Monkstown Castle

The Demesne, Monkstown, Co Cork


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Monkstown Castle was built in 1636 by Anastacia Archdeacon (nee Gould) as a present for her husband John Archdeacon. John was returning from his campaign in Spain, where he was fighting with King Philip. The story goes that on returning from his campaign, John Archdeacon entered Cork harbour and on seeing the newly erected fortification he thought that the enemy had taken over the headland.

He proceeded to fire directly at the building. Luckily only one canon ball hit the battlements and destroyed only some of the stone work. Local tradition goes that this is the reason for the different designs of the two battlements overlooking the harbour.

Anastacia Archdeacon was a very economical woman and it is believed that her husband was impressed by the relative low cost of building Monkstown Castle. The workers that she brought in to build the structure were provided with food and accommodation on site, the cost of which was taken from their wages. She also opened up a shop from which the workers could purchase clothes, drinks and supplies. It is also suggested that she reused material for the construction of the castle, such as old stone from the original Legan monastery and round tower which were located adjacent to the proposed site of the castle. The overall cost of the project came to one groat or four pence. The structure bears a striking resemblance to Mount Long, which is also an early 17th century semi-fortified house, situated on the side of Oyster Haven, suggesting that the two properties may have been designed and constructed by the same builder.

John Archdeacon lived at the castle till his death in 1660. His wife passed away nearly thirty years later in 1689. They are both buried in table top tombs in the adjacent Monkstown graveyard. 

The descendants of John and Anastacia continued to occupy the castle until the Cromwellian period, when the castle was occupied by Captain Thomas Plunkett on behalf of the Parliamentarians. At the end of the war Cromwell deprived the Archdeacons of their castle and lands because they sided with James 11. 

The castle was subsequently handed over to a Colonel Huncks, who was one of the regicides of Charles 1. Considering his position and its precarious nature, Huncks decided to sell the castle to Primate Michael Boyle, Archbishop of Armagh and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. In the late 17th Century on Boyle's death the property reverted to his granddaughter who married Sir Thomas Versey.

The castle was later occupied by John Callaghan in the 1770s and at the start of the nineteenth century the Shaw family took up residence at Monkstown Castle. Bernard Shaw was employed as collector of the Port of Cork and with his time at Monkstown Castle he carried out extensive repairs to the castle and grounds. An inscription of initials ‘B.S.’ and date ‘1841’ is evident above one of the consoles in the building. This commemorates the re-roofing and repair of the house by Bernard Shaw. William Deane was the probable contractor for some works at the castle, including 'a segment Gothic window'. Works carried out at the castle included the slating, plastering and some masons’ work. A large number of trees were planted by Shaw to make up what is now the Monkstown Demesne. Mr. Shaw also had a set of fine stone arches constructed near the graveyard. A magnificent pair of iron gates, which were made at Scannell's forge, were also erected at the entranceway to the castle. The name 'Bernard Shaw' and the date 1804 were incorporated into these impressive iron gates. In June 1808 Bernard Shaw died suddenly in his carriage while driving to Monkstown and there is scant evidence to suggest that the Boyles remained in residence at Monkstown Castle during the next 70 years.

The castle was utilised as a military barracks during the Peninsular war from 1808-1814. It was used to accommodate up to 450 soldiers during this period. Reference has been made to some additions to the castle and extensive improvements being made to the estate by Arthur Hill and Samuel Thomas in the mid to late 19th century.

In the early stages of the twentieth century it served as headquarters for the Monkstown Badmington Club from 1902-3. In 1908 the castle was acquired by the new Monkstown Golf Club. The committee made constant repairs to the route access to the castle from 1925 onwards, and in 1938 electricity was installed. After World War 11 major refurbishments were made, including the instillation of proper heating and lighting. The Monkstown Golf Club Committee purchased the property outright in 1958 and it remained the headquarters until 1983.

The castle was purchased by Sean Condon and Niall Fitzgerald in July 2007. Planning permission was granted in December 2007 to restore the castle to a single structure. Work commenced in April 2008 and works are ongoing.