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White's Castle Castle
 

County

Kildare

Coordinates

N 52° 59' 31.8"   W 006° 59' 03.7"

Nearest town

Athy

Grid Ref.

S 68251 93939

Map No.

55

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

74

Date of visit

Monday 10 June 2013

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The White's Castle is in the heart of Athy, on the left bank of the River Barrow.


White's Castle was built in 1417 under the direction of Sir John Talbot, an Anglo-Norman nobleman, Viceroy of Ireland. In origin it was a simple tower built at the east end of the bridge over the River Barrow, which separated the Anglo-Norman settlers from the Irish, and it was the house for a garrison that protected the border.
The castle consisted of a three-storey tower house with a battered base. By 1505 the castle was in derelict conditions and a member of the FitzGerald family was asked to rebuild it.
According to some sources there was a matching tower on the west side of the bridge. A record of a legal transaction in 1516 reads that the Monastery of St. Thomas in Kildare granted the use of a castle on the west side of the bridge at Athy to the Earl of Kildare, and a map from 1556 shows the bridge over the River Barrow with castles on both ends.
During the Irish Civil Wars, or Confederate Wars, (1641-1653) the town of Athy was seized several times from both sides of the river. In 1645 the leader of the Confederates Owen Roe O'Neill captured the castle and held it for three years. In 1648 the castle was then re-seized by the Royalists, but after a few months Cromwell and his troops landed in Ireland.
In 1730 White's Castle was turned into a town gaol and stayed so for the following 100 years. It was regarded as the most primitive prison in Ireland and was the subject of several warning reports from the Inspector of Gaols. Around 1802 the castle was extended on the north side and this addition doubled the size of the original tower.
When a new prison was built in the town, the castle was used as the local police station, and was also home to the policemen and their families for many decades.
In 1894 the police station was moved to a different site and the castle was then occupied by the members of the Talbot family, and in more recent times by their direct descendants, the Doyles.
In December 2005 the castle was purchased by Gabriel Dooley, from Athy, who intends to convert it into a heritage centre and tourist office for the town.
Two interesting plaques are set into two niches in the south wall of the castle.


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