Birr Castle

Birr Castle


Location: Birr, County Offaly Map

Constructed: 17th century by Sir Laurence Parsons


Birr Castle is a residence situated in Birr, County Offaly in Ireland. Birr Castle was constructed in 17th century by Sir Laurence Parsons. Beginning in 1170, there was an Anglo-Norman fortress here, and later from the fourteenth to seventeenth century, the O'Carroll family ruled the territory known as the “Ele O’ Carroll” (Irish Éile Uí Chearbhaill).

After the death of Sir Charles O’Carroll, Sir Lawrence Parsons was granted Birr Castle and 1,277 acres (5.2 km²) of land in 1620. Parsons drew the English masons to build a new castle on this site. The new building was not built on the basis of the Black Tower O’Carrolls (not preserved), but near its gatehouse at the gate. Outbuildings were diagonally added to each side of the gatehouse, which eventually formed a modern building plan.

After the death of Sir Lawrence Parsons and his eldest son, Richard, the castle passed to his youngest son, William. During the Irish uprising of 1641, William in Birr was besieged by Catholics for fifteen months. After the Civil War, the son of William Lawrence (a baronet from 1677) renovated the castle.

A later descendant, Lawrence Parsons, 2nd Earl of Ross, also underwent a small reconstruction, increased the height of the castle and gave it a Gothic look in the early nineteenth century. In turn, his son, William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Ross, built a huge telescope in Birr. The work was completed in 1845, at that time it was the largest telescope in the world, which could see more celestial bodies and allowed to look further into space than any other telescope. As a result, Birr became a center for astronomical research, and the observatory was visited by guests from around the world - including Charles Babbage and the Prince of the Empire.

When the third Earl died, his sons supported the scientific tradition, and his successor (Lawrence Parsons, 4th Earl of Ross) was remembered for measuring the temperature of the moon. However, after his death in 1908, the telescope malfunctioned, the mirror was sent to the Museum of Science in London, and around 1914 its metal supporting structures were remelted for the defense needs of the First World War. In 1925, wooden supports near the walls were dismantled for safety reasons. After several intermediate restoration attempts, the telescope was completely restored in the late nineties of the twentieth century.


Rossov telescope and other features

The main feature of the castle lands is the so-called. The “large telescope”, or Leviathan, of the third Earl of Ross, an astronomical telescope with an 183-cm reflector. It was made in 1845 and has been used for several decades, recent observations were made at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its record size was surpassed by the 254-cm Hawker telescope in 1917. The Leviathan, disassembled in 1914, was recreated in the 1990s and is now available to the public.

Lawrence Parsons, 4th Earl of Ross and his mother were keen on photography. Their photo lab, which is also open to the public, is considered one of the oldest in the world.

On the grounds of the castle is the oldest wrought iron bridge in Ireland; It dates from 1820.

Another feature of this area is the three-hundred-year-old hedge of boxwood, which, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the highest in the world.