Categories of Special Interest
Archaeological, Architectural, Social
Under Secretary’s Lodge/Papal Nunciature
In Use As
Heritage centre/interpretative centre
1600 - 1610
Detached three-storey fortified tower house with square-plan stair tower to southeast, built c.1605. Now in use as heritage centre. Pitched and graded slate saddle-back roof behind parapets, with dressed stone chimneystack with recesses and coping and stone steps to upper west gable. Squared rainwater openings to base of parapets. Walling is uncoursed limestone rubble. Square-headed window openings, with roughly stepped and chamfered stone architraves and sills, and with hood-moulding over upper south window. Windows replacement metal casements. Loops to tower. In-stepped round-headed doorcase to south with dressed stone architraves and replacement timber studded door. Set within mature landscaped gardens of former Ashtown Demesne, with Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and walled garden to west. Ground plan of former Ashtown Lodge marked by low box hedging. Surrounding garden and trees laid out by Ninian Niven c.1840.
The castle was dated to the early seventeenth century on the basis of surviving fragments of a roof truss found in the wall during the restoration project in the early 1990s. There is in the stonework some suggestion of a further wing to the north, but no archaeological evidence was found, leaving this section unresolved. The builder is unknown, but in 1641 the estate was in the ownership of John Connell, a distant ancestor of Daniel O’Connell. Curiously the Civil Survey, 1654, lists him as a Protestant. Stone from a quarry at Pelletstown owned by Connell was used in the building of the original wall of the Park. The castle and its lands were purchased for the crown by the Duke of Ormonde in 1663 and it became the official residence of the second Keeper of the Park, Sir William Flower, who assigned it to a subordinate. The building was extended to become the Under Secretary’s residence in the late eighteenth century. After Independence it served as the residence of the Papal Nuncio. The later extension was demolished in the 1980s and the site was briefly considered for an official Taoiseach’s residence, the brief requiring the restoration of the castle. Although heavily restored, it is a rare surviving example of a fortified tower house close to the capital city.