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Dundrum Castle
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Dundrum Castle


The place-name, Dundroma (fort of the ridge), suggests an Early Christian fort in the vicinity, and excavation in 1950 produced distinctively pre-Norman finds and drystone structures, though the scale and exact nature of the occupation remain uncertain. It is likely that John de Courcy fortified this important site as part of his conquest of Ulster from 1177 onwards, though the first written reference to the castle is not until 1205, after his fall from power. It was one of a string of coastal castles, including Carlingford, Down Patrick and Carrickfergus, by which the Anglo-Normans established their hold on the north-east. It was known then as the castle of Rath from the parish in which it stands, Rathmurbuilg (now Maghera); the name Dundrum is applied to the castle only from the early sixteenth century.

The castle was besieged unsuccessfully in 1205, and was captured by king John in 1210 when its garrison equaled that at Carrickfergus, a measure of the importance of Dundrum. It passed from royal hands to the earls of Ulster in 1227. Expenditures on repairs recorded in 1260 may have involved the gatehouse, but a 1333 inquisition described "a ruinous castle, which is of no annual value, because it needs so much repair that nothing can be obtained from it'. During part at least of the later Middle Ages it was in Irish hands (the Magennises). It is said to have been spoiled by Cromwell in 1652, but the seventeenth century probably also saw the construction of the dwelling house in the lower ward by the Blundell family. The castle was placed in State Care by the Marquis of Downshire in 1954, since when an extensive conservation program has been undertaken.

The Site

The castle occupies a magnificent situation, dominating the surrounding country and sea. It is built on a prominent hill of shale and grits, carved out by the ice: the rock is clearly visible, especially under the gatehouse and in the ditch. Sited on the west shore of Dundrum Inner Bay, it commands a fine natural harbour which offered penetration inland, especially to the fertile Lecale peninsula. This strategic importance, recognized by the builder of the Early Christian dun and the Anglo-Norman castle, was described by Lord Leonard Grey who took Dundrum in 1538: 'one of the strongest holds in Ireland, and most commodious for defense of the whole country of Lecayle both by sea and land, for Lecayle is environed by the sea, and there is no way to enter it by land, but by the said castle'. Dundrum was an important fishing port in sixteenth century, and doubtless in earlier times too. Although one of the delights of the hill is now its tree cover, the surroundings of the castle must formerly have been far more open: trees would have provided unwelcome cover for assailants.

Copyright 1998-2004 - My Family's Heart Genealogy All information contained within these pages are the personal property of Ruth Ann (nee McGinnis) Gauthier and Tonya Rena (nee Gauthier) Kellum. We kindly ask that you please not take anything from these pages without our written consent first. Much of this information was generously shared with us by other researches and has been so noted. That information is being used with their permission. Thank you kindly!!