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 on display in Rothe House Museum.

The 3D models of the sheela-na-gig, the ogham stone and the straw beehive were made by Gary Dempsey (Digital Heritage Age) and helpers during a workshop on photogrammetry in Rothe House in November 2018.


This sheela-na-gig was discovered in the churchyard at Coolaghmore, Co. Kilkenny during clearance work. It is believed that she was buried there in the 19th century after being found near the holy well.

It is on display in the reception area in Rothe House.

Museum data

Provenance: Coolaghmore Church, Co. Kilkenny
Historic environment no.: KK030-004006/ KK019-026170
GPS of original location: 52.50203,-7.38435


  • Freitag, B.: Sheela-na-gigs: unravelling an enigma. London. Routledge 2004
  • Ellen Prendergast: Fertility figure, or Sheelagh-na-Gig, from Tullaroan, in: Old Kilkenny Review 1992, p. 1027-1031
  • Sean O’Doherty: Sheela-na-gig at Cooliagh, in: Old Kilkenny Review, p. 72-74

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 giant deer skull is displayed in the Phelan room in the 1st house.

Museum data

Accession number: RH66/116
Provenance: Swiftsheath
GPS of original location: 52.7413,-7.3135
Donor: Major G.S.E. Briggs Swift

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.

The portraits are on display in the Phelan room (1st house).

Museum data


Accession number: RH86/23
Donor: Mrs Alice Gwynn

Lady Lavery

Accession number: RH86/24
Donor: Mrs Alice Gwynn


  • Alice McEnery-Gwynn: Pen picture of a great artist – Sir John Lavery’s Kilkenny connections, in: Old Kilkenny Review 1956/57, p. 11-13
giant deer head

Ogham Stone

This unusually small Ogham Stone (only 0.57m in height) is made from carboniferous limestone and dates from the 6th century AD. The inscription reads “MAGI CUNALIGAN MAHI CALLI MACON COSCOIN”, translating to “The stone of Cunaligans, son of Coillas”. It was found in the border area between Co. Kilkenny and Co. Carlow in 1970 and was mounted on a wooden base. It is on display at the top floor of the second house.

Museum data

Accession number: RH60/06
Donor: Captain M. Doyle, Curragh Co. Kildare


  • Katherine M. Lanigan: Collection of antiquities at Rothe House Museum, 1960-1966, in: Old Kilkenny Review 1969, p. 100-106
  • Martin Brennan: Ogham language, in: Old Kilkenny Review 1975, p. 104
  • Owen O’Kelly: Oghamcraobh ar liagan, in: Old Kilkenny Review 1961, p. 29

The Costume Collection

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 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.

Flying Machine

By clicking on the model you can move it around to look at it from all sides.

These items were parts of the first flying machine built in Kilkenny, 50 years before the Wright Brothers build theirs in the United States. It was famously launched at Foulksrath Castle.

Museum data

Accession number: RH70/03
Donor: Major G.S.E. Briggs Swift
GPS of original location: 52.7413,-7.3135


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.

Museum data

Accession number: RH60/26
Donor: Unknown


Cist Grave

bronze age cist grave

Bronze Age Cist Grave

This Cist Grave dates back approximately 4,000 years. It was discovered Killinane, Co. Carlow in the 1970s, excavated and reconstructed in the 2nd courtyard. Along with the cremated remains of two people, a magnificently decorated pottery vessel was discovered which is also in the collection, but not currently on display.

The cist grave has been reassembled in the second courtyard.


  • Fionnbarr Moore: A Bronze Age burial at Killinane, near Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, in: Old Kilkenny Review 1984, p. 64-68

Straw Beehive (Skep)

This straw beehive (20th century replica) is a device used for beekeeping for the past 2000 years. However, only since the Middle Ages were they made from straw; before that, wicker plastered with mud and dung was used – very similar to how houses were built actually.

The straw beehive is on display in the Tudor kitchen (3rd house).

Museum data

Accession number: RH86/08
Donor: Edward Hughes