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Kilworth – ‘Cill Uird’, or the ‘church of the order’ – was founded by St Colman, a disciple of St Mochuda of Lismore, circa 636 AD.
Following the 12th-century Norman invasion of Ireland, Kilworth and its surrounding areas fell into the hands of a number of different families – Flemings, Roches and Condons – all of whom would go on to become well-known landowners throughout the Blackwater valley.
Following the Desmond Rebellion, and a period during which the land was passed back and forth between the Condons and the Fleetwoods, the Condon estates were sold to Stephen Moore of Clonmel. Under his ownership, much of these lands became known as Moore Park. The demesne wall is still intact in places, but the land now belongs to an Teagasc, who run an agricultural research centre on the site.
At one time a bustling market town, by the 19th century Kilworth was in decline. The closure of the Bianconi coach routes, the subsequent disappearance of the attending passing trade and the continued growth of nearby Fermoy were a death knell for the area.
The village experienced a resurgence of sorts with the arrival of the British military garrisons. While the main barracks was situated in Fermoy, Kilworth had its own mountain barracks. The area is still used for the Irish army’s training exercises.
The Church of Ireland in the village square was de-consecrated in 1977 following a falling-off of attendance levels. It was handed over to the village and is now a renowned theatre and centre for the arts.
The village also has some more sordid stories in its past. At the turn of the century, Kilworth boasted many hotels, including the Kilworth Arms. This was the site of a murder, committed by Earl Robert II of Kingston (the man who built Mitchelstown). Kingston shot Colonel Fitzgerald, who had eloped with the Earl’s 15 year-old daughter. Kingston was tried before his peers in the Irish House of Lords. No evidence for the prosecution was heard and he was pronounced ‘not guilty, my Lord’.