Kilcascan Castle is a castillated house with gothic embellishments built sometime after 1712. The original design was never completed. This was a common occurrence in Ireland due to the political and financial problems of landlords. Many such houses have fallen into ruin or disappeared but Kilcascan has survived largely in its original state. However, the building is in disrepair.
The Castle is essentially symmetrical except for two towers on the south-east and an additional wing on the west. The main entrance is on the north side and the existing principal rooms were intended to face west. The original plan probably included a south wing, thereby creating a central courtyard, and also providing living rooms facing south.
There was something of a boom in the building of large houses by landlords in Ireland in the period 1780-1830. In the second half of this period 'gothic revival' style became extremely fashionable. Some existing classical houses, such as Castle Freke, were remodelled in the gothic style. Plans of others were changed during the course of construction, and some designed from the outset as gothic creations. Legend has it that Kilcascan Castle was started about 1760, and the floor plan would not be inconsistent with a classical plan. Undoubtably the original surviving north facing windows date from around 1820, because ones from the same origins can be seen in the Protestant church at Cahir, designed by the famous architect John Nash at that period.
History has been made in Ireland by two occupants of Kilcascan Castle.
Joseph Daunt has the dubious distinction of being in 1826, the last person to be killed in a duel in Ireland by none other than his cousin and neighbour from Manch House across the River Bandon.
William O'Neill Daunt (1807-1894) (Joseph' s son) enjoyed a distinguished and lengthy career as an Irish Nationalist politician and was at one time Secretary to Daniel O'Connell. He was very prominent in the movement to dis-establish the Church of Ireland. He achieved this ambition in 1871. His second ambition was to repeal the Union with England and to re-establish an independent Irish parliament, whilst retaining the British Monarch as Head of State, but this was not achieved in his lifetime. Unlike many landlords, he spent his fortune supporting the peasants during the Great Famine of 1845-47. The public road leading south from the castle was one of his projects to provide employment and is still known as "New Line", i.e. a new line of road.
There are many signs that the interior of this building was refurbished about 100 years ago, perhaps following the death of William Daunt in 1894. Many landlords modernised their houses at this time using money obtained from the sale of their lands under a government land reform scheme. However, without the income from their lands, most landlords were unable to maintain their houses and subsequent generations frequently left Ireland. This is exactly what happened to the Daunts at Kilcascan and the castle declined throughout the twentieth century.
While many similar houses in West Cork were burnt by the IRA around 1920, Kilcascan Castle was spared. This was probably because of the Daunts' nationalist and Catholic connections, and also because the daughter of the house was reputedly godmother to the local IRA commander, who happened to be a neighbour.