Thinking Big: The Pioneers of Parsonstown

  • Neil English
Part of the Historical & Cultural Astronomy book series (HCA)


The picturesque, rural town of Birr in the county of Offaly lies at the geographic center of the Irish Republic. Inhabited in some capacity since the Bronze Age, a monastic settlement was established there by St. Brendan the Elder, which probably dates to the 7th century a. d., and in the centuries that followed, Birr became the ancestral home of the O′ Carroll clan, the ruling Gaelic family of the northern territory of the ancient kingdom of Éile. In the aftermath of the Norman invasion of the twelfth century, a castle was built there and continued to be administered by the O’Carrolls, who were required to pay tribute to the Butlers of Ormonde. The Butlers were overlords of the district, whose capital was established in the neighboring county of Kilkenny. In the aftermath of the so-called English Plantation of Ireland in the seventeenth century, when wealthy Protestants acted as the new overlords of vast tracts of Irish land, Birr Castle became the seat of the Parsons dynasty, the Earls of Rosse, beginning in 1620. It was at this time also that the civic areas around the castle were annexed to it, when it subsequently became known as Parsonstown (Fig. 9.1).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil English
    • 1
  1. 1.Fintry by GlasgowUK

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