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His Majesty's Castle of Dublin (Author: Caesar Litton Falkiner)

Appendix I

It seems appropriate to the plan of this attempt to recall the historical associations of the Castle of Dublin prior to its eighteenth century vicissitudes, to tell something of the story of the relations of the Castle to the numerous purposes of state, other than those of official residence and seat of government, which in early times the building was made to subserve.

Note A: The Castle as Parliament House

Besides being the seat of government and the residence of the Deputy, the Castle was also the Parliament House. The early Parliaments of Ireland were of course, like those of England, not necessarily held in the capital. Several of the most celebrated assemblies of the Lords and Commons of Ireland were held at Kilkenny, Trim, Drogheda, and elsewhere, according to the convenience or exigency of the moment. But in general the Parliament met in Dublin. And when it met in Dublin, it met, in early times at least, in Dublin Castle, no doubt in the great Hall


so often mentioned in the State Papers.52 In Tudor times, of course, the same reasons that drove the Deputies to Kilmainham and St. Sepulchre's made it impossible for the Parliament to meet in the Castle. The Abbey of St. Thomas, the Carmelite Monastery in Whitefriars Street, and the Cathedral of Christ Church thus became successively the scene of its migratory sittings.53 The first Parliament of Elizabeth in 1559 was held by Sussex in the last-named building. But after the renovations carried out by Sidney, the Castle again accommodated the High Court of Parliament. The Parliaments of James I. and Charles I.—probably the later Parliaments of Elizabeth also— were there held in spite of the serious explosion of gunpowder which partially ruined the hall in 1596.54 The letter of Sir Christopher Plunket, describing the celebrated Parliament called by Sir Arthur Chichester in 1613, gives a graphic picture of the scene at its opening,55 on which occasion both Houses were accommodated in the great hall of the Castle which had been specially fitted up for the purpose.

Strafford's Parliaments were also held within the Castle, which continued to be the seat of the Legislature until the Rebellion. A description of the appearance of the two Houses during the Parliament which sat in 1635 has been left by Sir William Brereton.56 But the Parliament of 1640 was the last to meet there. After the Restoration the Duke of Ormond changed the place of assembly to Chichester House, the predecessor of the Parliament House in College Green. And with the exception of the Parliament of James II., which was held at the King's Inns,


formerly the Black Friars, on the site of the present Four Courts, and of those held at the King's Hospital (the Blue Coat School) in 1738-9 during the building of the Parliament House, all Parliaments were held in College Green from the Restoration to the Union.

Note B: The Castle as the Seat of the Law Courts

The relation of the Castle to the law courts was always intimate. As the language of King John's instructions to Meiller Fitz-Henry shows, it was from the first intended that the Castle should be the chief seat of legal administration, and so it continued to be, almost without interruption, down to Stuart times. No doubt the Hall of Justice suffered with the rest of the Castle in the early years of the Tudors. It appears that a representation was made to Henry VIII. by Alan, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor, that the Chancery within the Castle was ‘no better than a pigsty,’ and orders were given in 1531 ‘for the rebuilding of the Castle Halls where the law is kept, lost the Majesty of the Law should perish, and the Judges be obliged to administer the law on the hills, as it were Brehons or Wild Irishmen.’57 In 1548 the courts were transferred for a brief period to St. Patrick's,58 during the suppression of the cathedral chapter. But on the reconstitution of the Cathedral they were restored to the Castle, where they occupied the great Hall or Parliament Chamber. This arrangement, however, was not found convenient, and Elizabeth ‘frequently desired that the terms should be removed out of the Castle,’59 where the situation of the courts over the powder magazine was in her time a source of natural apprehension to the justices. Instructions to this effect were given in 1585 to Sir John Perrot, who may have desired to utilise the hall in which the courts sat for the Parliament summoned in that year. Nevertheless, it was not until 1607 that the removal of the courts from the Castle was finally ordered. In that year James I directed that they should be held in the deserted Monastery of the Black Friars;60 the site of the old King's Inns, and of the modern Four Courts. But, frightened no doubt by the estimate of the cost of equipping the old Dominican Abbey for the purpose designed, his Ministers


were unable to carry out this order. Though made use of as the King's Inns and the headquarters of the Bar, it was not until after a lapse of close on two centuries that the Black Friars site was appropriated to the full use for which King James had designed it; and, meantime, his Majesty's Four Courts found accommodation in a ‘sumptuous fabric’61 in the precincts of Christ Church,62 to which they were transferred in 1610.

