Situated on a slight S-facing slope. Hugh de Lacy granted the barony of Skreen to Adam de Feipo in 1172 but further details of the sub-infeudation are not known. However, Killeen is likely to be an early manor in the possession of the Cussack family, and a castle, undoubtedly the ringwork castle (ME038-050002-), was built as its caput or centre. In 1401 Sir Christopher Plunket of Rathregan, later the first Lord Killeen, married Joan Cussack, heiress to Killeen and Dunsany, and Killeen remained in the Plunket family down to the twentieth century. Their eldest son John inherited Killeen and his descendants became Earls of Fingal, while Dunsany was left to their second son, Christopher, who became the first baron Dunsany.
According to the Civil Survey (1654) In 1641 Sir Christopher Plunket, the Earl of Fingal and an Irish papist, owned over half the parish of Killeen with all the land in the townlands of Killeen, Clowanstown and Smithstown, while Sir Richard Barnewall of Crickstown (ME039-006----) owned the rest (Simington 1940, 69, 70). At Killeen there was ‘a castle, a church and a water mill, with several out houses belonging to the said castle, and several cottages, in ye said Towne’. The castle is represented as a tower, undoubtedly a tower house, on the Down Survey (1656-8) barony map. The castle was remodelled in 1780, altered c. 1804 to a design by Francis Johnston, and embellished in 1841 to a design of James Shiel when it assumed its present appearance (Bence-Jones 1978, 170).
A rectangular tower house with projecting towers at the NW and NE angles and probably dating to the fifteenth century survives at the core of the neo-gothic structure. The castle was subject on an arson attack in 1981 leaving only a shell of a building. In 2005 it was repointed and re-roofed as part of restoration works. During these works two carved stone heads, a male and female in high relief were identified on the western façade. Archaeological testing (96E0001) by R. Meenan in the immediate vicinity of the tower house exposed part of the base-batter of its walls but no evidence of the ring-work which is located c. 30m to the NW (excavations 1996:309; 1999:692).
See the attached representation of the castle from the Down Survey barony map of Skreen (N at left), courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
Compiled by; Michael Moore
Updated by: Christine Baker
Date of revision: 22 February 2015
Amended: 13 April, 2022 by Michael Moore
Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage