In Limbo


Tyrrell is a common Irish surname but as with so many others, its origin is Anglo-Norman. At a date around the 1170s Hugh Tyrel (or Tirrell) came to this country and acquired the Barony of Fertullagh, County Westmeath running to some 39,000 acres, as well as land in Castleknock closer to Dublin. The Tyrrells thereafter flourished, in part because like so many others of their ilk they gradually became integrated with the indigenous population. The best-remembered member of the family is Captain Richard Tyrrell who in July 1597 defeated a superior force of English soldiers at a place in Westmeath thereafter known as Tyrrellspass. The Berminghams likewise were a Norman family, the first of whom Richard de Bermingham came to Ireland in the 1170s. Initially they settled in County Galway but also became established further east. Thomas Bermingham, the last Baron of Athenry and Earl of Louth died without a male heir in 1799 and with his death the main branch came to an end. More than half a century earlier, the Tyrrells and the Berminghams had coincided when in 1735 Walter Bermingham sold Grange Castle, County Kildare to Thomas Tyrrell.

Today set in the midst of a series of stone enclosures Grange Castle is most likely a 15th century tower house, one of a number of defensive properties built by the Berminghams in this part of the country, not least nearby Carrick Castle, which is earlier in date but now in poorer condition. Grange has survived better no doubt because it remained in use as a domestic residence. In addition, at some date in the late 16th/early 17th century it was modernised, as can be seen by the larger window openings, the tall chimney stacks (indicating an increased number of hearths) and the ornamental crenellations around the roofline. Further improvements appear to have occurred not long after the castle was acquired by the Tyrrells when a single storey house was added to the immediate west. Linked to the castle at the rear, this evidently contained the main reception rooms, with the older section presumably being utilised as sleeping quarters. The main point of access was through the house, via a fine carved limestone doorcase, its pediment containing the Tyrrell coat of arms and their motto Veritas Via Vitae (a variant of Christ’s words in St John’s Gospel, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’).

Grange Castle remained in the ownership of the Tyrrells until 1988 when responsibility for the mediaeval structure was handed over to the state. However the later house, and surrounding outbuildings remain in the ownership of the family. In the mid-1990s a charitable trust was established to restore the property with the intention that it be opened to the public. Over the course of several years a considerable amount of work was undertaken to improve both house and grounds. However in 2003 this enterprise came to a close and it appears that ever since the place has sat empty, and a prey to vandals. The castle itself is secure, the only access being via a locked door to the rear of the house. The latter however is easily accessed and accordingly has suffered some despoliation. At the same time the damage is not so grave to render the project beyond re-activation, and perhaps this will occur. For the moment Grange Castle appears to be in limbo.


22 comments on “In Limbo

  1. Patrick says:

    Perhaps closer to jeopardy than limbo .

  2. thanks for this post. The dressed stone window in particular is a thing of rare beauty…. almost a modern sculptural work. Granted the interiors are shabby now but its tantalizing to glimpse the old Irish colours , floors and general fabric.

  3. James Canning says:

    Fascinating. We need an angel to step forward so the scheme can be achieved.

  4. Bob Frewen says:

    Thanks for the post. I wonder what is the purpose of the two drilled holes in the arrowslit window?

  5. Kelly says:

    Thank you for the history of this castle. I just learned I am from this Tyrrell family. I would love to visit this place and it makes it more exciting knowing I had family that was born and died here. Very interesting history!

  6. Martha says:

    It breaks my heart to see this Old Family Castle in dis-repair. Kelly, I am part of this Tyrrell to.

  7. Padraig Foy says:

    Any ideas as to why this project ran aground?

  8. Catherine says:

    Is this the ancestral home of Joseph Burr Tyrrell , whom the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta Canada is named after ?

    • Thank you for getting in touch. There were many Tyrrells (and houses) in this part of Ireland, so I am not able to tell you whether it was specifically the ancestral home of the man in question. My apologies.

