Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Strongbow constructed the first building here, a wooden tower in the 12th century. William the Earl Marshall built the first stone castle on the site in 1260. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day.
In 1391 the Butler family bought the Castle and lived there continuously until 1935. They were a remarkable family, resilient, politically astute and faithful to the crown and to Ireland as dictated by the poltics of the times. These loyalties determined their fortunes and career, and so too the fortunes of the castle. The property was given to the Nation in 1967 and the castle and grounds are now managed by Dúchas, The National Heritage Council.
The present castle results from a comprehensive early to mid nineteenth-century redevelopment programme completed to plans devised by William Robertson but still retaining an important element dating from the early eighteenth century: an elegantly composed Classical frontispiece built for James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde possibly to designs prepared by Sir William Robinson.
The great hall is accommodated in a later range built to the designs of Sir Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward. The exposed timber roof features a decorative scheme by John Hungerford Pollen.