Monday, July 31, 2017

Carlow Castle in 1307

The Lordship of Carlow in 1307

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

On Saturday after the close of Easter in 1307 Walter de la Haye, escheator of Ireland assembled his court of inquiry into the lordship of Carlow and the condition of Carlow castle which was lately owned by Roger le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England.[1] Roger le Bigod was the son of Hugh le Bigod who in turn was the younger son of Matilda Marshal. Matilda Marshal was the eldest of five daughters of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and the most celebrated knight of medieval Europe. 

In 1247 the last of Matilda’s five brothers died without leaving a male heir. The vast Marshal estate in England, Wales and Ireland was divided among the five sisters in equal portions as was the custom of the time. Yet by the time of the partition in 1247 Matilda Marshal was the only sister still alive. Matilda Marshal had married twice, firstly in 1207 to Hugh le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, who died in 1225 and secondly to William, Earl Warenne (d. 1240). 

Matilda Marshal died in 1248 leaving her eldest son, Roger le Bigod as heir. This Roger le Bigod was 4th Earl of Norfolk in succession to his father but Earl Marshal of England in succession to his mother. The Marshal family had long held the title of Earl Marshal of England and had even taken their family name from the title. Roger le Bigod died in 1270 without leaving any children. He was succeeded by his nephew, Roger le Bigod, son of Hugh le Bigod, as 5th Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshal. About one hundred rolls of accounts relating to the Irish estates of Roger le Bigod survive and they give a rare insight into the management of an Irish medieval estate.[2]

In 1302 Roger le Bigod surrendered his Irish estates to King Edward I because Roger was bankrupt and needed to be bailed out by the government. King Edward granted the estates back to Roger to be held for life after which they would revert to the crown if Roger left no heirs of his body. Roger le Bigod had died on 11th December 1306 leaving no children (no heirs of his body) and his brother, John le Bigod, as heir general. But because of the clauses in the royal grant John le Bigod was left with little and the bulk of the Bigod lands in England, Wales and Ireland reverted to the crown.[3]

The Carlow estates were then granted by King Edward II to his brother, Thomas of Brotherton, who was created Earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England. In 1307 the Carlow estates were valued at £343 0s 1½d which was not too far off the valuation set at the partition of 1247 at £349 2s 11½d But the equal value of the Marshal estate to each sister was to be £343 5s 6½d thus £5 17s 5d of the vill of Ballsax was given to the purpaty of Dunamase which was the inheritance of Eva Marshal, the youngest of five sisters. Eva Marshal left three daughters by her husband William de Braose and thus her share was divided into three parts. Her eldest daughter, Maud, married Roger Mortimer of Wigmore and thus the Mortimer’s were lords of Dunamase.[4]

Carlow castle in 1307

The castle at Carlow was the chief stronghold of the Bigod lands but by 1307 in was in poor repair. The castle roof was in a bad condition and the pleas and assizes of the county had to be held in a hall opposite the castle. But this building was also in poor repair with many defects in the roof and walls such that nobody would rent the building.[5] Carlow castle has a somewhat similar ground plan to the castles built at Kilkenny, Ferns, Wexford and Enniscorthy though the dimensions vary considerably. It is possible that work on the castle began under William Marshal the elder and was completed by his son, William Marshal the younger. A charter granted by the latter to the town of Carlow in 1223 mentions the castle.[6]

Around the castle there was 68 acres in demesne, 50 acres of arable land and 16 acres of meadow, a moor and an island. Nearby there were three watermills and three weirs on the River Barrow. The burgesses of Carlow town held 160 burger plots and rendered £8 0s 16½d for same. A common oven held by the burgesses rendered years for tolls and taxes 8s 3d while the prise of ale was worth 40s. There were three free tenants paying rent, namely; Richard Talon 4s for the barony of Tamelyng, Peter Wass 20s for 75 acres opposite the castle and Geoffrey Wade the younger 12s for 20 acres.[7]

