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Baile Chaisleáin an Róistigh
Castletownroche is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°10′37″N 8°27′32″W / 52.17694°N 8.45889°W / 52.17694; -8.45889
Country Ireland
Province[1] Munster
County County Cork
Population (2016)[2]
 • Total 454
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)

Castletownroche (Irish: Baile Chaisleán an Róistigh) is a townland, village, and civil parish in the barony of Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland. It is located on the N72 National secondary road. In ancient times, it was known in Irish as Dún Chruadha, meaning Cruadha's Fort. Castletownroche is located on the River Awbeg in the Blackwater Valley about eight miles (13 km) from Mallow.


de la Roch[edit]

The first historical record about Castletownroche is from the late 13th century when the Anglo-Norman family of de la Roche established a fortress here. [3] They were descendants of Richard FitzGodebert (Richard, son of Godebert) who came with Strongbow to Ireland. Their family had a castle in Pembrokeshire that was built upon an outcrop of stone and they became known as FitzGodebert de la Roch (FitzGodebert of the Rock). From that, their Hiberno-Norman descendants were known as "de la Roch" and finally, Roche. It is from this element, and the castle they built here in County Cork, that Castletownroche gets its name.[3]

Castle Widenham[edit]

Like many of the Anglo-Norman families that arrived as invaders, the Roches eventually became loyal to interests different from those of Britain, allied with the Gaelic aristocracy, and came to be regarded as rebels.[3] After centuries of sporadic conflict, the Roches were routed from their castle. In 1666 Lieutenant Colonel John Widenham, who had lived in County Clare, got the castle as reward. Castletownroche was renamed Castle Widenham.[3]

In 1666 Lieutenant Colonel John Widenham, who had lived in County Clare, and whose conduct in the defence of Cork had been doubtful to say the least, got the castle as reward. The extraordinary thing is that the patent was dated 1666 after the restoration and was in respect of 'arrears due'. He died in 1679 and the estate passed to his brother Thomas. The direct line of Widenham’s still live in Éire, with the patriarchs Richard Charles Widenham Smyth and his wife Brigid Sidney Lowry Smyth living in Leap, County Cork, about fifty miles from Castletownroche.

The Widenhams rebuilt the Roche's medieval castle in its present form, utilizing the old keep as a principal part. In time it passed to the Widenham-Creaghs, and then by marriage to H. Mitchell Smyth, one of the Smyths of Ballinatray.[3] The Nordstrom family of Germany, the owners since 1991 of what is now what they call Blackwater Castle are unrelated to this line. The property has recently been restored to accommodate commercial guests.[4]

The direct line of Widenham’s still live in Éire, with the patriarchs Richard Charles Widenham Smyth and his wife Brigid Sidney Lowry Smyth living in Leap, Co. Cork. Direct descendants include Anne Fiona Widenham Smyth, Guy Noel Widenham Smyth, Nicole Denly Widenham Smyth, Hilary Bronwyn McGregor Smyth, Jonathan Grice Widenham Smyth, Tristan Cornelius Widenham Smyth, Caitlin Josephine Widenham Smyth, Jannemarie Elizabeth Widenham Smyth, Patrick Lowry Widenham Smyth, Sydney Cedar Widenham Smyth, Hugh Turlough Widenham Smyth, Nicholas James Lowry Smyth, Sean Michael Lowry Smyth, Sarah Kathleen Elizabeth Smyth, Joanna Leonora Widenham Wallace, Duff Loftus Widenham Wallace and Devon Katherine Roberts Widenham Weaden.

The Nazi spy[edit]

Shortly before Christmas 1942, as World War II was raging on the continent, a tall, well-built man in his early thirties appeared in Castletownroche, gave his name as Oskar Metzke, and said that he was a Czech who was discharged from the British Army as being medically unfit.[3] He produced identification, but when searched by the Garda was found to possess a map with aerial views of the local countryside, a compass, a combined torch and fountain pen and most intriguingly, a Luger pistol.[3]

While the Garda were deciding what to do with him, he was left in the care of the Barrack Orderly. William Mannix, the son of that officer, wrote the following account:

