Roscrea Castle sits in the heart of the small heritage town of Roscrea. The first castle on this site was a wooden motte castle built by King John I in 1213. It was replaced in 1280 by a stone castle when silver was discovered at nearby Silvermines. It was built on high ground near the River Bunnow.
The castle passed into the hands of the Butler Ormonde family in 1315 and they held on to it until the Duke of Ormonde sold it 1703 to the Kings Hospital in Kilmainham.
The stone castle was built without a keep and it consisted of curtain walls around a courtyard. Two round towers were built in to the southern part of the enclosure. The massive rectangular gatehouse was constructed in the 15th Century by James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde. It became the main residence and was fitted with both a counter-balance drawbridge and portcullis.
The south-western tower, known as the Ormond Tower, is three stories high and is the larger of the two. Within the tower there is a fireplace in the north wall of the first floor and the remains of a coat-of-arms in stucco which dates to the 17th Century. Part of the castle's moat was excavated at the base of the tower in 1982.
John Damer, a wealthy local merchant, bought the castle in 1722. In 1728 he built Damer House in the grounds of the castle. The Damer family held on to it until 1798 when it became a military barracks. The house and castle were converted for a number of uses through to the 20th Century, including a tuberculosis sanatorium, a library and school.
Damer House was scheduled for demolition in the 1970s, but it was rescued by the Irish Gregorian Society and today the house and Roscrea Castle form part of the Roscrea Heritage Centre. There has been extensive renovation work on the castle and house to bring them back to their former glory.
Damer House is a superbly restored Georgian House built in the Queen Anne style and is one of the few examples of pre-Palladian architecture left in Ireland. The house contains a restored finely-carved timber staircase, and despite its previous use, still has many period features. One of the rooms has been restored to how it would have looked in the Georgian period and the rest of the house plays host to various temporary and travelling exhibitions.
The castle gatehouse is also open to the public. The mechanism for raising and lowering the drawbridge and portcullis can be viewed on the first floor. The main rooms are on the second and third floors. Some of the castle rooms are furnished and they house exhibitions on life in the castle and its history.
The castle forms part of the Heritage Walk through the town and visitors can also see The Round Tower, The Black Mills and Monaincha and Sean Ross abbeys on the eastern side of the town.
Status: Museum / Event Venue
Owner: Heritage Ireland
Tel: +353 (0) 505 21850
Opening Times: April to September Daily 10am to 6pm