Carnew Village

06 Rock_art_at_Carnew by Chris Corlett.jpg
06 Carnew IMG_6914-001.JPG
Carnew - Copy.jpg


Carnew Village


Heritage Site

GPS Location

52.709685, -6.498867

Short Interpretive Text

Carnew is a market town situated in the south of the county near the border with County Wexford The town is medieval in origins and was a former Norman stronghold. Carnew castle forms a central part of the town’s history while much of the present day building stock is a result of the extensive 19th century rebuilding programme initiated by Earl Fitzwilliam of nearby Coolattin House and estate.

Interpretive Text

Carnew is a market town situated in the south of the county near the border with County Wexford. The Irish name Carn an Bhua translates as the ‘hill of victory’ and is thought to be a reference to ‘Fitzpatrick’s moat’, an Anglo Norman fortification located just south of Carnew Castle.

The town is medieval in origin and was a Norman stronghold known as the borough of ‘Carnebothe’ in the 13th century, with its own Royal Charter granted by King Henry III of England. The town’s inhabitants (burgesses) paid a rental for their houses (burgages) and burgage plots. Carnew Castle was leased by Calcott Chambre in 1619, a Welshman who established a large iron smelting industry just outside the town. He encouraged Welsh families to settle in the area, and created one of the country’s largest deer parks at nearby Coolattin.

Carnew attracted English settlers who arrived during the second half of the 17th century when the exploitation of the great oak forest of Shillelagh was at its peak; many were skilled specialists such as bellows makers, founders, finers and hammer men, who worked in the local ironworks, which used vast quantities of oak for the manufacture of charcoal to smelt iron ore shipped from Bristol.

Carnew Castle located to the south of Main Street has long been central to the history of the town. The castle was laid siege in 1641 by local Irish clans for 22 weeks, forcing the surrender of Chambre and the English settlers inside. Over a century later in 1798, 38 rebel sympathisers, imprisoned in the dungeons of the castle were executed in what became known as the Carnew massacre. One of Carnew’s most infamous characters was Bridget ‘Croppy Biddy’ Dolan, a paid government informer who helped to convict many rebels, including, most notably, 1798 leader Billy Byrne of Ballymanus who was hanged in Wicklow Gaol in September 1799. It is reported that Biddy lived out her life thereafter spurned by the local community and lies interred at Carnew’s Church of Ireland graveyard.

The town as we see it today owes much to the major regeneration spearheaded in the early 19th century by Earl Fitzwilliam of the Coolattin Estate. The main street was rebuilt along with an impressive row of 12 two storey houses constructed at Brunswick Row (to the east of town on the Gorey Road) and 15 new houses on Coolattin Road. Carnew castle was also re-roofed and modernised for the arrival as rector in 1813 of a brother in law of Earl Fitzwilliam, Rev Richard Posonby.

Earl Fitzwilliam was an early champion of interdenominational education, seeing it as a means to bridge historical sectarian strife in the area. The impressive two storey school (now Carnew Enterprise Centre) was built n 1829 for this purpose. Not everyone shared the Earl’s views however, namely the town’s subsequent rector, Rev. Henry Moore, who petitioned successfully to have a separate school built for his own parishioners. This was constructed in the corner of the churchyard at Wool Green where it continues to function as All Saints National School. In the 1840’s All Saints Church was constructed to replace an earlier one. The existing clock tower and spire, dating from early 19th century were however retained.

Cycle Parking


Parking Available


Category of Interest

Archaeological, Cultural, Architectural, Historical,



Nearest Town



Social Bookmarking



“Carnew Village,” Lakeside Heritage Trail, Blessington Lake, accessed September 24, 2022,