Middle Ages

1204

Earl Marshall founded the (Anglo-Norman) town of Kilkenny and laid out High Street with burgage plots. The much older Irishtown existed outside the Norman jurisdiction around St. Canice’s Cathedral.

1348

Plague in Kilkenny.

Friar John Clyn in the Franciscan Abbey across the road recorded the effect of the plague on the town and the friary. He himself fell victim to the epidemic.

c. 1384-1536

Cistercian Monks of Duiske Abbey in Graiguenamanagh had abbot’s merchant house on this plot (see well in garden).

Tudor Era

1536-1542

Suppression and dissolution of monasteries – plot went to the Earl of Ormonde in Kilkenny Castle.

1594

John Rothe Fitz-Piers and his wife Rose Archer built the first house fronting onto what is now Parliament Street. Before, they had lived in Back Lane (now Kieran Street, closer to St. Mary’s Church, now the Medieval Mile Museum).

1604

Second Rothe House built, as Rothe family grew to include 12 children.

1609

James I granted Kilkenny a charter, making it a city. John Rothe was one of its first aldermen.

burgage plot is a plot of land owned by a burgess in a Norman ruled town. It is a narrow strip of land with the house fronting the main street and a garden stretching all the way to the border of the town (be it the town wall or the river). A burgage plot came with the right to vote and stand for public office.

1610

Third Rothe House built.

Peter Rothe Fitzjohn (“son of John”) married Lettice Lawless.

1613

John Rothe was elected Mayor of Kilkenny.

1619

John Rothe wrote his will making provisions to be buried in the family tomb built in St. Mary’s Church. His son Peter entered national politics as an MP and became one of Kilkenny’s leading citizens.

1620

John Rothe died, leaving the bulk of his estate upon his death in 1620 to his eldest son Peter.

John’s wife Rose continued living in the second house.

Rothe family tree
Rothe family tree

1642

The Catholic Confederation met in Kilkenny. A Confederation flag was found behind wood panelling in Rothe House. A replica of Confederation Flag is on display in the Phelan Room, the original is kept in the National Museum in Dublin.

A well-known couplet names the most prominent and wealthiest families in Kilkenny City during the renaissance period:

“Archdekan, Archer, Cowley, Langton, Lee,
Knaresborough, Lawless, Ragget, Rothe and Shee.”

1650

Plague hit Kilkenny again – took severe toll in garrison and Irishtown.

Cromwell took Kilkenny – Royalists were banished, including Peter Rothe’s family.

Edward Rothe (great-nephew of Bishop Rothe) kept hostage to ensure terms of treaty are honoured.

Bishop David Rothe dies attempting to leave the City and is buried in the Rothe family tomb in St. Mary’s Church (now Medieval Mile Museum).

19th Century

c. 1810

Michael and John Banim attended George Buchanan’s school at Rothe House. Under the pseudonym The O’Hara Family, they later described the spiral staircase in the 2nd house in their novel Father Connell.

1849

Kilkenny Archaeological Society was founded – later became the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI) and moved to Dublin. The Kilkenny Archaeological Society is re-founded in 1945.

Royalists were supporters of the the English king Charles II and thereby considered enemies by Oliver Cromwell.

1858-1899

Several groups of tenants lived on the premises. Some of their photographs are on display in the first house. However, the buildings fell into decay.

Among the tenants was Fenian Richard De Loughry, an iron founder. He lived in the second house with his family. He used the second courtyard for cockfighting and the third for his foundry. A black outline of its roof is still visible in the 3rd courtyard.

Local legend has it that the key that freed Eamon de Valera from Lincoln prison was forged in this forge.

1897

Timothy O’Hanrahan purchased Rothe House and restored the 2nd house for use by the Gaelic League.

1899

The houses are declared “unfit for residency”.

20th Century

1900

The Kilkenny branch of the Gaelic League was founded. They met in the now called MacDonagh room in the 2nd house since Thomas MacDonagh had been one of the teachers. The Gaelic League continued to use that room until 2018.

The Gaelic League (Irish: Conradh na Gaeilge) was founded in 1893 to promote the Irish language in Ireland and internationally. Another aim was to teach people traditional Irish music and dance.

1903

Eileen Cronin arrived in Kilkenny from Cork to teach Irish for Gaelic League. She also went on to teach Irish dance.

Legend has it that her mother sent a piece of Eileen’s coat to Kilkenny by post beforehand, so she could be recognized by whoever would pick her up from the train station.

The Cronin room is named after her in honour of her achievements.

1918

Lá na mBan: Irish women nationwide protest conscription. The ledger with their signatures is kept in “Rothe’s Arch“ (probably MacDonagh room) for women to sign.

This Kilkenny list of 1015 women is now the only one surviving in the whole country. Eileen Cronin was amongst the first women to sign.

1917-1936

Front shop leased by Delaney (butcher), Butler and Campion (publican).

1945

Re-founding of Kilkenny Archaeological Society.

Its members’ donations form the collections in Rothe House Museum.

1962

Rothe House was purchased by Kilkenny Archaeological Society. With the help of fundraising and public funds, they restored the complex and opened Rothe House to the public as a museum.

1966

1968

Kilkenny Tourist Information located in the first house.

Micheál Mac Liammóir performed “I Must be Talking to my Friends” in Rothe House.

1994

The final part of Rothe House building complex was opened to the public.

Eileen Cronin
Eileen Cronin

21st Century

2004-2007

The OPW leased the garden area to Kilkenny Archaeological Society. It had formerly been used as a car park. Archaeological undertook excavations, and the garden was restored to 17th century state according to their findings.

2008

The restored garden was opened to the public.

2018

The Blackbird Gallery moved into the left part of the 1st house.

Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” was performed throughout the house as part of Arts Week.