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Lea Castle is located on the Dublin Road just outside of Portarlington. It was built circa 1260 by William de Vesey and was protected to the north by the River Barrow. The castle changed hands many times during its violent history, it was burned by the O’ Dempseys in 1284 and rebuilt by de Vesey and given to the King. In 1315 it was burned along with Portarlington by the Scots army. In 1346 it was burned by the O’ Mores. It was captured by O’ Dempsey’s in 1422 and then lost to the Earl of Ormond in 1452. Silken Thomas Fitzgerald used it as a refuge in 1535. The castle was mortgaged to Sir Maurice Fitzgerald in 1556, and leased to Robert Bath in 1618. It was used by the confederates as a mint in the 1640 rebellion until the Cromwellians blew up the fortifications by stuffing the stairways with explosives. The castle was never used afterwards as a fortification.
In 1650 the castle was taken by Hewson and dismantled; the confused masses of towers and broken arches show the havoc made. The last person who took up his abode here was the rapparee, Charles O’Dempsey (Cahir na gCapall), the lineal descendant of the once powerful Chiefs of Clanmaliere.
Remains include part of the keep, a fairly complete corner tower, a walled court yard and a double-towered gate building. The outer entrance to the castle, which is in good preservation, consisted of a gate defended by a portcullis, a latticed grille made of wood, metal or a combination of the two.