Belvelly Castle

Belvelly Castle

Belvelly Castle is a 16th-century tower house, located near Callan in Ireland, and surrounded by an 8 acre (32,000 m²) deer park.

The castle is regarded as one of the best preserved structures of its kind in Ireland and has been described as “National monument status”.

It was built from limestone on a square plan with four round towers at the corners. The entrance to Bevelly Castle stands between two of these towers. There are no windows on the north side and gun loops pierce each level on other sides; only the roof shows timber construction.

Belvelly Castle was built in 1566 by Lughaidh Bourke whose clan name was slurred to Bourke. It remained in the hands of the de Burgh family until 1640, when it passed into the ownership of the Butler family. The castle was attacked and partly destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers in the 1650s. In 1666 another member of this clan (also called Bourke) rebuilt Bevelly Castle but this time in stone.

Ownership eventually passed to the Jones-Parry family, who restored Bevelly Castle and carried out much of its present-day restoration. Patrick’s son John Jones Parry, 1st Baron Ellenborough sold it to James Joicey in 1802. The estate was subsequently purchased by Augustus Warren, a former Governor of New South Wales (one of five known Irish castles to have been owned by an Australian) and passed to a branch of that family who occupied it until the 1950s.

The estate remained in the Warren family until 1993 and in 1996 the castle was purchased by the Irish state and is now managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW). In 2011 Bevelly Castle was reopened to visitors.

Belvelly Castle was erroneously described as a medieval structure. The OSI undertook recent research, which revealed that it was initially built as a tower house in the 16th century. Further work since then has shown that it was refitted in stone (rather than wood) around 1640, when it also acquired its present-day classical form. The neighbouring lands were also developed in the 16th century.

Belvelly Castle has been described as “one of the best preserved structures of its kind in Ireland”. Its plan is considered unique, with a drum tower at the entrance gateway and towers placed at each corner, rather than one or two flanking the entrance gateway. According to architectural historian R.A.S. MacAlister, its plan also follows Italian precedent (from Verona and France). Its construction is also unusual given that it incorporates limestone from a quarry close to Doneraile; it was built by stonemasons who had migrated from England. In terms of structure, Bevelly Castle is similar to the Tower of London.

Ownership eventually passed to the Jones-Parry family, who restored Bevelly Castle and carried out much of its present-day restoration.

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Amy Green

Hi, my name is Amy and I am a UK based teacher and blogger. I spent most of my childhood summers exploring castles of England and Wales, and most of my adulthood teaching humanities in Secondary schools. I love visiting and learning about Norman and Medieval Castles.

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