    • James Roycroft Frith says:

      A definite YES. During WW2 I as a child was left with Minnie & Bobby Tyrrell at Ballindolin House (nearby) whilst my Parents went back to Malaya. Were posted missing presumed killed after fall of Singapore. we had several visitors serving in Canadian Forces during war years. I have very fond memories & quite a bit more information, if anyone is interested

      • Thank you for getting in touch. Of course I should love to have more information, both about this building and also nearby Ballindoolin which is a fine house. Do please let me know if you should like to do this and I can email you directly.

  9. James Roycroft Frith says:

    It would be a pleasure – how do we go about further contact?

  10. I am not sure if I am a Tyrrell from this line; nevertheless, I would love to visit this ‘magical’ place.

  11. Raymond Tyrrell says:

    When Robert Jonathan Haughton (Bobbie) Tyrrell died at Ballindoolan in 1993, the castle was inherited by his grandnephew. Bobby’s uncle was Dr Joseph Burr Tyrrell. Joseph’s father, William (Bobby’s grandfather and a son of Capt Adam Tyrrell), was born in Grange Castle 26 March 1816 and baptised in the local Carbury Church 20 April 1816. In 1836 he emigrated with his cousin Edward Ledwick Tyrrell, and settled in Weston; the latter in Walpole.

  12. Harry says:

    I have just discovered the article In Limbo concerning Grange Castle. I am working on a document typed in 1904 entitled “A Genealogical History of the Tyrrells”. This was typed by a Tyrrell of Ballinderry House and Grange Castle. When my work is done, it may be a useful follow-up to In Limbo. Harry Meyer

    • Thank you for getting in touch about this. I much look forward to reading the article in due course, so do keep in contact…

    • James Canning says:

      I too look forward to reading this.

    • Raymond Tyrrell says:

      A book by that title, “A Genealogical History of the `Tyrrells sometime of the French Vexin…. with Pedigrees from B.C.443 to the present day,” was published in 1904 by Joseph Henry Tyrrell (1863-1939). It was republished in 1980, Phillimore and Co., by the UK based “Tyrrell Family History Society” and from them it may still be possible to obtain a copy. The only typescript that I know of by J H Tyrrell is a 1921 booklet on “The Barony of Fartullagh”. If you happen to have J H’s original typescript for the 1904 book it may contain many more refences than are to be found in the printed edition and I too look forward to reading your research.

  13. John Robert II Tyrrell says:

    I would love to take possession, I am naturalized as my grandmother was born in ballahadreen. While the castle passed to whomever it passed to, my family is the senior branch, and our customs, which date back even further than 443 BC, clearly states all males inherit equally. The Y haplogroup is exceedingly rare, although today at least three common ones bear the name as well. My family is the senior one, who represented Spain in the Peninsula War and built Cheat Summit Fort in the American Civil War. I have the papers and desire to come back, but not the funds and there still exists political deterrents to our return. Sadly our enemies have left our castles in ruins across the world, although Grange seems to be faring better than the rest!! It is my opinion that any Tyrrell should take up the restoration and make it a available for all Tyrrells, as was always our custom. As sad a state of affairs as the house stands today, there are thousands more of us alive than have ever been before!! And forcthe history buffs, the murder of William Rufus was intentional, and James was not hanged for the Princes of Tower, but for sending Richard Pole to Austria. Baron Edward was murdered in captivity prior to the Treaty if Limerick in 1690, untried by William III, who obscured all of the Tyrrell titles. Ours was the one family not restored with the Catholic Restoration, in 1829, but in Offaly, James Tyrrell and Bridget Browne-Lally’s marriage is among the first recorded. Their son Martin gave General Lee his first defeat, outnumbered over 3 to 1, Army of the Virginia versus ragged militia in a castle on a hill, in typical Tyrrell fasion. This confined the soon to be Confederate Army to the South in what ultimately became a defensive struggle for them. William Rufus Terrrell, of the English-American house was so inspired, he took his confederate army and changed sides to join us!! I have located over 40 Union Tyrrells in the Civil War, most Irishmen and am working to write all their tales to add to the book! Veritas Via Vitae!! I know have my own male line recorded back 122 generations, and the above Bridget Lally’s brother John near 100! Lets fucking go boys!!!

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