Richardstown Castle


In its original form Richardstown would have been built by the Synan family, French-Normans who settled in the Doneraile district at an early date after the Norman invasion. Sinad is said to have landed at Wexford with Strongbow in 1172. The original construction is credited to FitzRichard Synan and would have been in the early 13th century: the family still occupied the castle in the 16th century, but it then fell into the hand of Edmund Spenser, the poet, of nearby Kilcolman (q.v.). Spenser gave permission to a member of the Roche family, who had adopted the additional name of MacHenry in order to be ‘captain of the race’, to have one house ‘within the bawne of Richardstown for himself and his Cattell in tyme of warre…also within the space of seven years to repayre the Castle of Richardstown aforesaid.’ In subsequent disputes there was a submission of arbitration between Sylvanus Spenser, the poet’s son and James Roche MacHenry dated 19 January 1606. It is probably that Roche would have carried out some reconstruction work so that the final building would have differed considerable from that originally built by Synan: but that is a matter of speculation now since the castle was knocked by lightning in 1865 and the rubble later almost entirely carted away. The remains had still been in existence in 1832, but are described as ‘in ruins’ on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1841. It was included in the grant to David, Lord Roche by James I in 1611: who had also obtained control over Castelpook and Caherduggan, other Synan strongholds. After the Confederate War, when Roche territory was lost, the property eventually went to the Lysaght family in 1749, of whom Lord Lisle was one. He sold to John Crone in that century. The Book of Survey and Distribution (1657) states ‘It was owned before the Rebellion by James Roch FitzDominick, who was attainted.’

The grantees then were Stephen and Christopher Roch, also Robert ffoulkes. The land is now part of a farm of Mr Neville of Ballymee Cottage. The site is a mile west of Doneraile. It is off a side road between the Doneraile/Buttevant, Doneraile/Mallow roads and is about four hundred yards up a rough land to the west of this side road. It is now a flat area, strewn with stones and limestone rubble on the summit of a field, but there is nothing left of the castle. Mr Neville confirmed this site. Young Michael Reid, who lives in a nearby cottage, was kind enough to bring me to the site, and to then recently uncovered ancient grave made of stone in very good condition just beyond the castle. It would appear that there was an early rath, or fort on the site before the castle was built there.

From “The Castles of County Cork”. James N. Healy, Mercer Press, Cork and Dublin, 1988.