Butlerstown Castle 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                               1901                                                                                                                                     2001

The battlemented turrets of Butlerstown Castle can be seen rising above the trees on the top of Butlerstown hill, to the South of the Main Cork Road ( N.25 ). Its ancient name was Killotteran, the name of the parish in which it stands.The Manor of Killotteran was held in the thirteenth century by Richard de Milers of Blundeston; whose son Robert de Blundeston exchanged it with Geoffrey le Butiler for the latter's lands in Hampshire in 1248.Robert's son William had already granted the manor to William de Weyland of Ballygunner, but this grant was made without Royal license and does not seem to have taken effect.

The Butlers who settled at Butlerstown and gave their name to the place were an English family, quite separate from the Butlers of Ormond. They acquired considerable property and influence in the country and city of Waterford, and divided into many branches. About the middle of the fifteenth century, the last Butler of Butlerstown, Joan Butler, was married to a Nugent of the Delvin family, and the new proprietors settled at Cloncoskraine, where they built their main Castle.

Butlerstown Castle was only a secondary residence of the Nugent family, and about 1560 John Nugent of Cloncoskraine conveyed " The Castle and Messuage of Upper Butlerstown " to James Sherlock, whose father Thomas was a younger son of the first Sherlock of Gracedieu.

At the time of the Confederate Wars, Butlerstown was occupied by Sir Thomas Sherlock, great - grandson of James. This man's religion and nationality did not prevent him from displaying the most callous self-interest. Mayor of Waterford in 1632, knighted by the Earl of Cork, he was one of the wealthiest land-owners in the county. When the rebellion broke out in 1641, he was instrumental in helping St. Leger to terrorize the local peasantry, and by his own admission , hunted and hanged one hundred " Irish Marauders ". His regime did not last long, however, for when Lord Mountgarrett arrived before Waterford early in 1642, he laid siege to Butlerstown Castle and took it.Sir Thomas fled to Dublin, where he complained the the insurgents had " stripped him of all, and turned him out of doors in his slippers without stockings, leaving him only a red cap and green mantle ". Some years ago , a cannonball was unearthed near the castle by Mr. Seamus O'Cleirigh, and is now the property of Mr. A.K. Killeen of Tramore; it is probably a relic of this siege.

In 1654 the Civil Surveyors found at Butlerstown " a stone house, a broken Castle and a shrubby wood of oake ", from which it would appear that Sherlock had built a stone dwelling-house onto the Castle, which had fallen to ruin. The Castle continued in its ruinous state until well into the last century; Smith remarked that " by its ruins it seemed to have been demolished by powder ", and later writers have not been slow in asserting that it was the hand of Cromwell that lit the fuse, but it seems unlikely that Cromwell would have wasted powder on an uninhabited Castle.

The Sherlocks were restored by Charles II., and continued to occupy Butlerstown until the close of the eighteenth century. About 1790 a great fire broke out  at the Castle, in which many family heirlooms were consumed. The then owner, Thomas Sherlock, was obliged in 1795 to sell his property and move to Killaspy , Co. Kilkenny. The Castle was then occupied for some sixty years by the Backas family, of Ballyclough. The third and last Robert Backas caught his hand in a threshing machine in 1859 and went to India, where he died of cholera two years later.

The next occupant was Samuel Ferguson, a Northern Nationalist, who instituted large scale restorations at the Castle. The Keep was refaced and equipped with streamlined modern battlements, and the adjoining dwelling house was rebuilt. A door in the Coach House bears his initials and the date 1874.Under his auspices, the Butlerstown branch of the Irish National League held meetings at the Castle. After his death in 1885 the Castle passed to his son Joseph Biggar, the noted antiquarian. Amongst the guests of the Biggars at the Castle were the Gillis's of Pau, France, and the great Tim Healy himself. By a strange twist of fortune, the tenant of the younger Biggar at Butlerstown at the close of the Century was T.R. Prendergast, whose wife was a great-great-granddaughter of the last Sherlock of Butlerstown.

Early in the present Century, the Castle was occupied by Harry Fisher , the Waterford newspaperman. The next landlords were the Nolan family of Kilronan, who installed as tenant an old lady named Hearne, who died at the age of 94, and later a family named O'Connor. Mike O'Connor was active in the Troubled Times, and in the War of Independence, frequently sheltered Volunteers in the Outhouses of the Castle. On one occassion a Volunteer named O'Rourke was wounded by the Black and Tans, who pursued him to the Butlerstown area. As the passed up and down the road searching for him, Mike O'Connor leaned against the gate, passing the time of day and making helpful suggestions. All the time he had O'Rourke hidden at the top of the Castle. During the Civil War, Butlerstown was occupied by a company of Republicans commanded by Tom Brennan of Tramore, several of the house in the area being held at this time ( 1920's ) to cover the retreat of the Republicans and delay the advance of the Free State Soldiers after the capture of Waterford. O'Connor's wife was ill at the time, and the besiegers allowed food to be hauled up in a basket to her at the top of the Castle. Eventually her condition became so critical that O’Connor persuaded the garrison to surrender.

After the passing of the Land Act in the late 1920's, the Butlerstown estate was broken up. The Nolans took over the Castle, and as it was far to big for their needs , had it stripped down and auctioned, retaining only the Coach House as a dwelling-house.

The only part of the original Castle now surviving is the Keep, and this is much reduced in height and greatly altered. It is 39 feet log and 31 feet wide, and stands to height of 47 feet. The South wall, which originally faced the bawn, is 10.5 feet thick, the other three walls are 6.5 feet thick. The Keep has a steep base-batter. On the ground floor, there are doors in the North and South walls and a fireplace in the East wall. This floor was cut off from the others, and the main entrance to the Castle was in the South wall of the first floor, and was reached by a flight of steps leading up from the Bawn. This led to a mural chamber which retains traces of wicker centring. To the left of this, a vice leads to the second and third floors, which are reached by mural chambers in the South wall. Egan states that on the top floor could be seen in his day a stucco representation of the crucifixion, which led to the belief that this room was once used as a chapel.

From the third floor, a flight of steps in the South-East corner led to the higher stories, which are now destroyed. One vault survives, that over the first floor, and it has traces of wicker centring. This floor was used as a storeroom. Curiously enough, the only entrance to it is from a long mural passage. In the spring of the vault, a staircase branches off from the vice and descends through the West wall to this passage, which then runs along the West and North walls to the North-East corner. In its Course it passes over the outside entrance to the Keep, and probably once contained a murdering-hole. It is the most interesting feature of the Castle, which in general presents a sorry spectacle of the ancient modernized and then left to ruin.

 



 
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