The history of Arklow Castle dates back to the 12th century when the town was founded by the Anglo-Normans. Also known as Ormonde Castle, it was built on a strategic location at the mouth of the River Avoca, overlooking the town and the Irish Sea. It was was initially constructed as a wooden fortification, but it was later rebuilt in stone by the Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall, in the 13th century.
Over the centuries, the castle was used for a variety of purposes, including as a garrison for soldiers, a courthouse, and a jail. During the 14th century, the castle was held by the powerful Butler family, who were the Earls of Ormonde. The Butlers used the castle as a stronghold in their struggles against other powerful families in Ireland, such as the Fitzgeralds and the Burkes.
The castle was also a target of attacks during the wars between the English and Irish in the 16th century. In 1579, the castle was attacked by the Irish rebel, Fiach McHugh O’Byrne, and his men. The castle was damaged in the attack, but it was later repaired.
During the 17th century, the castle was owned by the Parsons family, who were loyal supporters of the English Crown. The Parsons were also instrumental in developing the town of Arklow, with many buildings and public works projects constructed during their ownership.
In the 19th century, the castle was sold to a local merchant named James Tyrrell, who used it as a storehouse. The castle was badly damaged in a fire in 1915, and it remained in a state of disrepair for many years.
Architecture of Arklow Castle
The castle itself was an impressive structure, with thick stone walls, towers, and a large central keep. It was surrounded by a moat, filled with water from the nearby river. The castle’s design was typical of medieval fortifications, with narrow slits for windows and arrow loops for archers.
The perimeter had four towers, each with its own name and history. The largest tower being the Pembroke Tower, named after the Earl of Pembroke who rebuilt the castle in stone. The other three towers were the Ormonde Tower, the North Tower, and the South Tower.
The interior of the castle was once equally impressive, with a great hall, a chapel, and several smaller rooms. The great hall was the largest room in the castle and was used for banquets and other gatherings. The chapel consisted of a small room with a vaulted ceiling and on the second floor.