Grantstown Castle, A superb example of a renovated 16th Century Tower House, ascending 22 metres in height, located on a gently rising hill in the middle of the fertile Golden Vale in County Tipperary, is now available for purchase. According to Helen Cassidy of Premier Properties Ireladn, ”Grantstown Castle is one of the finest, most spectacular renovations of this kind that she has ever encountered in the sale of Irish Castles. The precision of work, attention to historical detail, and overall elegance in presentation is a delight to behold. Prepare to be enchanted.”
The castle is surrounded by three solid, half-timbered cottages, built in medieval (or “Tudor”) manner, using heavy beams, burnt bricks, lime plaster and antique roofing slates. All joints between the beams are executed in the traditional carpentry techniques. The cottages are small enough to perfectly match the whole appearance of the castle, but also big enough to provide a cosy and comfortable space to live for a family even with guests.
Each of the three cottages was built during the last ten years. The castle and the three cottages are standing on about 2 acres of garden and meadow land surrounded by some mature, native trees.
The meadows adjoining to an original, romantic limestone quarry from the 1500’s to the east which also belongs to the property. This almost certainly supplied the stone to build the castle. An antique iron gate hinged on two delicate, hexagonally-shaped limestone pillars forms the road frontage to a quiet country road.
The setting is close to spectacular: In southern direction there are views of the Galtee Mountains including Galtymore, the third-highest mountain in Ireland (919 metres) and the adjoining, romantic Glen of Aherlow. The wild Silvermine Mountains form the other side of the Golden Vale in the north. There is a clear, distant view of the famous Rock of Cashel, seat of the Kings of Munster from the 4th century, in eastern direction. The famous Athassel Priory (founded in 1200) on the banks of the beautiful river Suir, the largest and most picturesque ruined abbey in Ireland, is only 5 kilometres away. The important motte of Kilfeacle, one of the first Norman wooden castles ever built in Ireland (approx. in 1185) is only 4 kilometres away. And there are four other neighbouring castles to see from the battlements of Grantstown Castle including Thomastown Castle, now in ruins, once famous under the title: “Versailles en miniature” and the rare example of a round castle: The ruined tower of Ballysheedy, the principal seat of the well-known O’Dwyer clan. Only 5 kilometres in north-western direction you find one of Ireland’s most elegant and best known country hotels: The beautiful Dundrum Manor House Hotel dating from 1730. Its picturesque golf course is one of the most well-tended ones in Ireland and also one of the best kept secrets.
The ground floor
One enters the tower through a metre wide doorway with a dropped Gothic arch on the north side of the tower. The main entrance door contains of oak planks of 60 millimetres thickness using a complicated frame-and-infill construction technique from the Renaissance era.
Having entered, one finds oneself in a small chamber, a miniature gatehouse. Before one is the entrance to the ground floor of the tower. On the right, opposite the door to the stairs, is the “porter’s chamber”, above one’s head, the so-called “murder hole” is situated.
The ground floor of the tower is divided into two rooms of which the eastern room is suitable as a utility room. Electricity mains, heating connection, water mains, sewage and telephone connection is all boundled here for easy access and connected to the former latrine chute which leads almost up to the top level of the castle.
The room is lit by a defensive loophole through the more than 2 metres thick east wall and closed by a leaded glass window in an oak frame. There is a arched niche in the south wall. The floor is covered in handmade Spanish terracotta tiles laid in a herringbone-pattern.
The western room consists of two beautiful arched wall niches in the two metres thick walls and is lit by a colourful stained glass window set in an oak frame in a fine hewn limesone embrasure in the west wall. The floor is done in the same manner as the room beside usinghandmade Spanish terracotta. There is water and waste water connection. The room would perfectly be suitable as either a kitchen or a bedroom.
The ceiling above both rooms is built using strong antique pine beams and handmade terracotta tiles. An elaborate, early medieval technique has been exercised to create this type of ceiling. It is perfectly soundproof and, as a concession to modern times, contains an inlay of underfloor heating coils to heat the upper room and partially through radiation even the two ground floor rooms. Due to its perspective from underneath even optically it creates a beautiful, warm atmosphere.
The floor space of the eastern room is: 17.00 square metres The floor space of the western room is: 14.20 square metres
The first floor
A straight flight of perfectly restored limestone stairs leads through a mural passage up to the spiral stairs inside the north-east corner of the castle. Before one reaches the spiral stairs there is access through a door into the first floor of the Castle. This consists of one big room lit by three large window embrasures and the corresponding loop windows. The lavish stained-glass windows with their yellow-golden main colours add an almost mediteranean flavour to the whole room.
The warm light perfectly blends in with the soft lime plaster and the terracotta floor where hand-made and partially ornated tiles sourced in the Loire Valley in France have been laid in a wonderful pattern. The deep sills of the window niches are covered in local Killenaule stone slabs of the same quality of the well-known Black Liscannor. There is underfloor heating coils even laid in every one of these three window embrasures to avoid the so typical damp and green castle windows too often to be seen in restored Irish castles.
Inserted in the eastern window embrasure, lit by the coloured light, there is a rare, hand-painted, glazed Tuscan tile from Florence. A further niche in the north wall of this room is giving access to the murder hole, the defence shaft above the porch on the ground floor of the tower. The ceiling above the room consists of ten very strong douglas fir beams resting in the original spaces inside the walls. It is constructed in the very same manner as the one of the ground floor using terracotta tiles combined with underfloor heating coils. This floor would either besuitable as a large kitchen with all modern appliances and a huge dining table or as a majestic private bedroom.
