The History of Charleville Castle
In the 6th century it was part of the ancient monastic site of Lynally, which itself was in the ancient Durrow monastic settlement.
Later, in the early days of Ireland's colonization, when the city of Dublin felt threatened by the wild tribes of the West, these lands became the focal point for the first Stuart, and later more violent Elizabethan, plantations.
By the mid-fifteen hundreds, the lands that were originally ruled by the O'Moore clan were securely "planted". From this point on a dynasty was established which endured into the late nineteenth century.
Charleville Castle grew from paper doodles in early 1798 to grandiose plans by the end of that very eventful year in Ireland. It was built by Charles William Bury, Earl of Charleville. It was designed by Francis Johnston, who also designed the GPO in Dublin, one of the leading architects of the day.
It owes its "Tin Soldier Fortress" look to the celebration of victory over the third French revolutionary expedition to Ireland - the first decisive victory by Britain over the revolutionary republican movement, which was sweeping across the monarchies and their colonies at that time. It took fourteen years to complete this gothic dream, a monument not only to a now forgotten power, but also to the people who made it possible, the Irish craftsmen and impoverished people.
The castle had to be temporarily closed at times, due to the castle owners living beyond their means. However, each subsequent re-opening was usually marked by a suitably flamboyant gesture, which included engaging the talents of William Morris, who designed the ceiling within the dining room. Additionally, Charleville is said to have helped start a craze of building castles within Ireland.
The castle played host to Lord Byron, who held many parties here. In fact, whenever he visited Ireland he always went to the castle. This was due to the castle owner's eccentricity.
The castle remained uninhabited from 1912, during the difficult years of the independence war and the long years of economic severity which followed. By 1968 the roof had been removed. It had become a part of "Vanishing Ireland" until finally work on its restoration was commenced by Michael McMullen in 1971 and later by Constance Heavey Seaquist and Bonnie Vance. A Charitable Trust has been formed to help with the restoration.
The Struggle to Save Charlevile Castle
The Charleville Castle Heritage Trust is now in control of the destiny of the Castle. The Charleville Castle heritage trust is a voluntary not-for-profit organisation (a company limited by guarantee registered in ireland and charity - NGO) managed by Dudley Stewart with a team of core volunteers. The day-to-day running is handled by volunteers, who come from countries including France, Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, as well as other parts of Ireland to help out at the castle.
Charleville Castle is at the center of a large demesne of over 2,000 acres owned by the Charleville Estate Company. this company also retains ownership of the coachyard and stables block which is attached to the castle - actualy an integral part of the originional building. The saving of Charleville Castle is the outcome of an epic struggle of volunteers - it is not over yet - much lies ahead. In spite of the huge local, and international involvement, the effort to save the castle as remained complex and delicate. The effort has absorbed major blows of opposition from powerful interests and land owners. It is as if some people simply want this part of ireland's history wiped out and forgotten - bulldozed! Certainl, it can be said that without the voluntary creation of the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust would be but a heap of rubble today. As evidence one only has to visit the coachyard and stable block which continues to decay. But as long as te castle remans intact the coachyard can be rebuilt - as long as the castle stays intact the Land Unit in which it stands will remain protected "of international cultural interest" under the granada Convention. This is the task which remans with the volunteers - into the future.
The castle is the direct outcome of grand andmagnamous ideas following the brutal suppression of a terrible and bloody insurrection which engulfed Ireland in 1798 and almost caused the collapse of the British Monarchial System. It was built around the concepts of hope, belief in the future and humanity - on the fronteers of civilisation. This is its heritage - these are the values which preserved within this great edifice these are the ideals underwhich the ethos of volunteership have developed, and are sustained, in modern times - Global sustainability, Peace and the Betterment of Life on Earth - a vision deep into the far off future.
^ Craig, Maurice; The Knight of Glin (1969). Ireland Observed. Cork: Mercier Press. p. 29. ISBN 85342 049 1.