Note C: The Castle as Exchequer and Mint

We have seen that the Castle was from the first intended to be the stronghold in which the King's treasure should be guarded, and that in general it was the actual seat of the Exchequer and of the Mint. The Court of Exchequer, however, and perhaps the Treasury itself, was not originally within the Castle precincts. ‘Among other monuments,’ says Stanihurst, ‘there is a place in that lane, called now Collets Inn, which in old time was the Exaxar, or Exchequer.’63 And the chronicler goes on to tell in a familiar paragraph the story of a raid by the Irish, in the course of which ‘they ransacked the prince his treasure, upon which mishap the Exchequer was from thence removed.’ The separate Exchequer building can be traced back at least as far as Henry III.'s time, and the Pipe Roll for the thirteenth year of that reign has an entry of the expenditure of ten shillings ‘in glass for windows of the Exchequer.’64 It may perhaps have been during the Bruce trouble that the incident commemorated by Stanihurst occurred, for from a direction to the Treasurer in 1313 to ‘reside in Dublin Castle with the treasure,’ and from the fact that the Castle was in that year repaired and strengthened, it would seem as though the Treasury had previously been situate without the precincts. Thenceforward, at any rate, the Exchequer remained within the walls, though John de Wilton is mentioned as late as 1345 as guardian of the works of Dublin Castle and of the houses of the Exchequer.65

The Castle was also long the seat of the Royal Mint. From the first establishment of an Irish Mint by King John in 1210,


when mints were founded not only in Dublin but in Waterford and Limerick, to their abolition in Elizabeth's reign, the Dublin coinage seems to have been usually struck within the Castle. Several Acts of Parliament in the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV. contain enactments affecting the coinage, and direct the coins to be made in the Castle of Dublin. In 1425 John Cobham was granted the office of Master of the Coinage to be made in Dublin Castle, with the provision that ‘all the money to be made there should be of the same weight, alloy and assay as the silver money which is made in London.’66 An Act of Edward IV., passed at Wexford in 1463, recites the appointment of one Germyn Lynch, of London, goldsmith, to be ‘Warden and Master of our moneys and coins within our Castle of Dublin and within our Castle of Trym,’ and authorises him to make all the royal coinage. Lynch, who was no doubt a Galway man, had previously been permitted to make coins in that city as well as in Reginald's Tower at Waterford. Drogheda and Carlingford were also the seats of Royal Mints at this period.67 By an Act passed in 1473 Lynch was formally appointed Master of the Mint, and it was ordered that ‘the King's coin be struck for the time to come within the Castle of Dublin only and in no other place in Ireland.’ A later Act, passed in 1475, while ordering that coins made in Cork, Youghal and Limerick ‘be utterly damned and taken in no payment,’ recognised the Drogheda and Waterford Mints as still legitimate. Lynch's appointment was however revoked, and the profits of the Mint granted to Gerald, Earl of Kildare. Coins were still struck in the Castle Mint as late as Edward VI. 's time, and Elizabeth certainly intended to reopen the Dublin Mint. In 1561 directions were given to the Lords Justices for the erection of a mint in Dublin, which is perhaps the ‘Irish Mint House’68 referred to by Fynes Moryson.69 If so, the Mint in Moryson's time still occupied its old quarters, the Lords Justices designating ‘the Castle of Dublin, with the help of the chapel next without the gate’ (St. Andrew's) as the fittest place for the Mint. But, though the prospect of reviving the Dublin Mint was still entertained in Sidney's time, nothing was done to give effect to it either by Elizabeth in the remainder of her reign or by her successor. There is some evidence that Charles I. intended to restore the Mint, and Charles II., at the instance of the Duke of Ormond,70 certainly gave a patent to coin silver in Ireland. But the Irish Mint was never


re-established, and except for the familiar brass money of James II. no coins have ever issued from a royal mint in Ireland since the time of Edward VI.

