- the real capital of Meath
it has been eclipsed by Navan in recent years, Trim was
for centuries the capital of Meath with a long and proud
history and home to the oldest and largest Anglo-Norman
castle in Ireland. By Liam OšRourke
town has its roots in the fifth century, where St Loman,
a nephew of St Partick founded a monastery here and became
the first Bishop of Trim. So in religious, historical and
legal terms it has strong claims to be regarded as the real
capital of Meath.
A few years ago a new courthouse, with its award-winning
design, was opened. It houses District, Circuit and occasionally
High Court sittings.
Its arguable that its heyday coincided with that of
the castle that was occupied until 1649 when it ceased to
be used as military base as cannons could easily breach
the castle walls.
It was the principal urban centre in Meath during Norman
times and was the location of an earth and timber castle
built by Hugh De Lacy in 1172 as the first step in the conquest
of Meath. De Lacy, who had been granted all of Meath by
King Henry II, placed Hugh Tyrell in charge.
The original construction lasted a mere three years before
it was burnt down by Tyrell rather than surrender it to
the advancing Roderick OConnor, King of Connacht.
Shortly afterwards Tyrell replaced it with a stone castle.
De Lacys plan was to install himself as King of Meath
and in 1185 had a crown made for himself but he was killed
the following year and was succeeded by his son Walter as
Lord of Meath.
It became known as King Johns Castle after the visit
of the English king in 1210. The purpose of the royal visit
was to bring Walter de Lacy, who was becoming increasingly
independent, into line. The visitors were forced to camp
in a nearby meadow after de Lacy locked up the castle and
fled the town.
Its current formidable appearance dates from this time.
The present three-story tower, with walls eleven feet thick
was started a couple of years later and completed in 1220
by William Peppard.
Apart from being the main town in County Meath Trim was
also one of the principal administrative centres of the
English Pale in medieval time. Its importance is underlined
by the fact that the Irish Parliament sat here on a number
of occasions, notably in 1465 when it passed a law authorizing
the beheading of all robbers or those under suspicion of
robbery such was the lawlessness that prevailed at the time.
The heads of those executed were mounted on spikes and publicly
displayed as warning to thieves or would-be thieves. During
excavations in 1971 the remains of ten headless men were
The castle had five D-shaped towers projecting from the
southern half of its wall while the old town wall joined
the castle near the south-western corner. Originally about
500 metres long, most of the outer wall is still standing
today. It included eight towers and a gatehouse.
Trim Castle passed out of hands of De Lacy family when Hughs
daughter married into the Mortimer family, the Earls of
March. They rarely visited the place.
Geoffrey de Geneville, grandson-in-law of Hugh de Lacy,
continued the development of the castle in the mid to late
13th century. De Geneville participated in the Crusades,
and later became a monk setting up the Dominican Abbey in
1263, just outside the north facing Athboy Gate. In the
14th and 15th centuries Trim Castle was at various times
the residence of the Lord Lieutenant, the King of Englands
representative in Ireland.
In 1399, another royal visitor came calling and Richard
II left behind two boys as wards. Prince Hal later became
Henry V while the other royal occupant Humphrey of Gloucester
in latter years became known as the Good Duke.
The guests were housed in the gate-tower at the drawbridge.
There was a church in the north corner of the castle and
facing the river was the Royal Mint. Richard, Duke of York,
who was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1449 ordered
that special coins be minted here called Patricks
The town walls were erected in 1359 by Roger Mortimer, Earl
of Ulster and what remains of Sheep Gate are all thats
left of the original fortification.
While the castle was used as a base for the Lord Lieutenant
and the Lords of Meath, no family was continually in residence
there from the middle of the 14th century. Repairs were
ordered in 1541 but by the end of the century the castle
was in ruins.
In 1610 Sir James Carroll was granted lands in the area
on the condition that he rebuild the castle before March
3, 1611 and also to erect a jail within it walls.
When the Confederate Rebellion broke out in 1641, the castle
was taken by the rebel forces only to be recaptured by Sir
Charles Coote, the elder, the following year. In 1643, four
of the Kings Commissioners met at Trim to hear the
complaints of the Confederate Catholics. However, the complaints
In 1649, the castle was taken over by Cromwellian forces,
but it is unlikely that Cromwell himself ever visited Trim.
After this the castle was no longer used for military purposes.
St Lomans successors combined the roles of Bishop
of Trim with that of Abbot of St Marys Abbey, which
was under the charge of the Canons Regular of St Augustine.
As a result of a decision taken at the Synod of Kells in
1152, the small Diocese of Trim was absorbed, along with
several others of its kind, into the new Diocese of Meath.
The tall tower known as Yellow Steeple is all
that remains of St Marys Abbey.
Close to the town on the banks of the Boyne lie the ruins
of Newtown Abbey. Bishop Simon de Rochfort made this the
centre of the diocese of Meath. He also founded a priory
for the Augustinian Canons of the order of St Victor to
serve as his cathedral. De Rochfort also built a hospital
nearby which he dedicated to St John the Baptist and entrusted
to the care of the Crouched (crossed) Friars.
Talbot Castle was built on part of the site of St Marys
Abbey when in the 15th century, Sir John Talbot, the viceroy
of Ireland transformed part of the abbey into a fortified
St Marys Church of Ireland Cathedral dates by to the
early 19th century and incorporates a 23-metre tall tower
from a medieval church. It is believed to be on the site
of the original church built by St Loman almost a millennium
and a half earlier. In 1955, Trim was chosen as the main
centre of the Church of Ireland diocese of Meath.
At the southern end of the town is the monument to the Arthur
Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. Standing 23 metres (about
75 feet) tall it was built in 1817 just two years after
the Battle of Waterloo.
Trim was a notable centre for education in the middle of
the 19th century with two public schools attended by about
300 pupils while there were seven private schools attended
by 230 children.
A Church of Ireland diocesan school was located at Talbots
Castle. The Duke of Wellington received his early education
here as did the famous mathematician Sir William Rowan Hamilton,
later appointed Astronomer Royal of Ireland. The bicentenary
of the latters birth occurs in 2005.
Up until the Act of Union, Trim was a parliamentary borough.
In 1831 it population was 3,282 and was down to 2,269 a
In the 19th century Trim assumed a new importance in legal
terms. A courthouse was built in a prominent position at
the top of Market Street while on the site of the Convent
of Mercy a jail was constructed in 1834. No trace of the
three-storey building remains.
Around this time there was a proposal to extend the Drogheda-Navan
canal to Trim but the idea fell through due to lack of finance.
The railway arrived in Trim in 1864 and closed almost 90
years later in 1953. No trace of the local station remains.
In his late-nineteenth century publication, A ramble
around Trim, amongst its ruins and antiquities with short
notices of its celebrated characters, Eugene Conwell
notes that the place was at present a town of no great
magnitude and very dimly reflects the important person it
occupied in the affairs of Ireland a few centuries ago.
It continues, Trim being formerly a place of great
strength and consequence was at a very early period
some say in the 13th century constituted as a borough
with a corporation and it sent members to Parliament until
the Union. The Corporation of Trim (evident from the survival
of the corporation records after 1659) was at one period,
one of the most respectable bodies of the kind in Ireland
and men of high position south admission to its ranks.
Trim was passed over in favour of Navan as the administrative
capital of Meath when the Urban Rural and County Councils
were established under the Local Government of 1898 thus
lessening the influence of this historic town.
In recent years, Trim along with Kells has
been deservedly granted the status of heritage town and
received another boost in 1994, when part of the Mel Gibson
historical epic Braveheart was filmed at the
castle. Part of the castle has been open to visitors since
Taken from Royal County