the Parliamentarian general, Colonel Jones; but after a short time withdrew with his main force towards Finglas, leaving, however, a garrison in Castleknock.

When the Civil War was finished the owner of Castleknock was attainted and his lands confiscated. The Castle had suffered severely during the preceding years, it had evidently been a danger to Dublin and now, by order of the Government it was dismantled, and rendered unfit for residence. The estate was broken up among several tenants, and the military history of the Castle came to an end. Nearly five hundred years had elapsed since the lands of Castleknock had been granted to Hugh Tyrrell.


Little can be ascertained of the owners of Castleknock during the period of the Commonwealth. The land surrounding the old Castle was for most of the time in the possession of one Lieutenant Thomas Bringhurst, then attached to the garrison of Dublin, the former owner Christopher Barnewall having been attainted. There is mention of the "great farm" of Castleknock, and some prints and sketches as well as maps during the following years all seem to indicate clearly the change that had taken place in the lands in the immediate neighbourhood of the Castle, the sword had almost literally been changed into the ploughshare. The Survey of the time— confirmed by a print some years later—shows the ruins of the Castle still towering above the district, and at its base a thatched farmhouse with stable, some cottages and an orchard. We know for certain, however, that on the 25th February, 1666, the Castleknock lands—including the two hills—were granted in fee-simple by letters patent to William Warren of Corduff. From this time the estate ceased to be Crown property and became a private demesne. Early in the century the Warrens had settled at Corduff, which was part of the original Castleknock lands. The family of the Warrens was distinguished from the earliest Norman occupation, their principal seat being Warrenstown in County Meath.

During the Civil War of 1641, they had consistently supported the cause of the Royalist party; as a consequence they suffered severely under the Cromwellian confiscation. After the Restoration, they were fortunate enough to be amongst those landed proprietors whose lands were restored, or to whom compensation was made otherwise. When the Act of Settlement was passed, they were singled out for special treatment, and being declared among "The Innocents" obtained lands out of the Castleknock estate, portion of which William Warren already held by mortgage, the former tenants being completely dispossessed as not being loyal subjects. The extent of land acquired by William Warren out of the original Castleknock estate, is described in the document of 1666 as containing 459 acres. This included portion of the present Phoenix Park, apparently the portion on which the Ordnance Survey Buildings now stand and the part around these—portion of the former wood of Oldtown or Irishtown. For the next two hundred years the Warrens and their descendants remained owners of the Castleknock estate, till 1853, it then came into the hands of the Encumbered Estates Commissioners, and passed to the Guinness family.

John Warren, who died in 1741, left six children, three sons Thomas, William and Richard, and two stepsons James and John, as well as a daughter Agatha. This branch of the family were Catholic, and remained always staunch supporters of the Stuart Cause. Thomas, as the eldest, took possession of Castleknock, while all the others went to France. James Warren became a Franciscan, Agatha was a nun at Montreuil in France. The three brothers, William, Richard and John joined the third brother Richard rose to eminence in the French service. He warmly espoused the cause of the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward, took part in the ill'Starred expedition to Scotland and the Rising of '45 [he was one of the "seven men of Moidart"] was mainly instrumental in saving the Prince's life and bringing him back safe to France. For this he was specially praised and rewarded by the French Government and earned the lasting gratitude of the Prince. He continued his military career, and finally rose to be Mareschal of France, taking as his title Baron Warren of Corduff. He died in 1775.

John Warren, son of Thomas, died in 1796, having occupied Castleknock after his father's death, till he retired from it to Corduff in 1782. The Warrens remained as owners, though various portions of the estate were leased out to several tenants.

During the early years of the eighteenth century changes took place in the buildings surrounding the Castle. The Warrens erected a substantial stone residence, which was in existence till 1889 when it was pulled down at the time the present College theatre and Study Hall were built. The Tower on the grave of Coohal was constructed at the same period—originally as a windmill; but seems to have been used afterwards, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, as an observatory. Some buildings were erected to serve as storehouses and other farm purposes.