Note D: The Castle as a State Prison

The most characteristic feature of the Castle as a mediaeval fortress was that it served as the State prison. From the days of Strongbow to those of Strafford, what is now called Cork Hill was the Tyburn of the Irish capital, and the Bermingham Tower was its Tower prison from an early date. It cannot have been from the Castle, but was perhaps from some city gate, that the body of Donnell, son of Annad, was suspended with his feet upwards, and his head placed over the door in 1172, ‘as a miserable spectacle for the Gaedhill.’71 But from the first building of the Castle its battlements were utilised to strike terror into the enemies of the State by the exhibition of the heads of traitors from above its walls. Of this barbarous practice of the Middle Ages there are plenty of examples in the history of the Castle. In 1358 one William Vale, having slain several Irish chieftains in Carlow and its neighbouring districts, ‘brought their heads to the Castle of Dublin to be there put up’72; and in the picture of the Castle in the illustrations to Derricke's Image of Ireland the heads of decapitated chieftains appear suspended from the battlements of the Gate Tower.

In early times the prison within the Castle was in the lower rooms of the Bermingham Tower, and so continued till the seventeenth century, when it was transferred to the Gate House. The prisons were of course in the immediate custody of the Constable, who, like the Constable of the Tower of London, had the privilege of charging for the keep of provisions and hostages at a higher rate than the Constables of other castles. The earliest mention of the Castle prison to be met with in the State Papers is in 1282, when a sum of two shillings was paid for gyves73; but no doubt the Castle was from the first the State prison, and in general it seems to have also been the gaol for ordinary malefactors.

The inconvenience of making the Castle the common gaol was the subject of frequent remonstrances on the part of the representatives of the Crown during the sixteenth century. For notwithstanding that the new gate of the city had been equipped as a


prison in Richard III.'s time,74 the Castle seems to have remained the chief place of detention, and it was not until the reign of James I that any steps were taken to alter this arrangement. In that year the King, ‘in consideration of divers inconveniences attendant on the keeping of the common gaol within the Castle of Dublin,’75 directed that it should be removed to some other suitable place in the city. But it was judged desirable that the Castle should still be used for the custody of State prisoners, and accordingly, to lessen the inconvenience to the Deputies, it was ordered that a wall should be built ‘separating such persons from the part reserved for the lodging of the Lord Deputy.’ But the cost of making these alterations was found too heavy for the grudging treasury of James to sanction, and though the prisoners were transferred to apartments in the Gate Tower, the work was badly done, and the inconvenience was soon as great as ever. It does not indeed appear precisely at what period the Castle ceased to be regarded as a fitting ward for offenders against the State. As lately as 1715 the Gate Tower of the Castle seems still to have been used for the custody of prisoners. But no doubt, after the erection of the eighteenth century Newgate built in 1773 on the Little Green on the north side of the city, it was no longer found necessary to trespass on the scanty accommodation of the Castle for this purpose.76

Note E: The Castle as Record Office

No more interesting associations are attached to the Castle than those which connect it with the guardianship of the records of the State. From very early times, and probably from its foundation, the Castle was utilised for this purpose. In 1304 the Treasury accounts record that the sum of four pence was paid for ‘mending the lock and key of the great vault in the Castle of Dublin where the rolls are preserved.’77 Ten years or so later, in the height of the Bruce scare, anxiety seems to have been felt for the safety of the archives. Directions were issued to Walter de Islip, the Treasurer of Ireland, ‘to observe the ordinance made by the King's Council, whilst the King's clerk John de Hotham was in Ireland, that the Treasurer should reside in Dublin Castle with the rolls and other memoranda touching his office.’78


