1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

KILDARE (County of), an inland county of the province of Leinster, bounded on the east by the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, on the north by Meath, on the west by the King's and Queen's counties, and on the south by Carlow.

  • It extends from 52o 51' to 53o 26' (N. Lat.), and from 6o 30' to 7o 12' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 392,435 acres, of which 325,988 are cultivated ground, and 66,447 are unprofitable mountain and bog.
  • The population, in 1821, amounted to 99,065, and in 1831, to 108,424.


This county, in the time of Ptolemy, was inhabited by the Coriundi, whose territory lay to the west of the rivers Liffey and Slaney, being bounded on the north and west by the Boyne and the Barrow, and having the tribes of the Cauci and Menapii on the east, the Eblani on the north, and the Brigantes on the south. It formed part of the district of Caellan, or Galen, which included the greater part of the present county, together with a part of those of Wicklow and Carlow; the county of Kildare portion being bounded on the east by the Wicklow mountains, on the south and west by the Barrow, and on the north by the Liffey and the bog of Allen. This latter name also signifies the woody country, by much the greater part having been an extensive forest, many traces of which are still discernible in the bogs. The native chieftains of the district were the heads of the family of Hy Caellan, or McKelly, whose principal residence was at Rath-Ardscull, near Athy. The last aboriginal owner of this fortress, Gicrode Crone McKelly, defended it against the efforts of the English during his life.

After his decease the country was possessed by the Fitzgeralds, the Fitz-Henrys, and the Keatings. The territory of the O'Tothils or O'Tooles, who ruled over the southern part of the county of Wicklow, extended into this county, Tristledermort, or Castledermot, being one of their places of residence.


After the landing of the English and the death of Dermod McMurrough, last king of Leinster, which occurred soon after, this county devolved upon Strongbow, in right of his wife Eva, as part of the kingdom, or, as it was called by the English, the palatinate, of Leinster; and is generally considered to have been one of the twelve counties into which the part of the island that acknowledged the British jurisdiction was divided by King John, although it was not till the end of the reign of Edw. I., in 1296, that an act was passed for separating a large district from the county of Dublin, and more especially for constituting Kildare, which had been a liberty appendant to the county of Dublin, a county of itself, discharged from the jurisdiction of the Dublin sheriff, and having county officers of its own.

In the general division of the county among the first English settlers, by Strongbow and his heirs,

  • Carbery was given to Meyler Fitz-Henry;
  • Naas Offallia, to Maurice Fitzgerald, from whom the three great families of Kildare, Kerry, and Desmond, descended;
  • Narragh was given to Robert,
  • and Adam Fitz-Hereford had Salt, with its appendages.

On the division of the palatinate of Leinster among the five coheiresses of William Marshal, who inherited in right of his wife Isabel, Strongbow's only daughter, the county of Kildare was given to the fourth daughter, Sibilla, who married William de Ferrars, Earl of Derby.

William de Vescy succeeded in right of his wife Agnes, the only daughter of this marriage, but he lost the property shortly after in consequence of his fleeing into France to avoid a single combat with John Fitzgerald, who had charged him with treason, and his possessions were bestowed on his accuser. In 1234, Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, the successor of William, having united with the O'Conors against the English government, was killed in a battle on the Curragh of Kildare by the Lord Justice, aided by the Fitzgeralds, De Laceys, and Burghs. The power of the Fitzgeralds, or Geraldines, from this period became paramount in the county; insomuch that, in 1264, Richard de Rupella, Lord Justice, was made prisoner, together with the Lords Theobald Butler and John Cogan, by Maurice Fitzgerald, who had come with him to a conference at Castledermot, in order to put an end to a dispute between the Geraldines and Burghs.


This county is partly within the diocese of Dublin but chiefly in that of Kildare. For purposes of civil jurisdiction, it is divided in to the baronies of Carbery, Clane, Connell, Ikeathy and Oughterany, Kilcullen, Kilkea and Moone, East Narragh and Rheban, West Narragh and Rheban, East Ophaly, West Ophaly, North Naas, South Naas, North Salt, and South Salt. It contains


Prior to the Union it sent ten members to the Irish parliament, - two knights of the shire, and two representatives for each of the boroughs of Naas, Athy, Kildare, and Harristown; but since that period its representation has been confined to the two members for the county at large.

