Ballymore Castle in has a long and fascinating story that spans over four centuries and involves several prominent families in Irish history. The castle was originally built by John Lawrence, an English soldier who came to Ireland in 1571 to help quell a rebellion. He married the daughter of O’Madden, the local lord, and acquired a large tract of land in the area. He built the castle in 1585 as a stronghold and a residence for his family.
The castle is a typical example of a tower house, a type of fortified dwelling that was common in Ireland from the 15th to the 17th century. It has four storeys and a battlemented roof, with narrow windows and loopholes for defence. The walls are about four feet thick and made of limestone.
The Lawrence family lived in the castle for over 50 years, but they were not spared from the turmoil of the times. The castle was attacked and damaged several times during the Nine Years’ War and the Confederate Wars, and it was repaired by Walter Lawrence, John’s son, in 1620. However, the family lost their lands and their castle when John Lawrence Jr. was dispossessed by Oliver Cromwell in 1641 for supporting the Catholic cause.
The castle then passed to Sir Thomas Newcomen, an English settler who was granted the lands by Cromwell. He leased the castle back to the Lawrence family for a while, but later sold it to Nicholas Cusack, another Cromwellian soldier. Cusack then sold it to John Eyre, a wealthy merchant from Galway, around 1720.
The Eyre family owned the castle for over a century, but they did not live in it. They rented it out to various tenants, including the Seymour family, who lived there around 1700. The Seymour family were related to Jane Seymour, one of the wives of King Henry VIII of England.
In 1815, the castle underwent a major transformation when a large two-storey house was added to the front of the tower house. The house has a bow-shaped facade with wide eaves and sash windows. It was built by Giles Eyre, who inherited the estate from his uncle John Eyre.
In 1824, Giles Eyre sold the castle and the lands to Thomas Seymour, who had been living there as a tenant. The Seymour family were the last owners of the castle who lived in it as their main residence. They stayed there until the early 20th century, when they sold most of their lands to the Irish Land Commission.
The castle then passed to Mrs. Hale, a relative of the Seymour’s, who leased it to different tenants over the years. In 1948, it was leased to Major Belassy, a Hungarian refugee who restored the castle and opened it to the public as a museum. He also planted many exotic trees and shrubs in the grounds.
In 1962, the castle was bought by the Naughton family, who still own it today and use it as a private residence. Ballymore Castle is a remarkable place that reflects the history and culture of Ireland.
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