Between 1594 and 1610, Queen Elizabeth I was queen in the UK (until 1601 when James I inherited the throne), Newfoundland (then known as Terra Nova) was in the process of being colonized by the British, the French were colonizing Nova Scotia, the area that would become Toronto was inhabited by the Iroquois (later displaced by the Mississaugas), the Dutch discovered Australia, Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, and Galileo was in the process of changing the world’s understanding of science.
It was during this 16-year period that the Rothe House in Kilkenny was built.
The house was built and owned by a confusing jumble of English names: John Rothe fitz Piers, Piers John Rothe, Peter Rothe fitz John, Edward Rothe fitz Peter, John Rothe fitz Robert… the easiest one to remember is Rose Archer, who married the first John Rothe, a wealthy merchant who had all of his fingers and toes in Kilkenny’s many political pies.
Roth House is actually three houses built in rapid succession; they’re all linked by walkways and incorporate central courtyards and luxurious gardens. The first Rothe house was built in 1594 after John and Rose married. And, over the span of a decade, the couple had so many children that they found it necessary to add a second house (1604). A third and separate house was built in 1610 with more rooms and kitchen space. The configuration and original architecture are completely untouched, which makes it one of Ireland’s most treasured Elizabethan landmarks.
But wait, there’s more: part of the original wall surrounding Kilkenny somehow managed to weave itself into the structure of the house linking Rothe House to the history of the medieval town.
The land that the house was built on was originally a burgage plot (a medieval concept). A burgage is a large piece of land owned by either the crown or a “landlord” who then subdivided it into long narrow strips and rented these “lots” out to tenants; some strips of land were farmed by a burgess (bourgeoisie in French). These burgage plots often were on the outskirts of a city (hence how the original city wall got mixed in with the house).