Desmond Castle in Kinsale dates from around 1500. It is a classic urban tower house, consisting of a three-storey keep with storehouses to the rear. Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald, the earl of Desmond, originally built the castle as the customs house for the town. It served as a prison in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Because it usually held French inmates, as well as Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch and Americans, it became known locally as the French Prison and carries that name to this day.
The building was co-opted as an ordnance store during the momentous Battle of Kinsale (1601) and served as a workhouse during the Great Famine. Desmond Castle certainly had a colourful history and this continued into the twentieth century. In the early 1900s it was used as a venue to host local Gaelic League meetings. Finally, in the 1930s, a thriving undertaking business operated from within the National Monument.