View of Lismore Castle from the east, across the River Blackwater. The castle dominates the left of the image, emerging from trees on high ground. The centre is occupied by the main arch of a bridge across the river. There is a lone figure leaning on the parapet. Three further arches are to the right. In the foreground, nine cows are seen ambling in the shallow water.
Inscribed in Image
|Subject(s)||Architecture, Forts and fortifications, Nature, Rural life|
|Keywords(s)||Bridges, Castles, Livestock, Mansions, People, Rivers, Towers, Trees|
|Dimensions||10.7 cm x 12.5 cm|
|Published / created||1837|
|Travel Account||Ireland Picturesque and Romantic|
|Print or manuscript|
|Location of image in copy||opp. p. 136|
|Source copy||National Library of Ireland Ir 9141 r 15|
This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
|Rights||Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland|
Related text from travel account
|I next passed through Dungarvan, which is somewhat a circuitous route, without finding any thing to repay me for my trouble; but, on reaching the banks of the Blackwater, I again fell in with that beautiful river scenery which is nowhere more beautiful than in Ireland.
It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the beauty of the Blackwater at Lismore. I never saw before so rich a foliage, so much diversity of surface, and so striking an effect of light and shadow combined in one picture. The towers of the castle, rising on a lofty steep which overhangs the river, are no doubt a happy adjunct for the artist; but I am not acquainted with any place which could do better without such associations. In the annexed engraving, the scene is presented as it usually appears to the traveller; but they who are admirers of the antique will also scramble along the sides of the precipice on the other side, to obtain a view of the northern front of this celebrated building. It [image] [p. 137] is there flanked by dark circular towers, half concealed by the trees; and appears to hang threateningly over the gulf below. From other points of view, it presents a modern and trim aspect, which disappoints the expectations of those who are acquainted with its history.
Lismore castle was founded on the ruins of an abbey by King John, in the year 1185. After being destroyed by the Irish, and undergoing various other fortunes, it was rebuilt, and became an episcopal residence; till, at length, in 1589, it passed with the rest of the manor to Sir Walter Raleigh, on consideration of a yearly rent of 13£ 6s. 8d.; and was afterwards sold by him to the Earl of Cork. In 1626 the famous Robert Boyle was born within its walls. In the rebellion of 1641, it withstood successfully a siege by five thousand Irish under Sir Richard Beling. On this occasion it was defended by Lord Broghill, the Earl's third son; whose letter to his father is well known, but still worth reprinting here.
"I have sent out my quarter-master to know the posture of the enemy; they were, as I am informed by those who were in the action, five thousand strong, and well armed, and that they intend to attack Lismore. When I have received certain intelligence, if I am a third part of their number I will meet them to-morrow morning, and give them one blow before they besiege us; if their [p. 138] number be such that it will be more folly than valour, I will make good this place which I am in.
I tried one of the ordnances made at the forge, and it held with a pound charge; so that I will plant it upon the terrace over the river. My lord, fear nothing for Lismore; for if it be lost, it shall be with the life of him who begs your lord ship's blessing, and styles himself your lordship's most humble, most obliged, and most dutiful son and servant,
Two years after, the castle was attacked again by a still greater force, and again remained trium phant; but in 1645 it was at length taken by Lord Castlehaven. The defenders on this occasion were Major Power, and a hundred of the Earl's tenants; who are said to have been allowed honourable terms of capitulation, after expending all their powder, and killing five hundred of the enemy. This sounds like one of Napoleon's bulletins.
From the Boyle family, Lismore passed into that of Cavendish, in 1748, by the marriage of Lady Charlotte Boyle, daughter of the fourth earl of Cork to the fourth duke of Devonshire. The present duke has done much to improve and beautify the place; but, what is of still more consequence, he is said to be the best of the very few good landlords in Ireland.
[p. 139] This fortress covered, originally, a considerable space of ground, as may be seen by the walls and towers still remaining. Between the boundaries, however, and the castle, there is now one of the most charming promenades in the world — a little paradise of walks, and plants, and trees. The path leads in some places to the very brink of the precipice which overhangs the Blackwater; whence a view is commanded of the deep vale below, and the eye carried along numerous vistas opening among the mountains beyond. I left the path, scrambled for some distance along the precipice, and returned another way, my mind filled with more pictures, each altogether distinct from the rest, than a week's walk could have procured me almost anywhere else.
The principal buildings of the castle surround a large square, and are furnished with modern doors and windows, with more attention to comfort than to good taste. The square, notwithstanding, has a gloomy appearance. I passed in unquestioned. Not a human being was visible; and even the sound of the wind among the trees was no more when I entered the deserted area. At that moment there stepped gravely up to me a large eagle; and I could not help starting back, and eyeing him respectfully, as "one having authority." He contented, himself, however, with an attentive examination of my appearance, and I strolled on.
In the interior of the house, there are none of [p. 140] the incongruities observable outside. All is substantially elegant. In these luxurious days, however, one fine suite of rooms resembles so closely another, that there is no telling the difference: yet, at Lismore, I must say, there is some tapestry, and some splendid doors of Irish oak. But the most striking thing is, the view from the windows — a fact which was felt before me by no less a personage than James II. This King-errant entered the castle, like myself, from even ground; and, going up to one of the windows in the great room — still called King James's window — started back aghast on finding himself perched, at a vast height, over a dark and rapid river. [pp. 136-140]