Posted 17/11/2015

Barretstown Castle, Ballymore Eustace

By Ger McCarthy

In his series, The Heritage of Co. Kildare, local historian and author Ger McCarthy takes a look at some of the lesser known sites and people of the county.

Barretstown Castle

Situated to the north of the town of Ballymore Eustace is Barretstown Castle. The core of the castle is an old Eustace tower house of The Pale. The Eustaces were one of the most distinguished of the names that came to Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. While not multiplying to the same extent as the Burkes, Butlers, FitzGeralds or other great Hiberno-Norman families, the Eustaces were numerous enough to be classed in Petty's 'census' of 1659 among the principal Irish names in four baronies of Kildare. The town of Ballymore Eustace was called after the Eustaces.


In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they owned vast tracts of land in counties Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Carlow. By the early years of the twentieth century the Eustaces and their descendants had disposed of most of their property and land in Co. Kildare. The last surviving relic of the Eustace family in Ballymore Eustace is the effigy of a Eustace knight, now preserved in St. John's (Church of Ireland).


Rev. Sir Erasmus Borrowes built the present Victorian Castle around the old Eustace tower house. Lt.Walter Borrowes Royal Navy was born at Barretstown, and was killed serving on a submarine 23 January 1915. In St. Johns Church Ballymore Eustace a plaque records that he died in the “German War.”

The Borrowes continued to live at Barretstown Castle until 1919. Sir George Murray a Scotsman then purchased the castle and estate. He converted the estate into a stud farm and planted many exotic trees in the grounds of the castle. Elizabeth Arden, the perfume manufacturer, bought the castle and estate in 1962. She commissioned the architect Michael Scott to carry out improvements to the interior of the castle. After Elizabeth Arden’s death in 1967, Galen Weston bought the castle and estate; he carried out major works including the addition of a beautiful lake in front of the castle.


The Weston family presented the castle and estate to the Irish Government in 1977, and for a period the government used the castle for meetings and conferences. Barretstown Castle and grounds are now a unique facility for sick children, set up in 1994 by the American film actor Paul Newman.