Carlow castle was built sometime between 1207 and 1213 by William Marshal the elder. The structure of a large square keep with three quarter circular towers at each corner was a new form of castle building. Similar castles were at Ferns, Lea and Terryglass. After 1307 the castle passed through many owners until reacquired by the crown in 1537. In 1616 the castle was acquired by the Earl of Thomond. By the start of the nineteenth century the castle was relativity intact. But in 1814 most of the castle was destroyed by explosives by some lunatic trying to create more space for the conversion of the building into a lunatic asylum. Today only the west wall and two round corner towers survive.


End of post


[1] J.E.E.S. Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. IV, Edward 1 (Kraus reprint, 1973), no. 434 (p. 304)
[2] Goddard Henry Orpen, Ireland under the Normans 1169-1333 (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2005), vol. III, pp. 81, 84, 85
[3] Goddard Henry Orpen, Ireland under the Normans 1169-1333, vol. III, pp. 84; Edward Alexander Fry (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 30 Edward I to 32 Edward III, 1302-1358 (British Record Society, London, 1910), p. 73
[4] Goddard Henry Orpen, Ireland under the Normans 1169-1333, vol. III, pp. 84, 85, 103
[5] J.E.E.S. Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem, Vol. IV, Edward 1, no. 434 (p. 304)
[6] Goddard Henry Orpen, Ireland under the Normans 1169-1333, vol. III, pp. 55, 81
[7] J.E.E.S. Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem, Vol. IV, Edward 1, no. 434 (p. 304)

St Canice cathedral at Kilkenny

St Canice cathedral at Kilkenny 

Niall C.E.J. O'Brien

The cathedral church of St. Canice in the medieval city of Kilkenny was founded as a local church by St. Canice (Cainnech) sometime before his death in 599 or 600. The principal church of St. Canice was at Aghaboe in County Laois. By the twelfth century the coarbs of Aghaboe had decided to relocate to Kilkenny which had by then become an important church with a round tower nearby.

At the synod of Rathbreasail in 1111 the church of St. Canice at Kilkenny was chosen as the cathedral church for the new Diocese of Ossory. In 1172 the then Bishop of Ossory, Felix O Dubhlain, did fealty to King Henry II of England. Felix died in 1202 and soon was venerated as a saint with miracles attached to his tomb at Jerpoint Abbey.

In 1202 Hugh de Rous became the first Anglo-Norman bishop of Ossory. The cathedral had a dean in the days of Bishop Felix and a chapter was in place by 1218. Later the chapter consisted of the dean, four dignitaries and seven prebendaries.

In the thirteenth century (between 1251 and 1287) the old cathedral was gradually replaced by a new building - the present structure. In 1332 the central tower collapsed during the time of Bishop Richard Ledred, the famous bishop of the Kilkenny witch trials. In 1460-78 Bishop David Hacket built the star vaulting under the restored central tower.

In 1260-87 Bishop Geoffrey St. Leger founded a College of Vicars Choral and erected a common hall and other buildings for the Vicars near the cathedral.

By 1565 the cathedral had passed from Roman Catholic control to the Protestant Church of Ireland with Christopher Gaffney as first Protestant bishop. The cathedral is today (2017) still part of the Protestant Church of Ireland community.

Source = A. Gwynn & R.N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses Ireland (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1988), pp. 84, 85

The following are images of the cathedral which is visited by many thousands of tourists every year.



Today St. Canice cathedral is the home of many medieval tombs and monuments. But not all of these tombs are original to the cathedral. Many were brought there over the decades from other abandoned churches around the Diocese of Ossory.

The cathedral has also many 'modern' memorials to the Butler family, Earls of Ormond and other people.


Art and architecture is part of any great cathedral and St. Canice's overflows with both.






Windows - inside and outside


exterior views

North side of the cathedral


A great cathedral has many doors - large and small and of many colours such as the green door


End of post