Of the exact date of the transference of the records from the great vault just mentioned to the Bermingham Tower there is no precise evidence; but it is certain that they were kept in the last-named place from the middle of the sixteenth century at least. An elaborate memorandum, drawn up by John Alan, Master of the Rolls,79 not long after the suppression of the rebellion of Silken Thomas, contains an important recommendation in regard to the safe-keeping of the records; and shows that the most culpable laxity had previously prevailed with regard to them: ‘And, for conclusion, because there is no place so meet to keep the King's treasure as is His Grace's Castle of Dublin in the tower called Brymmyniames Tower—and where in times past the negligent keeping of the King's records hath grown to great losses to His Highness, as well concerning his lands as his laws, for that every keeper for his time, as he favoured, so did either embezzle, or suffered to be embezzled, such muniments as should make against them or their friends, so that we have little to show for any of the King's lands or profits in these parts; it is therefore necessary that from henceforth all the rolls and muniments to be had be put in good order in the aforesaid tower, and the door thereof to have two locks ... and that no man be suffered to have loan of any of the said muniments from the said place, nor to search, view or read any of them there, but in the presence of one of the keepers aforesaid.’80

No attention seems to have been paid to Alan's recommendation, for in 1551 the law courts having been removed, as already stated, to St. Patrick's, an order was made by the Privy Council for the transference ‘to the late library of the late Cathedral Church of St. Patrick's’ of ‘the records and muniments of his Highness's Chancery,’81 on the ground that the tower within his Majesty's Castle of Dublin was both ruinous and too distant


from the courts. What effect was given to this order we have no means of knowing. But from the brief stay of the courts in St. Patrick's it is unlikely that it was acted on. And it would seem from the terms of the order that in any case only legal records were intended to follow the courts. At any rate the Order in Council specifically directed that the tower should remain the general State Paper repository.

No adequate arrangements were made under Edward VI. or Queen Mary for the protection of the documents in the tower; and the only effect of the order just referred to seems to have been that the records were disturbed and disordered, and their safety imperilled. When Sir Henry Sidney entered on his government he found them, according to Collins, ‘in an open place, subject to wind, rain, and all weather, and so neglected that they were taken for common uses.’82 It is to Sidney's admirably efficient administration that we are principally indebted for the preservation of a great portion of the State Papers, and we unquestionably owe to him the establishment of the earliest Irish Record Office. In 1566 he directed Henry Draycott, then Master of the Rolls and Chancellor of the Exchequer, to undertake the ‘perusing, sorting and calendaring’ of her Majesty's records, which he had previously ‘well laid up in a strong chamber of one of the towers of Dublin Castle.’83 He also appointed, as Stanihurst remarks, ‘a special officer with a yearly fee for the keeping of them.’ Thomas Cotton, the Deputy Auditor-General, was the first to hold this office.84 The salary of this earliest Deputy Keeper of the Records was fixed at 10£ per annum. At this modest figure it remained down to the year 1715, when it was enlarged to the more substantial figure of 500£ a year for the benefit of no less distinguished a personage than Joseph Addison, then Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, and it so continued down to the constitution of a Public Record Office by Statute in 1817.85

In 1635 Strafford drew attention to ‘the want of Treasuries for His Majesty's Records of his Four Courts,’ and his recommendation that a proper office should be built resulted in the provision of a Rolls Office.86 In a vigorous minute Strafford pointed out that the legal records having been latterly kept for want of proper custody in the house of the Master of the Rolls, many records had been lost, and more recently burned in a fire which had consumed


that official's residence. From this time probably dates the definite separation of the legal records of the country from the State Papers properly so called.87

Note F: The Office of Constable of Dublin Castle

From the very earliest times until late in the eighteenth century the Castle was governed by a Constable, an officer of considerable dignity, who was responsible for the security of its defences, and for the safe custody of the prisoners committed to the Grate. The office appears to have been at all times one of high consideration. Like the Constable of the Tower of London, its holder was entitled, as already noted, to demand higher fees for the maintenance of prisoners and hostages than were chargeable in other castles in the kingdom. The earliest express mention of a Constable by name is that of Simon Muredoc,88 who in 1245 was directed to give formal possession of the Castle to Henry III.'s newly appointed Justiciary, John Fitz-Geoffrey. But it would appear that, in 1226, Theobald Walter,89 the ancestor of the Ormond family, had the custody of the Castle, and may have been its first Constable. One Hugo de Lega was Keeper of the Castle in 1235, but the office of Keeper was then, as well as in later times, distinct from that of Constable. The salary of the Constable, exclusive of fees, was twenty pounds Irish, and it seems to have remained at this modest figure as late as the Restoration, when an allowance of ten shillings a day was added.90 At the accession of George II. it was again raised, the ‘ancient fee of twenty pounds’ being augmented by an addition of 345£, thus bringing up the full emoluments to a pound a day. But the perquisites must at all times have been valuable. The privilege of residence within the Castle seems to have been highly valued, if we may judge from the petition of Jaques Wingfield, who, about 1560, ‘bilded an handsome lodging for himself at his own proper charge.’91 And the Ormonde Papers contain an agreement for the sale of beer