  • The constituency, as registered in June 1836, consisted of 371 £50, 181 £20, and 830 £10 freeholders, as appears from the books of the clerk of the peace, in which the other classes of electors are not distinguished; the total number was 1382. The election, if held between the spring and summer assizes, takes place at Naas; if at any other period of the year, at Athy.
  • The county is included in the home circuit: the spring assize is held at Naas, and the summer assize at Athy, at each of which are a county court-house and gaol. The general quarter sessions are held at Athy and Maynooth in January, at Kildare and Naas in April, at Maynooth and Athy in July, and at Naas and Kildare in October. The number of persons charged with criminal offences and committed to the two prisons, in 1835, was 101, and of civil bill committals, 22.
  • The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 12 deputy-lieutenants, and 92 magistrates, with the usual county officers, including two coroners.
  • There are 45 constabulary police stations, having in the whole a force of one stipendiary magistrate, 4 chief and 40 subordinate constables, and 205 men, with 6 horses the expense of whose maintenance is defrayed equally by Grand Jury presentments and by Government.
  • The district lunatic asylum for the county is at Carlow, and the county infirmary at Kildare: there are fever hospitals at Celbridge, Naas, and Kilcullen, and dispensaries at Athy, Ballitore, Castledermot, Celbridge, Clane, Donadea, Johnstown-Bridge, Kilcock, Kilcullen, Maynooth, Monasterevan, Naas, Newbridge, Rathangan, and Robertstown; the infirmary and fever hospitals are supported by Grand Jury presentments, and the dispensaries by equal presentments and voluntary subscriptions.
  • The amount of the Grand Jury presentments for 1835 was £19,554. 18. 9., of which £1221. 7. 10. was for the public roads of the county at large; £6051. 12. 5. For the public roads, being the baronial charge; £5206. 7. 8. for public establishments, officers' salaries, buildings, &c.; £4713. 15. 10½. for police, and £2304. 14. 11½. in repayment of loans advanced by Government.
  • In the military arrangements, it is included in the eastern district and contains three barrack stations, two for cavalry at Newbridge and Athy, and one for infantry at Naas.


The general surface is rather level. In the barony of West Ophaly are several gently rising hills, and others occur towards the eastern boundary of the county. The greatest elevation of the plain country is around Naas, both which baronies and their vicinity present an appearance of great fertility, which is also exhibited generally throughout the eastern and southern, and a portion of the western parts of the county; but towards the north and north-west are vast tracts of the Bog of Allen, comprising more than 50,000 acres, having a flat, dreary surface, relieved here and there by verdant elevations, here called "islands."

Near the southern extremity of this immense bog are the hills of Grange Allen, Cheelow, Dunmurry, Redhills, and Knocknagylogh, generally fertile, and cultivated to the summit. There are also small hills in the vicinity of Timoline and Moone; others stretching from Killan, by Kilrush, Davidstown, Calverstown, and Thomastown, and terminating in the hills of old Kilcullen and Ballysax; and other small and detached elevations near Arthurstown, Lyons, Longtown, &c.

The Bog of Allen and the Curragh of Kildare are two distinguishing features of the county. Most of the bogs which lie eastward of the Shannon, occupying considerable portions of Kildare and the King's county, are comprehended, in common parlance, under the former of these names, which does not, therefore, apply to any single morass. On the contrary, the tracts of bog to which it bears reference are often separated by high ridges of dry land inclining towards different rivers, as their natural vents for drainage. The portion of it within Kildare lies, as before observed, in the northern part of the county, and near its southern margin the island of Allen (a name given to an elevated tract of cultivated soil) surrounded like an oasis in the African desert, by the solitude of the uninhabited morass, presents a gratifying feature of variety; it rises abruptly from the bog, is nearly conical, and is composed of limestone gravel. Towards the west rises the Hill of Allen, a steep elevation of a conical form, about 300 feet in height.

