The first castle was erected at Dunhill in the early 13th century by the la Poer (Power) family. Dunhill derives from the Irish ‘Dún Áil’ meaning ‘fort of the rock’, an apt name considering the prominent position of the castle. The castle is built on a promontory overlooking an old bridging point, where the Annestown Stream formerly entered the sea. There is evidence to suggest that a fort existed at this location during the first millennium AD. The remains that stand today are of a 15th century tower-house and walls of outer buildings dating to the 13th century.
The Powers of Dunhill were infamous during the 14th century, launching many attacks on Waterford City. During one attack in 1345, after the Powers had destroyed the area surrounding the city, they were captured and hanged. The remaining Powers joined forces with the O’Driscoll family. The new alliance attacked Waterford many times over the next century. In 1368 they were defeated in a battle at Tramore, the castle and lands then passed into the hands of the Powers of Kilmeaden. It remained in their hands until the castle was captured during a Cromwellian attack. The fate of the last Lord of Dunhill and Kilmeaden, John Power, and his family is unknown. The castle fell into ruin during the early part of the 18th century.
One piece of local folklore named ‘The Legend of the Gunner and the Buttermilk’ tells us of a supposed occurrence during Cromwell’s attack on the castle. The legend states that the Lord was not present during the assault and the castle was defended by Lady Power and her gunners. As the siege raged on one of Lady Power’s gunners requested some refreshments for a group of men defending the battlements. Lady Power did not wish to give the men beer at such a crucial moment and instead sent them buttermilk. The men were apparently so incensed by this that the gunner signalled to Cromwell’s men and led them into the castle! The gunner himself was later hanged as a traitor from the castle walls by Cromwell.
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