within the Castle on terms which must have been very profitable to the Constable.92

The defensive establishment of the Castle seems to have varied from time to time, but four gunners and fourteen warders seem to have been the normal complement. The city in early times seems to have been called on to contribute to the cost of defending the Castle, as appears from a fine inflicted in 1312 on John le Usher, then Constable, who, having been allowed the cost of maintaining twelve extra men, over and above the ordinary garrison, who were to receive their pay out of the city dues, neglected, ‘contrary to his oath and in deceit of the King and Court,’ to maintain the additional men. The city was likewise called upon about this time to supply the Constable of Dublin Castle with ‘twelve good arbalists, with fitting gear and ten thousand bolts’; and in 1315 the Mayor and Sheriffs provided a quantity of munition for defence of the Castle.93 In 1537, Alan, the Master of the Rolls, in calling attention to the necessity for the repair of the Castle, recommended that ‘for the custody thereof, and many other dangers, the Constable of the same be an Englishman of England born, whose dwelling shall be continually within the said Castle without appointing of a deputy, and he to be associated with four gunners, of the which number two shall always be present.’94

A List of the Constables of Dublin Castle (Compiled from the Liber Munerum Hibernice, the State Paper Calendars, and other sources.)

  1. 1226. Theobald Walter.
  2. 1245. Simon Muredoc.
  3. 1276. Henry de Ponte.
  4. 1278. Peter de Condon.
  5. 1280. William Burnel.
  6. 1285. Philip Keling, Junior.
  7. 1293. John Wodelok.
  8. 1296. Henry le Waleys.
  9. 1302. Simon de Ludgate.
  10. 1302. John le Usher.
  11. 1325. Henry de Badowe.
  12. 1352. James, Earl of Ormond.
  13. 1371. Roger Ocley.
  14. 1377. John Davenport and Richard Ocley.
  15. 1381. Roger de Levenes.
  16. 1383. John Barnolby.
  17. 1399. William le Scrope.
  18. 1399. William Rye.
  19. 1401. Jenico Dartas.
  20. 1427. Christopher Plunkett.
  21. 1450. Giles Thorndon.
  22. 1453. Sir Henry Bruen.
  23. 1454. John Bonnet.
  24. 1467. Thomas Alfray.
  25. 1474. Gerald Fitzgerrot.
  26. 1486. Richard Archbold.


  1. 1533. Sir John White.
  2. 1543. John Parker.
  3. 1561. Robert Tucker.
  4. 1566. John Bettes.
  5. 1566. William Denham.
  6. 1566. Jaques Wingfield.
  7. 1575. Silvester Cooley.
  8. 1587. Stephen Segur or Segrave.
  9. 1588. John Maplesden.
  10. 1591. Michael Kettlewell.
  11. 1600. Tristram Eccleston.
  12. 1607. Henry Piers or Persse.
  13. 1611. Roger Davys.
  14. 1617. Roger Davys and Robert Branthwaite.
  15. 1628. Roger Davys and Samuel Dargas.
  16. 1635. Mathew Mainwaring .
  17. 1644. Mathew and Dudley Mainwaring.
  18. 1660. Sir John Stephens.
  19. 1673. Col. John Jeffreys.
  20. 1680. Arthur Turner.
  21. 1681. James Clarice.
  22. 1684. James and William Clarke.
  23. 1708. John and William Pratt.
  24. 1727. Thomas Hatton .
  25. 1767. Henry Seymour Conway.95