Some interesting notices of visits to the Castle ruins during the eighteenth century been published. This drawing—by Francis Place, a Yorkshire artist—gives us the only idea we have of the actual appearance of the Castle before it was dismantled— the full tower is still standing, the northern wall of the baily and some portion of the southern walls. This sketch is important also for other reasons. (Journal of Society of Antiquaries, Ireland)

The notebooks of Austin Cooper who visited the place about the year 1745, says: "From ye eminence appears a delightful prospect of ye City of Dublin and its large Harbour." Of the Castle he says: "It was let fall to ruin, little remaining thereof but part of ye Court walls and ye Great Tower on ye East Side in which was a window, etc."

Some years later, in 1775—Gabriel Beranger (a well-known French antiquarian, who made journeys through various districts of Ireland) visited Castleknock and inspected the ruins of the Castle. Among his papers still preserved in the Royal Irish Academy are two sketches of the Castle, and two short descriptions—one of each hill. This is all he says: " (i) Castleknock—with a mutilated tower on a hill. For what purpose it was built I was not able to be informed, and I cannot decide the question, (ii) Castleknock—three miles from Dublin. This Castle is all in ruins, it stands on the summit of a hill and is of angular form representing the letter D in its plan, only the front is not a straight line but curved."

This short description, combined with his sketches, is of the utmost importance as regards archaeological interest, when taken in connection with Austin Cooper's description and Francis Place's drawing. They all show that between 1698 and 1745 —certainly before 1775—the mutilation of the Castle ruins was very great. In Place's drawing the Castle turret is practically complete externally; by 1775 not one' fourth of it remains. The northern walls of the bailey are reduced to half the height shown in the engraving of 1698, and the southern walls have completely disappeared. The conclusion seems to be clear—that the buildings erected in the early part of the eighteenth century were carried out by turning the Castle ruins into a quarry. We are not left, however, to mere conjecture; for it is well authenticated that John Warren sold quantities of the stones to Luke Gardiner when the latter was building his residence in the Phoenix Park—now forming part of the buildings of the Ordnance Survey Offices.

Of course it is quite possible that portions of the walls and tower may have fallen down after 1698, as we can easily understand that the dismantling of the Castle after the Wars of the Confederation may have left the ruins in such a precarious state that they were a prey to the effects of weather conditions—a violent storm may have rent asunder what was already hanging loosely together; but even in that supposition being true, it would still appear that the portions still remaining intact were too tempting for the builder to leave untouched; especially, as we know from other sources, that John Warren was frequently in need of ready money.

In the year 1790 the English antiquarian Grose visited the Castle. He has given no written description, but published later a fine engraving showing the ruins— principally the turret and mound—from the East ; a few unimportant notes on the history were added. The engraving is a great advance on Beranger's sketch, and has frequently been reproduced. Both these views of the Castle, however, show that no material change has taken place since that time in the portion of the structure still standing. Neither of these antiquarians mention or show trees on the mound, yet the historian Dalton, writing in 1837, describes the hill " as covered with tall trees."Grose, in his notes, mentions a well in the neighbourhood as " beneficial to human beings but poisonous to animals."

In 1782 John Chamley leased portion of the Castleknock estate from John Warren, who retired to his property at Corduff. Five years later John Chamley let portion of his holding to Rev. David Brickell, curate attached to the church in Castleknock. This portion included the two hills, with the buildings erected by the Warrens, and some 70 acres of land, including the two mounds. The remainder of his holding was given over by Chamley to other occupiers. Between 1769 and 1782 John Warren had leased out in various lots practically all portions of the Castleknock estate, which thus was divided up among several tenants, and changed hands several times towards the end of the century.

In 1801 the Rev. William Gwynne obtained possession of that portion previously held by David Brickell. William Gwynne was a scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, and had graduated in 1793. In 1808 he was joined by Mr. Andrew Swanzy, and in conjunction with him they opened a high class school in which pupils were prepared for the various professions. William Gwynne took the M.A. degree in 1810, and the degrees of Batchelor and Doctor of Divinity at Trinity College in 1825. Notwithstanding his degrees the school does not seem to have been successful, or perhaps he found a more lucrative position. By 1834 the school had been closed, and this portion of the estate once more came into the market, and after some negotiations was acquired from the lessees by the Rev. John McCann on the 18th October, 1834. On the 24th of the same month he entered into possession of the property containing the two historic hills and about 40 acres of land which was described at the time as containing

the Castlefield, the Wind Mill field, the lime kiln field, and the hop field, being portion of the estate of the Castleknock demesne.

