An Irish Village

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dunlavin in context: some notes on it and other historic Wicklow villages.

Annacurragh: This is a small village with the street pattern laid out in a linear fashion. Saint Bridget's Catholic church dates from 1862. The five bay neo-gothic building was designed by architect Richard Pierce. The village contains some impressive nineteenth-century houses.
Annamoe: This small settlement was built at a river crossing point. The name means the ford of the cows. The area was home to Robert Barton and, for a while, Erskine Childers. The actor Daniel Day Lewis has his home here.
Ashford: On the River Vartry, Ashford is best known for the beautiful Mount Ussher Gardens. The original garden was designed for Edward Walpole by Ireland’s most famous gardener, William Robinson, in 1868. The gardens remained in the possession of the Walpole family for four generations. The gardens are open to the public and was voted best garden to visit in Ireland by the BBC Gardeners’ World magazine.
Ballyknockan: The village is known far and wide as the centre of the Irish granite industry. Granite was quarried here on a commercial scale, and Ballyknockan granite was used in some of Ireland’s finest public buildings. The first large building to utilise Ballyknockan granite was St Francis Xavier’s Church in Gardiner Street in Dublin. Many other landmarks in the capital also contain Ballyknockan granite, including St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, the Fusiliers’ Arch, St Stephen’s Green, The Royal Dublin Society (RDS) building, Ballsbridge and the former Royal College of Science (now Government Buildings), Merrion Square. Many of the houses in Ballyknockan village were also constructed from the local stone, giving the village a unique feel.
Delgany: A monastic settlement with the ruins of a medieval church, Delgany also contains an old cemetery and a Church of Ireland church. The village developed along a curved street and it became a market centre for its rural hinterland. The dependence of farmers on the weather meant that there were population checks on the village during difficult years such as 1746, when pre-Famine burial rates reached a peak. Today the settlement is well within the commuter zone for Dublin.
Donard: Associated with St Palladius, a missionary forerunner of St Patrick, the settlement was originally a monastic one. The remains of a motte and bailey castle point to a defensive function following the Norman invasion and the triangular market space attests to the importance of agriculture. Agrarian unrest was evident here during the Tithe War of the 1830s. On 21 May 1832 at least a thousand people, many armed with spades, forks and other weapons, congregated on nearby Kelsha hill. The gathering was part of an ongoing series of anti-tithe protests in the region. Their conduct and language was threatening and they exhibited intentions of ‘violence and force’. Police constables from Donard then ‘proceeded to Kelsha and saw thirty or forty persons who seemed disposed to resist’. When the police reached the level of the mound, they found about 1,000 people ‘armed with pitchforks, long poles, scythes and other weapons’. The military reinforced Hatton’s men, totalling about forty armed men, but the crowd on the hill also grew, reaching about 1,500 in strength. A standoff ensued, but nobody was injured. The village is not on any main road, which may help to explain the absence of growth in more recent times.
Dunlavin: The present village was founded c.1660 by Sir Richard Bulkeley, but there is evidence of much older settlement such as the rath of Tournant, which points to habitation at least as far back as the Bronze Age. The village was the scene of a massacre during the 1798 rebellion and there is a monument commemorating the event at the triangular fair green. The core contains two churches, both dating from 1815, and many fine townhouses. The most impressive building in Dunlavin however is its market house, built c.1740. The granite structure is one of the finest pieces of village furniture in Ireland, with a dome modelled on that of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is said to have been designed by Richard Cassels, the architect of many of Ireland’s finest houses and public buildings. Dunlavin experienced unrest during the late nineteenth century Land War and campaign for Home Rule, when the nationalist parish priest Canon Frederick Donovan was active in the political as well as the religious arena. Today the village retains much of its old world character, especially in its T-shaped core.