Trim Castle History

Built in 1172

Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, it was built by Hugh de Lacy when he was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172. Construction of the massive castle begun in 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty-sided tower, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat. Trim Castle was used in the film 'Braveheart'. 

The Castle was used as a centre of Norman administration for the Lordship of Meath, one of the new administrative areas of Ireland created by King Henry II of England.



Trim Castle at night.

The site was chosen because it is on raised ground, overlooking a fording point on the River Boyne. The area was an important early medieval ecclesiastical and royal site that was navigable in medieval times by boat up the River Boyne, about 25 miles from the Irish Sea.


Hugh de Lacy took possession of it in 1172. De Lacy left Ireland entrusting the castle to Hugh Tyrrel, baron of Castleknock, one of his chief lieutenants. The ringwork was attacked and burnt by forces of the Gaelic High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair; Tyrrel, having appealed in vain for help, was forced to flee. Ua Conchobair soon withdrew and De Lacy, or Raymond FitzGerald, immediately repaired & rebuilt the castle in 1173. After Hugh's death in 1186 his son Walter de Lacy succeeded as Lord of Meath. He continued rebuilding and the castle was completed c. 1224.


Geneville and Mortimer

The next phase of the castle's development took place at the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century; a new great hall (with undercroft and attached solar in a radically altered curtain tower), a new forebuilding, and stables were added to the keep.


On Walter de Lacy's death in 1241 his granddaughter Mathilda ('Maud') inherited the castle. Her second husband was Geoffrey de Geneville (brother of the crusade historian Jean de Joinville), Lord of Vaucouleurs in Champagne, France, and of many lordships in England and Ireland which were to devolve upon his heirs. His son Piers de Geneville (who married Joan de Lusignan) died in 1292 leaving a daughter Joan, who in 1301 married Roger Mortimer (1st Earl of March). Mathilda having died in 1304, in 1308 Geoffrey conveyed his Irish lordships to Roger Mortimer, and entered the priory at St. Mary's in Trim. Joan Mortimer inherited the title Baroness Geneville suo jure when Geoffrey died in 1314.


The castle thereby passed to the Mortimer family who held it until 1425, when the male line died out with Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March. After this the estate passed to Richard of York, son of Edmund's sister Anne Mortimer by Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge. Richard of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, and in 1461 his son, King Edward IV, appointed Germyn Lynch, goldsmith of London, to be his representative at Trim as warden and master worker of the new issues of moneys and coins within the Castles of Dublin and Trim, and the town of Galway.


Later ownership

The inside of one of the towers of Trim Castle.

During the 15th century the Irish Parliament met in Trim Castle seven times and a mint operated in the castle. It was at that time the centre of administration for Meath and marked the outer northern boundary of The Pale. In the 16th century it fell into decline and was allowed to deteriorate, but it was refortified during the Irish Confederate Wars in the 1640s. In 1649 after the sacking of Drogheda, the garrison of Trim fled to join other Irish forces and the place was occupied by the army of Oliver Cromwell.


After the wars of the 1680s, the castle was granted to the Wellesley family who held it until Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington), sold it to the Leslies. In following years it passed via the Encumbered Estates Court into the hands of the Dunsany Plunketts. They left the lands open and from time to time allowed various uses, with part of the Castle Field rented for some years by the Town Council as a municipal dump, and a small meeting hall for the Royal British Legion erected. The Dunsanys held the Castle and surrounds until 1993, when after years of discussion, Lord Dunsany sold the land and buildings to the State, retaining only river access and fishing rights.



The Office of Public Works began a major programme of exploratory works and conservation, costing over six million euro, including partial restoration of the moat and the installation of a protective roof on the keep. The castle was re-opened to the public in 2000.



The keep viewed from the undercroft of the Great hall near the River Gate, and a plan

With an area of 30,000 m², Trim Castle is the largest Cambro-Norman castle in Ireland. The design of the central three-storey keep (also known as a donjon or great tower) is unique for a Norman keep being of cruciform shape, with twenty corners. It was built on the site of the previous large ring work fortification in at least three stages, initially by Hugh de Lacy (c. 1174) and then in 1196 and 1201–5 by Walter de Lacy. The castle interior was partially the subject of archaeological digs, by David Sweetman of the OPW in the 1970s, and more extensively by Alan Hayden in the 1990s.


The surviving curtain walls are predominantly of three phases. The west and north sides of the enceinte are defended by rectangular towers (including the Trim Gate) dating to the 1170s; the Dublin gate was erected in the 1190s or early part of the 13th century; and the remaining wall to the south with its round towers dates to the first two decades of the 13th century. The castle has two main gates. The one in the west side dates to the 1170s and sits on top of a demolished wooden gateway. The upper stories of the stone tower were altered to a semi-octagonal shape, c. 1200. The Dublin Gate in the south wall is a single round towered gate with an external barbican tower. It dates from the 1190s or early 13th century and was the first example of its type to be constructed in Ireland.

Trim Castle