ByRoute 8.1 Co. Kildare & Co. Laois
These pages link the Naas Road / Dual Carriageway / N7 / M7 Exit 9 (Maudlin’s Interchange) near DUBLIN withvia:
Naas (Co. Kildare / East)
Naas (pronounced “Nace”) (An Nás – “The Place of Assembly”, also Nas Laighean – “The Gathering Place of the Leinstermen” / Nás na Riogh -”The Meeting Place of Kings”) (pop.19,000), long established as a garrison / market town and administrative seat for County Kildare, has undergone massive expansion in recent years as a commuter satellite for DUBLIN, with significant immigration from abroad.
Main Street is famous for its 30 pubs, and there are several good restaurants in the vicinity.
A five-lock branch line of the Grand Canal enables boats to berth in the harbour near the C19th Market House and the modern town Library.
According to Bardic lore, Naas was founded by Lewy of the Long Hand. It was the capital of the district anciently called Airthear Life, on the border between Ui Faolain / O’Byrne and the Ui Muiri / O’Toole tribelands.
The original Dún of Naas, destroyed by Tuathaill Teachtmhar in 134 AD, was rebuilt by Luighdech Eithlenn, king of Leinster, in 140 AD. It was burned down by Cormac Mac Airt in 277 AD to avenge the massacre of thirty “royal maidens” and their attendants by the Leinster chieftain Dunlang, only to be reërected once more by the legendary Princess Tailtinn.
In 705 AD Conall Cinn Maghair devastated Naas, carrying away hostages and tribute. After 800 AD Naas was frequently attacked by the Viking settlers of Dublin.
Cearbhall, the last Naas ruler to be recognised as king of Leinster, avenged the death of his father Muireghan by defeating the Norsemen at the Battle of Dublin in 880 AD, and played a prominent part in the defeat of the powerful king-archbishop of Cashel, Cormac Mac Cuileannain, at the Battle of Bealach Mughna in 903 AD. He was tragically killed the following year and buried locally. It did not take long for the Norsemen to turn it into an outpost of Dublin.
Naas was granted by Strongbow to Maurice FitzGerald, whose son William FitzMaurice FitzGerald was created Baron of Naas by King Henry II in 1177. Fortified by the Normans, the settlement was initially populated mainly by colonists from Pembrokeshire and dedicated to Saint David, Patron of Wales. It grew into a prosperous medieval town with Augustinian and Dominican monasteries.
Naas was plundered in 1316 by a Scottish army under Robert and Edward Bruce, and undoubtedly suffered greatly during the bitter winters of that era and the outbreaks of Bubonic Plague that scourged Ireland’s medieval urban communities.
The town was granted its first charter by King Henry IV in 1409, with a Corporation comprising Portreeves, Burgesses and Commonality. In 1413 King Henry V granted the corporation power to collect tolls at all the entrances to the town, in order to build a defensive system of walls and gates.
Parliaments were held in Naas in 1419, 1457, 1471, 1472, 1473 and 1477. and it was probably here that that the decision was taken to insist that “every Irishman that dwells betwixt Englishmen in Dublin, Myeth, Ureill, and Kildare. shall go like one Englishman in apparel and showing of the beard above the mouth–and shall take to him an English Surname, or name of a town such as Sutton, Chester, or colour as White, Black, or Brown. art or science as Smith, Carter, or Carpenter. or trade or office as Butler, Cook, or Baker. and that his issue shall use this name , under pain of forfeiting of his goods yearly“.
A new charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1568, adding a Sovereign to the Corporation, together with further charters from King James I in 1609, King Charles I in 1628, and King Charles II in 1671, formed the basis of the town’s government until 1840.
On St David’s Day (3rd March) 1577, 140 men and boys led by Rory Ög O’More and Cormac MacCormack O’Connor ran through Naas like “haggs and furies of hell, with flakes of fire fastened on poles“, and burned over 700 thatched houses.
In 1580 Lord Gormanstown garrisoned 500 men locally; they murdered a number of Spanish survivors of the Smerwick Massacre at a spot known as the Fod Spainneach.
Naas was occupied and plundered many times by various armies during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. A local Dominican priest, Fr Peter Higgins, was executed in 1642 by the “cruel and bloody” Sir Charles Coote, Governor of Dublin.
