Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Knocklyon Castle … a hidden gem
in the middle of suburban housing
I live within a stone’s throw of a castle that is almost 600 years old, and yet, because it is in a secluded location, screened by leafy trees many of my neighbours probably give it no more than a passing glance each day, not realising the significance of Knockloyn Castle, and its importance as part of the architectural heritage of South County Dublin.
With its turrets and towers and its castellated appearance, Knocklyon Castle looks like a curious mixture of a baronial tower house and a 19th century house, and I decided to stop and have an inquisitive look at it during a walk last weekend.
But before the castle was ever built, extensive lands in the Tallaght area were granted in the aftermath of the arrival of the Anglo-Normans to Walter de Rideleford. Over a century ago, the local historians FE Ball, WD Hancock and Weston St John, tried to trace the early history of Knocklyon. It is said Walter was granted a charter from Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, better known as ‘Strongbow,’ in which he received the lands of Knocklyon, identified as Clohlun, Cnocklin, or Cnockflyn.
The name Knocklyon probably derives from the Irish meaning the hill (cnoc) of the poll (linn, as in Dubh Linn or Dublin).
Local lore believes the name of Walter de Rideleford survived in Delaford House on Firhouse Road, which was demolished in 1977. However, the house, which was built in the 18th century as a coachman’s inn, was originally named Clandarrig. Alderman Bermingham, who bought the house at the end of the 18th century, changed the name to Springfield. In 1820, Brooke Taylor Otley, Commissioner of Public Works, changed the name to Delaford, celebrating a famous house in England the Ottleys had inherited from the Young family. The land around Delaford was sold for housing and after several fires the house was demolished in 1977.
Meanwhile, the lands of Knocklyon and the surrounding area, between the banks of the River Dodder and the Dublin Mountains, stood through the early Anglo-Norman period in an area known as the Marches, frequently troubled by the cattle raids and skirmishes from the Wicklow Mountains by the O’Toole and O’Byrne clans.
The first castle was probably built near the original mound of Knocklyon around the year 1429, and evidence suggests that it was one of the castles built especially for the defence of the Pale.
In a research paper on Knocklyon Castle, Redmond Shouldice, whose parents live there, traces three stages in the history of the castle. The first phase begins in the decade 1429-1440, and continues until the end of the 16th century.
Redmond Shouldice suggests the years 1429 because during the reign of Henry VI, a statute was passed that year providing £10 subsidies to encourage landowners in the counties of the Pale to build embattled or fortified towers or castles.
The legislation specified that the new castles had to be built within 10 years and they had to be three storeys tall, with minimum internal dimensions of 15 ft by 12 ft, with rounded defensive external corners and a winding stairs in a turret linking each of the three floors.
The original Knocklyon Castle met these demands, and looked like many similar tower houses built throughout Pale in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
After the Reformation, Patrick Barnwall leased Knocklyon in 1547, along with Templeogue, Old Bawn and other neighbouring properties. Later, Knocklyon Castle was held by John Burnell of Balgriffin. However, he was attainted in 1575 and Knocklyon Castle was granted on 24 October 1577 it was granted to John Bathe of Drumcondra Castle, father of a distinguished Jesuit, William Bathe (1564-1614), who was trained as linguist and musicologist in Oxford.
John Bathe built Drumcondra Castle, on the site of present-day Drumcondra House, now part of All Hallows’ College. His other estates included lands in Glasnein, Clonturk, Ballybough, Balgriffin and Chapelizod. He also held Drimnagh Castle in right of his wife, and he left a bequest for building a hospital for old men in Balgriffin.
John Bathe became the Attorney General of Ireland in 1574, and in May 1579 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held until his death in 1586. However, two years before he died, he surrendered the lease of Knocklyon Castle in 1584.
FE Ball suggests that the Nugent family of Westmeath and the Talbot family of Belgard Castle may also have had interests in Knocklyon Castle in the mid-16th century. But in 1585 the lease of the castle was acquired by Captain Anthony Deering. By then, Knocklyon Castle had fallen into ruin, Deering never lived there, and in 1619 later passed to Adam Loftus of Rathfarnham Castle, a grandson of Archbishop Adam Loftus of Dublin, who was granted Rathfarnham Castle in 1590.