The floor space of the first floor room is: 25.80 square metres (plus the large window embrasures where one could even sleep in).
The second floor
Leaving the room, one finds oneself on the stairs again. This flight of stairs now leads into the original stone spiral staircase in the north-east corner of the tower, which continued up to the battlements at roof level.
One leaves the staircase in order to enter the second floor of the tower via three stone steps facing south and another to the west. The smallantechamber, which results from the entrance layout, is lit from the east by a further loophole of the type previously described.
The second floor of the tower is built as an impressive barrel vault and about three metres high. . Again, there are wonderful stained glass windows throwing a magical light into this unusual room. Together with a rich French terracotta-tiled floor in earthen shades and medieval ornaments they create an almost sacred mood in this part of the castle.
Virtually in the centre of the east wall there is a large embrasure under a segmental relieving vault. A beautiful ogee-headed window slit which is located here has been fully restored using hand-dressed cut limestone. From this embrasure, a very low door leads southwards into asmall mural privy. It has an L-shaped floor area. The room is lit and ventilated by two small loopholes again fittet with precious oak-framed, leaded-glazed windows. The ceiling of the privy is consists of heavy stone slabs. In one wall of the privy there is a smooth stone with neatly carved names of people and the date 1896. There is acces to the service chute wich makes the room perfectly suitable as a small bathroom.Underfloor heating coils are laid underneath a terracotta-tiled floor.
One of the most unusual features is a stepped doorway into the ancient dungeon of the castle. This former hole in the wall has been perfectly restored in handdressed cut limestone. Due to this measure the former dungeon, once a mural chamber and only accessible from a dangerous, dark shaft beginning at the fourth floor level can now be used as a spooky bedroom chamber. It is lit by a western window and fully prepared with underfloor heating and terracotta floor tiles.
The floor space of the second floor room including the privy and the dungeon is: 34.10 square metres
The third floor – the Great Hall of the castle
Continuing up the spiral stairs one reaches a semi-circular archway of cut stone into the third floor of the tower. One opens an impressive strong door, handcrafted from German oak and a huge piece of very rare Irish yew (the once sacred wood of the Irish druids), antique, 350-years old ornamented iron hinges and a massive, 250-years old iron lock. One finds oneself in the main central room of the building, the Great Hall. This is the room where the lord of the castle held court, where judgements were rendered and where banquettes were held.
Features of this breathtaking room are: A massive carved and ornated limestone fireplace (which, that must be noted, perfectly works and does not leaves one in a cloud of smoke…); ornated corbelstones and keystones in the window arches; beautiful, original, cusped ogee-headed, gothic windows on all four sides of the room and the most impressive floor of the tower: A combination of Irish Killenaule stone slabs laid in a so called “Roman Pattern” with a bordure of hand-formed, fleur-de-lys marquetried, French terracotta tiles and additional authentic copies of medieval zoomorphic and floral tiles.
This impressive floor layout is perfectly enjoyable from the Minstrel’s Gallery, adjoining to all four walls of the Great Hall at the fourth floor level. The gallery has been constructed on the spot using 200 years old pine beams and floorboards from ancient Thuringia in Germany. Historical antetypes from both England and the continent were studied before executing the work. The six mythological heads of the projecting beams were carved by a famous German woodcarver which took him three weeks alone.
The gallery rests on its original corbels and wall-openings. This is the place from where the bards of the old times entertained the lord and lady of the house and all the guests with their harp, their poetry and songs.
Here at gallery level we find another beautiful and very rare feature: There are three round arches of cut stone resting on four corbels with pointed undersides. From the Great Hall the impression of an arcade is produced. Looking upwards through the central opening of the gallery, this is a significant decorative element in the most important room of the tower.
Opposite the entrance to the Great Hall we find the second mural privy of the tower. The small garderobe has the same L-shape and original function as the one exactly below it, as already described. Again there are small loopholes in the east and south walls. The service shaft begins here and implies the use of this room as perfectly suitable as a small bathroom again. The ceiling is formed by so-called “false vaulting” – overlapping layers of stone slabs found even in the oldest buildings in human history like the 5,000 years old Newgrange for example. Underfloor heating coils are installed in here as well underneath a terracotta-tiled floor.
Above all there is a secret in the Great Hall: It is a tiny mural chamber, below floor level, underneath the fireplace. Once accessible only through a small square opening well hidden underneath a wooden window seat beside the south window of the Great Hall. Today the secret chamber is a lovely hiding place: with underfloor heating and laid French terracotta tiles. The walls are dry and covered in smooth lime render. And a leaded glass window in its original opening is facing south – ten metres above ground level. It is in the Great Hall where we find the most elaborate stained glass windows.
The floor space of the Great Hall level including privy and secret chamber is: 50.60 square metres
The fourth floor
Climbing up the spiral staircase, exactly half way between the third and fourth floors, one encounters a narrow niche like a doorway. Here is the aformentioned opening into a shaft, which goes down to a depth of about four metres. This is the original entrance into the dungeon or “oubliette” where unlucky prisoners once were thrown down.
At fourth floor level one first enters the Minstrel’s Gallery through a finely restored and carved doorway made of limestone. Over its gothic balustrade one enjoys the bird’s eye view of the Great Hall.
For more information, please contact
Helen Cassidy, MRICS B.A.(Mod)MSCSI,
Auctioneer and Valuer,
Clonbur, County Galway, Ireland.
00 353 949546868