Lea Castle

Lea Castle was built in about 1260; only one bastion of four now remains. The north side was protected by the Barrow. It was dependant upon Abbeyleix - it being the property of the De Vescis - for the Geraldines and De Vescis contended for property here and in Kildare.

The outer entrance to the castle, which is in good preservation, consisted of a gate defended by a portcullis. It appears that in 1389 the O'Kellys possessed at least some of their ancient territory. In 1294 the castle was taken and burned by the Chiefs of Offaly.

In 1315 Bruce came to Lea, on which occasion the church and castle were burned. About this time it came into the possession of the O'Dempseys. In 1346 the castle was burned by the O'Moores. In 1452 the Earl of Ormond took it from the O'Dempseys. In 1533 it was in the possession of the FitzGeralds. In 1598 it was re-taken by the O'Moores.

In 1642 it was occupied by the Confederate Catholics, from which they were driven by Lord Lisle. In 1650 the castle was taken by Hewson and dismantled; the confused masses of towers and broken arches show the havoc made. The last person who took up his abode here was the rapparee, Charles O'Dempsey (Cahir na gCapall), the lineal descendant of the once powerful Chiefs of Clanmaliere.

The church, which stood close to the castle, was built in 1307 by FitzGerald. Only a small portion of the masonry remains. Lord Galway, Earl of Arlington, planted a regiment of French Protestant emigrants near the Barrow. The Hollow Blade Company of Sword Cutlass in Dublin afterwards obtained this portion, and other purchasers obtained parts.

In the end the company's part was demised to Ephraim Dawson, ancestor of the Dawson Damers, Earls of Portarlington. The O'Dempseys became famous as horse-stealers and rapparees, and were ultimately beset in a pass in the wood of Monasterevan and forced to surrender to a posse under the Sheriff.


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