Castle History – more than 5000 years of stories



Ireland's Ancient East

Great stories will stay with you forever…….

Killiane Castle dates from the 15th century and farmhouse from the 1600s, some of our stories include:

  • The name ‘Killiane’ derives from ‘Cill Liadhaine’, the church of St.Leonard, which is also on the grounds of the castle and can be explored as part of your visit along with the  holy well. It is likely there was some form of native Irish settlement here before the Normans but the first recorded owner of the lands was Richard de Hay in the 13th century, who came over with Fitzstephen in the first Norman invasion.
  • A stay in Killiane Castle will allow you to experience the impressive Norman tower house, the castle tower is approximately 50ft high and measures 39ft x 27ft externally, with walls 4ft to 9ft in thickness. It was built around 1470 and is probably one of the “£10 castles”- a grant of £10 being given by King Henry VIII for the building of fortresses in his kingdom. Last year an unexpected visitor from Australia arrived with a photo of the original deeds for Killiane Castle signed by King Henry VIII!
  • The tower-house was probably built in the late 15th century c.1470, by Thomas Hay a descendant of Richard. It was built overlooking a harbour but much land has been reclaimed and features a canal, sloblands and slightly further down the coast, Rosslare strand.
  • In the early 16th century c.1520, Killiane passed to the Cheevers family by marriage. They continued to fortify the site. By 1543 one Howard Cheevers held Killiane, 2000 acres of land and the office of Mayor of Wexford. The ‘Laughing Cheevers’ as they were known held prominence in Wexford for another 100 years, and built the house sometime in the early 17th century.
  • In the great rebellion of 1641, George Cheevers was actively involved in the siege of Duncannon and the Confederation of Kilkenny. For his part in these rebellions he was dispossessed by Cromwell following the Sacking of Wexford. Georges son Didicus, a blind Franciscan monk, was one of several clergy infamously murdered in Wexford town’s bullring. The Cheevers were sent to Connaught but some few remained as tenants, the last of the them an old man who died in 1849.
  • In 1656 the property and 1500 acres was granted to one of Cromwell’s soldiers, a Col. Bunbury, in lieu of pay. He sold it on to his friends, the Harveys of Lyme Regis. The first of these, Francis Harvey, became MP for Clonmines and Mayor of Wexford, positions his son John also held.
  • There is reference made to a daughter of the Harveys, Frances, a famous beauty known as the Rose of Killiane, who married the Dean of Dublin in 1809.
  • As time went by the Harveys increasingly became absentee landlords, leasing the land to their tenants, and both the condition of the castle and the size of the estate materially diminished. Throughout the 19th century there are references to tenants ‘Aylward’, ‘Elard’ and ‘Ellard’, possibly all the one family. By this time the Harveys overwintered in their townhouse in Wexford at 38 Selskar St. as the Castle was considered too damp in winter.
  • In 1908 the property was sold to the Crown Solicitor Kennan Cooper for £1515. Cooper, a renowned character, kept racehorses and the 1911 census shows Killiane occupied by his tenant, George Grant and family, and Grant’s occupation is given as ‘Horse trainer/jockey’.

          Present day at the castle

  • In 1920 John Mernagh, father of Jack the present owner, bought Killiane with 230 acres for £2000. At that time there was no roof on the tower-house, which was covered in ivy. John re-roofed it and used it to store grain and potatoes.
  • The present castle and surrounding walls bear testimony to the building genius of the Normans, over 500 years old and quite sound!
  • The castle contains only one original window that dates from the 15th century! All the others having been replaced over the years.  The original window is an ogee style window featuring  two lights. The main entrance to the castle was on the east side, now bricked up, it provided an adjoining door to the house at one time. A new door has been opened on the south side of the tower.
  • Today the castle is home to Jack & Kathleen Mernagh who run the guesthouse along with their son Paul who returned in 2014; he is a qualified and extensively experienced hotel manager with superior hotel properties from around the world.

         When staying with us experience some of the “quirks” of staying in a Norman Castle!

  • Looking at the front of the castle there are murder holes over each of the doors on the ground floor, perfect to pour hot tar for any unwelcome visitors!  Although not in practice today!
  • The third floor contains a fine granite fireplace, the chimney rising on the outer wall is lined with small smooth stones from the beach. This floor also contains a cupboard recess. The roof, originally of slate has been replaced by corrugated iron. The parapet consists of large sloping slabs and the battlements are of the steeply stepped type with a square turret on each corner. On the outside of the southern turret is a carved head.
  • The large bawn has a round tower on the south east corner and a square tower on the south west corner, castle occupying the north west corner. The north east tower has been removed as has the northern apron wall to accommodate the facade of the house.
  • The original 17th century house consisted of two storeys with a garret on top. At some stage the roof was raised to incorporate the original dormer windows of the garrets into a third storey. The great slant of the original 17th century Roof was also reduced. The staircase of the house is of a simple very wide design of the 17th century. Nearby stands the ruins of the small medieval The church of ST.Helen’s which was in ruins by 1835 and its adjoining cemetery were enclosed by a wall and is reputed to be the burial place of the Cheevers family.
  • Legend has it that below the ground floor underneath the stair way is a dungeon leading to  a passageway to a doorway that no longer exists.  It is said that the passageway leads to Johnstown Castle which is over 4km away!