Heritage Sites of Co. Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

“Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today”… Read more about the history of Kilkenny Castle on Heritage Ireland.

The thirteenth century Medieval foundations of the castle remain. The castle was rebuilt in the seventeenth century and altered/extended in the nineteenth century using Kilkenny limestone sourced from the townland of Bonnetsrath north of Kilkenny City. Exterior paving includes Carlow Flags (probably nineteenth century) and Liscannor Flags with clearly visible Olivellites traces (recent). Pale yellow dolomitic limestone dressings surround some slit-windows and entrances in the older portions of the castle exterior.

While the exterior of the castle is almost solely constructed of limestone from the locality, the interior also showcases a range of Irish stone types as well as some English and continental varieties. The tiles in the entrance hall are alternating polished Portland stone and Kilkenny black limestone and the two fireplaces are of pinkish grey Cork limestone, known as Midleton Pink in the Victorian stone trade.

The nineteenth century cantilevered stairs is of Wicklow granite (quarry not identified but probably Ballyknockan). The kitchen corridor in the basement is paved with large black Carlow flagstones.

The Carrara Marble fireplace in the picture gallery (added in the early nineteenth century by William Robertson and altered by Deane and Woodward in the mid-nineteenth century) was designed by J.H. Pollen and the foliage carving is attributed to Charles Harrison. The Moorish staircase was added by Deane and Woodward in 1859-63 and the naturalistic carvings in Caen stone are attributed to Charles Harrison; the columns are in Portland Stone. The hammer-beam roof structure supported by carved Caen stone corbels in the Picture Gallery are too by Harrison. The picture gallery was decorated by J.H. Pollen using a combination of motifs, interlace and gilding. Gilbert Cockburn was the building contractor during this period of alteration.

There are ornately carved coloured and white marble firelplaces, fabricated from imported stone (probably Italian), throughout the castle: a white marble with beige streaks in the Chinese Withdrawing Room and the Blue Bedroom, a soft mottled grey marble in the State Dining Room and the Drawing Room, a variegated creamy white marble in the Tapestry Room, and a white marble with blue-grey veining in the Chinese Bedroom (the Balcony Bedroom).

Further reading:

Geology of Co. Kilkenny

During the Ordovician period (490-450 million years ago [Ma]) and the later Silurian Period mud and sand were deposited into an ocean that divided Ireland in two. By Devonian (416 Ma) times the ocean had closed completely and a large continent had formed. Huge volumes of molten magma rose up into the Earth’s crust, cooling slowly to form granite, which, uncovered by later erosion, now forms the hills in the southwest of the county. Near the end of the Devonian, around 360 Ma, small lakes developed, which were surrounded by vegetation such as the tree fern Archaeopteris.

Later in the Lower Carboniferous (360-330 Ma) a shallow ocean covered the county and limestone containing shells was deposited. Eventually the sea gave way to swampy land where large forests of club mosses and ferns thrived. Remains of these plants form the coal that is found in the northern part of the county around Castlecomer.

The youngest bedrock in the county was discovered only by drilling near Piltown, near Carrick-on-Suir. Clay and sand preserved in hollows in the surface of the Carboniferous limestone contained pollen grains from the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous.

There are extensive spreads of glacial till, or boulder clay, and, particularly adjacent to the River Nore, thick deposits of gravel that were all deposited at the end of the Ice Age.

Map legend: Geological Map of Limerick (based on GSI 1:1,000,000 map 2003). Pale pink: Ordovician; Turquoise: Ordovician volcanic rocks; Pale green: Silurian sediments; Beige: Devonian sandstones; Pale blue: Lower Carboniferous limestone; Dark green: Upper Carboniferous coal and shales; Dark pink: Granite.