In 1204 the Cantred of Dungarvan, one of three held by Donal O'Faolain of the Decies, was escheated and the Justiciary was commanded to take it into the King's hands. An Anglo-Norman settlement was established and at some period over the next ten years a stone castle was built. King John may have seen the work in progress on his visit to Ireland in 1210.
One of the earliest references to the castle occurs in September 1209 when the Bishop of Lismore was captured on the orders of the Bishop of Waterford:
They besieged him for a time in the church of Lismore... They fell upon him going out of the church... and hurried him about from place to place until they brought him to the Castle of Dungarvan, where the Bishop of Waterford threw him into a Dungeon in irons. 1
In 1215 King John granted the custody of the castle to Thomas FitzAnthony. Significant building works appear to have taken place in the mid 13th century. In 1257 payment of £50 was made to carpenters making 'Bretach and other works and eight score diggers sent thither. 2
The Sheriffs Accounts for the Honour of Dungarvan 1261-63 record works at the castle:
'Allowed to said Sherrif ( William de Ia Rochelle) 40 marks which, by order of the Lord Edward, he delivered to Robert Brun and William Fitz-Peter, wardens of the works of the Lord Edward's castle of Dungarvan, to be expended on the same works.. .And to the same Sherrif 504 which he spent by order of the said Lord Edward upon ten thousand shingles purchased for covering the said castle bv the same writ. And to the same Sherrif-which.. he spent in the building of a house which he made to be built afresh within the same castle.' 3
In 1277 Walter de la Haye, sheriff of Waterford, was paid £104. 13.9 in connection with' his custody of the castle of Dungarvan and works there. 4
The condition of the castle at the end of the 13th century is recorded in the report of the Jurors in Thomas's Inquisition Post Mortem 1299:
'There are at Dungarvan a castle in bad repair unroofed and nearly levelled to the ground; a new tower unroofed; a stone house beyond the gate in ill condition and badly roofed; these can yield nothing, but stand in need of great improvement, with great care and expenditure to maintain them. 5'
The reference to the new tower is interesting. Is it a reference to the present south west tower?
Edward lV made an attempt to repair Dungarvan castle and the town defences when in 1463 he ordered Thomas, 8th Earl of Desmond to undertake the fortification of the place. 6
The Earl of Ormond was granted the Manor and castle of Dungarvan in 1527. However, in 1536 Ormond complained to the King that he had gone to great trouble and expense in taking the castle 'in making roodies and obsyddeallis to wynne the same and have repayred and made up the walls prosterated with the ordenaunee at the last wynnyng thereof. 7 On Ormond's death the constableship of the castle was given to Robert St.Ledger which post he held until 1548.
The next constable was Matthew King who claimed in 1553 to have spent £243. 16.4. on repairs to the castle:
'After Our hearty commendations, this bearer, Matthew Kinge, hath informed us that by order of Sir Edward Bellingham. . he disbursed of his own proper goods certain sums of money in building and repairing the Castle of Dungarvan.'
In 1580 Lord Justice PeIham wrote to Lord Burghley concerning the 'extreme ruin' of a number of Irish castles including Dungarvan. It was ordered that 'artificers be sent out of England to repair them.' (Cal State Papers p.207.)
After the burning of Dungarvan in 1582 an attempt was made to repair the defences. A new constable was appointed with instructions to repair the castle from the profits of the Manor. 8
The repair of the 'two forts and Her Majesty's house at Dungarvant was ordered in 1582. 9
In August 1598 the constable of Dungarvan castle, Christopher Cheverell, wrote to the Earl of Ormonde commenting on the arrival of the Spaniards in the west of Ireland, He asked for ten muskets and half a hundredweight of powder, for the better defence of the castle and for a stronger guard: 'the town being altogether unfurnished both of men and munition, and lying dangerously upon the seaside, if any invasion be upon this coast.' (Cal State Papers p.245.)
In 1599 the constable and two warders were withdrawn from the castle because of its ruinous condition. 10
Sir George Carew then acquired the Manor and castle for himself In 1605 he appointed his nephew, Edward Carew as vice - constable to succeed him on his retirement. 11
By the time he succeeded his uncle the Government had lost interest in Dungarvan castle. Edward sold the Manor castle and Parsonage in 1618 for £4,000 to Sir Richard Boyle. 12
In 1623 a survey of the forts of Ireland noted Dungarvan castle in great decay and stated that it would cost £1,000 to repair. 13
In 1644 Dungarvan castle was described as a 'considerable fortress' by M. Boulay le Gouz on his tour through Ireland.
The Confederate Wars
The Confederate leaders knew the strategic importance of Dungarvan when Waterford was invaded by Lord Mountgarrett's forces in 1642. The town was taken and a garrison was stationed there under the command of John Butler of Ballyclohy. The castle was re-taken by Sir William St. Leger who left a garrison of sixty men there. However, within a week, the Irish, led by Richard Butler of Kilcash, re-captured the castle. During the next few years Dungarvan became one of the Confederates main ports in munster.
Lord Inchiquin laid siege to Dungarvan on 3 May 1647:
'And now the Lord President being forced to spend a little time in the setting and disposing these new forces, which he had no sooner despatched, but he ordered the removal of the army from Cappoquin to Dungarvan, a seatowne well walled and fortified and one of the Rebels chief Ports in Munster, and a receptable for their pyrats and Dunkirk friggots. .But finding that after foure dayes constant battery with foure battering peeces, that they could make no assaultable breach... Upon our coming into the towne we found the cause that induced them to give it up was of munition which was also upon the way towards them by sea from Waterford... We also found that if we had carried the town by storm, the castle within it might well have been justified against us and would have probably cost much blood in the acquiring.' 14
This account indicates that Dungarvan castle was a considerable fortress.
At the beginning of the 18th century the castle was developed as an Infantry barracks. The barrack buildings ( shown on the 1746 engraving from Smith's History of Waterford) were complete by 1751. The castle walls were repaired and rebuilt with new gun-loops added. The last soldiers to occupy the barracks were the King's Own Borders it was then taken over by the Royal Irish Constabulary . The castle and barrack were occupied by the Republicans on 4 March 1922 during the Civil war. On 8 August the Republicans abandoned the barrack, setting fire to the barrack buildings and the south west tower. The barrack building was re-roofed after the Civil War ( part of the west block was demolished) and became the headquarters of the Garda Siochana.
- Harris, The whole works of Sir James Ware Vol.1. pp.528-30.
- Urban Archaeology Survey, Co.Waterford, 1989. p.24.
- Curtis, Edmund, Sheriffs Accounts of the Honor ofDungarvan of Tweskardin Ulster & of Co. Waterford J261-63. P.R.I.A. 1929.
- Urban Archaeology Survey p.24.
- Walton, Julian, Dungarvan Castle, unpublished typescript, n.d.
- Statute Rolls of Irish Parliament ,Vol.3, pp.57-59.
- State Papers, Henry VIII, Vol 2, (i) 303-4.
- Walton, op. cit.
- Urban Archaeology Survey, p.25. -
- Walton, op. cit.
- Cal. Rolls James 1.76.
- Grosart, Lismore papers, pp.181-2.
- Cal. of State papers XVI. p.430.
- Buckley, James, Tracts Illusirative of the Civil War in Ireland of 1641, W.S.E.I.A.S. Journal, Vol V. pp.154-i 59.