Museum

Some of the costumes on display as part of the Rothe House Costume Collection.

Some of the costumes on display as part of the Rothe House Costume Collection.

The collection on display in Rothe House was gathered by Kilkenny Archaeological Society from Kilkenny and the surrounding countryside over many generations and held at Rothe House for safekeeping. Here is a selection of some of our most noteworthy treasures;

The Power Paintings

This portrait of Sir John Power of Kilfane, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny is one of four family portraits donated to the museum.

Giant Irish Deer

This species became extinct over 10,000 years ago. The example on display was found just north of Kilkenny City, in Swiftsheath and hangs on the wall at the same height it would have stood when it was alive – over 2 metres.

The Lavery Collection

Sir John Lavery was a famous portrait painter in London and Dublin in the early 20th century. His portraits include those of Michael Collins, Edward Carson, and prime ministers of Great Britain. Our collection includes a self portrait (1909), and a portrait of his wife Lady Hazel Lavery (1926), a great beauty who famously appeared on Irish banknotes for much of the 20th century.

Blunderbuss

This wonderful piece of craftsmanship was allegedly owned by the notorious Kilkenny Highwayman Captain James Freney (1719). He was known as the Robin Hood of Kilkenny, is famous in Kilkenny folklore and indeed across Ireland.

The engraving on the butt of the gun shows the insignia of Lord Waterford, and it is believed that James Freney stole the gun from him during a raid.

Cist Grave

This Cist Grave dates back approximately 4,000 years. It was discovered in Co. Carlow in the 1970s, excavated and reconstructed in the 2nd courtyard. Along with the cremated remains of two people, a magnificently carved pottery vessel was discovered which is also in the collection.

The Costume Collection

The majority of this collection, which was donated to the Society in 1990, came from the ancestral home of the Toler-Aylward family, at Shankill, County Kilkenny. It consists of nearly 300 items, ranging from the magnificent 1894 wedding dress with its 10ft. train, to babies’ wrappers of the 1930s. Accessories include a 19th century wire bustle, a silk and lace fichu, stockings, parasols and hats.

History

Rothe House was built between 1594 and 1610 by John Rothe Fitz Piers. The Rothe Family, along with less than a dozen other wealthy families, controlled Kilkenny’s trade and dominated its civic government from the late Middle Ages until the 17th Century.

John Rothe built three houses on this narrow burgage plot – one behind the other. The first house was completed in 1594 and this is where he carried out his business as a merchant and lived upstairs with his wife, Rose Archer and their family. As the family grew he built a second house in 1604. The third house, completed 1610, included a kitchen on the ground floor with a large hearth and bake oven, as well as additional rooms on the first and second floors.

Behind the third house are the gardens which ran all the way to the city walls and contained an orchard, herb and vegetable gardens, a dovecote, a well and a summer house.

John Rothe was deeply involved in the political life of the city serving as the mayor of Kilkenny in 1613. He and Rose had twelve children, the eldest of whom, Peter Rothe inherited the bulk of John’s estate upon his death in 1620.

Like his father, Peter entered local politics and became one of Kilkenny’s leading citizens. But Peter and his family were punished for his political activities and were banished to Connaught by Oliver Cromwell, where Peter died in 1654.

In 1962 Rothe House was bought by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society as the headquarters of the Society and as a place to exhibit its collection of artefacts to the public. In 2002 the Heritage Council of Ireland published a Conservation Plan for the property, which can be viewed here. In 2004 the Society formed Rothe House Trust to manage the house and gardens.