Thus this portion of Hugh Tyrrell's grant began a new existence.

Before concluding this notice on the history of the Castle and its owners, some interesting facts and traditions may be added. Perhaps the most important documents in connection with the history are:


Copies of the original charters by which Hugh de Lacy granted the lands of Castleknock to "his intrinsic friend" Hugh Tyrrell, and Henry the Second's Charter in confirmation of this grant have recently [1933] been found in the Public Records Office, London. These copies date back to the year 1293, and were officially copied from the originals. The full texts in Latin with translations have been published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. We give here the of Hugh de Lacy's Charter, adding within brackets such expressions as are considered necessary to elucidate the feudal legal terms, or explain more fully the meaning of the original documents:

"Hugh de Lacy to all his friends, French, English, and Irish, greeting. Know [all] present and to come, that I, Hugh de Lacy, have given, conceded, and by this my charter confirmed to Hugh Tyrrell, and his heirs, in fee and inheritance [the two districts of] Twothyn and Twetdrom, with all the appurtenances of those lands, with all those dwelling on said lands, with all liberties and free customs, in roads, paths, woods, plains, meadows, pastures, waters, fisheries, markets, mills, ponds, fish-ponds, moors, marshes, right of hunting, right of pannage [feeding of animals] churches, chapels, castles, fortalices, with [right of] soc [of distributing justice] and sac [power to fine or punish those found guilty], with [right of] toll [to buy and sell within the jurisdiction] and theam [to summon into court persons not resident within the jurisdiction of manor] and infangantheof [the right to try and punish a thief caught within the jurisdiction of manor], with [right of] judgement [by ordeal] of water, iron, and single combat. To have and to hold this fee of me and my heirs freely, quietly, and honourably, by [for] the service of three knights, doing for all that service, by my hand at the City of Dublin. Witnesses, William de Meset, Robert de Crytheof, etc.," and many others.

The date of the original Charter is probably A.D. 1177, and Henry the Second's Charter in confirmation of de Lacy's is of the same date.

With regard to the extent of territory granted under the Charter, the two districts mentioned under the names of Thwothyn and Thwetdrom have so far not been definitely located. The names are apparently the Norman pronunciation of two Irish tuath, whose original appellations have not yet been identified; but subsequent references to the Castleknock lands leave little doubt as to the exact district covered by the grant. We can state with practical certainty that the lands acquired by Hugh Tyrrel extended north of the river Liffey, having as their southern boundary the course of that river from the ford at Island Bridge to the bend southward near Lucan. Straight lines drawn directly northward from these two points—to Finglas and to the river Tolka—would form the eastern and western boundaries. The northern boundary being the line westward from Finglas to meet the line northward from Lucan. Thus we have the ridge of land along the left bank of the Liffey and the flat country up to and across, in places, the river Tolka.

This district would account for the 60 carucates mentioned in the Inquisition of 1299 [see page 25]. It would include practically all the land now enclosed in the Phoenix Park, extending thence nearly to the borders of County Meath, containing within it the present districts of Castleknock, Clonsilla, Mullahudert. and some land to the north-west of the last. In the accounts of various grants, and references in State Papers at different times we have mention of portions of the Castleknock lands, which amply identify the different districts which were included in the original grant. For instance, we read that—

" King Henry II having enfeoffed Hugh Tyrrell, the elder, in the lands of Kilmahollock, with the appurtenances, together with the moiety of the river Liffey, as far as the water course near the gallows; [this stood near the entrance to the present Phoenix Park at Parkgate Street] Hugh bestowed the said lands on the prior of this hospital [Kilmainham]. The said Hugh Tyrrell and Roger his brother, granted to the said prior Chapel'Izod and Kilmehannack [that is, the land north of the Liffey from Chapelizod to Island Bridge] free from all secular services and burdens, with all liberties and free customs, in wood and in open country, in meadows and pastures, in roads and paths, in waters and mills, in pools and fisheries, etc. . . . Richard Tyrrell regranted the donation of his father Hugh of the lands of Chapelizod and Kilmehannock, which grant was enrolled in the year 1308."

