A legacy Of 400 Years

The castle as you see it today has been home to the Parsons family for over 400 years and during this time it has been added onto and each generation has made their mark with the most recent editions by the 6th Countess of Rosse.

The Parsons family

The Parsons family arrived at Birr in July of 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers.  Sir Laurence, one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family , in Youghal.  Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.
Lord & Lady Rosse & Grandkids

The Great Telescope

In the early 1840’s, the Third Earl of Rosse designed and built the largest telescope in the world. With this telescope, he discovered the spiral nature of some of the galaxies, and from 1845-1914, anyone wishing to witness this phenomenon had to come to Birr. And they came, in their hundreds, from across Europe and beyond, to observe the stars with Lord Rosse or simply to marvel at this feat of engineering in the middle of Ireland.

Ireland Historic Science Centre

The Historic Science Centre is very much worth a visit, the remarkable story of this unique site and family is revealed through the wonders of early photography, engineering and astronomy.This wonderful collection of stories, heritage and interesting artefacts sets you up for a more fulfilling experience before you head on to explore the demesne.

Rosse Observatory

Welcome to the Rosse Observatory, operated by Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.  The observatory is dedicated to studying radio emission from astronomical objects such as the Sun, pulsars other variable sources. 

Women In Science​

The women of Birr Castle have contributed to its science success on many levels with two key contributors found in Mary Rosse, the 3rd Countess of Rosse and Mary Ward the first cousin of the 3rd Earl of Rosse.

The castle of Birr

The castle as you see it today has been home to the Parsons family for over 400 years and during this time it has been added onto and each generation has made their mark with the most recent editions by the 6thCountess of Rosse.The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers.  In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I.  Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carroll’s, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their home. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers.  Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in the castle archives.

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Archives - The Rosse Papers

Archives - The Rosse Papers

The Rosse papers are one of the most important collections of manuscripts in private ownership in Ireland. Extending from the early seventeenth century, when members of the family first established roots in the country, to the present. The core of the family archives is provided by papers of the successive members of the Parsons family. This calendar is an essential piece of  reading for anyone interested in the history of: Seventeenth and Eighteenth-century Ireland as well as Science in the Nineteenth century.The evolving story of the surviving families of the Irish landed elite in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, and in the influence of a particular family that contrived over a number of centuries not only to transform Birr into one of the country’s most elegant small towns, but also to construct and sustain one of the finest country houses and its gardens.

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