- Killeen Castle, Dunsany
"Killeen Castle", located in Dunsany,
County Meath, Ireland, is the current construction on a site occupied by a castle since 1180or 1181. The current building, in the process of renovation as a luxury hotel, is a restoration of a largely 19th century construction, burnt out in 1981. Killeen was built as one of a pair of castles either side of a major roadway north, the other being the still-extant Dunsany Castle.
Cusacks and Plunketts
The original Killeen Castle was a Norman fortification, built for the deLacy magnates, and held by the Cusack family, beginning with Geoffrey de Cusack, and then, from 1403, by their successors by marriage, the Plunketts.
The first Plunkett to hold the castle, Sir Christopher, became the first Baron Killeen, and divided his estate between his eldest two sons, the second son taking possession of sister castle, Dunsany, and later becoming the first Lord Dunsany. The elder branch continued as Barons of Killeen, and later Earls of Fingall. The third, fourth and sixth sons founded other landed houses. An additional title, as Baron Fingall, in the United Kingdom peerage, was acquired in 1831. While the title survived, the Killeens were the premier Catholic peers of Ireland.
The castle was developed over time, and by the fifteenth century, was a mid-size fortified tower house.
The two branches of the original family remained close through the centuries and during the worst of the
Penal Lawperiod, the Dunsany branch, having survived transportation to Connaught under Cromwell and other difficulties, converted to the Church of Ireland, and held Killeen in trust for the elder branch, which remained Roman Catholic. Unlike some arrangements of this sort, Killeen was formally returned.
The castle fell into disrepair in the late 17th century, was leased out, and was not restored until around 1779, when parts of the demesne were landscaped and some of the estate features were added.
Significant reworking was carried out from 1803 to 1813 under the supervision of Francis Johnston, and in 1841, much of the castle was demolished and rebuilt (using much existing material) by the 9th Earl, in the style of a small
Windsor Castle. The two towers added have the dates 1181 and 1841 inscribed, and at the time of completion, it was said that Killeen had 365 windows.
After the Plunketts
The last Earl of Fingall sold Killeen Castle and Estate in 1951, to Sir
Victor Sassoon, the Earl managing the stud farm established near the castle. In 1953, the Earl and Countess moved to a modern house built on the lands, and most of the house contents were sold. Sassoon died in 1961 and his heirs sold the estate on in 1963, to French art dealerand major racehorse owner, Daniel Wildenstein.
The last Earl moved from the estate to Corballis on the Dunsany estate, then The Commons. He died in 1984 and is buried at Dunsany Church.
In 1978, the castle and estate were sold to advertiser Basil Brindley, who continued the stud farm operation.
On 16 May 1981, the castle was burnt out in an arson attack, being left abandoned for many years.
The lands and buildings were sold again in 1989, to Christopher Slattery, who initiated the current development plans.
The demesne contains the castle itself, a substantial stable yard, a church (sometimes, incorrectly, called "Killeen Abbey"), a holy well (the "Lady Well") a pond, a walled garden and other features.
The church, dedicated to St. Mary, was erected around 1425, is in the Gothic style and has an adjacent cemetery. It is preserved as a National Monument.
In 1989, a new development plan was proposed, and later revised, with multiple applications for permission, including the conversion of the castle into a high-end hotel, the installation of a championship-grade golf course and the construction of more than one hundred units of luxury housing on the estate. With successive modifications and discussions, plans were approved, with conditions to protect parts of the demesne landscape, and estate features, including a holy well. Work began in 2005.
It has been announced that the Killeen Castle Hotel will open in 2009 / 2010 as a Starwood Luxury Collection facility, with 92 bedrooms.
A golf course design was commissioned from
Jack Nicklaus, opened in 2008. On December 14th 2006, after over a year of bidding, this course was chosen as the venue for the 2011 Solheim Cup, the first time Ireland has ever hosted this event. [Dublin: The Irish Times, 15 December 2006, Sport - Golf, retrieved online 8th September 2007: it was entirely fitting that the grand Ceramic Room at the National Museum in the centre of Dublin, where some two million artefacts, including the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch, provide evidence of the country's glorious past, should have been the venue yesterday for the announcement that Ireland has been awarded the Solheim Cup for 2011 to be staged at the new Killeen Castle resort in Dunsany, Co Meath.]
Dave Pelz's Scoring Game Golf Schools and Golf Clinics [http://www.pelzgolf.com/golfschools/aboutlocation.aspx?location=killeen] opened at Killeen Castle estate in June, 2008, with a focus on the game within 100 yards from the hole.
References and Footnotes
Dunsany, County Meath, April 1991: Carty/Lynch - The History of Killeen Castle; Mary Rose Carty, ISBN (971-)0-95173820-8
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