During the 1798 Rebellion a group of around 1000 insurgents led by Michael Reynolds from Johnstown were repulsed with a loss of around 150 men by a force composed of the Armagh Militia and local yoemanry under the command of Lord Gosford.
Naas Infantry Barracks was opened in 1813, with accommodation for 18 officers and 300 ordinary soldiers, or double in time of war.
The Dún / North Motte currently visible behind the Town Hall is a Norse structure with Norman reinforcements. The C18th building on the summit was initially used as a guard room for the gaol, and later as a military lookout post and heliograph signal station.
The Fair Green is the site of the former South Motte, replaced by a military barracks that was attacked during the 1798 Rebellion and later replaced.
St David’s Castle, aka King John’s Castle, was erected on the orders of that monarch, who visited in 1206 and held an assembly here in 1210. The vaulted rooms of the original edifice still exist in the castle, which was partially rebuilt c.1415 to be incorporated into a new town wall structure. The dungeon is connected by an underground passage to the Dún / Motte. This was one of a line of castles and fortified Tower Houses forming the western outposts of the Pale. The remaining tower served for many years as the Church of Ireland rectory.
St. David’s church (CoI), first mentioned in 1212, replaced the pre-Norman church of Saint Corban on a site where Saint Patrick once reputedly preached. The current building, erected in 1620, incorporates parts of the Norman church; a triple vaulted medieval crypt came to light during restoration work in 1989. The tower added by Lord Mayo in 1781 is incomplete, as a planned steeple was never constructed. The interior contains interesting memorials and a baptismal font of early Christian origin. (Photo – www.kildare.ie)
The old Town Hall, built in 1796 as a prison, was converted in 1854 and renovated fifty years later, incorporating an older adjoining building known as White’s Castle (used as a gaol until 1833) and a Carnegie Library.
Naas Courthouse was designed by Richard Morrison in 1807 and extended in 1860 to include a four columned portico. The Criminal Court has been used in many films for its resemblance to London’s Old Bailey.
The church of Our Lady and St. David (RC) was founded in 1828 and completed thirty years later with the addition of an impressive tower and steeple.
Naas Presbyterian church, designed by Duncan Ferguson, was built in 1867 on the site of the old town Tholsel. The foundation stone was laid by John La Touche of Harristown.
Kildare County Council‘s innovative office buildings at Devoy Quarters have won awards for architectural design.
Naas Mosque is a modern edifice on the grounds of Naas General Hospital.
Naas General Hospital, originally a C19th Workhouse for paupers, is now regarded as one of the most up to date medical facilities in Ireland.
The Lattin Almshouse, founded by William Latton and Anne Lutterell in 1590 in Poplar Square, moved several times before being rebuilt in its present position on the Dublin Road in 1919. Now run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, it is believed to be the oldest charitable institution in Ireland.
Oldtown Estate was acquired in 1665 by a branch of the Bourke / de Burgh family later ennobled as Earls of Mayo. The splendid 1709 Palladian mansion built by Col. Thomas Bourke, Surveyor General of Ireland, was partially destroyed by fire in the mid-C20th, and the demesne, long an important stud farm, is now taken up by modern housing developments.
Bourke Mausoleum, Maudlin’s Cemetery, Naas.
Naas has long been a centre of equestrian activity, known internationally both for its own Naas Racecourse (1924) and its convenient proximity to the famous Punchestown and Curragh tracks.
While Lawlor’s Hotel (1913) is traditionally THE place to stay in Naas, there are many hotels and accommodation facilities in and around the town, ranging from luxurious to basic.
Naas is very near Sallins on ByRoute 9.
Jigginstown Manor / Castle, aka Sigginstown House, was designed by John Allen for Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl ofStrafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the reign of King Charles I, with the idea that it could be used as a royal residence, but the monarch never visited Ireland.
There is still controversy today as to whether the building was ever really finished. This was one of the first edifices in Ireland to be constructed with red brick (imported from Holland).
Wentworth himself frequently stayed here before his return to England, where he was executed at the behest of Parliament before a huge crowd in May 1641. The property passed through his descendants to the FitzWilliam family, who donated it to the State in the 1960s.
Plans to restore the house and incorporate a museum have yet to achieve fruition; however, prelimiunary clearance work has revealed several interesting features, notably the remains of an elaborate formal sunken garden with a fishpool and a gazebo.