History of Killyleagh Castle

Ireland is the home of one of the most historic and ancient castles of all time.  Ireland has been able to host one of the world’s oldest castles in their country for multiple years (Whitehead).  This castle has been revised and expanded over the many years since it was built and has been involved in some dramatic events (Ferres; Whitehead).  This castle is called the Killyleagh Castle.

Killyleagh Castle is located in the village of Killyleagh in Northern Ireland.  The Killyleagh Village is not only a village but a civil parish (Ferres; Thomas).  A civil parish is a cluster of townlands.  The clusters can either be large or small.  As of right now, there are twenty-four townlands that we know about in Killyleagh.  The castle is extremely large compared to the small townlands to the point where the castle overtakes the village (Thomas). 

During the Twelfth Century, in 1180 CE, John de Courcy, also known as a Norman knight, built one of the most ancient castles in the world.  John de Courcy is stated to be a part of the Great Anglo-Norman Society of the United States Irishman (Thomas).  John de Courcy’s reasoning for building the Killyleagh Castle was to build fortifications around Strangford Lough for optimal protection from the Vikings (Ferres; Thomas).  Strangford Lough is a large sea loch in County Down (Whitehead).  A sea loch can also be spelled differently.  It can also be spelled as sea lough.  A sea loch or lough is the word the Irish use to say lake or sea (Nardo 10). 

Some castles follow specific structures in the way they were designed.  When John de Courcy was designing the structure of the castle, he unusually built the castle.  He did not follow the specific structure format that other architects would design a castle today.  Since the Killyleagh castle was once of the oldest castles in the world, John de Courcy did not have many references to design the castles from (Thomas).  In the nineteenth, century the castle was redesigned by Sir. Charles Lanyon (Ferres; Thomas; Whitehead).  He decided to follow the architectural style of Loire Valley chateau to create a uniquely amazing castle (Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland).  The castle’s structure consists of sound an extremely steep slate roof, a gate lodge, corner turrets (Thomas).

In1602 CE, a chief named Con O’Neill of Clandeboye sent many of his men to attack English soldiers and Scots aristocrat Hugh Mongomery (Thomas).  During that attack, O’Neill’s men became imprisoned with no way to be freed (Thomas).  Con O’Neill’s wife decided that there should be peace between the two enemies, and decided to try and create a deal.  She was in contact with Hugh Mongomery and offered him part of Con O’Neill’s land in return for his men (Thomas).  Mongomery decided to take the offer, but King James I divided the land into three sections which caused the land with the Killyleagh Castle to be given to a different Scot (Ferres; Thomas).  “That Scot’s name was James Hamilton, later honored with the first Viscount Claneboye, or also known as the first Earl of Clanbrassil,” said Timothy William Ferres.

 It was not until 1625 CE James Hamilton moved into the Killyleagh Castle.  While he was beginning to move into the house, he decided it would be best to build a courtyard along with some courtyard walls to go with it (Thomas; Whitehead).  It has been almost as if it was a tradition for Hamilton family members to live in the castle.  The castle had been home to the Hamilton Family ever since 1625 when they moved in (Thomas).  The castle has been passed down from generation to generation (Dublin Penny Journal).

A couple of years after the Hamilton family moved into their castle, Strangford Lough was attacked by Oliver Cromwell, an English military and political leader, and his forces during 1649 (Ferres).  Cromwell and his forces’ way of attack was to sail multiple gunboats and blow up the baronial gatehouse (Ferres; Thomas).  The castle was extremely damaged and needed severe repairs.

 Henry Hamilton, the second Earl of Clanbrassil thankfully began to rebuild the castle in 1666 CE (Thomas).  Henry restored missing pieces of the castle.  He built a long and strong bawn which is placed directly in front of the castle today (Ferres; Doublin Penny Journal).

The castle is currently home for Gawn Rowan Hamilton and his family members (Thomas).  The Hamilton family has decided to continue to be in private ownership, but they are now allowing people to see the castle from the streets and providing their address (Killyleagh, Downpatrick BT30 9QA, United Kingdom).  Multiple people admire the castle for its beauty and grace.  Recently, the Hamilton family has decided to allow select people to take wedding pictures there.

The Killyleagh Castle is the most ancient inhabited castle in all of Ireland.  The castle has amazingly remained in great condition and has been home to the Hamilton’s for multiple generations.  With all the castle has inquired, the Killyleagh Castle is one of the most historic castles of all time.

Work Cited:

  • Ferres, Timothy William. “Killyleagh Castle.” Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland, edited by Timothy William Ferres, Timothy William Ferres, 2007, lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2013/09/killyleagh-castle.html. Accessed 15 Oct. 2019.
  • Nardo, Don. The Medieval Castle. San Diego, Lucent Books, 1947. Building History 2.
  • S., S. M. “Killyleagh Castle, County of Down.” Dublin Penny Journal. Killyleagh Castle, County of Down, www.jstor.org/stable/30003074. Accessed 9 Oct. 2019.
  • Thomas, Jeffery, editor. “Life in a Medieval Castle.” Castle Walls, edited by Jeffrey Thomas, Jeffery Thomas, www.castlewales.com/life.html. Accessed 9 Oct. 2019.
  • Whitehead, David. “Captain Hamilton and General Cockburn: An Ancient Greek
  • (?)Tombstone in County Down.” Hermathena, by David Whitehead, Trinity
  • College Dublin, 1995, pp. 5-13. Captain Hamilton and General Cockburn: An
  • Ancient Greek (?)Tombstone in County Down, www.jstor.org/stable/23041077.
  • Accessed 10 Sept. 2019. Excerpt originally published as “Hermathena” in
  • Castlereagh, Captain Hamilton and General Cockburn: An Ancient Greek
  • (?)Tombstone in County Down, Trinity College Dublin, 1995, pp. 5-13.


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