History and Heritage of County Kildare

In 1176 Strongbow granted the manor of Maynooth to Maurice Fitzgerald who erected a castle for protection against the native Irish

Maynooth Castle

Maynooth Castle Photo

The ancient name of Maynooth ‘Magh Nuadhat’ means the plain of Nuadhat. Nuadhat is referred to as the maternal grandfather of the legendary Fionn MaCumhail in the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’. In 1426 the sixth Earl of Kildare enlarged and rebuilt the castle.

In the latter half of the fifteenth century, Maynooth Castle became the centre of the Geraldine powerbase, as the Earls of Kildare increased their strength of ‘rule’. This was something which the English monarchy disliked.

The culmination of the developing friction between the Fitzgeralds and the monarchy was the rebellion of Silken Thomas (so called because of his fine clothes). Silken Thomas alias Lord Offaly was a son of Garret Óg, the ninth Earl of Kildare.

Thomas rose up in rebellion against the king who had arrested his father, and held him in the Tower of London. Thomas marched to Dublin Castle and threw down the sword of state, declaring himself an enemy of the king.

However, his rebellion was curbed when he and his followers were defeated and the stronghold of Maynooth taken by the English. All those within the castle were put to death and this became known, ironically, as the ‘Maynooth Pardon’. Thomas, along with five of his uncles, was later executed in London. Maynooth Castle then became a royal castle and a popular residence for the Lord Deputies of Ireland.

By the seventeenth century however, the castle had fallen derelict. It became the property of the Duke of Leinster and today only the ruined keep and the gate-house survive. It provides an impressive entrance for Maynooth College, which was founded in 1795 and is famous for the education of the Irish Catholic priests.

A key to the castle grounds can be obtained on request from one of the local residents in the nearby Parsons Street. The address is posted outside the castle railings.

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County Kildare Heritage