In his paper, Redmond Shouldice identifies this acquisition by Adam Loftus as the end of the first phase of the history of Knocklyon Castle. A year later, Loftus leased the castle to Piers Archbold of Kilmacud.
The Archbolds has lived for many generations in Kilmacud. In 1584, Richard Archbold was living at Kilmacud His daughter married James Wolverston of Stillorgan, while his son Piers Archbold, who was granted a pardon by the Crown in 1584, acquired Knocklyon Castle.
Archbold began to rebuild Knocklyon Castle in the style of fortified baronial houses on the Scottish borderlands, including a second turret diagonally opposite the original tower. His rebuilding included an arched entrance that led into the main ground-floor area, with the living areas in the rooms on floors above. Archbold died in 1644 and was buried in Taney Churchyard, Dundrum.
The castle appears to have reverted to the Loftus family of Rathfarnham Castle, and in 1723, Philp Wharton, Duke of Wharton, who had inherited the Loftus estates in Rathfarnham, including Knocklyon, Ballycragh and Old Court, sold them for £62,000 to William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.
However, Conolly never lived at Knocklyon Castle, and built Castletown House in Celbridge, Co Kildare, as his main residence. Rathfarnham Castle, along with Knnocklyon Castle, was recovered eventually by the Loftus family later in the 18th century, and the Ely Triumphal Arch was built on the banks of the River Dodder in Rathfarnham to celebrate this restoration.
In 1780, Knocklyon Castle was leased to the Ledwich family, who were Quakers. According to Redmond Shouldice’s study, their tenancy marks the end of the second phase of the history of the castle.
They farmed the lands of Knocklyon extensively, and carried out an extensive Gothic-style ‘modernisation.’ The castle was given a new central staircase, partition walls, a new roof, hall door and windows. In all, six new room were created, and the turrets became annexes, and were given slated conical roofs. They also added a two-storey extension with a kitchen, loft and storeroom, as well as a range of outbuildings, including a cow byre, stable, lofted cart-shed and workshop.
The Magrane or McGrane family bought Knocklyon Castle in 1826. They incorporated the three-storey castellated building, with its towers and turrets, into a new country house built around 1840. The surviving features from that time include square-headed window openings with paired sash windows, and an elaborate door-case with a timber door, all below drip mouldings, and a hipped slate roof with a large rere chimney.
They continued to live in Knocklyon Castle for almost a century and a half. lived there for over 100 years. When the Shouldice family bought it in 1974 they retained the castle, and housing estates were built on its lands.
In 1964, the farm and lands were sold, mainly for housing development and new housing estates. The house and orchard were bought in 1965 and Dermot and Helen O’Clery, and today Knocklyon Castle is the home of their daughter and son-in-law, Ann and Chris Shouldice. In 2000, the castle was listed as a Grade 1 Protected Structure.
Since 1997, I have lived in a house built on the former lands of Knocklyon Castle, and I can see its turrets and towers clearly from my bedroom window each day.
For other postings on the architectural heritage of South Dublin see:
The Bottle Tower, Churchtown.
Brookvale House, Rathfarnham.
Camberley House, Churchtown.
Dartry House, Orwell Park, Rathfarnham.
Ely Arch, Rathfarnham.
Ely House, Nutgrove Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Fernhurst, 14 Orwell Road, Rathgar.
Fortfield House, Hyde Park, Terenure.
No 201 Harold’s Cross Road, the birthplace of Richard Allen.
Homestead, Sandyford Road, Dundrum.
Kilvare House, also known as Cheeverstown House, Templeogue Road.
Laurelmere Lodge, Marlay Park.
Mountain View House, Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown.
Newbrook House, Taylor’s Lane, Rathfarnham.
Old Bawn House, Tallaght.
Sally Park, Fihouse.
Scholarstown House, Knocklyon.
Silveracre House, off Sarah Curran Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Synge House, Newtwon Villas, Churchtown, and No 4 Orwell Park, Rathgar.
Washington House, Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Westbourne House, off Rathfarnham Road.