A secret room in the 800-year-old gothic-revival Johnstown Castle in County Wexford was discovered for the first time by a joiner carrying out conservation works.
A joiner carrying out restoration work on the Gothic Revival, Johnstown Castle, discovered what is believed to be a small bedroom, previously unknown, in one of the turrets. The contraction from the National Gates and Joinery Company was working on preserving the windows of the castle when he broke through a section of wall only to uncover a hidden room that has remained untouched.
The Manager at Johnstown Castle, Brenda Comerford, said “This room has been covered up for a very long time. It is part of one of the towers and looking around it, on initial inspection we think it was most likely a small turret bedroom. There is quite a tragic family history associated with Johnstown Castle, so this room could have been sealed off due to a tragedy, which would have happened in times past, who knows? We will need to investigate this further.”
The Irish Heritage Trust, which manages the historic tourist attraction, will now assess the room to see how it can unlock the potential of the wonderful new space and understand how it can be used to the benefit of the castle and visitor experience.
Anne O'Donoghue, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust, said “This is a really incredible discovery. It is highly unusual to find additional hidden treasures in heritage properties and this is the second time that this has happened at Johnstown castle following our discovery of a secret room under the tower at the lake just last year."
Comerford explained "We discovered a room under the tower at the lake which could only be accessed by boat. We’re discovering secrets all the time here at Johnstown Castle and that’s mainly thanks to the support of our visitors, our members at the Irish Heritage Trust and the Department of Heritage who provide the funding so we can carry out these restoration works and secure the future of the castle.”
The historic Johnstown Castle Estate Museum & Gardens in Wexford is one of the properties in the care of the Irish Heritage Trust and it has undergone substantial conservation and restoration works over the last five years with projects ongoing following the official opening of the fairytale castle to the public for the very first time in its history in mid-2019.
Dating back over 850 years to the Norman times in Ireland, Johnstown Castle was in private hands for centuries and went through a number of aristocratic families before coming into public ownership in the late 20th century.
History of Johnstown Castle
Johnstown Castle's history dates back to the early 19th century when it was built by the Esmonde family. The Esmondes, a prominent Anglo-Norman family, constructed the castle as a country retreat that blended the neo-Gothic architectural style with Victorian elegance. The towering turrets, intricate stonework, and expansive grounds set the castle apart as a symbol of grandeur and opulence.
The castle's architecture is a blend of different styles, showcasing the unique tastes of each generation that inhabited it. The original neo-Gothic structure was later augmented with French-style château additions, creating a fascinating juxtaposition of architectural influences. The interiors boast ornate woodwork, stained glass windows, and meticulously crafted details that give visitors a glimpse into the lifestyle of the aristocracy during the 19th and 20th centuries.