Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 17, 2017

Maynooth Castle

On a recent castle jaunt I stopped to snoop around Maynooth Castle (Maynooth or Mhagh Nuadhat or Nuadhad means the plain of Nuadhat who was the grandfather of Fionn MaCumhail1).

Replacing a once wooden structure, the current tower house was built around 1200 by the Fitzgeralds.  The complex became their seat and stronghold in County Kildare.  That would last until 1535 when Henry VIII and his army captured the castle.  A hundred years of turbulence saw the castle remodeled and re-inhabited.  In 1647 after another battle, the castle was seized by the Old Irish Catholics under Owen Roe O’Neill and dismantled2.  From there it drifted into ruin.  Once a sprawling complex, all that remains is an entry gate, Norman tower, and a few ruined walls.

According to the OPW brochure, the Maynooth Gate only allowed entry to the outer court and was greatly enhanced during the renovations in the 1600’s.

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To the right of the gate lie the ruins of a tower along with one of the inner walls.  There is a bricked up window on the side of the tower. The tower has what looks like a storage room but could be a function room as it has a glass ceiling.  Walking along the wall you see what looks like what might have been a window.  However, as seen from the other side, this was actually a doorway.  Where did all the dirt on the upper level come from?  There’s also a very tall entry out the back which is adjacent to that door that’s only an arch on the other side.

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A similar accumulation of earth is found in the cellar of the keep.  The cellar contains an exhibition of the life and times of the castle and its owners.  At first I thought there was a fireplace behind the exhibit boards, but I didn’t see a chimney or other type of flue.  On the opposite side you can see a series of these arches which separate the sections of the cellar.  It turns out that dirt has accumulated inside the cellar as well – to the tune of about 8 feet of it!  Just goes to show what a couple hundred years of dust accumulation looks like.  The well in the floor of the cellar appears to have suffered from this gathering of dirt, too, as it doesn’t appear as deep as it would have been and lacks sufficient water to be a proper well.

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Above the exhibition space is what used to be the great hall, now open to the elements.  Looking up you can see there was another floor or two.  There are niches in 3 of the 4 walls that are not connected. Maybe they were the equivalent of closets, or private areas for confidential conversations.

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In each of the 4 corners is an unusual arch which I couldn’t quite figure out what it would have represented – too blocked to be windows or doors.  Above them was another floor, likely with bedrooms or other private areas with more closet-like rooms between the walls.

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Although much of the complex has been destroyed, there are plenty of reminders of the grandeur it enjoyed during its heyday.

  1. http://kildare.ie/Heritage/historic-sites/maynooth-castle.asp
  2. OPW brochure
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