The Curragh is a fine undulating down, six miles long and two broad: it lies in a direction from north-east to south-west, having the town of Kildare near its western extremity, and crossed by the great road from Dublin to Limerick; and is, in fact, an extensive sheepwalk of above 6000 acres, forming a more beautiful lawn than the hand of art ever made. Nothing can exceed the extreme softness and elasticity of the turf, which is of a verdure that charms the eye, and is still further set off by the gentle inequality of the surface: the soil is a fine dry loom on a substratum of limestone. It is depastured by numerous large flocks turned on it by the occupiers of the adjacent farms, who alone have the right of pasture, which greatly enhances the value of these farms. This plain has long been celebrated as the principal race-ground in Ireland, and is equal, if not superior, to that of Newmarket, in all the requisites for this sport.


The soil varies but little as compared with that of some adjoining counties: the most prevailing is deep and mellow, in some parts inclining to clay, but principally a rich loam, varying from 10 to 16 inches in depth, and resting on a hard and compact substratum, in some places impervious to water: when first turned up it is cold and arid, but when mellowed by the influence of the atmosphere, it becomes fertile. In some parts the upper, or surface, soil rests on a substratum of limestone gravel; in others, on limestone, or clay-slate. In general the county is fertile and well cultivated, particularly around Athy, and thence along the banks of the Barrow, extending to the borders of the county of Carlow.

The districts around the towns of Kildare, Naas, Kill, and Clane are also fertile, well fenced, and tolerably well cultivated; but in wet seasons much water remains on the surface, showing the want of a good system of drainage, which is much neglected.

Agriculture is systematically practised in some parts, particularly by the noblemen and resident gentlemen, and their example is beginning to produce its beneficial effects among the small farmers.

  • Wheat is cultivated generally, and the quality is remarkably good; the barley is also bright and sound; the oats are good, clean and heavy, except in a few low, cold, and clayey situations; potatoes are extensively grown, and in great varieties of sorts, large quantities being sent to Dublin; turnips and mangelwurzel are cultivated by a great number of the wealthy farmers, clover and vetches by nearly all; and rape is grown extensively around Monastereven.
  • The Scotch plough is general, the old heavy wooden plough being rarely seen; indeed agricultural implements of all kinds are greatly improved, except the spade, which is still a long narrow tool.
  • The heavy wooden wheel car has given place to one of much lighter construction, with low spoke-wheels, iron-bound, the kish, so general in the western counties, is scarcely ever seen here; some of the vehicles are made exactly after the plan of the Scotch cart, some of them with, and some without the high sides.

Greater attention is manifested in collecting manure, and large composts are raised in the vicinity of bogs by the mixture of bog mould and stable manure or ashes.

  • The burning of subsoil in kilns was introduced by the late Mr. Rawson, who compiled the statistical survey of Kildare for the Royal Dublin Society, and has now become general, producing the finest crops of potatoes and turnips.
  • A kind of indurated sand found in banks, the adhesive property of which is so great that the bank, when cut perpendicularly, will never yield in any kind of weather, is considered by some agriculturists as a kind of golden mine for the farmer who can avail himself of the benefit of it.
  • The cottagers in the neighbourhood of the Curragh collect the sheep dung, which they mix in tubs with water, stirring it until it forms a thick solution, which they call "mulch;" in this they steep the roots of their cabbage plants for some hours; a quantity of the substance consequently sticks to the roots, and ensures a full crop. In the smaller farms a very disadvantageous custom is prevalent of dividing the land into long narrow enclosures, which occasions an unnecessary and therefore injurious extent of fence in proportion to the land included.

The fences generally are tolerably good, but they everywhere occupy too much ground; the usual kind is a bank of earth thrown up from a wide ditch, and covering five or six feet of surface, so that the bank and ditch seldom occupy less than nine feet in width: in the breast of this bank, about halfway up, a single row of quicksets is placed, sometimes accompanied by seedlings of forest timber. In those parts which have not been subjected to tillage there are very rich fattening grounds; but where the soil has been much exhausted by the plough, the pasture is poor and light.

