The word ‘Glenstal’ means ‘The Glen of the Stallion’, and is an English rendering of the Irish Gleann Stail. The glen itself is a very impressive geological feature, consisting of a mile-long valley, formed during the last ice-age, rich in many kinds of wild flowers.
The main building is a Norman Revivalist castle. It faces south, and commands an unbroken view of some thirty miles towards the Galtee Mountains. It was designed by William Bardwell, an English architect, who evidently intended Glenstal to look like a twelfth-century castle, for when he inscribed his name on the turret Bardwell me fecit (‘Bardwell made me’), he added the date 1839, but cut in such a way as to look like 1139.
The castle was built for the Barrington family in the 1830s. Following the death of their daughter in an ambush during the Irish War of Independence, the last owners, Sir Charles and Lady Mary Rose Barrington, decided to return to live on their English estate. The property was bought by a local priest, who invited the monks of Maredsous Abbey in Belgium to settle in Glenstal. Monastic life at Glenstal began formally on 18 December 1927.
The origins of the current school lie in the small School for Arts and Crafts opened by the founding monks of Glenstal in 1928. A secondary school for boys was opened in September 1932. Fr Columba Skerret OSB was the Headmaster, and there were just seven boys on the roll.
However, the real founding father of the school was Fr Matthew Dillon OSB, who served as Headmaster twice – from 1937-1948 and from 1953 to 1961. During his first term of office he increased the number of boys from less than twenty to over one hundred.
From these humble beginnings the school has grown considerably. As the school has grown, it has spread beyond the confines of the original Barrington castle. Modern dormitories and refectories, a large Sports Hall and state-of-the art computing facilities combine to ensure that the school remains a vibrant and forward-looking educational institution.