The Castle of Castleknock

Its history and historical background

(Father John Cambell, CM., a former Vice-President of Castleknock College, was an outstanding historian. He is the editor of the St. Vincent's Castleknock College Centenary Record, 1835-1935, the source book for much of our knowledge of the early history of the College. The following is taken from a paper he read to members of the Old Dublin Society. Its aim was not so much to give an account of the history of the castle in Castleknock as to show its importance in a Dublin historical context in which it played an important role down through the ages.)

        In the college grounds are two hills, each some sixty feet above the surrounding plain; which are said to be portion of the Esker Riada or range of hills often mentioned in Irish history. One of these hills is traditionally spoken of as the burial mound of Coohal, father of Finn McCoohal; on the other are the remains of a Norman Castle, dating from the early thirteenth century. This castle has given a name to the district which forms the modern extensive barony of Castleknock.
        Of the castle itself there remains today less than half of the original keep, with portion of the walls of the bailey, enclosing a space of about one hundred feet by sixty; this enclosure is irregular in shape owing to the fact that the builders had to conform to the configuration of the hill. The bailey is still surrounded, on the north and west, by the original deep double fosses and the double earthen ramparts which formed the other defences of the castle.
        These existing remains are not sufficient of themselves to give us an adequate idea of the original structure; some drawings of the eighteenth century show the ruins as they are at present; but we gain a fair idea of the strength of the castle from a drawing - the original of which is now in the possession of the college - made in 1698 by Francis Place, a Yorkshire artist. He visited Dublin and other cities of Leinster, and made a number of sketches of the places visited; his Dublin drawings give us the earliest representations of the city. Place's drawing of 1698 shows that the castle was a remarkable structure with a strongly built multiangular keep standing about 80 feet above the hill, on which it was erected. It gives at once a good idea how the castle must have commanded a view of the neighbourhood for miles around, into the very walls of Dublin, forming , as it was intended it should, a defence and guard for the western side of the city north of the Liffey.

Castleknock College,
Dublin 15,