The grasses in the meadows and feeding pastures are of the most valuable kinds; in low bottoms, especially in those subject to floods, Timothy grass is the principal herbage. Dairies of any extent are not frequent, except in the parts convenient to the Dublin market, where they are kept for the purpose of fattening calves.

  • Great improvement has been made in the breed of cattle, the old long-horned Irish cow being now rarely seen; the most esteemed are the short-horned or Dutch breed, crossed with the Durham; some of the gentry and wealthy farmers have introduced the pure Durham breed, which commands large prices; others have the North Devon, which answers remarkably well.
  • The small farmers mostly prefer the old Irish long-horned cow, crossed with the Durham; and in some districts scarce any other is seen: in the northern baronies, bordering on Meath, the large and heavy long-horned cattle are very common and grow to a size equal to those of Meath or Westmeath.
  • Great numbers of cattle are brought from other counties, and fed here for the Dublin market. Great improvement has been made in the breed of sheep, and vast flocks are every year reared on the Curragh: the most prevailing breed is a cross between the New Leicester and the Ayrshire, but many of the principal agriculturists have the pure New Leicester; sometimes they are crossed with the Kerry sheep.
  • The lower class of farmers have broodmares as part of their tillage stock, but they do not pay sufficient attention to the breed of the sires, and are too desirous of crossing with racers.

Planting has been carried on for many years extensively and successfully. Many of the demesnes are ornamented with full-grown timber. The timber sallow thrives particularly well in the wet grounds with which the county abounds; beech and larch are also of very quick growth. In the demesne of Moore Abbey is one of the best planted hills in Ireland; and the woods of Carton and Palmerstown are extensive, and the timber remarkably fine. In draining the bogs remains of ancient forests have been discovered.


The great mountain range of granite of which the county of Wicklow is nearly composed, terminates in this county at Castledermot. Thence by Ballitore, Kilcullen, and to the south-east of Naas, nearly as far as Rathcoole, is clay-slate; the rest of the county belongs to the great field of floetz limestone which covers the greater part of the flat country of Ireland, and which is here interrupted only by the chain of central hills.

The low group of hills west of Rathcoole, which includes Windmill Hill, Athgoe, Lyons, and Rusty Hill, is composed of clay-slate, grauwacke, grauwacke-slate, and granite. The grauwacke consists of small and finely rounded and angular grains of quartz, numerous minute scales of mica, small fragments of clay-slate, and sometimes portions of felspar. The rock at Windmill Hill ranges 10o north of east and south of west, which is the general direction of these hills, exhibiting also at times an undulating curved slaty formation: the dip is towards the south-west, and generally at an angle of about 45o. The grauwacke-slate of Windmill Hill is remarkable for containing subordinate beds of granite, the uppermost at the depth of four fathoms; they are 50 or 60 yards apart, separated by the grauwacke-slate, and all dip from 45o to 50o to the south-east. Some of these granite beds may be traced westward to the turnpike road opposite to Rusty Hill: they consist of a small and finely grained intermixture of yellowish and greyish white felspar, greyish vitreous transparent quartz, and flakes or scales of mica, white and silvery, with some scattered portions of schorl: the grains are sometimes so minute that the stone appears almost compact. Sometimes also small particles and cubical crystals of iron pyrites are disseminated through the rock, which, when decomposing, communicate an iron-shot spotted appearance to the stone.

