Barberstown Castle built in the 13th Century is an integral part of the local area. Its history is as fascinating as its architecture and is worth a visit on these attractions alone.
Nestled on 20 acres of surrounding gardens, Barberstown was one of the first great Irish country houses to display its splendor to the outside world when it opened as a hotel in 1971. It has maintained the elegance of design over eight Centuries by sympathetically blending its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions with the original Castle Battlement of 1288.
The Castle was built as a fortress to protect the village and people of Barberstown from the attack of the rebellious Vi Faelain, who tried to burn the town (among others) in 1310. It has traditionally found itself in the middle of political struggle and local wars which generally resulted in change of ownership.
Since 1288 Barberstown has had 37 owners who have all who had the foresight to protect its heritage and character including one Eric Clapton who was one of its most recent owners.
Some of its previous owners have gone to extreme lengths to retain ownership. Just how far some went is illustrated by the story of the body that is said to be interred in the tower of the Castle Keep (the original part of the Castle). His fate can be explained by reading the lease on the Castle at the time in which was written that the lease would expire when he was buried underground (ie. his death). The ending of a lease normally resulted in an increase in rent so after the man’s death he was buried in the tower above the earth which ensured the family continued to hold the lease to the Castle!
The walls of the Castle Keep walls slope inwards so as to prevent an enemy getting out of range by closing up to the building. Ironically however the rooms on the upper floors of the Castle are larger than those on the ground level as their walls are somewhat thinner.
The neighbouring village of Straffan is named after St. Straffan, one of the early sixth century missionaries. Its close linkages with the local town and people were proven when an underground tunnel from the Church in Straffan to the Castle was found in 1996 during renovations. A ‘Priest’s Hole’ can be also found in the Castle which was originally made to protect the priests of the town during Penal Times.
Uniquely Barberstown Castle is made up of four buildings from different periods in Irish history. It has recently undergone a multimillion euro redevelopment with careful attention given to retaining the original Castle features, character, style and personality of this unique property.
Distinguished and influential owners of Barberstown Castle include;
Nicholas Barby built the Castle towards the end of the 13th Century on the land which was originally owned by the Great Norman family the Fitzgeralds.
1630 William Sutton of one of the most important families in the area owned the property. The population of Barberstown at the time was 36!
1689 Lord Kingston had his ownership confiscated by Earl of Tyrconnell after the accession to power of James 11 of England. It was around this time that it fell into the less glamorous hands of the Commissioners of the Revenue who let it out to a Roger Kelly for £102 annual rent in the late 1600s.
It was purchased by Bartholomew Van Homreigh in 1703 for £1,033 the sixth owner in six years. At the time the property was 335 acres. Van Homreigh had been mayor of Dublin in 1697 and his greatest ‘claim to fame' lies in the fact that he was the father of Vanessa of whom Swift wrote so passionately about.
He sold it to the Henrys who were prone to excessive spending and were left with no option but to sell it to Mr. Hugh Barton who completed the last wing of the house in the 1830s which added to the present day unique architectural status of Barberstown. He is also famed for constructing Straffan House known today at the K-Club.
As the property became too expensive to retain as a residence, the Huddlestons who owned Barberstown Castle in the 1900s sold it to Mrs. Norah Devlin who converted it into a hotel in 1971.
Eric Clapton purchased the property in 1979 and, sold it to the current owner in 1987.
Proprietor Ken. Healy who lives on the property has renovated it from a 10 bedroom guesthouse with three bathrooms to a 59 bedroom Failte Ireland approved 4 Star Hotel and a member of Ireland's Blue Book of Country House Hotels & Restaurants.
Ken maintains the tradition of generous hospitality to all who enter this luxurious and historic 13th Century Castle.
Look out for the names of all the owners of Barberstown Castle painted on the bedrooms doors of the hotel!