During the succeeding century grants of Castleknock lands were given to various families which gave names to the districts upon which they settled [see page 26]. Hence in 1408 we have in a writ of seisin granted to Thomas Serjaunt an account of the Castleknock demesne and the Castleknock lands from which the Lord of the Manor still drew revenue.

The details of the demesne lands are given as: "The Castle of  Castelknok with 6 messuages and 2 carucates of land arable, meadow and pasture and 7 acres of wood; one messuage and half a carucate of land in Irishtown [now part of Phoenix Park known as the Fifteen Acres]; 6 messuages and a carucate and a half of land in Thohyn, all of which are valued at 10 marks a year."

The lands from which revenue is derived are given as: "2 Carucates in Diswelltown under John Owen; one carucate in Stagobbe [Astagob] under Richard Plunkett; 1 carucate in Porterstown under William Porter; 20 acres in Tyremolyn [Timolin] under Robert Luttrell; lands in Kellestown [Kellystown] under the Prioress of Lismolyn [Lismollen, near Tara, in Co. Meath]; lands in Luttrelstown under Robert Luttrell; 1 carucate in the Grange of the Monks [the Grange of Clonsilla, connected with the White Chapel of St. Macolthus, at Culmine] under the Prior of Malvern; also 12 acres, as above; 20 acres in James Reynolds place under James Reynolds; one messuages and one carucate in Barbiestown [Barberstown] held by Robert Luttrell; 40 acres in Fynnaghland held by Robert Luttrell, one messuage and carucate in Rendevelstown [Renvelstown] under Walter Rendevell; one messuage, and 2 carucates, with water mill in Blauncerestown [Blanchardstown] held by John Owen [from whom comes the name Owenstown] ; a carucate in le Paas [The Pass] held by Christopher Plunkett; 1 carucate in Peers' town [Powerstown] under Gerald Tyrrell; one carucate in Kilmartyn [near Powers' town] under Henry Scurlagh; one carucate in Cruysrath [Cruiserath] under William Cruise; one carucate in Asheton [ Ashtown] held by the Prior of St. John's outside New Gate" [This land is now part of the Phoenix Park].

All the lands mentioned in the above extract—under the names given in brackets— still form the district around Castleknock and Clonsilla and northwards of these places as already stated.

It should be noted that in the Inquisition of 1299 (page 25) we see that lands stretching into the County Meath had been acquired under title of military services from Geoffrey de Geynville, but apparently by the end of the fourteenth century, these had been surrendered to the owners; in fact by that date the demesne lands of the Barons of Castleknock had shrunk considerably, and they had even leased out the greater portion of their own property.


It is usual in the case of old Castles for romantic stories to grow up in the course of ages: Castleknock is not without its share of such legends. Of these the best known is that which has given rise to the "White Lady" romance, and which, as already stated, may have foundation in actual fact. In Burton's History of the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham, the story is told at great length, garnished with every  spice of romance. The time of the story is said to be the sixteenth century, and the hero—or rather villain—one Roger Tyrrell, brother of the Baron Hugh Tyrrell. Legends of the Castle seem to know only Roger Tyrrells and Hugh Tyrrells, and "Red" Barons. History, however, would change this to John Tyrrell, brother of Richard the Sixth Baron, and the time the fourteenth century. As already recorded John was a man of violent disposition and ungovernable passions. In the absence of the Baron, he terrorised the neighbourhood, was arrested several times and imprisoned. After his release he renewed his evil ways, and again taking advantage of his brother's engagement elsewhere, he made a descent upon one O'Byrne, a Wicklow Chief, who had settled within the Pale, and lived south of Chapelizod near Ballyfermot Hill. The chief object of the attack was O'Byrne's beautiful daughter Eileen, who was abducted and imprisoned in the Castle. At dead of night, hearing footsteps approaching the room in which she was confined, and knowing too well the notorious character of her captor, she opened a vein with her breast-pin, and so bled to death. In the meantime O'Byrne had gathered his friends and followers. A determined attack was made upon the Castle. Tyrrell, had to sustain single-handed the brunt of the attack, and was slain fighting. The story of Eileen's death was long remembered and told from age to age. It was the popular belief that at midnight a female figure robed in white could be seen moving slowly round the Castle walls, bewailing her untimely end, and seeking to do penance for her self'inflicted death. This was Eileen's spirit and was known as the "White Lady of Castleknock."

