Friday, 17 January 2020

Howth Castle


The family of ST LAWRENCE has been very ancient in Ireland, having been settled at the seat at Howth from very early times; and were originally barons by tenure, from the reign of HENRY II, and subsequently confirmed by King JOHN.

The original surname of this very ancient family was Tristram, and it is said to have been exchanged for the present one, of ST LAWRENCE, under the following circumstances:-

A MEMBER of the house of TRISTRAM having the command of an army against the invaders of his native soil, attacked and totally routed them on St Lawrence's Day, near Clontarf, and assumed, in consequence of a vow made previously to the battle, the name of the saint, which his descendants have ever since borne.

The sword with which this warrior fought and vanquished still hangs in the hall of Howth, where the family has resided since its first arrival in Ireland, a period of seven centuries at least.

SIR ALMERIC TRISTRAM, first feudal Lord of Howth, brother-in-law and companion-in-arms of Sir John de Courcy, having, in 1177, effected a landing at Howth, defeated the Irish in a pitched battle, at Evora bridge, and obtained the lands and barony of Howth, as a reward for his distinguished valour during the conflict.

After this successful commencement, Sir Almeric, with his brother-in-law, Sir John de Courcy, reduced the whole province of Ulster; but in 1189, when Sir John was removed from the government of Ireland by RICHARD I, Sir Almeric, who was then in Connaught, being attacked by O'Connor, the king of that province, and overwhelmed by numbers, himself and his whole party, consisting of thirty knights and 200 infantrymen, perished to a man.

By the sister of Sir John de Courcy, Earl of Ulster, Sir Almeric left three sons, the two younger of whom were slain on Good Friday, 1203, in assisting their Uncle John against de Lacy's men in the churchyard of Downpatrick, County Down; and the eldest,

SIR NICHOLAS FITZ ALMERIC, was obliged to content himself with the lands of Howth, and relinquished to religious houses the conquests of his father in Ulster.

From this Sir Nicholas the Barony descended uninterruptedly to

CHRISTOPHER, 2nd Baron, son of Christopher (or Stephen) St Lawrence, 1st Baron Howth, who married, before 1435, Anne Plunkett, a relation the 1st Baron Killeen, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
William, an admiral;
Almeric, clerk of the rolls;
Lionel, precentor of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin;
Walter, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.
Christopher St Lawrence died between 1462-5, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT (c1435-c1485), 3rd Baron; who was appointed, in 1478, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland; and constituted, in 1483, LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND.

His lordship married, in 1478, Joan, second daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, by whom he had four sons and two daughters.

By this marriage Lord Howth's descendants derived descent from EDWARD III, and became inheritors of the blood royal.

The second son, Thomas, was appointed, in 1532, Attorney-General for Ireland; and, in 1535, Second Justice of the Court of King's Bench.

Sir Robert was succeeded by his eldest son,

NICHOLAS, 4th Baron (c1460-1526); who, for his fidelity to HENRY VII in the affair of Lambert Simnel, was presented by that monarch with 300 pieces of gold, and confirmed by charter, dated 1489, in the lands of Howth etc.

He subsequently attended Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, Lord Deputy of Ireland, at the famous battle of Knockdoe, in Connaught, fought against the Irish in 1504, where his lordship headed the billmen on foot.

His lordship was appointed LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND in 1509; and dying in 1526, was succeeded by his eldest son by his first wife Genet, only daughter of Sir Christopher Plunkett, 3rd Baron Killeen,

CHRISTOPHER, 5th Baron (c1485-1542), who was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD, 6th Baron (1508-49), who died without male issue and was succeeded by his brother,

RICHARD, 7th Baron (c1510-58), at whose decease, without issue, the lineal heirship of whatever honours accrued to the family of ROBERT'S intermarriage, as above, with Joan, one of the co-heirs of Edmund, 2nd Duke of Somerset, devolved upon his lordship's two sisters, ANNE and ALISON; while the Irish barony of Howth passed over undisputedly to the nearest heir male of the family, according to the usual course.

