In 1594, Rothe House was built as a home to John Rothe Fitz-Piers
Medieval Merchant Townhouse
Rothe House & Garden, is the only example of an early 17th century merchant’s townhouse in Ireland.
It is an important element of Kilkenny’s heritage.
Rothe House is the centre for Irish genealogy in Kilkenny city and county, and you can research your Kilkenny family history there.
Built between 1594 and 1610, Rothe House is steeped in rich local and national history and a visit is high on the list of things to do in Kilkenny.
The House and Garden are owned by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, and managed by Rothe House Trust. The House is open to the public as a Museum, displaying some of the 2,500 historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947. It is one of the few private museums in Ireland. These artefacts all relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from pre-historic times. The Garden, open since 2008, is a reconstruction of an early 17th century urban garden, and has become a very popular garden to visit in Ireland.
Rothe House was built between 1594 and 1610 by John Rothe Fitz Piers who constructed it on the Burgage Plot he acquired as one of the city’s leading citizens. The Rothe Family, along with less than a dozen other wealthy families, controlled Kilkenny’s trade and dominated its civic government from the late Middle Ages until the 17th Century.
There are 3 houses built one behind the other. The first house was completed in 1594 and this is where John Rothe carried out his business as a merchant and lived upstairs with his family. The second house was completed in 1604 and included additional family living space.
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 contained an orchard, herb and vegetable gardens, a pigeon house, a well, and a summer house at the far end.
John Rothe was involved in the political life of the city serving as the mayor of Kilkenny in 1613. He married Rose Archer, the daughter of another influential Kilkenny family, and had twelve children with her. Their eldest son Peter was born in 1590, followed by eight daughters and three more sons. Following John’s death in 1620 his son Peter inherited the bulk of his estate.
Like his father, Peter Rothe entered local politics. With the outbreak of rebellion in Ireland in 1641 and civil war in England the following year, the leading families in Ireland (both Gaelic Irish and Old English) formed the Confederation of Kilkenny to safeguard their political and religious rights. Peter Rothe, as one of Kilkenny’s leading citizens, took a seat in the General Assembly of the Confederate government. As a cousin of Bishop David Rothe (leader of the Confederate Bishops), he allowed Rothe House be used as the meeting place of the Assembly of Bishops of the Confederation.
With Charles I defeat in the English Civil War his enemies turned their full attention to subduing Ireland. Peter Rothe was punished for his participation in the Confederation by the confiscation of his property and was banished to Connaught by Oliver Cromwell, where he died in 1654.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the house was home to the Gaelic League or Conradh na Gaeilge. Thomas Mc Donagh, a signatory of the 1916 Proclamation, taught here in 1903.
In 1962 Rothe House was purchased by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society as the headquarters of the Society and as a place to exhibit its collection of artefacts. In 2004 the Society formed the Rothe House Trust to manage the house as a museum of John Rothe’s life and times, and as an exhibit museum of Kilkenny history.