By Mario Corrigan
The Kildare Town Heritage Centre is the ideal point of departure from
which to explore the ancient treasures of the town. It is housed in the
restored and refurbished nineteenth century Market House.
Centre was formally opened on the 17th September 2001 by the then
Minister for Finance, Mr. Charlie McCreevy.
The building has a long and varied history. According to the
Statutes of Henry VI (1458) a market had been held in Kildare ‘from time
whereof memory runs not,’ and an official weekly market, to be held on
Thursdays, was authorised by Henry VIII in the Charter of Kildare of
1515. Reference to the ‘Market Place’ can be found in the Registry of
Deeds Office in 1726 and 1751 and it was designated the ‘Market Square’
in Thomas Sherrard’s Map of Kildare of 1798.
John Rocque’s Map of Kildare (1757) identifies ‘The Markett house,’
in the centre of this Square on the site of the modern Heritage Centre.
According to Rocque it consisted of three adjoining buildings with a
yard in 1757. By 1798 (Sherrard) it had developed into a singular
rectangular building with a section to the western side. This projection
had disappeared by 1817 but a small northern (facing Nugent
Street/Station Road) projection could be noticed on the 1838 Ordnance
Survey Map of the town.
According to Niall Meagher, former Co. Architect, while it may have
incorporated an earlier structure, the present building dates from the
nineteenth century. In 1838 the Market House was clearly identified as a
public building and by the mid-nineteenth century at least it had been
re-developed with an upper level. In the mid-1880’s a water tank was
placed in the roof of the Market House as a receptacle for water being
pumped from St. John’s Well at Tully.
By the mid-twentieth century the Market House had fallen into
disrepair and was bought for £300 by Kildare Co. Council. It was
carefully reconstructed in the early 1970’s winning an An Taisce Award
in 1973 and, a bus shelter, public toilets and small museum were
incorporated into the new building. The cast-iron water gauge dated 1885
was retained on the outside of the building as was a plaque celebrating
the completion of the Kildare Waterworks in 1886.
A Heritage Project Committee was formed in 1992 to campaign for
Heritage Status for the Town of Kildare. The designation of Heritage
Town provided an impetus for the reinvigoration of the Market House. The
European Development Fund provided £230,000 towards the project with
additional funding coming from Kildare County Council (£50,000) and
local contributions. Once building began the reconstruction and
refurbishment took a little less than 2 years and Kildare Town Heritage
Centre was officially unveiled in September 2001.
The Centre, which is now open six days a week, is the Tourist Office
for local and county-wide tourist information, a place where tourists
can book accommodation or plan their itinerary. It also has a vibrant
shop where visitors can purchase books, souvenirs and jewellery and is
the hub for Kildare Town Historic Walking Tours – so why not visit to
see what is on offer or check out the wonderful website – www.kildare.ie/kildareheritage to find out more.
Back To The Heritage Homepage