This happened to be his brother,

CHRISTOPHER, 8th Baron, generally called the "Blind Lord", who wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Plunket, of Beaulieu, and was succeeded at his decease, in 1589, by his eldest son,

NICHOLAS, 9th Baron (c1550-1607), who espoused firstly, Margaret, daughter of Sir Christopher Barnewall; and secondly, Mary, daughter of Sir Nicholas White, of Leixlip, Master of the Rolls in Ireland.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son by his first marriage,

CHRISTOPHER, 10th Baron (c1568-1619), a colonel of infantry who commanded the rear of the vanguard at the battle of Carlingford, in 1600, under Lord Deputy Mountjoy, against Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

His lordship wedded Elizabeth, daughter of John Wentworth, of Little Horkesley, Yorkshire, and had two sons, NICHOLAS and Thomas, and one daughter, Margaret.

He was succeeded by his elder son,

NICHOLAS, 11th Baron (1597-1643), who married, in 1615, Jane, only surviving daughter and heir of the Rt Rev George Montgomery, Lord Bishop of Derry, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Susanna; Frances; Elizabeth; Margaret.
His lordship was succeeded by his only surviving son,

WILLIAM, 12th Baron (1628-71), who wedded Elizabeth, widow of Colonel Ftizwilliam, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
Mary, m Henry, 3rd Earl of Mount Alexander;
Martha, m Hugh, son of Sir Bryan O'Neill Bt.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

THOMAS, 13th Baron (1659-1727), who sat in JAMES II's parliament of 1689, as he did in 1692, the first parliament after the Revolution, and signed the association and declaration, in 1697, in defence of the person and government of WILLIAM III, and the succession as settled by act of parliament.

He wedded, in 1687, Mary, eldest daughter of 2nd Viscount Barnewall of Kingsland, and had, with several sons, a daughter, Elizabeth.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM, 14th Baron (1688-1748), who espoused, in 1729, Lucy, younger daughter of Lieutenant-General Richard Gorges, and by her had a daughter, Mary, and two sons.

The elder son,

THOMAS, 15th Baron (1730-1801), was created, in 1767, Viscount St Lawrence and EARL OF HOWTH.

His lordship was sworn, in the following year, of His Majesty's privy council in Ireland; and in consideration of his own and his ancestors' services, obtained, in 1776, a pension of £500 a year.

He wedded, in 1750, Isabella, daughter of Sir Edward King Bt, and sister of Edward, 1st Earl of Kingston, and had issue,
WILLIAM, of whom we treat;
Thomas (Rt Rev), Lord Bishop of Cork and Ross;
Isabella; Elizabeth; Frances 
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM, 2nd Earl (1752-1822), who married firstly, in 1777, Mary, 2nd daughter and co-heiress of Thomas, Earl of Louth, and had issue,
Harriet; Isabella; Matilda; Mary.
His lordship wedded secondly, Margaret, daughter of William Burke, of Glinsk, County Galway, by whom he left
THOMAS, his successor;
Catherine; Elizabeth.
His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

THOMAS, 3rd Earl (1803-74), Knight of St Patrick, 1835, Vice-Admiral of the Province of Leinster, Lord-Lieutenant of County Dublin, 1851-74, who espoused, in 1826, the Lady Emily de Burgh, daughter of the 1st Marquess of Clanricarde KP, and had issue,
Emily; Catherine Elizabeth; Mary.
His lordship's only son and heir,

WILLIAM ULICK TRISTRAM, 4th Earl (1827-1909), KP,
Captain, 7th Hussars 1847-50; High Sheriff of County Dublin, 1854; State Steward to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1855-58 and 1859-66; MP for Galway Borough, 1868-74; Vice-Admiral of the Province of Leinster; Knight of St Patrick, 1884.
The 4th Earl died without male issue, in 1909, when the titles expired.

HOWTH CASTLE, County Dublin, has been the stronghold of the St Lawrence family for hundreds of years.

Initially a timber fort was built on Tower Hill before a permanent stone-walled Norman castle was constructed.

The residence gradually evolved over the centuries into a palatial mansion.