I was a very young boy at the time, but the story was often repeated to me by my father. Oskar Metzke was sitting quietly by the fireplace, when he asked Garda Mannix if he could eat some of his bread and cheese. On receiving permission, he walked over to the table where it lay. He started to eat his frugal meal, then turned his back on the Garda. Seconds later Oskar Metzke was in convulsions, it was obvious that he had swallowed something lethal and my father, Garda Mannix, did his utmost to retrieve it from his mouth, but already the German was unconscious. Within a matter of minutes Metzke was dead...the subsequent inquest Coroner Nagle of Buttevant revealed that Oskar Metzke had taken a deadly poison, cyanide of potassium.[3]

Some days later, the funeral of Oskar Metzke took place to the old churchyard of St Mary's, situated on a hill overlooking the River Awbeg. Many people from the village attended the simple ceremony. Some years later his body was exhumed and subsequently buried in a German cemetery at Glencree in County Wicklow.[3] It has since been confirmed that the Nazis had several secret plans involving Ireland, such as Operation Osprey. However, the exact identity and motives of the man calling himself Oskar Metzke, and whether he was a simple soldier or an SS spy, are likely to remain unknown.

National Ploughing Championship[edit]

In 1999, the annual National Ploughing Championship was held here.[5]

Places of interest[edit]

Attractions in Castletownroche include Blackwater Castle, Anne's Grove Gardens, and the ruins of Bridgetown Abbey, a 13th-century Augustinian monastery of the priors of St. Victor.[5]

Knockanare Well[edit]

Knockanare Well It is situated on the left bank of the River Awbeg, about a half-mile east of Buttevant and southeast of the Ballyhoura Mountains. A Sheela na Gig once stood next to this holy well, indicative of its importance as a mystical site for many centuries. The water from this well remains crystal-clear and sweet.[3]

Annes Grove Gardens[edit]

No longer open to the public, this romantic, Robinsonian-style garden was laid out in the early twentieth century and incorporates elements of an earlier, 18th century ornamented glen. Many of the rare rhododendrons within its extensive woodland gardens were collected on expedition by Frank Kingdon-Ward. Magnolias, hoherias and eucryphias grow to unusual size on sheltered cliffs overlooking the river. Behind the 18th century house, paths wind past limestone cliffs and offer glimpses of the river, lily ponds and meadow below. Riverside walks are bordered by giant foliage plants and naturalised day lilies, astilbes and primulas.[6]

It is likely that the Gardens will be again open to the public - their running has been taken over by the Office of Public Works (OPW) [1]


Castletownroche railway station opened on 1 May 1861, but finally closed on 27 March 1967.[7] This railway station is actually much closer to Killavullen than Castletownroche and served both villages.


The 1826 Tithe Applotment for the Civil Parish of Castletownroche (Diocese of Cloyne) lists the following townlands:[8]

People of interest[edit]

  • Jonjo O'Neill (former race horse jockey, turned horse trainer) is a native of Castletownroache where his family ran a small cobblers store.
  • Richard John Uniacke was born in Castletownroche.[9]
  • Thomas P. Keenan, composer of such songs as "The Boys From The County Armagh", is buried in this village. According to Fáilte Ireland, his song "The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill" takes its name from a structure in Castletownroche near a mill currently under reconstruction.[10][11][12]
  • The first wife of Seán Mac Stíofáin was from Castletownroche.
  • Thomas Hunter, an MP of the First and Second Dails, was born in Castletownroche.
  • John Looney (1881-1957), master carpenter who built the main staircase in the 1st Class section of the Titanic, lived in Castletownroche from about 1910 to 1951.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "OPW to take over Annes Grove house and gardens in Cork". 22 January 2016. 
  2. ^ "Census 2016 - Small Area Population Statistics (SAPMAP Area) - Settlements - Castletownroche". Census 2016. Central Statistics Office. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j [1] Archived June 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "History of Blackwater Castle". Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  5. ^ a b [2] Archived July 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ [3] Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Castletownroche station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  8. ^ [4] Archived September 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Biography – UNIACKE, RICHARD JOHN (1753-1830) – Volume VI (1821-1835) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  10. ^ "Where To Go in Ireland | Cities in Ireland | Visit Ireland | Discover Ireland". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  11. ^ "Oskar Metzke, The Spy who should not have died". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  12. ^ Bruce C. Wright. "The Old Rustic Bridge (By The Mill)". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°10′37″N 8°27′32″W / 52.177°N 8.459°W / 52.177; -8.459