Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

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Rathfarnham Castle was one of a chain of castles built to protect Dublin from attack by Irish clans based in Wicklow in the 16th century. With its four flanker towers the castleis an excellent example of the fortified house in Ireland. In the late 18th century, the house was remodelled on a splendid scale employing some of the finest architects of the day.

But Rathfarnham Castle was not built primarily to defend the Pale, originally it served as a comfortable country residence for an ambitious Yorkshire clergyman, Adam Loftus. When the British Civil War broke out in1642, Parlimentary troops were stationed at the Castle and it got its military purpose.

In 1880 the skeletal remains of a young woman were discovered in one of the hollow walls on the middle floor. Folklore tells us that a young fair maiden was locked into a secret compartment during one of the famous balls at the Castle. Two suitors were arguing over her love and they decided to sort out their differences by way of a duel. The successor would then rescue the fair maiden from the wall. But as it happened, both died - one from drowning and the other from his wounds. The whole affair was conducted in secret so the beautiful maiden was left there entombed in the wall, where she died.

In 1913, the Jesuits bought the property and the remaining land. One of the Jesuits, Father O'Leary, famously constructed a seismograph at Rathfarnham Castle. The machine could detect earth tremors and earthquakes from across the world and for a time, Rathfarnham became a source of earthquake information for the national media.

Today the castle is presented to visitors as a castle undergoing active conservation. You can see tantalizing glimpses of the layers of the castle's earlier existence uncovered during research. The Berkeley Costumes and Toy Collection displaying 18th and 19th century fashion and playthings offers a fascinating insight into social history. Like vernacular architecture, furniture and furnishings, clothes and toys are the physical evidence of lives lived and those lives.

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