The red sandstone conglomerate occurs in situ at the northern foot of the Hill of Lyons, where it is exposed for about 10 fathoms in length, in strata four feet thick, ranging east and west, dipping 30o to the north, and resting on grauwacke-slate; it re-appears in the central range. Red Hill, Dunmurry Hill, and the western foot of Grange Hill, consist of alternating beds of finely grained grauwacke, grauwacke-slate, and clay-slate, ranging 10o north of east and south of west, and dipping 60o towards the south-east, but in many places being nearly vertical. At the northern foot of Red Hill is a small patch of red sandstone conglomerate, which was quarried for mill-stone some years since. Enough of the firm rock is visible to show that the strata range east and west, and dip 17o west. The Chair of Kildare consists of floetz limestone, extending southwards to the northern foot of Dunmurry Hill, and covering the grauwacke and slaty rocks. To the north it rests on the trap of Grange Hill, which also covers the same kind of rock. Strictly speaking, these two elevations are but parts of the same hill, with a slight hollow between them. The floetz limestone of the latter appears to be disposed in massy strata, from four to five feet thick, dipping 45o towards the south-east: it is generally greyish white, but sometimes mottled reddish brown, being intermixed with shades of blueish white and grey; and it contains bivalves and entrochites.

In its outgoing to the north-west the limestone presents a rocky face, or small escarpment, beyond which is a slight hollow forming the southern face of Grange Hill. In the road leading to the hill above the rock which appears at the surface, is compact greenstone, in some places porphyritic: but near the surface it is easily frangible, and being much decomposed acquires almost the appearance of wacke. From the dip of the limestone and the general form of the Chair of Kildare, it is highly probable that the greenstone is subjacent to the limestone; an opinion confirmed by the fact that the greenstone just described contains marine exuviæ, and, where adjacent to the limestone, it appears to be intermingled with calcareous matter.

The organic remains are principally bivalves, ammonites, and terebratulites, with entrochites in smaller number. These organic remains seem to be confined to that portion of the rock which is in the vicinity of the limestone; for none can be discerned in the remaining mass of the hill, which exhibits everywhere rocky protuberances from one continuous body of greenstone and porphyry. The only other rock visible is clay-slate, standing in strata nearly vertical: it appears low down on the western side, and at the base of the hill in that quarter.

The Hill of Allen is separated from Grange Hill by an intervening vale, their summits being about two miles apart: it is composed of one great body of granular and compact greenstone and greenstone porphyry, which appears all round the base, on the sides, and on the summit, in numerous protuberant rocky masses, without any mark of stratification. Some of the greenstone is remarkably crystalline, consisting of large masses of hornblende, with crystals of felspar. Whether this hill be a distinct mass or connected with Grange Hill is not easily ascertained, from the depth of the alluvial soil. About a quarter of a mile from the northern extremity of the Hill of Allen is a slight eminence called the Leap of Allen, composed of red sandstone conglomerate, arranged in beds which vary from 9 to 18 inches and even to 2½ feet thick, and are separated by thin layers of reddish sandy slate-clay. It contains the same components as the conglomerate already noticed, with the addition of fragments of grauwacke-slate, which are, however, comparatively rare: it is quarried for mill-stones. The beds range north-north-east and south-south-west, dipping south-south-east at an angle of from 15o to 20o, and therefore they probably underlie and support the trap of the Hill of Allen.

Indications of copper having been observed in the Dunmurry hills, miners were employed to explore them in 1786, during whose operations detached masses of sulphuret of copper were found of nearly 40 per cent. purity, accompanied with a strong vitriolic water: the principal bed seemed to lie deep in the hill, and even to dip under the adjoining valley. Near the base of the hill was also found an alkaline argillaceous earth of a light grey colour, possessing many of the qualities of fullers' earth. In the veins of the rocks, and in the matrix of the ore, were quantities of fine yellow ochre proper for painting. The surface of the Hill of Allen also presents indications of copper. The loose stones and the projecting points of rock appear as if vitrified by fire, and in many places impregnated with carbonate of copper.


Several attempts were made near the close of the last century to establish the cotton manufacture, and some large mills were built near Clane, Leixlip, and other places, but they all fell to decay. A very large mill for manufacturing cotton was, however, built a few years since at Inchyguire, near Ballytore, which is still in full operation; and a small woollen manufacture is carried on at Celbridge. These are the only manufactures of note which the county possesses, although the numerous falls on the rivers offer most advantageous sites for the erection of works, and there is a great facility for the transit of goods. Though all the small rivers abound with trout, and though the Barrow formerly gave a copious supply of salmon, yet there are no fisheries. The weirs thrown across this river for forming mill-dams have presented such impediments to the passage of the fish, that they are nearly banished from it.


