Rothe House was built between 1594 and 1610 by John Rothe Fitz Piers. The Rothe Family, along with fewer 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.

Middle Ages


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.


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 the well in garden).

c. 1384-1536

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

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.

Tudor Era


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


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).


Second Rothe House built, as Rothe family grew to include 11 children.


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


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


John Rothe was elected Mayor of Kilkenny.


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.


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

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.”

Confederation and Cromwell’s time


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.


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

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

The Cromwellians kept Edward Rothe (great-nephew of Bishop Rothe) 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).

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

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.


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.


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.


Timothy O’Hanrahan purchased Rothe House and restored the 2nd house for use by the Gaelic League. A plaque in the second courtyard in the Irish language serves as a reminder.


The houses are declared “unfit for residency”.

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


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.

20th Century


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.


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.


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

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


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


Re-founding of Kilkenny Archaeological Society.
Its members’ donations form the collections in Rothe House Museum.


Kilkenny Archaeological Society purchased Rothe House. With the help of fundraising and public funds, they restored the complex and opened the first and second house to the public as a museum in 1966.


Kilkenny Tourist Information located in the first house.
Micheál Mac Liammóir performed “I Must be Talking to my Friends” in Rothe House.

21st Century


Rothe House Trust Ltd was established with full charitable status.


The restored garden was opened to the public.