Bunratty Castle Medieval Collection
Bunratty Castle was in ruins in the mid 20th century and was in danger of being demolished for stone. Viscount Gort, a mediaevalist bought the castle in 1953 for a nominal sum, saving it for posterity. Encouraged by a small group of individuals, including the archaeologist John Hunt, they set about returning the castle to its former splendour.
Lord and Lady Gort had always been deeply interested in early furniture and works of art. Over the years they, together with John Hunt endowed the castle with a splendid collection of early furniture and works of art to re- create the atmosphere of the early centuries of the castle. Bunratty Castle and its contents are now held in trust for the Nation. Those who visit the Castle will appreciate the measure of the nation's indebtedness to Lord and Lady Gort and John and Gertrude Hunt.
The collections of artifacts in Bunratty Castle are protected by the Gort Furniture Trust and are managed on a daily basis by Shannon Heritage. The Castle welcomes thousands of visitors daily all year round and also provides the unique location for the world renowned Bunratty Mediecal Castle Banquets, which take, place in the Castle nightly at 5.30pm & 8.45pm year round.
Mr Brian O Connell, Chairman of Shannon Heritage invested much energy and enthusiasm into a detailed work aimed at providing access to the collection to a much wider audience than ever before.
Lest we forget our benefactor
Like so many of the great cultural collections in museums and galleries around the world the Gort Furniture Collection at Bunratty Castle mainly owes its existence to the generosity of a great benefactor. In this case the benefactor was Lord Gort, or to give him his full title the Honourable Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker M.C., the 7thViscount Gort. He had inherited the title in 1946 from his more famous brother, Field Marshall Gort, known as the "Hero of Dunkirk" from his time as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940.
For centuries the Vereker family had extensive ties throughout the mid-west region of Ireland. Colonel Vereker, on being created the first Viscount Gort in 1816 had taken the name of his title from the town of Gort on the Galway/Clare border. The family seat was located just outside Gort at Lough Cutra Castle until the ravages of the famine had forced the sale of the estate in 1849. Several of the Verekers were prominent in the life of Limerick particularly in the mid- nineteenth century with no less than six of the family serving a total of ten terms as Mayors of Limerick City.
With guidance and advice from the internationally renowned experts on medieval art, John and Putzel Hunt, Gort re-acquired the family estate at Lough Cutra in 1952 and shortly afterwards purchased Bunratty Castle. In conjunction with the Office of Public Works and Bord Failte and again working closely with John Hunt as his main advisor, Lord Gort set about restoring the National Monument that was Bunratty Castle as a place where the public could enjoy a sense of life in the castle as it was in medieval times.
In parallel with the work of restoring the castle, Gort and Hunt also set about filling its rooms with, the furniture, artworks and everyday objects of the era when the castle was the home of the McNamara and O'Brien chieftains. In the setting at Bunratty Castle this extensive collection, sourced mainly from continental Europe, now constitutes the most extensive showcase anywhere in Ireland of the late medieval and early renaissance period.
Bunratty Folk Park Farmhouses
Loop Head Farmhouse
The house of small fisher – farming folk. The thatch is roped down to protect it against the Atlantic Gales. Here you will observe the Bean a Ti (woman of the House) baking bread in the traditional way. A traditional sweetbread known as ‘spotted dick’ is baked here and is very popular. Milk separating and butter making take place in the high season.
Cashen Fisherman’s House
A simple two roomed home of a North Kerry Salmon Fisherman. Much of the timber used in this house would have been salvaged from the sea. The floor is of rammed clay.
A poor farmers house of a type found on the borders of Limerick and Kerry. It has a loft for extra sleeping space.
The first farmhouse to be reconstructed on the site and which marked the beginning of the development of Bunratty Folk Park. The house was removed from where it originally stood on the site of a runway at Shannon Airport.
Bothan Scóir Farmhouse
A one roomed dwelling of a poor landless labourer. Many of these fell into disrepair or were destroyed during the time of the great famine 1845-1847.
Golden Vale Farmhouse
A prosperous farmers home, from the rich lands in the Golden Vale of counties Limerick and Tipperary. It has stables, byres and a corn barn. Here, Bean a Ti's bake brown bread, porter cake, apple tart, and griddle bread all year round. Slices of hot griddle bread with melting butter are a great favorite in this house and you will love the genuine warmth and hospitality of the ladies.
North Clare Farmhouse
Reflects the building style and materials of Moher area of North Clare. This house was from an area near the Cliffs of Moher in North Co. Clare. The local stone, a thick flagstone is used as a multi-purpose building material for houses, out buildings, various field walls gate piers etc. Flagstones were very often brought in a dowry gift by the bride to her new home.
An example from County Mayo of a dwelling occupied by both humans and their milking cows. There is a pigsty nearby.
Other highlights of the Folk Park
An original Church of Ireland building, was moved stone by stone from Ardcroney, Co. Tipperary and rebuilt in the Folk Park and was unveiled at Bunratty Folk Park in 1998.
Rebuilt in the Folk Park in 2001, Hazelbrook House was originally built in 1898. It was the home of the Hughes Brothers who started a dairy industry in the 1800’s and later produced HB ice cream which became a household name in Ireland and remains to this day.
Hazelbrook House offers the visitor the unique opportunity to learn about the evolution of Ice cream making from the domestic dairy to the modern day production plant. The House features the history of the industrious Hughes Brothers family who pioneered the HB brand
A classic example of a rural undershot watermill and the Horizontal Mill – a working corn mill based on findings of an excavation in Mashangla Co. Cork. This type of mill is described in detail in Irish Law texts of 1000 years ago. Such mills were still in use up to the middle of this century.
Now that you have found out about Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, make it part of your holiday this year! Book a ticket for Bunratty Castle or for Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.