Thursday, 7 November 2013

Knockdrin Castle, Co. Westmeath

The lakeland county of Westmeath is situated in Ireland's midlands. A varied landscape, scattered with bogland and lakeland, the county is well-populated with historic country houses. Possibly the best known are the stunning Belvedere House and Tullynally Castle. Less well-known is Knockdrin Castle, situated just outside the town of Mullingar. Knockdrin is yet another great Irish house to date from the early nineteenth century. The castle was built by the 6th Baronet Levinge. The Levinges had come to Ireland during the Williamite Wars of the 1690s, and were rewarded for the efforts by being granted lands at High Park, which the 6th Baronet would rename 'Knockdrin'. The area which corresponded to High Park had been originally in the possession of the Tuites, a Catholic family with Anglo-Norman lineage. 

Like many great landowners at the time, Sir Richard was undoubtedly taken by the thirst for all things Gothic that was sweeping through the Irish countryside in the early nineteenth century. Levinge initially selected the respected architect, Sir Richard Morrison to design his new castle. Morrison we are told completed two designs, neither of which were accepted however. Levigne then turned to Dublin architect and builder James Shiel. Shiel acquired some notoriety for the work he carried out on Lord Longford's castle at nearby Tullynally. Shiel's designs were of course carried out in the Gothic style, containing all the usual Gothic architectural accouterments. Shiel may have re-worked part of an existing eighteenth century house, although records are inconclusive to prove this. The Levinges continued to live at the castle until the 1940s. During the war the castle was commandeered by the Irish Army. After the war Knoickdrin was purchased by a German family, the von Prondzynskis, who continue to own it to this day. 

The central building may originally have been an eighteenth century house reworked in the Gothic style by Shiel. 

The gate lodge was a later addition, added in 1860. 

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