When distant chimes sound midnight hour,
The spirit pure is seen
And moving round the lonely tower.
Looks bright as moonlight beam.
And as the moonbeams tint the walls,
And light the turret's crest,
Twas hence, she says, 'my spirit fled,
Tis here my bones find rest.
And here I wander, year by year,
For such my lot has been,
But soon at end my penance drear,
I'll rest in joy unseen.
- From the Nation.

Stories of underground passages leading to the Liffey, or to some other suitable outlet for the defenders of the Castle, have often been mentioned in story and legend; but modern opinion discredits any foundation for the existence of such subterranean channels. If any tunnels existed they were short and for more practical purposes. The story is told that during Mr. Gwynne's occupation workmen were employed to explore what was considered to be an underground exit, but having penetrated some distance into the earth, they became afraid, threw down their tools and fled. An excavation was attempted inside the courtyard of the Castle about 1890, and a built-up narrow opening was cleared to a considerable depth. This had all the appearance of an ancient well; but further excavation being considered dangerous, the opening was filled up and made secure.

Tradition says that an immense treasure is buried beneath the Tower Hill ; but needless to state no attempt has been made to locate the hoard.

A story traditional in the district at the beginning of the nineteenth century told that the White Lady was St. Brigid who every seven years revisited the site of her ancient church.

About the year 1744, Edward Ford opened a lead mine on the estate, and "on some of the stones were green spots indicating a mixture of copper." This mine was to the north-east of the Castle, and just west of the northern quarry at present on the grounds. No trace of this mine exists now, though it is marked on the Ordnance Survey Maps as late as 1861. The State Papers under the year 1563 mention that John Challoner sent a petition to the Minister Cecil requesting a grant of a vein of lead at Castleknock, and the request was granted. It may be mentioned here that Father McNamara discovered in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris a MS. which was supposed to contain a long account of the siege of Castleknock in 1642. It has now been definitely ascertained that this description does not refer to Castleknock, but to Knock Castle in County Meath.


A large flat tombstone close to the Castle turret, and separated from the other headstones in the Cemetery has often intrigued visitors to the Castle, and sometimes led to extraordinary explanations. (see article in Irish Builder, 1898, on "The Lesser Castles of the County Dublin) This stone covers the remains of the Rev. Edward Ferris, CM, who died in Maynooth College in 1809. A short account of his life will be found in Archbishop Healy's Centenary Record of Maynooth. At the time of his death no Vincentian house existed in Ireland; he was therefore buried in the graveyard attached to the old church of Laragh Brian near Maynooth; but in 1875, with the permission of all the authorities concerned, the remains were removed to the College cemetery where he "now sleeps amongst his own." Time and neglect have almost obliterated the inscription from the stone, which is that originally erected in 1809; an additional inscription was added at the time of the translation. Both inscriptions in Latin are here given, with translations:


Reverendum Eduardum Ferris Presbyterum Kerriensem, primarium Congregationis Missionis apud Gallos Adjutorem, Ambianensis Diocesis Vicarium Generalem, Sacrae Facultatis Theologiae Magistrum, necnon in Collegio Romano Catholico apud Maynooth Professorem, omni quae sacerdotem decent virtutum laude insignem, frequens, morens, pie parentans Alunv norum ordo, suis elatum cervicibus, hie in spem beatac Resurrectionis posuit VI Kal. Dec. MDCCCIX. Obiit vir eximius Aetatis Suae LXXII.—R.I.P.

Cujus ossa primo in coemeterio prope Maynooth tumulata et inde 14 Kal. Nov. MDCCCLXXV translata hie inter fratres suos religiose recondita sunt.


Long lines of students in procession, bewailing him as a father, and bearing him in turns on their shoulders, laid in this grave the Rev. Edward Ferris, adorned with every priestly virtue, a Priest of the Diocese of Kerry, first Assistant of the Congregation of the Mission in France, Vicar General of the diocese of Amiens, Doctor of Theology, and Professor in the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth, in the hope of a happy resurrection. This eminent man died on the 26th November, 1809, aged 72.

Whose bones having been previously buried near Maynooth were thence on the 19th October, 1875, transferred and piously laid here amongst his brethren."

Castleknock College Centenary Record, 1935.