by ehistoryadmin on May 16, 2014

Newbridge Town Commission and Housing

James Durney

The Town commission built the first local authority houses in Newbridge under the Housing of the Working Classes Act (1890) in order ‘to relieve congestion and give the worker a wholesome house to abide in’. A scheme of 20 two-storey artisan houses were built in 1901 with a loan of £3,000, facing the Liffey on Friary Road. They were named ‘Rowan Terrace’ after Dr. Laurence Rowan, a champion of the poor in Newbridge and Kildare in general.

In July 1922 as the Irish Civil War was beginning the Town Commissioners were meeting to strike a rate of 1s 6d in the pound in order to enable them to obtain a government grant of £2,700 so as to provide badly needed houses in the town. The population of Newbridge at this time was 3,000, but it was not until  1925 when the Commission was able to raise a loan to build six one-storey houses on the Naas Road named St. Conleth’s Terrace, after the town’s patron saint. The houses were built with no back doors. The former Town Clerk, Tom Corcoran lived in St. Conleth’s for many years. His role as town clerk was to last for 40 years and make him synonymous with the town where he was known affectionately as ‘Mr. Newbridge.’ Tom said, ‘When I came first, the Town Commissioners hadn’t the money to provide back doors for these houses. When I finished [in 1984] there was over £20,000 in the kitty.’

The Town Commission was also responsible for building local authority houses in the former British army barracks. In the hungry 1930s the Commission built and acquired dozens of houses in the barracks, applied to the Board of Works with a view to making the buildings in the barracks available for manufacturing industry, which led to the coming of Irish Ropes, Newbridge Cutlery, etc., and also acquired the garrison church for use as a town hall.

In 1935 the Newbridge branch of the Gaelic League proposed a change of the existing street names – Edward, George, Anne, Charlotte, etc. – to more patriotic names, assuming they were the names of British royalty, to more patriotic names, but the Town Commission said they were not the names of ‘imperialist’ but of famous residents, meaning the sons and daughters of one of the Commission’s former members, Eyre Powell.

From 1940, when the County Management Act was introduced, the Town Commissions powers were gradually diminished and the Co. Council took over many of its responsibilities, especially in the area of housing. The Red House in the Barracks, which over many years accommodated families awaiting housing was demolished and replaced in 1995 by 4 one-bedroomed flats, the first Town Commission local authority project in over 50 years. While technically the Town Commission was a housing authority empowered to build local authority housing, the reality was that the Commission did not have the funds available for the construction of houses. After 1940 all local authority housing provided in Newbridge were built by Kildare Co. Council.

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