Ormonde Castle, Carrick-on-Suir.

Patsy Travers Mullins.

The year is 1566 and a man named Tom Butler is standing in the courtyard of Ormonde Castle in Carrick-on-Suir. He is waiting for a ship coming upriver from Waterford. His focus is on a large semi-circular docking area for ships and barges built in 1447, (the same year as the Old Bridge), where the river Suir lapped the Castle walls. This dock was surrounded by a fine wall with entry to the courtyard through a Watergate, the remains of which are still visible today. It was here that Tom’s interest lay that day, awaiting his anticipated delivery.

The arched Water Gate beside the River Suir. The sketch I have here was done by Robert O’Callaghan Newenham, who was born in Dublin in 1770. He trained as an architect in Limerick and later held the post of Superintendent General of Barracks in Ireland for 25 years. On his tours of inspection throughout the country, he made drawings of scenery and buildings many of which he had lithographed and published and some were reproduced on slate by James Harding which is the case here.To me it would seem that he would have done these sketches in situ which would make this drawing very accurate

Thomas Butler, Tomás Dubh, or Black Tom the 10th Earl of Ormond had grown up at the English Court of Henry VIII after the death of his father. James 9th Earl of Ormond who died from food poisoning at a banquet in London. There young Thomas shared a tutor with an elite group of children of noble families including the heir to the throne Prince Edward, and Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and the ill-fated Anne Boleyn whose paternal Grandmother was Margaret Butler of Kilkenny Castle which made Tom and Elizabeth cousins. Both Tom and Elizabeth had a close bond as they were not treated as well as the other children. She, because Henry had her declared illegitimate when he remarried and Tom because he was the son of an Irish Earl.

Tom succeeded to his lands and titles in Ireland in 1546 when he was just fifteen years old and when Elizabeth became Queen, after the death of Edward she named him Lord Treasurer of Ireland, made him Privy Councillor, presented him with the Order of the Garter and excused him of all debts. Tom was by now a wealthy man. He divided his time between London and Ormonde Castle in Carrick which had been occupied of his branch of the Butler family since the 1300s and was his favourite residence.

Ormond Castle

Tom made many powerful friends in both Ireland and England one of them being Thomas Gresham an English merchant and financier.who who had built himself a fine courtyard house at Bishopsgate Street London and now together with his agent Richard Clough was building the Royal Exchange in Threadneedle Street in the City as a meeting place for merchants throughout Europe. It was intended as a rival to an equivalent meeting place in Antwerp called The Bourse. This was officially opened in 1571 The building was designed by an architect from Antwerp named Henryk, with materials and workmen brought from Flanders. This building was later destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

It was during this time that Tom got the inspiration to build the beautiful Elizabethan style Manor House on to Carrick Castle much the same as people now build a conservatory on their house only on a much much larger scale. This was in anticipation of a visit of Queen Elizabeth which is evident in the beautiful stuccowork which shows references to both Elizabeth and Thomas. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died the year before her planned visit.
To achieve this ambitious project Tom sought the help of Gresham and together with Richard Clough guided him in the direction of purchasing the beautiful windows and wainscot, or oak panelling for the interior walls. Richard kept a record of every transaction in all of Gresham’s business dealings and it’s through this that we have the information on the Castle windows in the following entry.

‘I have also received with that your letter, a letter that the Erle of Ormonde sent you; theorder whereof I will follow, and wyll not fayle but to sende both the wainscot and the glass by the fyrst ship that shall depart for those parts. And for that he shall be well servud of his wainscot, I do now send one to Amsterdam to provyde wainscot for the Bourse who shall buy so much more: and that beying done, I wyll choose out his 200 out of 1200, whereof he shall have the best. And for the glass, it shall be bought out of hande. Notwithstanding, I doubt there wyll no ship depart for those parts before March, but if there do, and that I can by any means gett so much fraight in them, they shall be sent with the first.’

Tom had such wealth that he not only built the Manor House but also refurbished the Castle with matching mullioned windows which are still there today. I have no doubt that the people of Carrick looked on in wonder when the building was complete. Picture the townspeople going to look in awe at the light from the sconses and candles shining through the windows. It must have been magic.

This article was contributed by Patsy for Heritage Week 2020