Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rothe House, Kilkenny, Ireland

On the Medieval Mile in Kilkenny, one house has been converted to a museum that chronicles the life of the wealthy merchants who lived there. Rothe House is the 17th century home of the Rothe family, who connected three houses (from 1594 to 1610) in addition to having two gardens in the back of the property, making a fine example of Tudor construction.

Rothe House, Kilkenny

Our tour began in the gift shop, which struck me as unusual. Typically that's where tours end. We paid our admission and began our self-guided tour. We went out to the courtyard between the first two buildings where the children tried to pose but weren't quite tall enough to make the grade.

Two children hidden by the balcony railing

Inside the first hall, we saw the main entertaining and dining room, which includes a massive fireplace with an Irish deer's head. The particular species is extinct and would probably have been quite tall judging from the skull (and the description on the sign).

The first hall

Antlers as wide as fireplaces!

Upstairs from this room is a loft where the family and servants slept together, an unusual arrangement.

The loft

Other end of the loft

A display cabinet shows a Viking sword. The Vikings had raided the area several times. Since the property is owned by the Kilkenny Archeological Society, artifacts from around Kilkenny have been brought here.

Viking-era sword

From an even earlier period is an Ogham Stone, an example of various early Celtic stones with writing on them. Most are memorials dating from the 300s to the 700s A.D. The Ogham alphabet was used by locals up to the 1600s. Most of the surviving stones come from southern Ireland.

Ogham Stone

More fascinating to J was the windy staircase leading to a higher level in the second house.

Spacious stairs by medieval standards

The second house holds more historical artifacts, including a prop and gear from 1857, when the inventor Godwin Meade Swifte claimed to have flown a powered airplane some 50 years before the Wright Brothers in America. Swifte built the flyer in his home and had to have doors enlarged to take it outside. He couldn't find a motor both light enough and powerful enough to power the plane, so he used a pedaling system. He took the contraption to Foulksrath Castle where a small summit provided a good launching point. Not fully confident in his flying machine, he had one of his butlers try out the "Aerial Chariot." The chariot fell to the ground, resulting in a broken leg. For the servant, not the inventor. The project was abandoned.

Remains of the Aerial Chariot

Outside in the second courtyard, a nice display on heraldry adorns the wall.

Second Courtyard


The courtyard also has the house's well which is fed with rainwater by the drains of the neighboring buildings.

Covered well!

Up above this area is the garden area which has been restored to its original 17th century model. The first garden has herbs and vegetables. The second is a small orchard with mostly apple trees. Some ducks also live here.

Herb garden


Our path wound back through the various houses and courtyards and we exited, as we entered, through the gift shop.

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