Clonskeagh Castle is something of an architectural curiosity. It was built in or around 1790 as a suburban retreat by Henry Jackson, then one of the foremost Dublin businessmen, who operated substantial iron foundries both in the city centre and at the Dodder in Clonskeagh.
A wealthy individual of liberal politics, Jackson became a prominent member of the United Irishmen, a movement animated by the French Revolution. Drawn to the writings of Thomas Paine, the author of The Rights of Man, he named the building Fort Paine.
Jackson was involved in preparations for the 1798 Rebellion, and his foundries were engaged to manufacture pikes for combat, and also iron balls of the correct bore to fit French cannons, in anticipation of an expected invasion. His son-in-law Oliver Bond was also heavily implicated in these plans.
In the event, Jackson was arrested before the ill-fated Rebellion, and imprisoned in England. After some time he was released on condition that he went into exile in America. He died in the city of Baltimore, Maryland in 1817.
In 1811 the Castle was purchased by George Thompson, a landed proprietor, who had a post in the Irish Treasury, and it remained in the ownership of that family until the early twenieth century. It is interesting to note that whereas Henry Jackson was fired by the objective of Irish independence, the last Thompson family member to occupy the house was vehemently insistent on the preservation of the Union.
During the War of Independence (1919-1921) the Castle was occupied by the British military, and was used for some time to incarcerate Irish Republicans.
The original Jackson residence was built on an elevated site, following a fashion for mock castles in the Georgian period. It was initially approached by an avenue that is now Whitethorn Road, with elegant gardens surrounding it (the land for which is now occupied by apartments). This was a more compact construction than now greets the visitor and did not include the two towers at what is now the front of the building. In fact, the Thomson alterations turned the house back to front, as the original entrance had been on the southern side. One result was to render the fine hallway rather dark, and work is now nearing completion to allow light to penetrate from the south.
The recent works have also included restoration of the major portions of the parapet roof in accordance with best conservation practice; withdrawal of earth from the curtilage of the building, which had been piled up over at least a century giving rise to dampness in the walls; and restoration of rooms in what had been the servants’ quarters to create a small apartment.
These works have been executed by Rory McArdle, heritage contractor, under the supervision of award-winning architect Marc Kilkenny, with frequent reference to the conservation experts at Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Fionan de Barra, architect, also provided valuable consultation at the early stages of the project.
The owners have been particularly privileged to have had the benefit of research and guidance of the distinguished architectural historian, Professor Alistair Rowan.