Bishopscourt, a historic estate once owned by the Bishops of Kildare, passed via John Alen, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Butlers of Ormond to John Margetson, who died in 1690 fighting on the winning side at the Siege of Limerick. His daughter married Brabazon Ponsonby, 2nd Viscount Duncannon and later 1st Earl of Bessborough, and their descendants went on to become one of the most ennobled families in the British Isles, with members playing significant roles in Irish, British and European history.
Bishops Court House (1790), a classical Georgian country mansion, was designed by Sir Richard Morrison for John Ponsonby, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons from 1753 to 1761, and head of one of the most powerful political dynasties in C18th Ireland.
Frederick Ponsonby sold the property in 1838 to John Henry Scott, 3rd Earl of Clonmell, whose sons John Henry Reginald and Henry were born locally (at Birt House, Naas); both became British army officers (Henry fought in the 1874 Ashanti War) and inherited the title in turn, but died at Bishops Court without issue.
In 1914 Bishops Court was acquired by Edward Kennedy of Baronrath, then the most famous racehorse breeder in Ireland as owner of The Tetrarch. In 1938 the house passed to his daughter Patricia Kennedy and her husband, Dermot, The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, a solicitor and manager of Punchestown Racecourse. Their son Donough lives in South Africa, where he runs The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs & Chieftains.
Bishops Court House is now home to the Farrell family.
The Grand Canal at Baronrath, with Ponsonby Bridge in the distance. (Photo by JP)
Baronrath & Whitechurch (Co. Kildare / Northeast)
Baronrath was historically the property of the Wolfe family, connected with Theobald Wolfe Tone.
On 22nd June 1975 Christy Phelan saved the lives of 200 people but was himself murdered by unidentified assailants when he successfully delayed the detonation of a bomb placed on the main railway line near Baronrath bridge to derail a passing Intercity train. The inconclusively investigated incident is widely thought to have been one of several “deniable” British Intelligence operations carried out in conjunction with Loyalist paramilitaries to force the Irish government to adopt strong measures against the IRA.
Whitechurch was named for the White Friars who established a monastery on the site in 1300. The townland was also known as Tullaghtipper / Tullatipper. The remains of a castle are to be found on the church grounds.
Puddlehall is a well-preserved C13th moated house, cited by UCD Professor Sean O Riordain as one of the finest examples of its kind in Ireland.
Whitechurch is close to Straffan on ByRoute 10.
Sherlockstown and Sherlockstown Common are named for the Sherlock family, who built Sherlock Castle in the C14th and five centuries later were still resident in Sherlock House, described as “a handsome modern mansion” by Lewis in 1837. They also “owned” the nearby village of Prospect.
Sallins (Co. Kildare / Northeast)
Sallins (Na Solláin -“The Willows”) (pop. 4000), a village that in recent years has expanded rapidly into a small town, is a commuter satellite community of DUBLIN. It is scenically situated on the Grand Canal, fed by the nearby River Morell, a tributary of the River Liffey. A couple of local pubs serve good bar food.
Canal barges and cruisers moor in Sallins, some serving as permanent residences. (Photo –Kildare IWAI)
The compact harbour once bustled with boats loading and unloading for Odlums Mills, powerhouse of the local economy. Acanal hotel built in 1784 was subsequently used as a fish processing factory and then as a meat plant before being demolished in the 1970s
Sallins Railway Station
Sallins Railway Station (1848), closed in 1976 but reopened in 1994 as Sallins & Naas suburban rail station, was the scene of the Sallins Train Robbery on March 31st 1976, when about IR£200,000 was stolen from the Cork to Dublin mail train.
Four IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) members were arrested; one, Nicky Kelly, jumped bail and left the country. He was tried in absentia with two of the other accused, who were convicted and jailed by the Special Criminal Court but subsequently acquitted on appeal.
Kelly returned to Ireland shortly afterwards, only to be incarcerated in the maximum-security Portlaoise prison, where he spent the next four years proclaiming his innocence, including a period on hunger strike. Walls all over the country were daubed with demands to “Free Nicky Kelly” (“in every packet of Cornflakes” was added by one wag).
He was eventually released on “humanitarian grounds” in 1984, given a presidential pardon in 1992 and paid £750,000 in compensation. He went on to become a controversial County Councillor in Co. Wicklow.
The church of Our Lady & the Guardian Angels (RC), donated in 1915 by the British Army, has a corrugated iron exterior and a wooden interior.
Sallins suffered serious flood damage in November 2009.
Sallins is between Naas on ByRoute 7 and Clane on ByRoute 10.
Landenstown House (1740), a smallish Palladian mansion on a sizeable estate, was built for the Digby family, a junior branch of the powerful Digbys of Geasehill (Offaly) and C18th landlords of the Aran Islands; Simon Digby MP was one of the early directors of the Grand Canal company, hence the nearby Digby Bridge. The property was bought in trust for €8.3m in 2005.
The Leinster Aqueduct, built by Richard Evans in 1783, is where the Grand Canal crosses the River Liffey. A full appreciation of the major engineering feat involved in its construction can be gained by walking through the riverside pedestrian underpass. Photo by Chris55)
The nearby Big Pot / Boolan / Skillet structure on the north side of the canal is a bizarre and complex overflow device, unique in Ireland.
Caragh / Carragh (pop. 1500) is a village on the edge of the Bog of Allen. Site of the oldest (and probably the narrowest!) bridge on the River Liffey, it is otherwise remarkable only for its huge Roman Catholic church.
Mondello Park, Ireland’s principal car and motorbike racing circuit, is located noisily nearby in Donore.