It was a great Norman castle built in about 1260 by William de Vesey. A castle is mentioned in 1203 as already existing, but this probably refers to an earlier castle here. The stronghold, protected by the River Barrow, was burned by the O'Dempseys in 1284, rebuilt by de Vesey and given to the king, burned along with its town by the Scots army in 1315 and again by O'Moores in 1346, and in 1422 O'Dempsey captured it from the Earl of Kildare. The O'Dempseys retained the castle until it was taken from them in 1452 by the Earl of Ormond. Silken Thomas Fitzgerald retreated here during his rebellion in 1535. In 1556 it was mortgaged for £500 and 600 ounces of silver by the Earl of Kildare to Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Lackagh, and was leased to Robert Bath in 1618. It changed hands a number of times in the 1640s. It was used by the Kilkenny Confederacy as a mint in the 1640s rebellion until Cromwellians blew up the fortifications by stuffing the stairways with explosives. Only one of the original four bastions remains roughly intact. The castle was never used as a fortification again. The last resident of Lea Castle was the horse thief Cahir na gCapall (Charles) O’Dempsey, the descendant of the once powerful Chiefs of Clanmaliere. The O'Dempseys became famous as horse-stealers and rapparees.
The castle itself is square in plan with three quarters round towers at the corners. The outer entrance to the castle, which is in good preservation, consisted of a gate defended by a portcullis. Only one tower now stands, but the main block had three storeys over a basement and like Carlow Castle has a first-floor doorway by the north-east tower and a straight stair in the north wall.
More about Irish Castles you will find HERE.
Ballyadams Castle Ruins within 22 km
Carbury Castle Ruins within 25.7 km
Castlecuffe Castle Ruins within 29 km
Coolcarrigan Garden within 26.6 km
Emo Court and Gardens within 6.5 km
Grange Castle within 24.8 km
Great Connell Augustinian Priory within 24.4 km
Grey Abbey / Friary, Franciscan, Kildare within 15.5 km
Kilcullen Franciscan Abbey within 27.8 km
Kildare Round Tower and St. Brigid's Cathedral, Church of Ireland within 15.7 km
Kilkea Castle within 29.4 km
Moone High Cross within 29.6 km
Old Kilcullen Round Tower and High Crosses within 26.3 km
Rock of Dunamase Castle Ruins within 14.5 km
Timahoe Round Tower and Church Ruins within 22.2 km
Tyrrellspass Castle within 29.9 km
White's Castle, Athy within 21.2 km
Forest Farm Caravan and Camping Park within 21.7 km
|In researching our Family history I have read many versions of the History of Lea (Leghe) Castle. The one that seems most accurate states that the Castle was built by DeVesey in 1260.... On land owned by the Clanmailer O'Diomasaigh ( now known as O'Dempsey). This is the same Dempsey family who won the battle over Strongbow in 1172. It is also not as well known that a descendant Dermot O'Dempsey built an Abbey for St. Evin at Moasterrevan not far from Castle Lea also on the river Barrow. The O'DEMPSEY Clan burned the DeVesey's out of the Castle in1260 and rebuilt it living there until the late 1300's they would live in the Castle many different times until it was destroyed in the 1600 by Cromwell.|
|The story of Charles O'Dempsey also known as Seamus the Horse Thief is much more interesting when told as it was to us in Ireland by a distant relative of O'Dempsey. Charles had had enough of the English taxes. He discovered a way of dyeing Horses black, stole them from the English and sold them back to the English on the East side of the Island. He would then share the money with the poor over-taxed Irish peasants. He was very good at this and eluded the English from capturing him! This is the only Dempsey that was a Raparree! There were many Dempsey's famous as Priests, and those who practiced Law and Politics.|