Kilkenny Castle hosts heritage open day


THE RESTORATION of historic Kilkenny Castle is in a film that will be shown in the castle at a heritage open day there tomorrow.

The documentary on the restoration covers four decades from 1967 when the castle came into public hands for the first time – unless you count a brief period during the second World War when troops were stationed there, or a two-day takeover by republican forces during the Civil War.

The castle will be decked out in the heraldic banners and flags of the Butler family earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormonde who lived there from 1391 until 1935.

On display will be the Liber Primus Kilkenniensis (1231-1537), Kilkenny’s oldest town book. It is a skin manuscript of 87 numbered leaves.

There will also be an exhibition of rare estate maps, Mapping the Ormonde Estate,commissioned in about 1810 by Walter Butler, marquess of Ormonde.

The records of architects, landscape gardeners, painters, agriculturists, lawyers and agents who took part in the development of the Ormonde estates in the latter half of the 18th century will also be on show.

The day will see the recreation of a Victorian pastime, with horse and carriage rides in the park. Visitors will find a 17th-century replica cannon in the courtyard where a woodturning and carving demonstration will take place.

Music in the courtyard will be provided by the St Patrick’s Brass and Reed Band, while there will also be cookery demonstrations, children’s activities and architectural and archaeological tours.

Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. William the Earl Marshall built the first stone castle on the site, which was completed in 1213. This was a square castle with towers at each corner; three of which survive.

The last member of the Butler family sold the castle to a local restoration committee for £50 and it was given to the State in 1967. After treating the fabric of the building for rot, a programme of restoration was begun. The east side was reroofed and restored and opened to the public in 1976.

As well as the formal reception rooms, including the Long Gallery with restored pictures, the castle houses the Butler Gallery of modern art in former servants’ rooms on the ground floor.

The castle and grounds are managed by the OPW, and are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue.