Dunlavin Heritage Trail

France.png
France.png

French Version

Map.PNG
001.PNG
1. The Fairgreen

The fairgreen probably dates from the mid-seventeenth century and formed the south-eastern boundary of the original village. Triangular fairgreens were the hallmark of seventeenth-century settlement. The triangular green in Dunlavin was following the fashion of the time, and it provided an instantly recognisable symbol for an equally recognisable function. The apex of the triangle occurred at a point where two roads meet, so the physical road pattern favoured the use of the land between as a fairgreen at the entrance to the new village. Fairs were held here from 1661.

Dunlavin green is best known for the mass executions that took place here on 24 May 1798. The Dunlavin Massacre occurred at the very beginning of the 1798 rebellion. Thirty-six prisoners were taken from the market house and shot. They were summarily executed without trial (but one survived). They were interned on suspicion of being United Irishmen. Many of the victims were members of local yeomanry corps. They were already incarcerated when hostilities broke out, and took no part in the rebellion. The executions took place at the corner of the green outside the Roman Catholic church, but the 1798 monument was erected in 1948 on the corner at the top of Stephen Street for greater prominence within the village. Fairs continued to be held here throughout the nineteenth century. Land was life, and the sale of the produce of the land was the principal driver of the local economy. Fairs served a vital economic function, but they were also huge social events. The staging of these events placed Dunlavin within a larger network of markets and fairs, and marked the village out as a nodal point within its extensive rural hinterland. Fairs continued until the 1960s, when marts took over their function. Today the fairgreen is a cherished local amenity, which was gifted to the people of Dunlavin by the Tynte Estate in 2021.

002.PNG

2. St. Nicholas of Myra Church

Roman Catholic worship in this area dates from the arrival of St. Palladius in the fifth century, but the present Dunlavin village only dates from the mid-seventeenth century. One early priest from the parish of Dunlavin, Donard and Davidstown was Fr. Laurence O’Toole of Imaal who hid his vestments and altar vessels in 1692 and went into hiding just before the introduction of the Penal Laws. There was no church in Dunlavin in 1731, but, as the Penal Laws eased later in the eighteenth century, a mass-house or small chapel stood on this site. Fr. Patrick O’Quin was parish priest in 1771. The 1798 Dunlavin massacre took place outside this building.

In 1815 Lady Hannah Tynte Caldwell donated this site for Catholic worship. The chapel was extended and by 1835 it was a neat cruciform edifice. The parish baptismal register dates from 1815 and is a guide to population trends, including severe decline during the Famine years of 1845-50. Canon John Hyland was parish priest during the Famine. He was the first of three canons to hold the position during the nineteenth century. James Whittle (a Dunlavin native) built the coach-house behind the church and Frederick Donovan was prominent during the late nineteenth-century Land War. Whittle’s memorial in the church is the work of sculptor James Pearse, father of 1916 leader Patrick Pearse. Another major extension, including the new belfry, was completed in 1898. The old national school stood in the church grounds until it was replaced by a new school in 1952. The Marian statue in the grounds was erected in 1954, and moved in 1998. Shortly afterwards the former coach-house became the parish centre. Another major renovation was necessary in 2013-14, and the church was rededicated on 27 April 2014. It remains a very welcoming place of worship.

003.PNG

3. St. Nicholas Holly Well

St. Nicholas’ holy well, known locally as the ‘Blessed Well’, is one of about 3,000 in Ireland. Tournant Moat (motte) was inhabited in pre-Celtic times, and the Normans later built a ringwork castle here. They also probably imported the devotion to St. Nicholas, a Turkish bishop whose remains were possibly brought to Ireland and interred at Jerpoint Abbey, Co. Kilkenny. Pilgrims visited holy wells throughout the Middle Ages and the pilgrimages (patterns) survived into the modern era. The Tournant pattern was held in late June. Patterns became social occasions, with music, singing, dancing, alcohol, festivities and fighting involved. In the 1860s, Fr. John Shearman wrote: ‘a curious custom formerly prevalent at this well about St. John the Baptist’s day was that of dipping children, Protestants and Catholics alike, in the water from the well to ensure a healthy growth… this well at Tournant was the scene of one of the most famed mid-Leinster patterns… Tents and booths were erected and the crowds came from Carlow, Athy and from the farthest parts of the King’s County. It was one of the leading patterns in the whole country, but owing to the great abuses and riots… Fr. John Hyland ultimately abolished it in the 1830s’. In 1837 Chief Constable Wright, Dunlavin, reported that the pattern ‘passed off in this district without the slightest observance of any of those practices customary on the celebration of that day’. The pattern had revived by the 1860s, and crutches, walking sticks and pieces of cloth were left at the well in the 1880s. The pattern declined in the mid-twentieth century, but was revived again in the 1980s. A major renovation project in 2016 saw a much-improved access walkway and a complete refurbishment of the well, in addition to the provision of a new ‘mass rock’ altar.

004.PNG

4. The Village Pump

In 1689, when Sir Richard Bulkeley was trying to attract new settlers into Dunlavin, he portrayed the village in a most attractive light. According to his account, the village was nineteen miles (six leagues) from Dublin, well situated on fertile ground with abundant water. Water supply is crucial to any settlement, and the Dunlavin area is drained by the young River Griese and its tributaries, within the Barrow river basin. As Dunlavin grew over the centuries, wells were sunk in some gardens and houses within the village. In 1835, Samuel Lewis noted that Dunlavin was amply supplied with water from springs and was considered a healthy place of residence. In the early nineteenth century, County Wicklow’s Grand Jury was responsible for public health infrastructure, but from mid-century onwards that function was taken over by the Poor Law Guardians. Following public health acts in 1874 and 1878, a new code was established to implement town and village water schemes. Wicklow County Council took over these schemes when it was established following the inaugural local elections of 1899. Tenders for the upkeep and repair of Dunlavin’s pumps appear intermittently in official records from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This pump is part of a network of pumps and public taps that dotted Dunlavin’s urban space, serving both locals and visitors. The village was also a stopping-off point for the military en route from the Curragh to the Glen of Imaal. Army horses drank from this pump outside the public house. One enterprising publican, Mr. Fisher, could not charge the army for the water, but he rented out the buckets for watering the horses. With the installation of private water supplies in village houses, the pump was disused from the mid-twentieth century. It remains an attractive and ornamental piece of village street furniture.

005.PNG
006.PNG

This church replaced an older one which stood just off Market Square since the seventeenth century. The author Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) held this prebend from 1700-13. As prebendary, Swift could occupy a stall in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Swift’s first great work was published during his Dunlavin tenure. A Tale of a Tub appeared in 1704, establishing Swift’s reputation as a satirist. In 1708 Swift published his Bickerstaff Papers, and in 1710 he began his Journal to Stella and which put him on a par with Alexander Pope as one of the greatest satirists of the age. Swift’s term in this prebend ended in 1713 when he became Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The older church continued to serve the parish throughout the eighteenth century. This site was donated by Lady Hannah Tynte Caldwell in 1815, and the deed of conveyance for the new church and churchyard was signed on 21 July that year by Rector Rev. W. Moore Morgan and churchwardens James Critchley and J. Virtue. The church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Cashel on 24 October 1817. The Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869, and in 1894 Samuel Russell McGee became rector. The church was closed for three months in 1895 to facilitate renovations, and was re-dedicated by the Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Plunket, on 20 August that year. New seating was donated by Joseph Pratt Tynte and the jewels in the crown of the renovation were the pitch pine ceiling and the choir stalls. In 1899, the building was referred to as one of the nicest country churches in the diocese. The church continued in use throughout the twentieth century. There is a plaque to those who served in both World Wars among the many memorials inside. The church remains a very welcoming place of worship.

6. Dunlavin Police Station

This building has served as Dunlavin’s police station for both the Royal Irish Constabulary and An Garda Síochána. The Irish Constabulary was formed in 1836 by amalgamating the Peace Preservation Force and the County Constabulary to establish one body to police rural Ireland (Dublin was policed by the Dublin Metropolitan Police). The force received the title ‘Royal’ following their role in the defeat of the Fenian rebellion of 1867. Following the establishment of the Free State in 1922, the Civic Guard replaced the RIC. During the Great Panic of the 1832 cholera epidemic, Chief Constable J. H. Hatton reported widespread panic and hysteria in Dunlavin because ‘a ball of fire fell down from heaven in the Queen’s County and had completely destroyed it… and two angels had descended to whom they were ordered to offer up seven prayers’. However, the ball of fire never materialised and the panic passed, with things quickly returning to normal. Constables served here during the Famine, and the building is clearly marked as the police barracks on the 1854 map of Dunlavin. In addition to ordinary criminality, the constables were busy during the nineteenth century with the Tithe War, Famine thefts, Land War and Home Rule movement. During the War of Independence, Constables Arthur Hardie and William Mitchell were charged with the murder of Robert Dixon of Milltown. Hardie committed suicide in this building and Mitchell was hanged in Mountjoy Gaol on 7 June 1921. Mitchell was the only member of the Crown Forces executed for murder during the War of Independence. The Civic Guard took over shortly afterwards, and in March 1923 (during the Civil War) the building was attacked and the guards captured. The attackers set off a mine in the building, which was badly damaged before local residents extinguished the fire. After peacetime returned, the police station continued to function and it remains in use as a Garda station.

007.PNG

7. The Market House

Sir James Worth-Tynte became Dunlavin’s landlord in the early eighteenth century, and he provided his new village with a fine market house. The building was constructed between 1737 and 1743, and is a fine example of the neo-classical Greek Doric style. The architect was reputedly Richard Cassels [Castle], who was also responsible for the impressive County Wicklow seats Powerscourt House and Russborough House. No expense was spared and Dunlavin gained a very sophisticated market house, which has merited mention in many architectural and historical volumes including the 2018 Cambridge History of Ireland. The market house is basically rectangular in shape if one includes the porticoes in the overall design. Without the porticoes, the building is cruciform, and is portrayed thus in the 1838 valuation map. The colonnades of the porticoes were used to hang sides of meat and other foodstuffs when the market was in operation, while other farm products such as corn, potatoes and vegetables, were displayed inside the building. Carts could also pass through the open-arched building. Tynte’s investment meant that, by the late eighteenth century, the village held a weekly market and five fairs annually. During the 1798 rebellion, the building was used as a temporary prison, and on 24 May thirty-six prisoners were led out from here and shot on the village green. Up to nine men were also hanged from the colonnades of the porticoes that day. When peace returned, markets continued in operation here throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1956 Wicklow County Council purchased the market house. It was used as a fire station until 1966, when, ironically, the building was destroyed by fire. The gutted shell was used as a County Council store until the building was restored, and on 25 May 1979 it was reopened as the village library.

008.PNG
009.PNG

8. The Court House

Almost a century after it was built, the north-eastern end of the market house was fitted out as a courthouse by Lady Hannah Tynte Caldwell in 1835. Petty sessions were held here and local resident magistrates presided as judges. Petty Sessions equate to modern District Courts. Cases tried here varied considerably, from drunkenness through to larceny and on to assaults or even more serious crimes. If found guilty, offenders were sent to gaols at Naas or Wicklow, and many were transported to Australia or other destinations for a minimum of seven years. A decade after the opening of the courthouse, the Great Famine began and starvation provoked a remarkable incident of Famine supplication here on 23 September 1846. Some labourers gathered in Hollywood and decided to march to Dunlavin. Their numbers swelled hugely en route to this courthouse, and a large crowd assembled here. Their protest was peaceful. It was as formal a plea to the authorities, represented by the local magistrates, as the labouring poor ever made to their masters. This march was an act of despairing supplication, a last-ditch plea for help from the authorities who had failed the starving people. Despite their protest, there was severe distress in this area throughout the Famine years. After the Famine, the courthouse continued to function. During World War One, Murtha Nolan was tried here for treason because he had spoken against the King and told some soldiers that ‘it was the Kaiser’s uniform they should be wearing’. The magistrates made it clear that Nolan could face the death penalty or penal servitude for life. In the event, however, they sentenced him to a term of imprisonment with hard labour. Courts were held here throughout the twentieth century until the closure of the courthouse IN YEAR and its incorporation into the library.

9. The Old Railway Line

The Tullow branch of the Great Southern and Western Railway reached Dunlavin in 1885. It was a spur from the Dublin-Cork line, leaving the main line at Sallins and travelling through stations at Naas, Harristown, Dunlavin, Colbinstown, Grangecon, Baltinglass, Rathvilly and Tullow (which it reached in 1886). Work on the line began in 1883 under engineer Robert Worthington, and an average of 1,200 workers per week were employed on the project during construction. Some of the line was single track, but there was a passing loop at this station. Local businesses used the railway for freight, farmers transported livestock and there were three passenger trains per day connecting the village to Dublin via Sallins. The station also provided employment for local cart-men and jarvies. The station buildings included the stationmaster’s house, ticket office, signalman’s house, signal-box, water tower and railway storehouse. Porters were also employed locally, and the GSWR provided railway cottages for line-men at intervals along the track. The railway storehouse was the venue for a charity concert during the harsh winter of 1895 for the relief of the poor and unemployed of the district. The star was the well-known singer-songwriter Percy French. John Savage was stationmaster in 1901 and by 1911 Thomas Barnes had succeeded him. Barnes’ sisters were among the first suffragists in Dunlavin. The station suffered frequent raids during the Anglo-Irish War and the Civil War. The railway continued to operate in independent Ireland, but economically times were difficult. Coal was in short supply during the Emergency (World War II), and turf-powered engines were very slow. There was no post-war recovery, and in 1947 the passenger service ceased. All services ended in 1959, and the tracks were lifted. The train was replaced by a Tullow bus, which stopped operating in 1981. The station buildings are now in private ownership.

009.2.PNG

9. The Old Railway Line

The Tullow branch of the Great Southern and Western Railway reached Dunlavin in 1885. It was a spur from the Dublin-Cork line, leaving the main line at Sallins and travelling through stations at Naas, Harristown, Dunlavin, Colbinstown, Grangecon, Baltinglass, Rathvilly and Tullow (which it reached in 1886). Work on the line began in 1883 under engineer Robert Worthington, and an average of 1,200 workers per week were employed on the project during construction. Some of the line was single track, but there was a passing loop at this station. Local businesses used the railway for freight, farmers transported livestock and there were three passenger trains per day connecting the village to Dublin via Sallins. The station also provided employment for local cart-men and jarvies. The station buildings included the stationmaster’s house, ticket office, signalman’s house, signal-box, water tower and railway storehouse. Porters were also employed locally, and the GSWR provided railway cottages for line-men at intervals along the track. The railway storehouse was the venue for a charity concert during the harsh winter of 1895 for the relief of the poor and unemployed of the district. The star was the well-known singer-songwriter Percy French. John Savage was stationmaster in 1901 and by 1911 Thomas Barnes had succeeded him. Barnes’ sisters were among the first suffragists in Dunlavin. The station suffered frequent raids during the Anglo-Irish War and the Civil War. The railway continued to operate in independent Ireland, but economically times were difficult. Coal was in short supply during the Emergency (World War II), and turf-powered engines were very slow. There was no post-war recovery, and in 1947 the passenger service ceased. All services ended in 1959, and the tracks were lifted. The train was replaced by a Tullow bus, which stopped operating in 1981. The station buildings are now in private ownership.

010.PNG

10. The Town Park & Market Square

This park was the original churchyard for Dunlavin’s Church of Ireland community. In 1664 Sir Richard Bulkeley petitioned for permission to build a church within his fledgling village. This original church stood behind the back wall of this park, and served as a place of worship until the construction of the present Protestant church. Some of the headstone fragments which line the sides of the park date from the mid-seventeenth century, so they marked the graves of some of Dunlavin village’s original inhabitants Beyond the park lies the wide Market Square. This was created when Sir James Worth-Tynte remodelled the village c.1740. His ornate new market house was built in line with the existing street, so a corner of the churchyard had to be cut off and incorporated into the road system to maintain an alignment with the rest of the village, and to provide access on both sides of the market house leading into the new market square. To facilitate this plan, some bodies had to be exhumed and reinterred elsewhere within the churchyard. The market square was the hub of Dunlavin’s commercial activity for three centuries. In 1789 the ‘market of Dunlavin was opened on 9 December… A great quantity of corn, provisions, poultry and wares of all kinds were brought from all parts of the country; the whole was sold, and everyone seemed well pleased with the prices’. However, during the Famine in 1847, ‘in Dunlavin, population 990, a comparatively good market town, the capital of a great district… there were but three days provisions, yet on this town more than four hundred relief labourers depend for their supplies’. Despite severe distress, Dunlavin eventually recovered, and the village markets continued to function well into the twentieth century. Dunlavin still retains the right to hold a market today