The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens restyled the current castle built in 1464.

Howth Castle is possibly the oldest family home in Ireland.

During the period when many of the remaining castles and houses of the Anglo-Irish landed families were destroyed by republicans, Howth Castle remained untouched. 
In 1576, it is said that after the pirate Grace O'Malley was refused entry to Howth Castle, she captured the Earl of Howth's grandson. He was released on condition that in future, unexpected visitors would be recieved at Howth Castle. The St Lawrence family proudly continued this tradition for centuries. 
Burke's describes Howth Castle as being a rambling and romantic castle on the Hill of Howth, which forms part of the northern side of Dublin Bay.

It is basically a massive medieval keep, with corner towers crenellated in the Irish "crow-step" fashion, to which additions have been made through its 800 years.


Almeric built his castle of wood above the harbour but it is evident from a deed that by 1235 a new castle had been built on the present site in the middle of the fertile land.

This again would have been built in wood.

The earliest extant parts of the present structure date from the mid-fifteenth century.

The house has been extensively altered by succeeding generations to adapt it to their times, most notably in 1738, when the house took on its current appearance and again in 1911 when Sir Edwin Lutyens renovated and added to the house.

It is still possible to see evidence of the alterations that have been made and infer what was there before. This gives a remarkable insight into how historic houses evolved in Ireland over the centuries.

The current building is not the original Howth Castle, which was on the high slopes by the village and the sea.

The English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens restyled a 14th century castle built here, overlooking Dublin Bay.

Parts of the original bawn and towers survive though mainly encased in later additions – the large gateway tower is illustrated here.

During 1910-11 he added or renovated the tower, loggia, corridors, library, and a chapel.

He added a three-bay two-storey library block, built 1910 in tower house form, with basement and dormer attic.

Square plan corner turrets to south-west and north-east facades. Incorporating fabric of earlier structures, 1738 and ca 1840.

Over the previous hundred years or so, the list of architects who have worked on the castle or proposed alterations included: Richard Morrison (1810) for a Gothic gateway, for William St Lawrence, 2nd Earl; Francis Johnston proposed alterations in 1825, as did James Pain; Francis Bindon proposed alterations in 1838.

Richard Morrison partly executed his planned alterations of around 1840 including gothicization of the stables.

Principal rooms of note include the dining-room, the library and the chapel.


Howth Castle remains the private residence of the Gaisford-St Lawrence family.

The house is not normally open to the public, but the family recognises that there is an understandable interest in it and its contents.

The fact that the house has been home to the same family for so long is what makes it unique.

Unlike many other houses of its size it is not a museum or a hotel but a home.

The Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School, which operates from the original Georgian kitchen in the house gives a wide range of courses and demonstrations through the year.


In 1892, Rosa Mulholland referred to the grounds thus:
“Back on the lower land you must visit the ancient demesne of the Earl of Howth, where a quaint old castle stands in a prim garden with swan-inhabited pond, and plashing fountain, encircled by dark beautiful woods full of lofty cathedral-like aisles, moss carpeted, and echoing with the cawing of rooks."
In recent years, the 17th classical landscape was totally obliterated to make for a golf course.

The grounds are noted for the wild rhododendron gardens, which are open to the public in summer and some of the oldest, planted in 1710, beech hedges.

The castle itself is not open to the public.

The "Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School" is based in the restored Georgian kitchens of Howth Castle.

The National Transport Museum of Ireland is located in the grounds of the castle. It features lorries, trucks, fire engines and tractors.

Also within the grounds are the Deer Park Hotel and its associated golf courses.

First published in August, 2011.  Howth arms courtesy of European Heraldry.


Anonymous said...

The house is now open to the public, one day a week, please refer to their website for hours of entry.

Demetrius said...

The 1st Marquess of Clanricarde is given as born at Belmont (of all places) in Hampshire. This one is just north of Southampton in what is now Portswood. Jane Austen has a Lady de Burgh/Bourgh in her novel "Pride and Prejudice". Given who else is nearby and their connections is it certain that Jane knew who was who.