Buttevant’s place name is French. When the area was taken over by the Anglo-Norman de Barry family it was located close to lands still controlled by the Gaelic Irish. The name probably refers to a forward fortification called a ‘Boutavant.’
One of the best preserved medieval dovecots in Ireland is located just outside the town in Ballybeg Priory. The pigeons were kept in stone niches and were used as a source of meat.
In 1752 the world’s first steeplechase took place when Edmund Blake and Cornelius O’Callaghan raced each other from St. John’s Church in Buttevant to St. Mary’s in Doneraile.
The bridge over the Awbeg River is one of the oldest continually used bridges in Ireland. It originally dates from the 13th century. It was later widened in the early 19th century. On one side you can see the pointed arches of the medieval section and on the other the barrel shaped arches of the 19th century extension.
Both Napoleon’s white charger Marengo and the Duke of Wellington’s horse at the Battle of Waterloo were bought at Buttevant’s Cahirmee Horse Fair. The fair is still held each year on July 12th.
The town and its gentle river are referred to by 16th century poet Edmund Spencer in The Faerie Queen. Spencer lived for a while just a few miles away in his castle at Kilcolman.
Buttevant once housed a British army garrison housed in impressive barracks. Built in the early 19th century in response to the threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars, the buildings were destroyed during the Irish Civil War in 1922. Today the site is used for hurling and Gaelic football. Only the boundary walls and neo-classical entrance remain.
The present Buttevant Castle, which was radically overhauled in the early 19th century, was originally constructed at the start of the 13th century.
The Franciscan Friary located in the grounds of the town’s Catholic Church was founded in 1251 by David de Barry. Underneath the church is a crypt that is still occasionally entered when people wish to conduct archaeological research.
Buttevant was once enclosed by town walls. Built at the start of the 14th century now only a few sections remain. One visible piece is located at the base of the Friary and runs north towards the medieval bridge.