Drimnagh Castle – Founders and Families

The first de Bernivale castle was a wooden structure which was burned during a raid by the O’Byrnes of Wicklow. A new castle of stone was erected on the old site, and the oldest structure, the basement, dates from about 1280. Hugo de Bernivale died in 1221, and Henry III granted the lands to his brother. As part of the defences of the castle, a moat was dug around it, and the water supply for this was, and still is, supplied by the little river Bluebell that rises in the Greenhills. The water for the moat is allowed to flush into the nearby river Camac. Entry to the castle was by means of a drawbridge over the moat, which could be raised and lowered as desired by hand power from within the castle’s keep.

The de Bernivale family must have been important people, as in 1277, a Wolfran de Bernivale is mentioned as being a defender of Saggart, and donor of the Leper Hospital at Palmerstown. Wolfran was also a Constable of Dublin Castle, and Sheriff of County Dublin. The de Bernivales held the lands and castle of Drymenagh for upwards of four centuries, which makes it the longest occupied castle in the country. It is also the only castle in Ireland that has its water-filled defence moat still around it, which makes it unique in its own right.

For a period, a Chief Baron Bathe, who had married Robert de Bernivale’s widow, was in occupation of the castle until his stepson, Edward, became of age. A Marcus de Bernivale is recorded as dying in 1606, and for a time the castle was occupied by an Adam Loftus, nephew of Archbishop Loftus, the builder of Rathfarnham Castle. This Adam Loftus was in 1616, given the Castle of Tymon, Greenhills, demolished in 1960.

In 1614, Drymenagh Castle was considered important enough to be got ready for defence, by the Duke of Ormond before the battle of Rathmines, and its defences were strengthened. During the Cromwellian period the castle was held by a Phillip Ferneley who later sold the castle and its contents, which included: “Nineteen feather beds, sundry bolsters and pillows, quilts and covers, one of velvet, another of laced plush”. Among other items recorded as being sold were: “Five pieces of tapestry, six arras hanging on the wall, three Turkish carpets, a brass grate, a black velvet saddle, and leather coach curtains”. The “Hearth Money” rolls of that time, record Drymenagh Castle as having six taxable hearths.

The male line of the de Bernivales, now known as Barnwall, became extinct in the early 18th century. In 1727, a Walter Bagnal sold the castle and lands to Henry, Earl of Shelbourne. Later the castle and lands were owned by a Sir Godfrey Boate, a Justice of the King’s Bench, and it was he who ordered the cutting down of “18,000 trees in the woods of Drymenagh”.

In 1780 the castle was occupied by a Mr. Reilly, and it was he who had the drawbridge taken away, and replaced by a stone bridge. It is interesting to know that there is enough evidence available to show that a tunnel linked Drymenagh Castle with Tymon Castle, Greenhills, demolished in 1960. The castle of Drimnagh has still got all the signs of its former role as a stately home. The last family to occupy it was the family of Hatch, and it then passed into the possession of the Irish Christian Brothers earlier this century.