Slane Castle, located in County Meath, Ireland, is a magnificent structure with a rich history that dates back over 800 years. The castle is situated on the banks of the River Boyne and is easily accessible from Dublin. It is a popular tourist attraction and has become famous for the rock concerts that are held on its grounds.
In this article, we will explore the history of Slane Castle, from its origins in the Norman Conquest to its present-day status as a cultural icon.
Origins of Slane Castle
The history of Slane Castle begins in the 12th century with the Norman Conquest of Ireland. In 1170, the Anglo-Norman knight, Hugh de Lacy, was granted the lands of Meath by King Henry II of England. De Lacy built a motte-and-bailey fortress at Slane, which was later replaced by a stone castle in the 14th century.
In 1350, the castle was granted to the Fleming family, who were Flemish mercenaries who had fought for the English Crown. The Flemings made significant additions and improvements to the castle, including the construction of a gatehouse and a defensive wall.
The Coddingtons and the Conynghams
In the 16th century, the Coddington family acquired the castle through marriage. However, their ownership was short-lived, as the castle was confiscated by the English Crown after the defeat of the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The castle was granted to William Conyngham, an English soldier who had fought in the battle. The Conyngham family made significant changes to the castle, including the addition of a Georgian mansion, designed by the renowned architect James Wyatt. The mansion was built in the early 1780s and is now the main part of the castle.
Slane Castle in the 20th Century
The Conyngham family continued to own Slane Castle throughout the 20th century, with Lord Henry Conyngham becoming the 8th Marquess of Conyngham in 1946. In the 1980s, Lord Henry’s son, Henry Mountcharles, took over the management of the estate and began to promote the castle as a venue for rock concerts.
The first concert was held in 1981, featuring Thin Lizzy, and was followed by performances from some of the biggest names in music, including U2, the Rolling Stones, and Guns N’ Roses. The natural amphitheatre created by the landscape around the castle makes it an ideal venue for concerts, and the events have become an iconic part of the Irish music scene.
The Fire of 1991
In 1991, tragedy struck Slane Castle when a fire broke out, destroying much of the interior of the building, including the famous ballroom ceiling. The damage was extensive, and it took several years to restore the castle to its former glory.
The restoration work was completed in time for the 1998 concert, featuring the legendary musician Bob Dylan. Since then, Slane Castle has continued to host concerts, and the estate has been opened to the public for tours and other events.
Slane Castle Today
Today, Slane Castle is owned by Lord Henry Mountcharles and is open to the public for guided tours and events. The castle is also available for private functions, including weddings and corporate events.
The estate has undergone significant development in recent years, with the addition of a whiskey distillery, which produces the famous Slane Irish Whiskey. The distillery is housed in the 18th-century stable yard and has become a popular destination for whiskey lovers from around the world.
Timeline of Slane Castle
- 1170: The Norman knight, Hugh de Lacy, builds a motte-and-bailey fortress at Slane.
- 14th century: The castle is replaced by a stone castle.
- 1350: The castle is granted to the Fleming family.
- 16th century: The Coddington family acquires the castle through marriage.
- 1690: The castle is confiscated by the English Crown after the defeat of King James II at the Battle of the Boyne.
- 1703: The castle is granted to William Conyngham, an English soldier who had fought in the battle.
- 1780s: James Wyatt designs a Georgian mansion, which is built and becomes the main part of the castle.
- 1946: Lord Henry Conyngham becomes the 8th Marquess of Conyngham.
- 1980s: Henry Mountcharles takes over the management of the estate and begins to promote the castle as a venue for rock concerts.
- 1981: The first concert is held, featuring Thin Lizzy.
- 1991: A fire breaks out, destroying much of the interior of the building, including the famous ballroom ceiling.
- 1998: The restoration work is completed in time for the concert featuring Bob Dylan.
- Present day: Slane Castle is owned by Lord Henry Mountcharles and is open to the public for guided tours and events. The estate has undergone significant development, including the addition of a whiskey distillery.