31 March 2015

Knocklyon Castle … a hidden gem
in the middle of suburban housing

(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

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).

Knocklyon probably derives from the Irish meaning the hill of the poll (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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 almost 600 years ago, around 1429 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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.

Knocklyon Castle is in a secluded area, screened by an abundance of trees (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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.

The Ledwich family added a two-storey extension around the 1780s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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:

Berwick Hall.
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.
Knocklyon Castle.
Laurelmere Lodge, Marlay Park.
Marlay Park.
Mountain View House, Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown.
Newbrook House, Taylor’s Lane, Rathfarnham.
Old Bawn House, Tallaght.
Rathfarnham Castle.
Sally Park, Fihouse.
Scholarstown House, Knocklyon.
Silveracre House, off Sarah Curran Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Synge House, Newtwon Villas, Churchtown, and No 4 Orwell Park, Rathgar.
Templeogue House.
Washington House, Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Westbourne House, off Rathfarnham Road.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (42):
‘Dona nobis pacem’ 2, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

‘Beat! beat! drums!’ … Bands from the Irish and British army playing at the dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions each day during Lent this year, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

Today [31 March 2015] is the Tuesday in Holy Week, and the Year B readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Eucharist today are: Isaiah 49: 1-7; Psalm 71: 1-14; I Corinthians 1: 18-31; John 12: 20-36.

For these closing days of Lent, the six days of Holy Week, I am listening to Dona nobis pacem, a cantata for soprano and baritone soli, chorus and orchestra.

The oratorio falls into the six continuous sections or movements, and I am listening to these movements one-by-one in sequence each morning.

I am posting a full recording of the cantata each day, so each movement can be listened to in context, but each morning I am listening to the movements in sequence, listening to one movement after another over these six days of Holy Week.

The six sections or movements are:

1, Agnus Dei

2, Beat! beat! drums! (Whitman)

3, Reconciliation (Whitman)

4, Dirge for Two Veterans (Whitman)

5, The Angel of Death (John Bright)

6, Dona nobis pacem (the Books of Jeremiah, Daniel, Haggai, Micah, and Leviticus, the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah, and Saint Luke’s Gospel)

This morning [31 March 2015] I am listening to the second movement, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

‘Dona nobis pacem’ with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and Michaela Anthony, soprano

2, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

The second movement is a violent depiction of war and a furious setting of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

The words this movement are based on a poem in Drum Taps written by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). This poem was written after he had served as a volunteer nurse in the American Civil War. He was stunned by the death toll of over 600,000 in that war over the space of four years.

Whitman’s words describe the drums and bugles of war bursting through doors and windows. When war erupts, nothing and nobody is inviolate. Peaceful lives in schools and churches, of brides, farmers and sleepers, of old men and children are in turn swept aside by the warring sounds.

The setting of this movement is for choir, heralded by volleys of brass and rattling percussion. In the use of the bass drum and its key shifts by thirds, Vaughan Williams here recalls Verdi’s Dies irae.

The movement erupts with articulate fear, depicting a violence that destroys peaceful daily lives. In the examples – merchants and scholars disappearing while others pray, weep, and entreat – we sense the numbers of people being swept into war’s unremitting violence once again in the 1930s.

Remembering D-Day at the War Memorial in Penkridge, Staffordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Beat! beat! drums!

Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through the doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field, or gathering in his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers bargains by day – [no brokers or speculators] – would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
[Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?]
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley – stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.


O God,
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tomorrow: 3, ‘Reconciliation