Baltinglass Historic Town

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Title

Baltinglass Historic Town

Subject

Heritage Site

Creator

ActiveMe

GPS Location

52.943786, -6.710490

Short Interpretive Text

Baltinglass is a Heritage Town, set in a rich archaeological landscape. The town boasts the impressive ruins of the 12th century Cistercian Abbey on the banks of the River Slaney and a fine 19th century architectural streetscape incorporating buildings along Weaver Square, and landmarks such as the former courthouse and the Sam MacAllister statue. The library is located next to the courthouse and hosts a comprehensive exhibition of the history of the local area; there is also an interpretation board outside the library.

FOR MAP:
Baltinglass Heritage Town and the surrounding area is a
rich archaeological landscape with several historical sites
including the 12th century Cistercian Abbey on the banks
of the River Slaney, the fi ne 19th century architectural
streetscape in the town, the old courthouse and Sam
MacAllister statue. An interpretation board outside the
library is a great source of local information and history.

Interpretive Text

Baltinglass in Irish ‘Bealach Conglais, translates as the road or pass of Cú Glas. The town and the surrounding area has a rich archaeological heritage, dominated by an impressive group of Iron Age hillforts which overlook the town. There are two sites Rathcoran and Rathnagree on Baltinglass Hill and another to the north at Brusselstown which extends west to incorporate Spinian’s Hill. The enclosure of the last two sites by a single rampart (bank or ditch) makes this the largest hillfort in Ireland. To the west within 5 km there are other substantial sites at Tinoranhill and Hughstown, Co. Kildare.

Within the town, located on the banks of the River Slaney, the impressive ruins of Baltinglass Abbey are an excellent example of Romanesque architecture and sculpture. This Abbey was the daughter house of Mellifont Abbey, Co. Louth (the first Cistercian house in Ireland). It was founded a mere six years later in 1148 making it one of the very few abbeys in Ireland to predate the arrival of the Normans.
Fragments of the 12th century church and traces of the cloister remain. The nave is aisled with alternate square and cylindrical piers, with unusual designs on the bases and capitals. There are also the bases of two Romanesque doorways. One mason involved in its construction was known as the Baltinglass Master and his work is also evident in Jerpoint Abbey, Co. Kilkenny. The tower was erected in the Later Medieval Period but demolished in 1882 with the fabric used to construct the nearby Church of Ireland rectory and a new neo-gothic tower was constructed. The Abbey ceased to function as an Abbey following the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in the 16th century.

Grangecon (from the Irish Gráinseach Choinn, meaning Granary of the Hound) is a nearby picturesque village that owes its origins to the Cistercian monks of Baltinglass Abbey. It started out as a ‘grange’ or outlier farm for the Abbey. The monks operated a corn-mill on a tiny slip of a river that runs thought the village to the River Griese.

The River Slaney plays an important role in the historical development of the town and its natural heritage. The river rises some 15 km to the west near the summit Lugnaquilla mountain, and flows south after Blatinglass through Hacketstown, Tinahely and Tullow on its journey to the sea at Wexford. The River is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the rich variety of wildlife that it supports. The park and riverside walk along the south of the town provides wonderful opportunities to view birds like the colourful kingfisher and the heron, along with an array of dragonflies and butterflies in Summer, and you may be lucky enough to spot a secretive otter. Other notable species occurring in the River Slaney include the rare freshwater pearl mussel along with lamprey, salmon and thwaite. Foraging Daubentons bats may be seen hunting for insects along the surface of the river in Summer , while the surrounding vegation, trees and old buildings provide important roosting habitats for bats and owls.

Baltinglass Courthouse was built in the 1810s to replace the old courthouse and bridewell in Mill Street and has served a courthouse for almost two centuries. Below it are some of the cells of the bridewell (or gaol) that once adjoined it. The courthouse was extensively damaged in a possible arson attack in 1920, during the War of Independence. The front of Baltinglass Library was originally the bridewell (or gaol) attached to the courthouse, with the exercise yard behind.

The McAllister Monument was unveiled in the town in 1904. It commemorates the 1798 rebellion. It depicts Sam McAllister, a Presbyterian from Antrim who deserted the Antrim Militia and fought with the Wicklow rebel Michael Dwyer. McAllister was killed at the Derrynamuck Ambush and is buried in nearby Kilranelagh graveyard.

One of the most famous inhabitants of Baltinglass was Richard Crosbie (1756- 1824) who was the first Irish balloonist, constructing his own hydrogen balloon and manning Ireland’s first successful flight from Ranelagh Gardens, Dublin.

Baltinglass is the birthplace of Jennie Wyse Power, one of Ireland’s earliest female political activists. During the Land League days she returned to the area as an organiser for the Ladies’ Land League. She was elected to the Senate in 1922.

John Thomand O’Brien was also born in the town of Baltinglass. In the early 19th century, he was active in the Wars of Independence in South America, most notably in Argentina and Chile.

Cycle Parking

Yes

Parking Available

Yes

Category of Interest

Archaeological, Cultural, Architectural, Historical,

County

Wicklow

Nearest Town

Baltinglass

Geolocation

Social Bookmarking

Comments

Citation

ActiveMe, “Baltinglass Historic Town ,” Lakeside Heritage Trail, Blessington Lake, accessed December 6, 2019, https://wicklowheritage.omeka.net/items/show/31.