In the 6th century it was part of the ancient monastic site of Lynally, which itself was in the ancient Durrow monastic settlement.
Later, in the early days of Ireland’s colonization, when the city of Dublin felt threatened by the wild tribes of the West, these lands became the focal point for the first Stuart, and later more violent Elizabethan, plantations.
By the mid-fifteen hundreds, the lands that were originally ruled by the O’Moore clan were securely “planted”. From this point on a dynasty was established which endured into the late nineteenth century.
Charleville Castle grew from paper doodles in early 1798 to grandiose plans by the end of that very eventful year in Ireland. It was built by Charles William Bury, Earl of Charleville. It was designed by Francis Johnston, who also designed the GPO in Dublin, one of the leading architects of the day.
It owes its “Tin Soldier Fortress” look to the celebration of victory over the third French revolutionary expedition to Ireland – the first decisive victory by Britain over the revolutionary republican movement, which was sweeping across the monarchies and their colonies at that time. It took fourteen years to complete this gothic dream, a monument not only to a now forgotten power, but also to the people who made it possible, the Irish craftsmen and impoverished people.
The castle had to be temporarily closed at times, due to the castle owners living beyond their means. However, each subsequent re-opening was usually marked by a suitably flamboyant gesture, which included engaging the talents of William Morris, who designed the ceiling within the dining room. Additionally, Charleville is said to have helped start a craze of building castles within Ireland.
The castle played host to Lord Byron, who held many parties here. In fact, whenever he visited Ireland he always went to the castle. This was due to the castle owner’s eccentricity.
The castle remained uninhabited from 1912, during the difficult years of the independence war and the long years of economic severity which followed. By 1968 the roof had been removed. It had become a part of “Vanishing Ireland” until finally work on its restoration was commenced by Michael McMullen in 1971 and later by Constance Heavey Seaquist and Bonnie Vance. A Charitable Trust has been formed to help with the restoration.