by ehistoryadmin on September 19, 2020


The Evening Herald, 7th August 1936.

The historic residence of Castletown, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, is unique in that it has 365 windows, one for every day of the year. No doubt many people wonder why this handsome mansion at Celbridge, though not a castle, bears the name of Castletown. In ancient days a castle existed near the site of the present house. At one period in its history many houses of tenants and retainers sprang up round it for protection in days of strife, forming a little town of their own. Thus the name of Castletown originated.

The present house, which was built in 1725 by the Rt. Hon. William Conolly, has to-day within its walls many priceless treasures. The Conolly family for many generations played an important part in the political, sporting and industrial life of Ireland. Mr. W. Conolly was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons from 1715 to 1729, and was sworn in ten times as Lord Justice of Ireland during the absence of Viceroys. Mr. Conolly founded the school which in his will he bequeathed money for the purpose for the education of 40 orphans, for their maintenance and education in the linen or hemp manufacture. Lady Louise Conolly transferred this school in 1809 to the Incorporated Society for Promoting Protestant Schools in Ireland. The arms of the Conolly family may still be seen carved on a stone in the front of the school, which is known to-day as the Collegiate School.

Mr. W. Conolly rose to wealth and greatness by his work at the Bar. Four years after the purchase of the Castletown estates he died on 4 November, 1729. His funeral took place from his town residence in Capel Street, Dublin, at that period a fashionable thoroughfare. All the funeral scarves were of Irish manufacture, so as to encourage and help the linen trade. In his will Mr. Conolly said – “I hope and recommend to the persons who will be entitled to my estates that they will be resident in Ireland, and will always prove steady friends to Ireland as their ancestors were.” It was this William Conolly who built in 1725 the Fire Club atop Mount Pellier, one of Dublin’s best known landmarks. The building was used as a shooting lodge. The Conolly family apart from taking an active part in politics, were keen supporters of hunting. Another member of the family, Mr. Thomas Conolly, kept a private pack of hounds at Castletown in the latter half of the 17th century, from which, pack tradition states, the present Kildare Hunt owes its origin.

A remarkable structure was erected by the family during the severe winter of 1743 to give employment to the poor of the neighbourhood. This building, known as “the wonderful barn,” may be seen from the north-east side of Castletown House. An ancient tower was placed at each corner of the haggard wall. Each tower stands 73 ft. This conical tower has 94 steps which wind round it and lead to the battlement-like summit. Another strange building at the back of Castletown, situated two miles from the house, is an erection known as “the Obelisk,” built by William Conolly’s widow in 1740, Tradition also states that this building was erected to give employment to the poor. A flight of steps leads to the level about the centre arch. This strange monument abides as a landmark. It is of no practical use, and is known through Kildare as “Conolly’s Folly.”

At one time Castletown possessed a fine polo ground, but it has not been used for many years. Here also flourished the largest cedar tree in Ireland, but, alas, it was blown down in a gale some years ago. With the exception of the vine at Hampton Court, near London, the largest vine in the three kingdoms was grown at Castletown. Unfortunately it was damaged and died. In the hall at Castletown once stood a chest belonging to Christopher Columbus (it is now housed in the Museum). The present owner, Major E.M. Conolly, like his ancestors, is a leading memher of the Kildare Hunt and the sporting world, and on Monday the Major won the Baldoyle Foal Plate with Denise Rose.

Doreen Mills. Evening Herald, 7th August 1936.







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