|For:|| 2nd Viscount Clifden |
by William Robertson
The first Gowran Castle was built in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, close to the centre of the town of Gowran in County Kilkenny. He made it his usual residence, and became known as the Earl of Gowran. In 1391 he bought Kilkenny Castle and a large part of the county. James died in Gowran Castle in 1405 and is buried in St Mary's Collegiate Church Gowran together with his father, his grandfather (James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond) and his great-great-grandfather Edmund Butler.
The house of today was built at the return of peace after the Napoleonic Wars; it was begun in 1815 and completed in 1820. It was built for Henry Welbore Agar-Ellis (né Agar) (1761-1836), Second Viscount Clifden, to a design by William Robertson of Kilkenny.
Gowran had been a settled place and a place of importance long before the arrival of the Normans in Ireland in 1169 A.D. Kings of Ossory were often referred to as kings of Gowran. The Mac Giolla Padraig (Fitzpatrick), Chief Rulers of Ossory, had a residence in Gowran. O’Donnchadha (Dunphy) was the chief of Gowran and most of the area around it.
Other ancient sites close to Gowran include Tullaherin Church, graveyard and Round Tower dating to the 6th Century. Two and a half miles from Gowran is a Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement where Roman coins and other artefacts were found during archaeological surveys in 1948 and 1951.
Butler of Ormond
The Butlers were in possession of the lands in the Gowran area for almost 500 years. Following the Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1169 a grant of 44 000 acres, the Manor of Gowran was made to Theobald Fitzwalter (Theobald Walter, 1st Baron Butler), who was also named as the first 'Chief Butler of Ireland'.
In addition to building Gowran Castle, the Butlers built other castles in the area such as Ballysean Castle (Sometimes spelt Ballyshawnmore, Ballysheanmor, Ballyshanemore) near the centre of Gowran, Neigham Castle 4 km from Gowran and Paulstown Castle situated between Gowran and Paulstown 3 km from Gowran.
Following the Cromwellian invasion in Ireland in 1650, Gowran was besieged by Oliver Cromwell. Gowran Castle was attacked and badly damaged.
For the following 300 years the Agar family were a major influence in the Gowran area. Several generations of the Agars occupied Gowran Castle and like the Butlers before them, many of them are buried in St. Mary’s Collegiate Church Gowran.
In the twentieth century the Land Commision acquired the castle and much of the estate. In 1957 the Commission sold Gowran Castle and 68 acres of land to James and Mary Moran by the Land Commission on 14 May 1957. The Moran family resided in the castle until it was sold in 1998.
In 1998 the castle was sold to a British developer, though planning permission was repeatedly refused and the castle lay derelict, and in 2010 it suffered a serious fire. In 2012 it was sold by NAMA, and the new owner began restoration.
- Gowran Castle on 'Buildings of Ireland'
- Freestone Hill
- A History of St. Mary’s Church. Text by Imelda Kehoe. Published by the Gowran Development Association 1992
- The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory. Vol 3. Rev. Canon William Carrigan 1905
- Life Through our Viewfinder. Published by Dalton House Gowran 2009
- 1998-Sale of Castle. Independent report
- Gowran Castle, Gowran Co. Kilkenny. Built 1816–1819
- BBC Report. Former owner of Gowran Castle
- Kilkenny Co. Council meeting report
- Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme 2014. Published by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht 2015. Conservation work Case Study 10. P.15