Considered to be the first stone built castle in Ireland, Trim Castle is situated about twenty eight miles northwest of Dublin on the banks of the River Boyne, County Meath. Reputed to be the king of Irish castles, it dates back, in it’s present form to 1175, when reconstruction work was undertaken by Hugh de Lacy. Unfortunately, Hugh did not live to see his project completed, as he died in 1186.
The work was completed by his son Walter and the great castle was finished in 1204. Previously, Trim began as a ring work castle and there is evidence of a large trench, post holes and bracing posts of the original wooden structure and it is probable this was also Hugh de Lacys work constructed in 1173 and burnt down the same year by Roderic O’Connor.
De Lacy was a very important man in those days, the king of England was concerned that he would refuse allegiance with him and declare himself king of Ireland. Trim Castle was built partly to demonstrate de Lacys power and intimidate the Irish people.
The next phase in Trim Castles history was the second stage of construction undertaken in the latter part of the thirteenth century by Geoffrey de Geneville. It is believed he added wooden towers, improved the fosse, the drawbridge, the North Tower and built the great hall. Later Joanna de Geneville married Roger Mortimer and the castle passed into the ownership of the Mortimer family until the last of them died in 1425.
At this point, Trim was abandoned until king Richard II of England let two of his wards to live there, one of whom was to become Henry V. After repairs were carried out, parliaments were held there seven times in the fifteenth century. It was abandoned again in the sixteenth century until Cromwells army occupied it in 1649. in recent times it was used for the filming of the movie “Braveheart“.
The site of Trim Castle covers more than twenty three acres above the River Boyne. Somewhat isolated from the rest of the buildings, the main keep is eighty two feet high, (around twenty five metres) and has walls which are a massive eleven feet thick! By contrast, the four towers around it have thin walls, they were probably for the sake of appearance, or to provide extra rooms.
It was designed to withstand a long siege, having three levels with multiple rooms, including a chapel, quarters for a garrison, a public hall and huge cellars for food storage. it was probably surrounded by a stone enclosure with stabling and store areas. There were three towers built around this area for defense.
When extensive excavations were carried out from 1971 to 1974, as well as the arrowheads, silver coins, Bristol pottery and French wine jugs recovered, the bodies of ten headless men were discovered! They were probably thieves who had been made examples of under King Edwards 1465 order. Tom O’Neill has now made a complete study of the whole outline of the castle and its surroundings. Trim Castle is under the management and care of Duchas, The Heritage Service of Ireland.