The river Boyne has its source in the northern part of the county, as also has its tributary branch the Blackwater. The Barrow forms the greater part of the western boundary, being joined in its course by the Feagile, the Little Barrow, the Finnery, the Grees, and the Ler (or Lune), all from the east; the Liffey trenches deeply into the eastern part, receiving at Leixlip the Ryewater, which forms part of the northern boundary, and its tributary the Lyreen; it also receives the Morrel between Celbridge and Clane. The Grand Canal enters this county near Lyons, nine miles from Dublin, and quits it for the King's county near the source of the Boyne, in the Bog of Allen. Near Sallins it is carried over the Liffey by an elegant aqueduct, whence a branch leads to the town of Naas, and thence is another branch to Harbourstown, in the direction of Kilcullen, which was intended to have been continued to Wexford. From Robertstown, just where the canal enters the Bog of Allen, a branch diverges, and passing through the Queen's county falls into the Barrow at Athy, opening a communication with Carlow, New Ross, and Waterford. From this line a branch, called the Miltown Canal, leaves it near Robertstown, and proceeds in the direction of the Curragh; and at Monastereven, where the Athy line crosses the Barrow by a noble aqueduct, another branch leaves it for Portarlington and Mountmellick.

The summit level is in this county, from which each branch is amply supplied with water in the driest seasons without the expense of a reservoir. The Royal Canal enters near Leixlip, seven miles from Dublin, and passes a little south of Maynooth and Kilcock to Nicholastown, near which it leaves this county and enters Meath: it re-enters it by an aqueduct over the Blackwater, and continues to the Boyne, over which it is conveyed by an aqueduct, and again enters Meath near Clonard.

Among the existing relics of antiquity are

  • five ancient round towers, situated at Kildare, Taghadoe, Kilcullen, Oughterard, and Castledermot; the first is the most remarkable. Raths are numerous.
  • Three miles south-east of Athy, that called the Moat of Ardscull stands prominent.
  • A mile farther is the Hill of Carmon, which was the Naasteighan, or place where the assembly of the states of the southern part of Leinster was held: near it are sixteen smaller conical hills, supposed to be the seats on which the elders sat. Near the rath is a single pillar stone, called Gobhlan, about seven feet high, supposed to have been erected for the worship of Baal.
  • Stones similar to that at Mullimast are to be seen at Kilgowan, Furnace, and Punch's Town, all in the vicinity of Naas. At Harristown, near Kilcullen, is another of those taper upright stones, with a conical top; and about tow miles from Jigginstown are two others, known by the name of the Long Stones.
  • The rath of Knock-Caellagh, near Kilcullen, consists of a tumulus surrounded by a circular intrenchment, 20 feet wide and ten deep, with a rampart outside the trench. Cromwell is said to have encamped here on his way to the south. Others less remarkable, yet worthy of notice, are to be seen near Rheban, two miles north of Athy, at Kildare, at Naas, near Kilkea Castle, at Moon, at Clane, at Lyons (across which the boundary line of the counties of Kildare and Dublin passes), and at Rathsallagh, near Duncavan. On the Curragh are numerous earthworks, most of which appear to be sepulchral, forming a chain of fourteen small raths or circular intrenchments without ramparts, in a line of nearly three miles, extending east and west. A tradition has long prevailed of a stupendous heathen monument of huge stones existing here; but no vestige of it can now be discovered.

There were many celebrated and richly endowed monastic institutions in the county.

