A year ago, my aunt and I traveled to Ireland to learn more about our Irish roots (and to attend a friend’s wedding). We ate fish and chips at Reel Dingle Fish Co., took a detour along the scenic Conor Pass, saw the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow at Trinity College and went on a literary pub crawl across the city of Dublin. One of my favorite parts of the trip, though, was visiting Luttrellstown Castle, an estate dating back to Sir Henry Luttrell in 1436. Since this blog is dedicated to family history–and this week’s 52 Ancestors theme is “travel”–I want to highlight the story of the Luttrell family and the history of Luttrellstown Castle, Ireland.
“Luttrell” derives from the French l’outre or “otter,” and an otter appears on the family’s coat of arms. The Luttrell’s were a family of Norman origin who fought with William the Conquerer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, acquiring substantial estates in Yorkshire and Leicestershire. They were a prominent Catholic family who retained their faith throughout the Protestant Reformation; at the same time, the Luttrell’s benefited greatly from the confiscation of the religious houses in Ireland. Apart from a short break during Cromwellian times, the family retained their influential position and were members of the aristocracy for several hundred years.
The history of the Luttrell family in Ireland can be traced back to Geoffrey Luttrell, a member of a royal commission appointed by King John in 1204. As the story goes, Sir Henry Luttrell, one of Geoffrey’s descendants, seized the estate now known as Luttrellstown Castle in 1436 during the reign of King Henry VI. The architectural history of the castle represents a progression from a medieval stronghold to a comfortable castle estate. The present facade reflects a later Gothic transformation to unify the Castle’s exterior: this romantic style was fashionable in Britain and Ireland towards the end of the eighteenth century. Tudor Revival and nineteenth-century Gothic Revival features are part of the Castle’s unique fabric, as well.
The Luttrell family line ended following the death of John Olmius Luttrell, third Earl of Carhampton, in 1829. A wealthy Dublin bookseller and businessman purchased the estate for £180,000 from the Luttrells in the 1830s, and the Castle was eventually purchased by the Guinness family in the early 1900s. Today, Luttrellstown Castle is open for weddings, receptions, parties, concerts and tours. It’s a beautiful estate with intricately-carved architectural details, secret library passages, a grand staircase in the main hall, a hand-painted overhead mural, and an impressive entryway and foyer. The Castle sits on 560 acres of land complete with a winding driveway leading up to the estate, a picturesque lake that’s perfect for fishing and a monument to Queen Victoria set among a bunch of wildflowers in the middle of the woods. Exploring the Castle’s secret passageways and grounds was the highlight of my trip, and I wanted to share my experience here, too.