Saturday, 24 January 2009

Carbury Castle

A friend of mine from America visited a few years ago, when we were still new to the area, and wanted to see the head of the River Boyne. We drove all over the tiny capillaries of Irish back roads, triangulating the source of the river, and along the way we came upon Carbury Castle.

Eventually we found a nearby manor, on whose grounds, we were told, the river began. We knocked on the giant door and were greeted by an elderly gentleman, who had lived there his entire life and was the last of his lineage. He was blind now, we realized, but could point in the right direction, and we stayed for a while to talk to him about the history of the place.

He told us about his boyhood there in the Edwardian era -- at 86, he was actually older than the independent nation of Ireland -- when he and other boys rolled hoops and held picnics on the hillsides. He told us about the Normans who first built Carbury Castle, and the warlords who ruled the area in medieval times -- one, he said, invited all the local lords to a feast and killed them in treachery, as in the opening of Braveheart.

We followed his finger to the place where the Boyne began -- a river named after the goddess Boyne, often depicted standing in water. My friend and I came upon it and she promptly fell in, standing knee-deep in the spring.


Robin said...

Beautiful photo and cool little bit of history there. My son is a big fan of the Battlefield Britain series and I remember the episode on the Battle of the Boyne. I'm guessing that was further downstream though.

Brian Kaller said...


Thank you. I've heard that's a great series, although I've never been able to see it. I think the Battle of the Boyne was downstream in Drogheda, north of Dublin.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian,
I have just spent a very enjoyable afternoon with a friend trying to locate the source of the Boyne River. We guessed that it was where the pond is within the grounds of Newbury House. I think we were close but not sure because it is difficult to be clear about where the source is exactly. I have spent some time searching on the net and looking up grid references but I'm still left wondering. It would be great to know if you found the source and if you could give a clearer idea of how to get to it.

Brian Kaller said...

Thanks for writing. This was a couple of years ago, and we took such a circuitous route that I'm not sure we could give directions.

I can say it was at Newbury House, and that we travelled the road from the gate to the house, and got directions from there. If twelve o'clock were straight ahead from the front door, we pointed to two o'clock and walked for about a quarter-mile.

The spring was tucked in amid some trees, with only a stream coming from it, but it's the head of the river. Best to get permission from the owner of the property.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Brian for that information. I'll look forward to visiting Carbury again soon and finding the location of the source of the Boyne.

Anonymous said...

My family are from the village of Carbury. I was born and brought up in London. I visit Carbury frequently and as a child I used to play around the grounds of Newbury House where we tried our best to avoid the attention of the owner! The source of the Boyne is a small natural well known as 'Trinity Well' which is within the grounds. As you drive into the grounds and past what was once the gatehouse the grounds will soon open up to you and in the distance you will see a stone bridge spanning a stream which feeds into a lake/pond. Just before you go over the bridge the well is located a couple of hundred of yards to your left. You will have to walk down a couple of steps to see it and it is nearly hidden from the road. I believe that on Trinity Sunday the local people would visit the well and in days gone by celebrations were held on the grounds for the villagers.

night owl in IL said...

This is awesome! I believe that my ancestors may have owned and lived in this Carbury Castle.

Here is some info that my relative, Jeremy Colley, has found:
"Our last name was Kolli' in Denmark, came over with the Vikings in 900AD to settle in Ireland. After that, the name morphed into Cowley, then into Colley while the family was occupying Castle Carbury...Very interesting stuff! The area was actually granted to the Colleys in 1588, who were patrilineal ancestors of the Duke of Wellington.

The earliest mention of the 'Welles-lieghs' is in 1180, around a settlement still known as Wellesley Farm. The family had been granted lands to the south of Wells, Somerset for their 'Passive acceptance of the Norman conquest of England of 1066.[2] An early member of the family to Ireland was during 1171, as a Standard Bearer to King Henry II.[3]

‎"Wesley" was inherited from the childless wealthy husband of an aunt when, in 1728, Wellington's patrilineal grandfather Garret Colley, a landlord who lived at Rahin near Carbury, County Kildare, changed his surname to Wesley. The Colleys...had lived in that part of Kildare since the Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1169–72. In 1917 the Kildare historian Lord Walter FitzGerald, writing about the ruins of Carbury Castle, mentioned that "Elizabethan Castle which since 1588 has been in the possession of the family of Cowley or Colley, from whom the Dukes of Wellington are descended in the direct male line". This was taken from Wikipedia about the Duke of Wellington..."
It's tremendous to find someone who played in this area as a child. I live in the state of Illinois in the USA. I would love to be able to go to Ireland to visit the castle.

Lea Ellen Borg {night owl in IL}

Brian Kaller said...


Interesting -- thank you for the information! If you do visit, come and say hello.

Cathleen Cowley said...

Hello My name is Cathleen Cowley and I have heard stories passed down in my family for generations of Carbury Castle. Apparently I am a descendant of the original Cowley family and you can trace my linage back quite a ways back to the vikings who came over and settled somewhere in the 900's. It is always interesting to find more information on places that my family has descended from.