  • At Athy was one for Crouched friars and another for Dominicans. Castledermot possessed a priory for Regular canons, a house of Crouched friars, and a Franciscan abbey, the ruins of which still serve to attest its former magnificence.
  • The ruins of another Franciscan abbey are to be seen at Clane, where there was also a house of Regular canons.
  • At Graney are the ruins of an Augustinian nunnery.
  • A gateway and some other remains of a monastic building, said to have belonged to the Knights Templars, are still shown there. The ruins of Great Connell abbey are on the banks of the Liffey, near Newbridge. In Kildare was a nunnery and abbey united, founded by St. Brigid, and of which the ruins are still pointed out; also an abbey of Grey friars, situated south of the town, and a house of Carmelites or White friars.
  • At Old Kilcullen is a monastery as old as the time of St. Patrick, which in 1115 was elevated to the dignity of an episcopal see, but it does not appear that it long retained that rank. Near the ruins of the old church are the remains of two crosses, one of which still retains some very curious specimens of ancient sculpture.
  • Maynooth had a convent of Black nuns, and a college of priests founded by the Earl of Kildare; the abbey of Killossy has been converted into the parish church, and is remarkable for the singularity of the architecture of its steeple tower; the monastery of Kilrush was surrounded by a broad ditch faced with masonry ten feet high; the abbey of Monastereven has been converted into the residence of the Moore family, the representative of which is the Marquess of Drogheda.
  • At Moone was a Franciscan friary, the brotherhood of which retained possession of it subsequently to the Reformation. Here is a fragment of a very old cross, one of the most curious in Ireland, covered with numerous grotesque figures. In Naas were three religious establishments, namely, a convent of Augustinians, another of Dominicans, and one for friars eremites of the order of St. Augustine. Some remains of the buildings of New Abbey, on the banks of the Liffey, are still to be seen; and of St. Wolstan's, also on the Liffey, near Celbridge, two towers and two gateways yet exist.
  • Timolin had a monastery of Regular canons, and also a nunnery; at Tully, a mile south of Kildare, was a commandery of the Knights Templars, the possessions of which are held in commendam with the bishoprick of Kildare; the abbeys of Clonagh, Cloncurry, Disert-Fulertagh, Glasnaoidhun, Grangenolvin, Kilbeggs, Knocknacrioth, Lexlip, and Tulachfobhair, are known only by name.


The remains of many castles are scattered through the county: the principal were Kilkea, Athy, Castledermot, Rheban, Kilberry, Woodstock, Timolin, Castle Carbery, Ballyteague, Clane, Rathcoffy, Donadea, Lackagh, Kildare, Leixlip, Corifig, Morrestown-Nenagh, Cloncurry, and Maynooth.

The modern mansions of the nobility and gentry are noticed in the parishes in which they are respectively situated.


The farm-houses in general consist of a long thatched building of one story, containing in the centre a large kitchen, with lodging-rooms at each end: the front door opens into a yard, here called a bawn, on the sides of which are the out-buildings.

  • The cottiers' cabins exhibit a mode of construction different from that of the more northern districts; the lower half being built of stone and clay mortar, and the upper of clay or sods, topped with a thick covering of straw thatch.
  • Oatmeal, potatoes, herrings, and some milk and butter, constitute the food of the poorer class; their fuel is turf; their clothing principally home-made frieze.
  • Even in the midst of summer a heavy frieze loose coat, called a "trusty," is worn over the rest of the garments.
  • The dress of the women is much better than it formerly was.
  • The circumstances and appearance of the population located on the bogs, or their immediate vicinity, are very unfavourable. On each side of those parts of the canal that pass through the bog, the land is let in small lots to turf-cutters, who take up their residence on the spot, however dreary and uncomfortable. Their first care is to excavate a site for a habitation on the driest bank that can be selected, which is sunk so deep that little more than the roof is visible; this is covered with scanty thatch, or, more frequently, with turf pared from the bog, laid with the herbage upwards, which so perfectly assimilates with the aspect of the surrounding scenery that the eye would pass it over unnoticed, were it not undeceived by the appearance of children and domestic animals sallying from a hole in one side, and by the occasional gush of smoke from the numerous chinks in the roof.
  • The English language is everywhere spoken.
  • The customs of gossipred and fosterage are closely adhered to. Gossips will fight most pertinaciously for each other; in all conversations they call each other by the endearing name; and not to have gossips at baptism would cast a deep reflection on the parents.

SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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